David Jeremiah - A Biological Prophecy, Pandemic
On January 11, 2020, the first COVID-19 death was reported in Wuhan, China. Two months later, on Wednesday, March the 11th, 2020, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic after the virus had spread to 114 countries and nearly 120,000 people, killing more than 4,000 people in those early days. U.S. stocks tumbled with the Dow Jones Industrial Average falling 10%, its biggest one-day percentage drop since 1987. Broadway theaters went dark, movie theaters emptied, and hospitals filled up. The National Basketball Association, Major League Baseball, National Hockey League all suspended their seasons, and for the first time since its inception in 1939, college basketball's March Madness tournament was canceled. And for the first time since 9/11 and only the fourth time ever, Disneyland closed its gates.
Let's take a step back. What exactly are pandemics, and what does the Bible say about them? Since this is a modern word, you shouldn't expect "pandemic" necessarily to appear in the Bible, but the Scriptures have other terms that describe the same thing. In fact, there are six ancient words in the Greek and Hebrew language that describe what we would call a pandemic, and those words are used 127 times in the Bible. So the Bible is full of this subject. Throughout the Bible, we see repeated examples of God using pandemics or diseases to accomplish his divine and sovereign purposes. In Exodus chapter 9, the Lord allowed an infectious skin disease to sweep over Egypt. It was the sixth plague, and it was epidemic in nature. Every single Egyptian young and old was affected. When King David sinned against Israel, the Lord sent a plague upon Israel from the morning until the appointed time.
2 Samuel 24:15 tells us about that. Seventy thousand men lost their lives in that pandemic. The Bible also teaches that Satan can send plagues. Did you know that? We know from the biblical story of Job that Satan can afflict humanity with terrible diseases. And in the Gospels, the Lord Jesus Christ warns his disciples that pestilences will be one of the signs of the last days of human history. These ravaging illnesses will shake the world, seeking to awaken and warn people about the eminence of Christ's return to judge and to reign. And in the book of Revelation, the Lord warns a dozen times about terrible pestilence and plagues coming to the nations as part of his judgment of sin. Prior to the Second Coming of Christ, all of this will take place, and this period is known by Bible scholars as the Great Tribulation, the most devastating period of divine judgment in human history.
So what does this mean? Well, my youngest son, Daniel, works for the NFL Network, and he's become acquainted with many of the football players in the league. Shortly after the COVID-19 pandemic was announced, one of his high-profile friends who watches "Turning Point" on television came to him and said, "Daniel, ask your dad if the coronavirus is in biblical prophecy". And I ended up preaching a whole message in answer to that question. Have you asked yourself that question? Is what we've just been through and what we're continuing to go through, does it mean anything set against the larger scale of history? And if so, what does it mean?
During the last week of his life, the Lord Jesus left the Temple in Jerusalem with his disciples, hiked down the Kidron Valley, climbed to the top of the Mount of Olives, the city of Jerusalem spread out before them, shimmering in the sun, and that's when the disciples asked Jesus about the last days, prompting Jesus's most comprehensive teaching on the events related to the end of time. We call this the Olivet discourse. It's called that because it took place on the Mount of Olives. It's recorded in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Here's how Matthew records it: "Now as he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Jesus privately, saying, 'Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of your coming, and of the end of the age?' And Jesus answered and said to them, 'Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, saying, 'I am Christ,' and will deceive many. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled, for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines and pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows.'"
Now, this passage is so extensive that many people have called it "the mini apocalypse". The broad outline of the prophetic future is given to us here by Jesus. It's his overture to the book of Revelation. And his disciples ask him three questions. If you listen carefully, you'll pick them out. He was asked this: "When will these things be? What will be the sign of your coming"? and "What will be the sign of the end of the age"? Beginning in Matthew 24, in verse 4, Jesus answered those questions. He answered questions two and three in the main body of the chapter, but he didn't answer the first question, which was "When will these things be"? But in verse 36, he said this: "But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but my Father only".
