As I write this in April, our world is in the midst of what most would agree is an unprecedented crisis. The COVID-19 virus has had serious effects on almost every aspect of our lives. Millions have become sick; tens of thousands have died. And what is most frustrating—and, perhaps, frightening—is that at least right now there is no certain end in sight. What will it be like when you read these words in June?
Today, I received an e-mail from a good friend, Professor Daniel Deutschlander. He is a man who has been blessed not only with deep Christian wisdom but also with the skill to express it. I took his words to heart, because they applied directly to me and to my own shortcomings and failures during these trying times. Perhaps his words will resonate with you as well. Here is part of what he wrote:
Something has been bothering me more and more as this health crisis grips the nation and therefore occupies an increasing amount of necessary attention from our pastors. I have noted in their messages that they are properly eager to strengthen and comfort our people with God’s powerful and beautiful gospel promises.
But I notice that one thing seems consistently missing. In times of trouble in Israel, what was the first thing that the prophets had to say to the people? Repent! Jesus himself echoed that call throughout his ministry, but especially in answer to the question about tragedy in the death of the Galileans and the fall of the tower of Siloam (Luke 13:1-5). The epistles too point us always to the purpose of both God’s goodness and his discipline (Romans 2:4, Hebrews 12:5). . . .
We do well to remember that God blesses the nation for the sake of the elect, of the church, of his believers. [Believers], therefore, do well to be first in bending before the throne of grace with prayers of repentance and then with the appeal for grace and grace alone on the nation in which we rededicate ourselves—to faithfulness to his Word and with the eagerness to proclaim both repentance and forgiveness to the fallen world. We cannot help but note that in the book of Judges, for example, when people were rescued and then again fell into still worse sins, God’s judgment came again in an even more severe form. Don’t we see it in our country? Each decade seems to have a worse trial. Each judgment is sadly met with less and less in the way of humility, much less of listening to the call of the Scriptures to repentance and then to the joy of restoration. But we should be in the lead of calling ourselves to repentance, recommitment, and renewed and grateful zeal when God’s rescue comes. And in it all we hold still closer the point and purpose of everything in our own lives—the cross and the empty tomb and its promise of eternal rescue.
I have applied these wise words to myself. I renew my trust in the goodness and grace of God, confident in the promises that he has made. I understand again to put first things first and come before God with a repentant heart for the sins I have done and the good I have left undone, for trusting in my own strength rather than God’s.
When the events that God allows bring us first to repentance, he has accomplished his purpose. When we realize that, we will appreciate his grace all the more.
Author: Mark Schroeder
Volume 107, Number 06
Issue: June 2020