A couple of months ago, we learned of the COVID-19 virus that has now spread throughout the entire world. It is safe to say the virus has effected all of us, even if no one in our families are infected. Schools and churches have closed, groceries are in high demand, and for some strange reason, toilet paper is nonexistent in the stores.
But in all this turmoil and stress, many Christians have risen up to share that we do not have “a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (KJV 2 timothy 1:7). It is a beautiful promise, and we absolutely need to cling to it.
Continuing this theme, I want to share a verse I have kept coming back to (for various reasons) over the past month or so. Let me give the setting. Paul has returned to Jerusalem from his third missionary journey, and while worshipping in the temple, was swept up by a mob who tried to kill him. The romans stepped in just in time, taking him to the garrison for protection. This itself was not new to Paul, but this instance seemed to hit him especially hard.
When he was dragged out of the temple, his plans had been brought to a screeching halt. He had been taking a gift for the needy brethren in Jerusalem, and he was preparing to launch a major trip that would take him through Rome, and hopefully, into Spain (Romans 15:23-28). Now I know I have discussed one aspect of this situation in my article “Shifting Plans,” but I want to highlight something else, something else that applies to our immediate situation.
As Paul is there in the Roman garrison, he is dragged before the Sanhedrin to stand trial. That erupts in a fight, and he is taken back to the prison. Right then, right when it seemed that he was at his lowest, we read these words—
“But on the night immediately following, the Lord stood at his side and said, “‘Take courage; for as you have solemnly witnessed to My cause at Jerusalem, so you must witness at Rome also.”Acts 23:11
The phrase “stood at his side” continues to pop out each time I think of this verse. It is a glorious picture of what Jesus does for each of us. Jesus is there with Paul, strengthening him, encouraging him, pointing him in the direction he ought to go. The book of Hebrews shows He does the same thing for each of us.
Hebrews Thirteen especially is a good place to start. In this chapter, we learn that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). The promises He has fulfilled before, He can be counted on to carry out again. One such promise is found a few verses earlier, where we are reminded, “He Himself has said, ‘I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,’ so that we confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid; what will man do to me?’” (Hebrews 13:4, 5).
Not only has He promised to be with us, but He understands our pain and sorrows. Hebrews 4:14-16 say this—
“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
We are in a time of need, are we not? What a wonderful promise of assurance this gives us.
Now does this mean that if we simply trust Jesus and pray, all of our problems will go away? No, it doesn’t. the verse says He will give “grace to help in time of need,” not that He will remove the time of need. Sometimes He leads us through the valley rather than around it.
But this should not cause us to despair. Just pause for a moment and think about this: Jesus Christ, exalted far beyond anything on earth, God Himself, walks with us through the darkest valleys. Read Ephesians One if you want to see how exalted He is. And while you’re at it, go ahead and read the first of Chapter Two to see the great salvation God has given us by His grace and the blessings believers enjoy.
So let’s bring this back to our starting point. Like Paul, our plans for life have been interrupted by something entirely out of our control. We don’t know how long this will last, and there is a lot of fear-mongering out there. Do we need to be concerned and be cautious? Yes—faith does not mean we throw caution to the wind.
But what it does mean is that we can have peace knowing that Jesus is with us through this difficult time. We may not see Him like Paul did, but He is there—He has promised it, and He never breaks a promise.