Sometimes you hear preachers like me, hopefully not me but like me, get up and say they know when Jesus is coming back. How many of you remember he was gonna come back in 1988? I got 14 books from the same author telling me he was coming back in 1988, but he didn't come back. Then he was gonna come back in '90, and then they said they miscalculated, and before you know it, you just lose all interest in it because it's just a big scam. We don't know when Jesus is going to come back, and the Bible says Jesus himself didn't know when he was going to come back when he was on this earth. He said, "Only the Father knows that". That's why I can't tell you the exact time of the Second Coming.
How many people have erred in making these misguided predictions about that? But what I can tell you is this: In answering the disciples' second and third question, Jesus gave us some key signs that point to his Second Coming, or as he put it, in verse 30, "The sign of the Son of Man". Here are the six things that Jesus said would happened as his Second Coming began to draw near. If you have your Bibles, you can just read them, but let me list them for you.
1. There would be deception by false Christs.
2. There would be disputes and warfare among nations.
3. There would be disease and famine worldwide.
4. There would be deliverance of believers to tribulation.
5. There would be defection of all false believers.
6. There would be the declaration of the gospel to the whole world.
These six signs cover the first three and a half years of the seven-year Tribulation period, and they coincide with the prophecies of the book of Revelation. But while these signs will be fulfilled in the seven-year Tribulation period, they will not start on a dime. How many of you know that? They will build up over time. According to Jesus, the generation that sees these signs will also see his Second Coming. Matthew 24, says this: "Now learn the parable from the fig tree. When its branch has already become tender and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near. So you also, when you see all these things, know that it is near, at the door. Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place".
What Jesus said was, when these signs begin, they will fulfill themselves within a generation. When you see the signs, if you're living at that time, you will see the coming of Jesus Christ when these signs are full blown. Now, if you follow my teaching over the years, you know I've always believed the Bible predicts the return of Christ for the church and that it could happen at any moment, that there aren't any signs for the Rapture. This event is known as the Rapture of the church. Then there will be seven years of global Tribulation, and the last half of that global Tribulation is called the Great Tribulation, a unique outpouring of God's wrath. And when that period concludes, Jesus Christ will return with his church to put an end to global conflicts and pandemics and to judge evil and to establish his thousand-year reign.
So there are no events that predict the Rapture. Without any sign, without any warning, Jesus Christ will return together his saints and take them to heaven. So you're wondering perhaps, as some people would, and naturally so, if these six signs are not the signs of the Rapture, and after the Rapture we're goin' to heaven, what do we care about these six signs? Because future events always cast their shadows before them, and God's people should be Bible students, and Bible students should be interested in prophetic passages. And when we study those prophetic passages, we should learn to spot the signs of the times.
Recently, I clipped something from the writings of Mark Hitchcock, who's a prophetic writer, who I know. He told this little story. This story helps me understand how to put all this together, so listen carefully to the story. He said, "Dr. John Walvoord used to share this illustration of how the signs of the times relate to the Rapture and the Second Coming. He pointed out how there are all kinds of signs for Christmas. There are lights everywhere, decorations, Christmas trees, music, even Santa in the mall, but Thanksgiving can sneak up on ya. There are no real signs for Thanksgiving. Dr. Walvoord noted that the Second Coming of Christ is like Christmas. It will be preceded by many very specific signs that Scripture outlines. The Rapture, however, is like Thanksgiving. There are no signs for its coming, yet, if it's fall and you begin to see the signs of Christmas everywhere, what do you think? Thanksgiving has not arrived, but it's on its way".
The signs for Christmas actually also tell you that Thanksgiving's not too far away. And the signs for the Second Coming are appearing all around us today, and what that means is, if the Second Coming is Christmas, the Rapture is Thanksgiving. So the Rapture couldn't be too far away. These signs are not particularly about the Rapture, but they're particularly about the Second Advent, and there's only seven years between those two events. Let me circle back once more to the big question on many of our minds. Is COVID-19 a sign of the Rapture? No, 'cause there aren't any signs for the Rapture. The Rapture is a sign-less, eminent event. But is this pandemic a sign of the Second Coming of Christ? Probably, I can't say with certainty that it is, but neither can I say that it's not. It could well be early evidence of number three on Jesus's list of six signs in Matthew 24, disease and famine worldwide.
