by The Rev. Dr Mark Dickson
A bishop once said: “Everywhere St Paul went there was a riot; everywhere I go they serve tea.” Our lives can get very comfortable, all too easily. Everything is predictable and orderly and follows a set pattern with little disturbance. That is how it is until God steps in. We often say that God is in control, but we lose sight of the fact that he doesn’t place at the top of his agenda that everyone should live comfortably and happily. So, we say: “God is in control” when a family member is very sick or has been in an accident or injured by a bullet or kidnapped by an armed militia. We readily tell ourselves and everyone else that nothing happens outside of Divine permission. And of course, it is quite right that we say this. It is true.
But it is equally true that the Jesus who is seated at God’s right hand and who presides over every detail of the cosmos, even down to the sparrow that falls or the insignificant hair on the hair-brush – this same Jesus has announced the Gospel of the Kingdom. It is a Gospel that speaks of death and resurrection, his first (and most fundamentally), then ours. It is a Gospel of death and future life. The Divine King experienced the ultimate rejection: a cross! And he has promised us who follow him the exact opposite of comfort and ease as we make our way through that same world. To be told that we must pick up the cross and follow him is to be forewarned. The cross marks out God’s way of salvation for us. It also stands as a solemn reminder of the enmity and warfare that still exists. Our world is hostile to its creator and our Saviour. It remains under his curse. Therefore, the New Testament picture of the Christian life is consistently presented to us as one that will be marked by the cross, not comfort.
Paul reminded the Corinthians that if we trust Jesus only for this life we are to be pitied. Our time in this world will come to an end all too quickly. The pandemic has swept through the continent of Africa and cut short many dreams and hopes. Why is God so hard on us? The answer is that he is actually full of mercy, and he has permitted COVID-19 to prise loose our grasp on the here and now, and instead turn our eyes to eternity. Our search for ease and security in this life draws our gaze away from the aeon to come. However, a global epidemic is calculated to make us look again.
There was no substantial hope for a world beyond this world until Jesus came down and at that first Easter willingly laid down his life for us. By his death, God has defeated death and removed his condemnation from us. By that sacrifice, we are promised a new hope that lies outside this world, a hope that can never tarnish or decline. The illness that has swept away millions and wreaked economic havoc is God’s reminder that this world cannot be all that there is. Jesus came to rescue us and take us to a forever-world which lies just around the corner: “For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come”. Our vision is that Africa will be filled with preachers and teachers who deeply love the Lord Jesus and who have a profound understanding of Scripture, in order that Africa may increase its share in the Kingdom of God. Help us achieve our vision by supporting GWC: https://www.gwc.ac.za/make-a-donation/gwc-general-fund/
Watch the Incredible Story of the Power of the Cross