It was a different Sunday morning in the Wallace household.
I was sitting at the breakfast table about the time we would normally be greeting each other before morning service.
Being the spiritual leader that I am, I decided to encourage Jeanie and Abby by reading a CNN article about the most optimistic best-case scenarios for the Coronavirus pandemic.
The predictions were so grim that Abby appropriately sarcastically thanked me for my encouragement. They were so bad, in fact, I struggle to repeat them here This week a Department of Health & Human Services report forecast that a July or August end to our present distress is the best case scenario, that the pandemic could last as long as 18 months with wave after wave of outbreaks and devastating effects on our economy that will last long after the health crisis is over.
I confess that I began to mentally calculate when our church would likely run out of money. The next thought was when our salary would likely be cut.
At that precise moment, my cellphone vibrated. It was a text message from my long-time prayer friend, Barb West. The text read simply: Remember Philippians 4:19, accompanied with a smiley face.
It’s a verse I have memorized, and its words came immediately to mind: “But my God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in Christ Jesus.”
Now, try telling me that that wasn’t God!
That word “But” sticks out to me. Even with all the terrible predictions, even in the face of the fact that the whole world is in crisis and shut down by this terrible pandemic, God is still promising He will take care of us!
It’s occurred to me that we, as a nation, even as a world, have perhaps in our generation never faced such a threat to both our health and our wealth. It’s a crisis in which a highly contagious virus threatens to infect most of us, with 20% of those cases requiring hospitalization, and 1-3.4% of cases ending in death. With non-essential businesses shut down, millions of workers have been laid off or are unable to work. For how long, no one is sure. A great recession is almost universally assured—world-wide!
How quickly things can change! A month or three ago, this was nearly unthinkable.
But the morning’s revelations weren’t over.
Jeanie and I decided to watch a couple church TV services for our Sunday morning worship.
The pastor bringing the message in the first service encouraged us from Psalm 91: “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High, will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, ‘My refuge and my fortress, My God in whom I trust for it is he who delivers you from the snare of the trapper and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with His pinions, and under his wings you make seek refuge. His faithfulness is a shield and a bulwark. You will not be afraid of the terror by night or of the arrow that flies by day, of the pestilence that stalks in darkness or of the destruction that lays waste at noon. A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you” (1-7).
On the next program, another Bible teacher then recounted the story of David and Goliath as he walked on the hills above the Valley of Ephes-Dammim in Israel—the actual site of the most incredible military victory in history. As he retold the story, he focused for a moment on King Saul’s doubts about David’s request to challenge the Giant. He noted David’s answer—how he had killed both a lion and a bear that had attacked his flock as the Lord protected him, and how the Lord would do the same in his battle with the Giant. Then the speaker delivered a powerful application: We can often encourage ourselves in times of crisis by recounting the Lord’s answers to our prayers in former times of crisis.
This reminded me that the present crisis isn’t the first time we have faced severe threats to our health and our wealth. In fact, it was only 10 years ago when we faced an even more urgent personal threat to both. It was in the midst of the Great Recession that I was diagnosed with a kind of cancer that had a 100% fatality rate, the church had completely run out of money and my full-time salary had been eliminated.
I say more urgent because the Great Recession had already descended upon the land, the dreaded deadly pestilence had already been contracted, the church had already run out of money and my salary had already been entirely cut. There were no signs the recession would ease immediately, there was no cure for my rare kind of Lymphoma, there were no mega-givers who could or would rescue the church financially and there simply would not be a church willing to hire a dead-man walking.
We were seemingly out of options . . . except for one. It’s the one mentioned in Psalm 91. We took refuge in the Most High.
We prayed. And many of you prayed.
And we obeyed. We continued to serve as Pastor and wife of Risen King Community Church. We served in the Body of Christ–I continued pastoring and preached the Word of God as many Sundays as my health would allow. Jeanie taught the children among other things. And we gave at least 10% of whatever God provided
And, guess what?
Psalm 91 proved to be true. As I’ve often said, we never missed a meal, a mortgage payment or a tithe.
And I’m still here.
The lesson: Take refuge in the Most High! Pray, trust and obey!
And when you do, the final promises of that great Psalm will apply to you just as they have applied to us:
“Because he has loved Me, therefore I will deliver him. I will set him securely on high, because he has known my name. He will call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him, with long life I will satisfy him and let him see my salvation.” (Psalm 91:14-16).
Pastor Jim Wallace