As I mentioned earlier, some of the Tribulation signs could spill over into the final years before the Rapture. Jesus said this pestilence would arrive like "birth pains". This means it will increase in frequency and intensity in the time leading up to his return. In other words, as the end approaches, we should expect infectious disease outbreaks to be more frequent and more intense and have impact on more people and be more deadly. That's what's happened. We've had pandemics before.
I remember when this whole thing came out, they listed 'em all. They went back to SARS, they went back to HIV, they went to all the pandemics, all of which were really serious. I remember a couple of them that have happened in my lifetime, and people were saying, "This could kill all of humanity without the proper response to it", but it didn't, and it went away, and then this happened, and there's been nothing like this in your lifetime or mine. So while the coronavirus may not perfectly qualify as a prophetic sign, it is a sign. It's hard to see the world so convulsed by an event without looking at it through the lens of the Scripture. Even if COVID-19 is not a sign of the future, it's a sign today, a reminder of things we too easily forget.
Four lessons came to my mind when regarding that, four lessons I learned, and perhaps you learned them too. This is a sign of the vulnerability of all of us. We're all more vulnerable than we like to think. According to most experts, the elderly and those with an underlying health condition were the most vulnerable to this virus, but as time progressed, we discovered that everyone was vulnerable, including celebrities. We sometimes think they live in a bubble, but they don't.
I remember in the early days, Tom Hanks got it, Rita Wilson got it, Rachel Matthews, Charlotte Lawrence, they were some of the first who got infected with the coronavirus. And then, of course, as you go through the list, it wasn't just people in Hollywood. NBA stars Rudy Gobert, Donovan Mitchell, Kevin Durant, Marcus Smart, along with the coach of the NFL's New Orleans Saints, Sean Payton, became sick with the disease. The vice president of Iran got it. The wife of the Canadian prime minister got it. The mayor of Miami got the virus. And as we all know, the president of the United States got the virus. We've been led to believe that, with enough money, you can protect yourself from things like this. No longer. Money can buy you a test, but it can't buy you a cure. And we're all vulnerable to these super-plagues. No one is safe. No one escapes the possibility of infection. We know that now, not just because we've read it somewhere in a magazine. We know it because we've lived through it and we've experienced it and we've watched it unfold right in front of us. So that's a really important lesson for us to file.
Number two, this whole pandemic has taught me a lesson about the credibility of the Bible. Let me explain what I mean. For more than 50 years, I have been teaching and studying the Bible. I've never failed to be astounded by the events of the Tribulation as they unfold in the book of Revelation. And I believe them. Even though it seemed kind of outlandish to me, I believe them just because they're in the Bible. But now these apocalyptic events seem to be knocking at our door, and the prophets no longer seem like outlandish prognosticators. They seem like people who are telling us what we should know and what we should understand.
The prophet Ezekiel predicts a coming war in which Russia and its coalition armies will try to destroy the nation of Israel. I believe that will happen in the early days of the Tribulation, and when God intervenes, the evil coalition will be destroyed by monumental convulsions on the earth, by military confusion, by calamities and fire and brimstone and, finally, major plagues, and the Lord predicts in Ezekiel 38:22, "I will bring him to judgment with pestilence and bloodshed". It will take seven months to bury the bodies from that bloodshed. I remember reading that in Ezekiel and thinking, "That's outlandish, that's unbelievable".
