Today, in the last episode of our series on the pandemic, Pastor Lutzer guides us through some of the most comforting passages in the Bible. We learn that Jesus says to us: “I am not only your refuge and strength, I am your forerunner through all suffering and uncertainty.” He has been there before and He says to us, “Follow me.”
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Transcript: Welcome to “5 Minutes with Pastor Lutzer.” I’m so glad that you joined us again today for the last in our series, entitled, “Pandemics, Plagues, and Natural Disasters: What is God Saying to Us?”
Today, I just want to give you some encouragement and some perspective. When the Bible talks about hope, you’ll notice that it’s always talking about a future hope rather than a hope in time. Because you and I know that often times our hopes are dashed aren’t they? And during this time of pandemics, during this time of uncertainty and all kinds of other illnesses, we may not have hope in this life, but the Bible asks us to look at the future. In the last verses of Hebrews 6, the Bible says that we have an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast. And then it talks about Jesus having ascended into heaven and He is behind the curtain, so to speak, and He’s waiting for us. And He’s saying, “look, I made it through death, through betrayal and all the experiences I’ve had, and I know you will make it too.” And we look beyond that to hope.
Perhaps you’ve heard me use this sermon illustration, but I love it. It’s 1952; a woman by the name of Florence Chadwick, a great swimmer, is going to swim from Catalina Island all the way to the shore of California, about twenty-two miles. She gets in the water. The wind and the cold and the waves and the fog is very heavy and she swims and she swims. Until she says, “take me out of the water. I can’t take it anymore.” And the people in the boat said, “No keep going.” She said, “I have to be taken out.” And she was. When she was in the boat. She noticed that she was not that far from the shore and she said, “You know, if I had kept the shoreline in mind, I might have made it.” Two months later, same situation, choppy water, fog, whatever, she made it. And then she said, “I made it because I kept the shoreline in my mind.” If you’re going through a time today of uncertainty, no matter what your trial is, I want to say to you today, my friend, that you and I must keep the shoreline in mind. That is biblical. And we’re going somewhere even though the waters are rough and there’s fog and all of the things that seem to hinder us, keep that shoreline in mind. You say, “Well, Pastor Lutzer, it’s difficult to do that in a world that is so plagued by chaos.” I know and what you have to do is to be willing to give your doubts to God—your uncertainty, but keep believing.
Perhaps you’ve heard me talk about John the Baptist. I find this fascinating. He’s in jail and he begins to wonder is Jesus the Messiah or isn’t He? So he sends a delegation to Jesus and said “Jesus, we don’t know. Maybe we’ve misread you. Are you the one that should come or should we look for somebody else? Jesus sends the disciples back and says, “Look, tell him all these miracles are happening.” And then Jesus said, “Blessed is the person who is not offended because of me.” And then Jesus says this, “Of those born of women, none is greater than John the Baptist.” What? John the Baptist is in jail filled with doubt and Jesus gives him that marvelous commendation: “Of those born of women, none is greater than John The Baptist.”
I want to end this series by challenging you even if you are in a time of distress and uncertainty, keep believing, keep trusting. And I close with this powerful, heartfelt, illustration. When that terrible earthquake took place in Haiti, ten or twelve years ago, I saw something on TV. I only saw it once. I don’t know what station it was on. People were getting on to a bus to be rescued. A news reporter put a microphone in a mother’s hand and said, “What happened to you?” She said, “Well, everything was devastated. I had an 18 month old boy and he was killed.” The reporter said, “Did you have a funeral for him?” And she said, “No, I couldn’t. I just had to throw him away.” If I remember correctly, in her other arm, in addition to carrying a bag, was a baby. But I noticed when the camera zeroed in on her in her backpack was a Bible. And I thought to myself that’s interesting. Now, she’s about ready to get on the bus and she quotes Psalm 46, the first verse, one of the greatest passages in all the Bible about natural disasters—“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in time of trouble.” And then she disappeared into the bus. I turned off the TV, tears came to my eyes. And I said, “Did I actually see what I know I saw?” A mother who just had to throw her 18 month old boy away another baby in her arms, going she knows not where, having lost everything, and she’s quoting one of the most important passages in all the bible about natural disasters? I’ll see if I can quote some of the rest of the verses for you. “God is our refuge and strength a very present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear though the earth be removed and though the mountains be cast into the depths of the sea, though the waters there roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of our God, the holy place of the most High. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God shall help her, in that right early. The kingdoms were moved; He uttered His voice, the earth melted…Be still, and know that I am God.” Takes your breath away, doesn’t it?
I want to end this series by giving you some encouragement from Psalm 91:1, where we read that—“he who shelters in the most high shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.” During those days of sheltering, during COVID, I hope that all of us learn to shelter in God. And finally, before I leave today, will you remember this? Birds sing not because they understand, but because they have a song. Join us again next time as we continue to talk about walking with God and as for today, you just walk with God.