I’m privileged to serve on the Board of Trustees at Hannibal-LaGrange University (HLGU). HLG is a Christian University affiliated with the Missouri Baptist Convention and located in Hannibal, Missouri. The school is a wonderful place to bring a distinctly Christian worldview to bear on degree programs from Nursing to Business Administration. If you are interested in Christian higher education, let me encourage you to consider HLG.
Today, we held our Spring Trustee meeting and I was afforded the opportunity to bring a word of devotional. I’ve included that devotion below in the hopes it would encourage you. As always, thank you for your continued prayers and encouragement. The devotional begins with a passage from God’s Word:
“I called to the Lord in my distress, and he answered me.
I cried out for help from deep inside Sheol; you heard my voice.
When you threw me into the depths, into the heart of the seas,
the current overcame me. All your breakers and your billows swept over me.
And I said, ‘I have been banished from your sight,
yet I will look once more toward your holy temple.’
The water engulfed me up to the neck; the watery depths overcame me;
seaweed was wrapped around my head.
I sank to the foundations of the mountains, the earth’s gates shut behind me forever!
Then you raised my life from the Pit, Lord my God!
As my life was fading away, I remembered the Lord,
and my prayer came to you, to your holy temple.
Those who cherish worthless idols abandon their faithful love,
but as for me, I will sacrifice to you with a voice of thanksgiving.
I will fulfill what I have vowed. Salvation belongs to the Lord.”
Perhaps when you heard the words of that prayer, you might be inclined to think it came from one of the great psalms of the Psalter. Perhaps a prayer from David at the end of his rope. Or maybe even Moses interceding on behalf of a disobedient people. But, in fact, the prayer you just heard was breathed by the prophet Jonah and found in his second chapter.
Jonah is no hero. He hated the people he preached to. He is an anti-hero and accidental prophet. However, Jonah is proof that God can use a crooked stick to hit a perfect lick.
Perhaps the prayer of Jonah’s desperation smacks of a familiar desperation in your own prayer life. You find yourself in uncharted waters, ministering through the seas of a pandemic which are causing the boat of your life to rock. You’re not sure which news is fake news and you’re not sure what life will look like on the other side of this crisis, much less next week. You seek to operate is God’s wisdom, but you can’t find a verse of scripture to give explicit instruction for pandemics. Your spiritual disciplines and daily routines have been reconfigured. Perhaps, it’s even possible, your routine and productivity have been exposed as the idols they were all along. Then to you my friend, let me say: “Salvation belongs to the LORD.”
Have you ever considered that the very thing representing immanent death might actually be God’s deliverance? For Jonah, in any other circumstance, the great fish swallowing him would have been his doom. If the water didn’t get him, the compression of the fish’s jaws or the acidic composition of its digestive tract certainly would have. But the very thing that represented certain death actually served to move him from a stormy sea, to a cry of desperation, and finally to dry land. Instead of Death, there was Deliverance.
Perhaps the pandemic is the great fish in your existence. The thing which looms and represents catastrophe is the very thing God is using to bring deliverance. To bring deliverance from ministry idols. To bring deliverance from overcrowded calendars with no margin for family or margin for friendships with lost people. To bring deliverance from programs and ministries that were sacred cows instead of sanctified service. Perhaps this pandemic and God’s sure deliverance isn’t even about you, but about getting the gospel to the people of your Nineveh.
The great fish of 2020 will be used by God to work all things for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purposes. So, in this moment of seeming crisis, when your world has been upended and tossed into the sea, let me remind you that God can use even you—crooked stick. He will use your imperfection to convey his message. That as Sovereign, He has appropriated you to aid him in reigning over His Kingdom.
So, don’t allow yourself to be held captive by what you don’t know; what you can’t do; what you’re not able to discern. Allow the Holy Spirit to work thru you to be a light to a dark world that is seeking to understand their own mortality. Demonstrate to them the hope that is in Christ Jesus and the love that He promises; the Love that He is. The perfect love that casts out all fear.
For I was sinking deep in sin, far from the peaceful shore,
Very deeply stained within, sinking to rise no more;
But the Master of the sea, Heard my despairing cry,
From the Waters lifted me, now safe am I.
Love lifted me! Love Lifted me!
When nothing else could help, Love Lifted me!
 “Love Lifted Me” by James Rowe