Uncertain Times: Will You Stay Faithful to God?
[Uncertain times and the difficulties we are right now living in – how do we stay faithful in these strange and uncertain times?]
This has been a year of unexpected and unprecedented challenges for us all – for our whole country – for the whole world. Strange times. Very uncertain times. You may not have experienced sickness or death first hand, but millions have. It’s been a time of fear and isolation for many; a time of financial hardship for others. Social unrest – conflict – and violence is all around us. It’s been a time of great uncertainty; a real struggle.
Do you sometimes wonder where God is in all this? You’re not alone. It’s times like this that can cause us to wonder. We can’t see what God is doing – or if he’s doing anything at all. And we begin to wonder if God has forgotten about us.
Psalm 27:14 says,
“Wait for the Lord;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the Lord.”
Be strong? Wait? But we’ve been waiting for months! We’re so tired; and it’s hard to be patient and wait for God’s next steps if we think that God has forgotten or abandoned us.
Are you are feeling forgotten? Let me assure you – God has not forgotten you; and let me encourage you to STAY THE COURSE. Stay the course. In other words, faithfully continue to follow Jesus even when it seems like it would be easier to give up and walk away.
Be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.
Be strong. Take heart. Wait.
I want to tell you about a group of people who grew tired of waiting for the Lord. Even though God had given them evidence of his faithfulness over and over, they thought they had been forgotten and as a result, did not stay the course.
Evidence of God’s Faithfulness
“When the people saw Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, ‘Come, make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.'”
Before we read on, let’s talk about what’s happening here.
The Israelites were slaves in Egypt for 400 years. But they witnessed God’s power as he brought plagues on Pharaoh and the Egyptians who enslaved them. God showed them mercy when he passed over them and struck down the firstborn sons of Egyptian. God brought them out of captivity, parted the sea, and safely delivered them from their oppressors. In the desert, God gave them bread from heaven and water from a rock. God protected them and gave them victory over their enemies.
God showed his faithfulness and lovingkindness to them over and over during very uncertain times.
Now here they were at the foot of Mount Sinai – and keep in mind this was only 3 months after God had brought them out of Egypt (See Exodus 19). They watched as God descended on the mountain in a cloud of smoke, with thunder and lightning, and spoke to Moses.
God told them:
“You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself.” Exodus 19:4
Are you getting the picture? God gave them every reason to trust Him.
A Call to Be Faithful
In Exodus 19:5, God tells the Israelites,
“Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession.”
And the people replied,
“We will do everything the Lord has said.” Exodus 19:8
Remember that. God called them to be faithful, and upfront, here they are, vowing their loyalty.
Moses made several trips up and down that mountain. A couple of times, he brought Aaron with him along with some of the priests and 70 elders. Then God summoned Moses back up the mountain to receive the tablets of stone with the law and the commandments written on them. Moses told the elders to wait for him there at the foot of the mountain, and he left Aaron and Hur in charge until he returned.
This time, Moses was up on the mountain for 40 days and 40 nights (Exodus 24:15-18) – a little over a month. Apparently, this was longer than Moses had been gone on previous trips because the people grew restless waiting for him to return.
They assumed something had happened to Moses.
They assumed that God must have left them or forgotten them or something.
And so they asked Aaron to make them some new gods that they could follow.
In 40 short days, they forgot all about God’s faithfulness to them in the past – the very recent past. They forgot how God had delivered them and protected them and provided for them and shown them love and mercy.
Would a God who did all this really just leave them there like that?
Apparently, they seemed to think so, and they abandoned their promise to be faithful to God and do everything he had instructed them to do. Instead, they asked Aaron to make artificial gods for them.
Faltering in an Uncertain Time
If you still have your finger in your bibles, let’s continue reading in Exodus 32, starting at verse 2.
Exodus 32:2-4 Aaron said,
“‘Take off the gold earrings that your wives, your sons and your daughters are wearing, and bring them to me.’ So all the people took off their earrings and brought them to Aaron. He took what they handed him and made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf, fashioning it with a tool. Then they said, ‘These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.’”
Wait! What? Right on the heels of all they had seen God do, they can claim these gold images are their gods – who brought them out of Egypt!
“When Aaron saw this, he built an altar in front of the calf and announced, ‘Tomorrow there will be a festival to the Lord.’ So the next day the people rose early and sacrificed burnt offerings and presented fellowship offerings. Afterward they sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry.”
How quickly they changed course.
And it didn’t go unnoticed.
“Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Go down, because your people, whom you brought up out of Egypt, have become corrupt. They have been quick to turn away from what I commanded them and have made themselves an idol cast in the shape of a calf. They have bowed down to it and sacrificed to it and have said, “These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.”‘
‘I have seen these people,’ the Lord said to Moses, ‘and they are a stiff-necked people. Now leave me alone so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them…'”
What We Learn About Staying Faithful in Uncertain Times from the Israelite’s Story:
Recall God’s Faithfulness.
When you’re discouraged or you feel like God has forgotten you, remember how God has been faithful to you in the past. Take time to think about the times God provided for you, showed you his mercy; times when God demonstrated his power; or when God walked you through a really hard time and faithfully brought you out the other side. List those times. Write them down if you need to.
Just Because You Can’t See What God is Doing Doesn’t Mean God is Doing Nothing.
The Israelites couldn’t see what God was doing with Moses up on Mt. Sinai, so they assumed he was no longer there and that nothing good was happening. But God was very busy up on that mountain. He was not only busy giving Moses the 10 commandments, but he was also busy giving Moses the whole Levitical law: instructions on how to live as God’s people; how to live in relationship with God and in community with each other. He was also giving Moses all the instructions to build the Ark of the Covenant, how to build the Tabernacle, how to worship in the Tabernacle, how to instruct and train all the priests, and a whole lot more.
The Israelites couldn’t see all that God was doing up on the mountain, so they assumed God was doing nothing. They assumed God had forgotten them and abandoned them.
Right now, we can’t see what God is doing. All we see is the chaos and the scary stuff around us. Is it hard to imagine that God is doing something? Anything? Like the Israelites, are you feeling like God has forgotten you?
Remember: just because you can’t see what God is doing, it doesn’t mean that God isn’t doing anything. God is up to something. What can we do to join him?Just because you can't see what God is doing doesn't mean God is doing nothing. Click To Tweet
I recently read the article, “A Unique Time of God? Reading Karl Barth during Covid-19” by William H. Willimon. Karl Barth was a pastor and theologian during both the first and second World Wars. In the article, Willimon states, “Barth asked, in effect, ‘What’s a gracious God up to in this unique time and how can we hitch on to what God is doing?'”
God is doing something even if we don’t see it. How can we join him?
Living in Uncertain Times
2020 might look like a year that God forgot about us or abandoned us. But what might God be doing or preparing to do that we just can’t see – yet? Just because we can’t see what God is doing, it doesn’t mean God is doing nothing.
Let’s not be like the stiff-necked Israelites who quickly forgot God’s faithfulness. Take the time to remember all the ways God has been faithful to you over the years. Expect that God will continue to be faithful.
Hang in there! Stay the course and remain faithful while we wait on the next thing the Lord has for us. Let’s faithfully be busy with God’s work while we wait.
“But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”
God has not forgotten you. God has been faithful in the past and will continue to be faithful now and in the future.
Don’t give up on God just because this season is really difficult and may continue to be difficult for quite some time.
I know it’s hard. But stand firm. Stay the course. Stay faithful and don’t give up. God is moving even if we can’t see what he’s doing.
Need more encouragement in these strange and uncertain times? Take a look at these other articles at Extravagant Hope.
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