So many people are gonna die that it'll take 'em seven months to bury all the people that died during that pandemic. Try to imagine it, unburied bodies everywhere, causing a sickening stench in a malignant plague. As I saw the pictures of the body bags and temporary morgues being utilized to care for those who died in New York City, I thought of what Ezekiel said. It's not that the pandemic was fulfilling Ezekiel's prophecies, but it was serving as a faint preview of what's ahead. In other words, what we thought couldn't possibly happen in a sophisticated world like you and I live in, it happened, and it's still happening in some places. In Revelation 9:18, we're told that a third of the earth perishes by various plagues caused by demonic forces. In Revelation 11, another part of the prophecy of the Tribulation, two supernatural witnesses "have power to strike the earth with all plagues, so often as they desire".
That warning isn't limited to pandemics, but let's just say I have a greater understanding of how the Tribulation events will take place. When you read these sections of the Bible, read them carefully and prayerfully and look for emerging trends. The events of Revelation no longer seem implausible to me. Indeed, they seem to be impending. They seem like they could happen. Who could ever have believed that the world could be strangled to a stop by a plague? But we watched it. We saw it. We witnessed it. It frightened us. We didn't know where it was going. We seem to feel better about it now. We're kind of on the other side of it. We've got vaccines and all of that, but COVID-19 has taught me that everybody's vulnerable, and it's taught me that the Bible's credible. You better believe the Bible knows what it's talkin' about. It's not talkin' about something you don't know.
Here's the third lesson that we should take away from this. The uncertainty of life. Contagions remind us of the uncertainty of life. Did you expect your schedule to be wiped out for an entire year before this happened? Were you prepared for your children to be shut out of their classroom, for your vacation, your wedding to be canceled, for your workload to shift to your kitchen table? No one expected to stay away from church for weeks or months. How terrible for those who were laid off or whose businesses failed. Few people had their pantry stocked with sanitizers, masks, and toilet paper. Who could have known? The patriarch Job, do you remember how he explained the sudden deconstruction of his life? Here's what he said: "My days are swifter than a runner. They flee away, they see no good. They pass like swift ships, like an eagle swooping on its prey". Or Job 14:1 and 2, "Man who's born of woman is a few days and full of trouble. He comes forth like a flower and fades away. He flees like a shadow and does not continue".
How uncertain and how precious are our days? I took that away from this. I don't have any guarantee, nor do you, that I will have tomorrow. I have only the day that God has given me, and how precious is that day? How important should it be for us to give thanks to God for the days he has given to us as his gifts? So I've learned about the vulnerability of everybody. All of us are, nobody's safe from this. I've learned about the credibility of the Bible, I've learned about the uncertainty of life, and I've also learned about the sufficiency of Jesus Christ. The virus points us to Jesus. As he was preparing to finish his earthly work and returned to heaven, he told his disciples this. He said, "These things I have spoken to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world".
Notice, Jesus didn't say, "In the world you will have tribulation, and I have overcome tribulation". No, he said, "In the world you will have tribulation. I've overcome the world". Jesus doesn't just overcome the event. He doesn't just overcome the event. He overcomes the environment in which the event happens. He doesn't just overcome tribulation. He overcomes the world in which tribulation happens. That's incredible. He comes to us in the midst of the struggle when the battle's almost unbearable and the circumstances are impossible, and with a voice of absolute certainty and strength, he speaks to us of peace and bestows encouragement and raises our morale and fills us with strength, and he says, "My peace I give to you, not as the world gives do I give you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid".
I don't know about you, but I found Jesus in a new and special way during COVID-19. I found out that he was enough, that no matter what was going on that was frightening and we didn't have any answers to it, we had one answer, and his name was Jesus. And when we talked to him, he helped us, and we got through this because we believed and counted on the one who has promised never to leave us or forsake us, amen? Amen. So, okay, there you go. We've had the pandemic, we've learned some things from it, but the question that's been up on the screen, and it's been in my heart as I've been workin' on this series, is where do we go from here? Now that this has happened to us, now that we're coming out of it, now that we've experienced it (and hope we never experience it again) where do we go from here?
