At the beginning of March there were probably many things on our calendars for the upcoming months that ended up not happening, or least didn’t happen like we thought they would. At church, we didn’t have regular services on Sundays or for Holy Week and Easter. Meetings, confirmation classes, and Bible studies didn’t happen. I was supposed to have doctor and dentist appointments in late March that got postponed. And it appears that most public Fourth of July celebrations in our area are cancelled. What a lot of disruption from a tiny virus. As the old saying goes, “Man proposes; God disposes.”
We can make all the plans we want, and there’s nothing wrong with that in and of itself, but recent events are a good reminder that ultimately, we are not in control. We are NOT the “masters of our fate” or the “captains of our souls,” as some poets might say. As the book of James says: “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit’ – yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.’” (4:13-15) Everything depends on the will of our Lord. We only have the moment we’re in. We can’t go back in the past and we don’t know what will happen tomorrow. So, as we make plans, we should always keep in mind that they will only happen “if the Lord wills.”
And what does the Lord will for us? He wills that we be saved, and He works everything to that end for us. We know He loves us. The fact that He sent His Son to die on the cross for our sins leaves His love for us beyond all doubt. And all of His promises – to forgive our sins, to raise us from the dead, to give us eternal life forever with Him – these will all be fulfilled. Therefore, as we go into the unknown future, we need not fear, because whatever happens we know that He is working all things for our good. This is why we can live our lives confident that we are always in the loving, caring hands of our Lord.
Even when things like violence, tragedy, disease, and finally death befall us, we are still firmly in His care. We know these things must happen because as the Bible tells us, “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23) and since all sin, all must die. Despite the obsession lately with “staying safe,” Christians know, at least from an earthly perspective, there is never a time when we are safe. And there never has been ever since Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden. As one hymn puts it, “I walk in danger all the way…”
We will all die of something at some point. It cannot be avoided. In fact, in one sense we have already died when we were baptized into Christ. As Paul says in Colossians, “For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” (3:3-4) Our true safety doesn’t depend on us being paranoid and afraid of everything that could kill us in this life, it depends on Christ. Only as those who believe and are baptized into Christ are we truly safe. The worst things we have to fear – sin, death, and the devil – have already been conquered by Christ through His death and resurrection on our behalf. We are baptized into Christ and therefore, as Romans 6 tells us, we are also baptized into His death and His resurrection. We are safe in Christ, not just for this life, but for eternal life.
While Christians should use the reason and senses that God gave them and not purposefully live reckless lives, we can live fearlessly. We can live without fear of the future. We can live without fear today. We can live without fear because we have been granted the gift of faith in Christ and Christ is so much greater than our fears. Christ was with us yesterday, He is with us today, and He will be with us tomorrow. And when our last hour comes, whenever that may be, in His good time, He will take us to be forever with Him. Our future is forever, and that you can plan on. “Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:57)
Rev. Shane R. Cota
Pastor Cota serves Trinity Lutheran Church - Town of Wilson and St. Thomas Lutheran Church, Waldo.