Friday, March 27, 2020

Devotionals for the Heart: Discipline


Does God Discipline Us?
A devotional by Amy Odland

“Therefore I bring charges against you again,” declares the Lord. “And I will bring charges against your children’s children. Cross over to the coasts of Cyprus and look, send to Kedar and observe closely; see if there has ever been anything like this: Has a nation ever changed its gods? (Yet they are not gods at all.) But my people have exchanged their glorious God for worthless idols. Be appalled at this, you heavens, and shudder with great horror,” declares the Lord.”
 – Jeremiah 2:9-12 (NIV)

My, how the world can change in a week! Those of us who’ve lost someone unexpectedly or been through a natural disaster or tragedy before already understand this. But a large portion of the world is finding out all at once what it’s like to have life change in a moment.

I haven’t heard anyone preaching about this being some sort of punishment from God yet, but I’m also writing this on March 16. The Coronavirus is still pretty new to most of the United States at this time (though, our friends in Washington state have been dealing with it since January) but the numbers of cases and deaths worldwide is growing steadily right now in most places. I imagine by the time this is published, someone somewhere will be preaching the idea that this is God’s punishment on us.

So, let’s bypass the fluffy examples I could’ve used for this devotional and dive right into the deep end: “Is God disciplining us with the Coronavirus pandemic?” 


I say YES and NO. Here’s why ...

YES:
Complacency, indifference, and disbelief are always present in our society to a degree, but they became more blatant as the arrival of the Coronavirus started spreading in the news. First in Italy, then in America. Phrases like “It’s basically the flu” and “the flu kills more” became common in Italy until they realized too late that it is different from the flu in that no one has immunity from it and large numbers of people were being infected all at once. We heard these phrases being said by our own citizens and leaders just a couple weeks ago.

People have become complacent as a result, and while the disease does look similar to influenza in its symptoms, there are other concerns. The clustered increase of people all getting sick at the same time will overwhelm the healthcare system like a tsunami wave hitting the shore. It has already happened in Italy and they have warned us. 

Trying to educate people about this very serious concern and the benefits of social distancing before there is the evidence of a large number of cases present has been made more difficult because people don’t believe it’s true or believe it’s a political conspiracy or news media hoax. Add to that the delay from our leaders (between March 9-13) in communicating the seriousness of this and you have a recipe for indifference, disbelief, and conspiracy theorists...which made speaking truth during this time much more difficult. 

Yes, God can allow a new virus to sweep the world to show people He is still able to wipe the earth clean. It’s not a flood of water like He’d promised Noah He would never do again, but it can still be an effective wake-up call to many who haven’t considered eternity before now.


NO:

If Christians die because of this pandemic, is God punishing them? If my loved ones get sick and die because of this pandemic, do I believe God is punishing me (or them)? Definitely NO. This world is evil and filled with people who do evil. Rape, murder, theft, and destruction are just the result of living in a fallen world and having evil reside amongst us. People by nature are selfish, greedy, and stubborn...even the good ones are not perfect all the time (Romans 3:12). I have seen many on social media selfishly choosing to still go on vacation or still gather in large groups. They will affect us all more than they realize right now.

Psalm 91 says that “Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty” (Psalm 91:1) and “Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.” (Psalm 91:14) Yes, we can pray the words of this Psalm in times of trouble and we can pray it would be the Lord’s will for us to be protected from the calamity that lay before us. But this Psalm isn’t the guarantee of safety that some would interpret it to be. It is not a force field or protective shield to turn on and off when we need protection. The words in this psalm are a promise of eternal salvation, a promise that no matter what evil comes before us or is successful in destroying us, God has sealed our eternity.

God has only promised us we will someday be completely free of sickness and death and evil. But he did not promise that we would be trouble-free in this life. John 16:33 tells us to take heart, though, because Jesus has overcome the world.

We are not living lives of fear if we “see danger and take refuge” (Proverbs 22:3) and take extra oil along for our lamps as the virgins did in the parable in Matthew 25:4. We are being prudent and wise, just as God has told us to be. It is an act of love to be quarantining ourselves right now in order to protect the lives of others who are more vulnerable, who are at high risk for complications from this virus, just like it is an act of love when we speak up for the unborn or when we help the widows and orphans.

We can do our part to still love others during this hard time and have peace because Jesus has told us He is preparing a place for us and will take us there to be with Him (John 14:2-3). We can have peace because He has promised He will care for us and while it doesn’t mean He’ll care for us on our terms or based on our parameters, He WILL care for us. Let us be encouraged to rest in the shelter of His shadow and acknowledge His name.

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Author Bio:

Amy Odland has been serving in church ministry as a volunteer leader for over 16 years, in various worship, prayer and women’s ministry roles. 



Her passion for helping women stems from her own struggles and lessons learned in her journey as a Christian since first deciding to follow the Lord in 1994.

Amy’s priorities after her faith include her family — husband Rick, and their four kids — as well as extended family who all live close in proximity and the many friends she’s made over the years.

In addition to a love of teaching and helping her husband with the bookkeeping for their many businesses, Amy has recently expanded her stay-at-home work to include leading author’s book launch teams for publishing companies like Baker, Revell, Barbour, and Lifeway.

She also enjoys teaching new authors about platform building, self-launching, and online marketing.

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Connect with Amy:
Facebook: https://facebook.com/amyodland
Instagram: https://instagram.com/amy_odland
Twitter: https://twitter.com/amy_odland
Website: https://amyodland.com

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