First of all, let me suggest that we prioritize our prayer life. I don't ever like to mention that because I know it always makes people feel guilty. There's not one of us in this room who doesn't have moments of feeling bad because we don't pray like we should. Isn't that true? And so, if you think I'm saying this because I pray like I should, I'm not. I'm in the midst of this with... we all ought to pray more. We ought to pray better. Don't you suppose the people of earth have prayed more in the last months than ever before? I mean, the more problems, the more prayer, but what kind of prayers have we prayed? Biblical prayers are the best kind, and I love this prayer of Jehoshaphat in 2 Chronicles 20. It's been ringing in my mind through all of this. It's highly appropriate for today.
King Jehoshaphat was an existentialist, he was in a crisis, and multiple armies were headed toward his little nation of Judah. He responded with masterful, spiritual leadership. He was determined to trust God and to lead his nation to do the same. He didn't merely trust the Lord in the face of military defeat. He was ready to trust God for any disaster looming ahead. And this is his prayer. He said, "Lord, if disaster comes upon us (sword, judgment, or pestilence, or famine) we will stand before this temple and in your presence, for your name is in this temple, and cry out to you in our affliction, and you will hear us, and you will save us". In verses 5 through 12, he offered this model prayer. He appealed to God's character, his promises, his actions of the past, and the prayer ended with these superb words. Listen to how the prayer ended: "We have no power against this great multitude that is coming against us, nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are on you".
I remember, when I first saw this, I was in a pretty rough place in my life, and I sort of took those last two phrases and made a little poem out of it, and listened to that poem in my heart every day: "Lord, we don't know what to do, but our eyes are on you". Say that with me out loud: "Lord, we don't know what to do, but our eyes are on you". That's what you do when you don't know what to do. You keep your eyes on the Lord. How many of you know he knows what to do? How many of our prayers should end with a line like this? This is the posture of the Christian. Appeal to God's character, confess your inability, and put your eyes on the Lord, and trust him. When you can't see your way through, when you don't know what's going on, when you're wondering: Where's this going to take us? Is this the end of life as we know it? Is this the end of our nation as we know it?
You don't know what the answers to those questions are, but one thing you know is God is in his heaven, he's occupying his throne, and he's in charge, and you can trust him, and so you put your eyes on him, and you put your destiny in his hand. That's one of the things we kind of learned, and we reviewed that. So where do we go from here? We prioritize our prayer life. Here's somethin' else I've learned. We sacrificially serve other people. How many of you know the best thing you can do when you're under pressure is quit thinkin' about yourself and think about other people? That'll do more for you than anything you can imagine.
During the early days of the pandemic were painful shortages of food in each county. I remember hearing the stories of people, for the first time in their lives, being hungry. They couldn't get food. And for several weeks, we devoted the morning hours of Friday to feeding the hungry. We packed boxes with staples like toilet paper, paper towels, and soap, and then we put another box together with food, and when people drove in front of our sanctuary Friday morning, we had people out there in six lanes, and we popped their truck open, and we put that food in their trunk and send them on their way. Before they left the parking lot, we added a gallon of milk and a loaf of bread. We had somebody actually bake the bread for us, and then we paid for what it costs to bake it.
Well, we had fresh bread for everybody who came through the line, and then we would pray for them as they came by. We would ask them if it was all right: "Can we pray with you"? And we prayed for those families. By the time we were finished with this, we had touched more than 1,800 different families. We've given out 27,000 boxes of food, prayed with hundreds of families as they rolled down their windows to say thank you. As Martin Luther put it, "If you wish to serve Christ and wait on him very well, you have your sick neighbor close at hand. Go to him, serve him, and you will surely find Christ by serving your neighbor".
What I've learned, what we've all learned in this church, what we've learned in our own lives is, when pandemics come, when things come you don't understand and you don't know what they're all about, don't just think about yourself. Look around and see that there are people out there who are worse off than you are by a long shot. Find a way to serve them. Prioritize your prayer life and serve others sacrificially. And here's one: count your blessings. When we are feeling the pressures of unexpected pandemics, we need to get our calculators out and start counting our blessings. John 1:16, says, "From his abundance, we have all received one gracious blessing after another". Paul wrote this: "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ".
