Fear and the Future (Acts 17:30)

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Submitted by Andy McIlvain.

Acts 17:30

Recently I met a friend I had not seen since the pandemic began. He was not his characteristic confident self. He was fear stricken. Understandably being in his 70’s he must be prudent and safe, but his demeanor was that of anxiety and fear as was our conversation.

We should all be fearful, not so much of COVID-19 but of God. We have in this world and in our culture far too long denied and even ridiculed God. Even the Christian community has bought into the secular culture. Our western culture of entitlement has led us to believe that we must have comfort and ease and that sickness and health are managed by our science and healthcare. Just as the Tower of Babel revealed mankind’s arrogance, so too we are exposed by our post-modern thinking.

The world is more connected now than at any time in human history with all the advantages and disadvantages (i.e. disease) that go with it. The new coronavirus has become a world traveler, traveling through airlines, shipping, and rail, in the air, land, and sea. There is no doubt God is in control of all reality. Acts 17:30 states: “The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent”.

The Puritans held a very biblically practical and humble view of disease and suffering. We would do well at this present moment to reconsider what they had to say. In their view the Bible was clear about the omnipresent divine providence of God who created the world and disposes or ordains all things (Matthew 10:29). Scripture tells us that not only does prosperity and goodness come from God but also war, afflictions, and disease. He prevents, sends, and removes our illnesses. What does that mean that God ordains or permits?

When it is said that God ordains something, it means he has set the event or circumstance apart as something special that he permits. Since God fills all creation and is everywhere present and the Holy Spirit as well is indwelling the faithful, God’s reach and influence is beyond our reckoning. We now encounter God’s cause and effect. The Bible teaches that God has chosen to exercise his absolute, direct, and intentional sovereign government of the world through the agency of believers or intermediate powers (the “sons of God” or “angels”), some of whom are evil.

The Anglican Book of Common Prayer includes this prayer which is very appropriate today: “Almighty God, you know that we have no power in ourselves to help ourselves: Keep us both outwardly in our bodies and inwardly in our souls, that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.”

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