Devotional Word for Friday, March 20, 2020
As Christians we have our richest resource in the Bible, God’s Word written. We confess that we believe the Bible. That’s good and true. But what do we believe it teaches? That’s more problematic! How are we to understand its teachings?
Recently I’ve been reading a book that documents the rise and spread and dominion of Christianity down to the present day. Even in western culture, that is so secular, it is a culture dominated by Christian, that is to say biblical, presuppositions. The book is written by a professing agnostic. One of the facts he documents is the role played by the Apostles’ Creed in the spread and stability of Christian faith. The Apostles’ Creed, the Ten Commandments, and the Lord’s Prayer are the three sources of molding and shaping Christian life and faith down through the ages. We are so familiar with them we can recite them and not even think about what we’re saying. We would do well to reflect on each of them in specific detail.
For our devotional thought today, I want us to consider the first line of the Apostles’ Creed. It goes like this: I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth. Do we believe that? Do you believe that? If you do believe it, what are the implications?
Well, Jeremiah demonstrates some of the implications. Thrown in prison, persecuted by the Jewish leaders, Jeremiah cries out: Ah Lord God! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and by Your outstretched arm! Nothing is too difficult for You. [32:17]
We find the apostles articulating the same truth in Acts 4 when they pray in the midst of persecution: O Lord, it is You who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them . . . and now, Lord, . . . grant that Your bond-servants may speak Your Word with all confidence, while You extend Your hand . . .” [4:24,29,30] Yes, the truths enunciated by the Apostles’ Creed are truths for all times and places, whether in a prisoner’s cell in Jerusalem in 590 BC or in a prayer gathering of persecuted believers in AD 34 or in a world struggling with an unprecedented health crisis in AD 2020.
The question we’ve been considering – what do we believe when we recite the first line of the Apostles’ Creed – is Question 26 in the Heidelberg Catechism. Written in the turbulent days and times of 1563, listen to the wonderfully wise words of the answer:
That the eternal Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who out of nothing created heaven and earth with all that is in them, who also upholds and governs them by His eternal counsel and providence, is, for the sake of Christ His Son, my God and my Father. I trust in Him so completely that I have no doubt that He will provide me with all things necessary for body and soul. Moreover, whatever evil He sends upon me in this troubled life He will turn to my good. For He is able to do it, being almighty God, and He is determined to do it, being a faithful Father. Take some time to savor those words. Incorporate them into your prayers. Let them provide some of the wallpaper of your soul. Let them resonate within you always.
That answer says that God upholds and governs the world by His counsel and providence. What does that mean? If we don’t know what those words mean, then we are not really helped by using them. Well, Question 27 asks that question and gets right down to the nitty gritty. Here’s what we should understand by the providence of God:
The almighty and ever-present power of God, whereby He still upholds, as it were by His own hand, heaven and earth together with all creatures, and rules in such a way that leaves and grass, rain and drought, fruitful and unfruitful years, food and drink, health and sickness, riches and poverty, and everything else, come to us not by chance, but by His fatherly hand.
Oh, hallelujah! Let that sink in a bit! There are no punches pulled. It not a flippant, all-things-are-always-rosy kind of answer. It’s rich and grimy with reality. And behind it all stands our faithful Father. That brings comfort and hope to our souls. There are advantages that come to those who recognize and respond to God’s creation and providence. What are those advantages? Here’s the answer to that from Question 28 of the Heidelberg Catechism:
We learn that we are to be patient in adversity, grateful in the midst of blessing, and to trust our faithful God and Father for the future, assured that no creature shall separate us from His love, since all creatures are so completely in His hand that without His will they cannot even move.
Patient. Grateful. Trusting. May those be characteristic attributes of our lives. If we believe the first line of the Apostles’ Creed (which is a distillation of biblical teaching) then such shall be the case. As we go through this Coronavirus crisis, may we do so believing in, and trusting in, God the Father Almighty, the Maker of heaven and earth.
Let’s pray: Our Father who art in heaven, we look to You. We thank You that Your fatherly hand continues to grip us and hold us. No one and no thing can take us from Your hand. We ask you to grant us patience and faith in these days. We pray for those suffering from the Coronavirus. Heal them, help them, and be with them we pray. Bring Your comfort to those who have lost a loved one in this pandemic. May all our hearts be turned to You. Lord Jesus, You are our Shepherd. You are the author and captain of our faith. Keep us in Your tender care. Amen.