Ladies and gentlemen, even with this terrible year that's behind us, God blessed us even during that time. I wish I could tell you all the ways God has blessed this church, all the ways he's blessed Turning Point, how he's blessed us, and he's blessed many of you as well. Have we had problems? Yes. Do some of them still exist? Yes, but, oh, what happens to us when we take a moment and thank God for all the blessings that we have. "God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing," the Bible says, "in heavenly places". The Bible says, "In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you". So prioritize your prayer life, sacrificially serve other people, count your blessings, and here's one: stay calm, and carry on. Stay calm, and carry on.
You know, how many of you know there are some people that "staying calm" is not in their... they just don't how to do that? You know somebody. Maybe you're married to somebody like that. But, oh, how wonderful it is to be in the presence of someone who's in the same mess you're in, and notice, they have a sense of calmness that's obviously beyond who they are as a person. It comes from God. And when you fill yourself with gratitude for what God has done, you begin to get a kind of quiet confidence in the midst of all that's happening. I felt that often. When I would come here to preach and there wasn't anybody here, we had a camera, and it seemed so strange to me, but oftentimes I would walk in, and I would sense the power of God in this place and sense that he was in charge, and I had a confidence. And then I would find out how God used the message that I preached to nobody all over the county and all over the country and other places in the world. I had that confidence, and he gave me a sense of calmness.
The Bible says that "God has not given us a spirit of fear, but he's given us a spirit of power and of love and of a sound mind". In other words, God created your human imagination to be a powerful force. It can create beautiful visions of a desirable future, or it can conjure up the worst-case scenario. Have you ever been around anybody who always takes the worst of everything that happens? First thing you get up in the morning, they might say, "Well, yeah, this is gonna be a bad day. It's not sunny outside". I know people like... frankly, I don't have anybody in my family like that, but I've been around people like that. They see the dark side of everything. They never see the brightness of God's goodness. They only see the things that they don't understand, the dark things of life. Well, these dark products of the imagination can put you in the grip of fear, a place God would never have you go.
And the Bible tells us we're to "bring every thought into captivity unto God". That means don't let those thoughts, those negative thoughts, control your life. When an unhealthy thought enters your head, "I'm sick," "All is lost," "I'm gonna die," "This pandemic's gonna be the end of my family," examine it in light of the knowledge of God. Does this thought have any basis in reality? If not, take it captive. Don't give it free run in your mind. Don't let it lead your imagination away from God's goodness into unhealthy fear. You are in charge of your mind. Someone said your mind is like an airport, and thoughts are like the airplanes flying over. You can let 'em land if you want to, or you can tell 'em to keep on going. So prioritize your prayer life, sacrifice and serve others, count your blessings, stay calm and carry on, and then do the next thing: We have to keep busy with whatever God assigns us day by day. This was a lesson we learned in our family.
When we were first quarantined at home, Donna and I realized how easy it would be just to float along with no schedule. Get up later, don't get dressed until 10, 11 o'clock. No schedule, no plan, no objective. The thing we couldn't understand is, at the end of the day, we were tireder than we'd ever been in our life. How did that work? How could you be so tired when you weren't doin' anything? Well, it didn't take us very long to figure out that that wasn't how we wanted to live our lives during that time. We quickly realized that, when we knew that, we would be exhausted every day. You probably discovered the same thing. Living life without a plan leads to discouragement and fatigue, and many people went through that during COVID. So learned the power of doing the next right thing. In other words, we learned to just keep doing what we were doing, the work assigned to us the best we could. If I can't preach to everybody, I'll preach here. If I can't preach to the whole church, I'll preach to whoever can listen. The pandemic might change the type or intensity of our work, but as long as God keeps us on this earth, he's got somethin' for us to do.
I found encouragement from some words by J.R. Miller, who wrote, "We try to settle our duty in large sections. We think of years rather than moments, of life work rather than individual acts. It is hard to plan a year's duty. It is easy to plan for one short day. No shoulder can bear the burden of a year's cares all gathered up into one big load, but the weakest shoulder can carry without weariness just what really belongs to one day". So when you're goin' through stress like this (and some of you are still experiencing that), just do the right thing that's next. And that's how Jesus teaches us to live. Emily Freeman has written extensively about this.
In one of her books, she said, "So often, right after Jesus performed a miracle, he gave the person a simple thing to do. To the leper, he said, 'Tell no one, but go and show yourself to the priest.' To the paralytic, he said, 'Get up, pick up your stretcher, and go home.' 'To Jairus and his wife, after raising their daughter from the dead, when he had their full and complete attention and when chances were good he could get them to swear their lives away for his sake, he did not perform a lecture without dedicating their lives to him or about what grand plans he had for their girl now that she was alive. Instead, he told them 'Give her something to eat.' After raising their daughter from the actual dead, the one thing Jesus told them in the face of their rapt attention was 'Go make lunch.' At first glance, that seems like a waste of a captive audience, but rather than a life plan, a clear vision, or a five-year list of goals, the leper, the paralytic, and Jairus and his wife were given clear instructions by Jesus about what to do next and only next".
What I discovered and what, I'm sure, many of you discovered was I didn't need to know how the whole day was gonna work. I needed to know what I needed to do next. I needed to get up, maybe I needed to go to the store. Go do what's next. Do the next right thing. Just keep marching to the plan, and don't ask for so much information in the future. The disciples, at the beginning of his message, they wanted to know how the Lord was gonna resolve all the issues of the end time, and Jesus didn't tell 'em. And he doesn't owe us that. He owes us only the fulfillment of his promise that he will lead us day by day, moment by moment. And let's take our cues from Jesus by considering what it means to do the next right thing. Emily, who wrote about this, made this discovery about Jesus and the art of doing the next right thing during her last two years of college. And because parking on campus was a nightmare, she'd arrived an hour early to find a space, and during her extra hour, she began listening to Elisabeth Elliot's radio program.
One day, Elisabeth quoted an old poem. Though Elisabeth had updated the language slightly, it still had its rustic simplicity. That poem profoundly impacted Emily, and she tracked down the original. I'm not much into poems when I speak. I hardly ever share them, but that poem was called "Do the Next Thing". It was written by Minnie Paull, who was a writer, musician, and a pastor's wife. And Elisabeth revised the poem. Here's what she wrote: "Fear not tomorrows, child of the King. Trust them with Jesus, and do the next thing. Do it immediately, do it with prayer, do it reliably, casting all care. Do it with reverence, tracing his hand, who placed it before you with earnest command. Stayed on omnipotence, safe 'neath his wing, leave all results, and do the next thing".
And if I could challenge us all to do one thing, it would be that. Don't get caught up in what's gonna happen next month or next week. That doesn't mean you don't think about the future, but how many of you know you can get so caught up in the un-understood details of the future, it paralyzes you from doing anything in the present. What I found during this time was, when I would just say, "Okay, Lord, what do you want me to do today? What's next"? I would do the next thing, and I was freed up because God always was there to show me what came after that. But if I wanted to sit down and say, "Okay, now, by the end of this day", it never worked 'cause everything was so uncertain. And how many of you know it's still pretty uncertain, isn't it? Every day is uncertain. It's not like it used to be.
There's so much that we don't know and we can't control, and we're gonna talk more about that during this series, but if I could just encourage you, prophecy always has a reminder for us, and this is the reminder: there is coming a day when all these things that Jesus predicted would happen, would happen. Was the pandemic that we just went through part of it? It might've been, and it might not have been. We don't know for sure, but what we do know is it was meant to teach us some things, and we have learned those things, and let's carry those lessons over into our lives, and let's live for Jesus. Even if we don't know what's gonna happen next week or tomorrow or this afternoon, let's get up and do the next thing that God has called us to do, and know in your heart that, if you are obedient that way, there's no way God is not gonna lead you step-by-step. Can we give him a good hand today, amen.