This year in my Bible study we’ve been studying the book of Romans. It’s been a
great book to study, the foundation of many Christian doctrines. Paul, who wrote the book of Romans, starts out in Chapter 1 telling the pagans that they are sinners, which the religious found awesome. Then Paul turns around in Chapter 2 and tells them, hey guess what, you religious are sinners, too. Then in Romans 3:23, everyone is a sinner, which is a bummer, but it’s okay because then Paul spells out God’s plan of salvation. He tells how God sent His Son Jesus to die in our place for our sins, that we might be the family of God. This good news culminates in Romans 8:1 which says, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:35 reveals that nothing can separate us from the love of God. So, there you are Christian. You are a sinner, but you have put your trust in Jesus, so now there is no condemnation for you, and nothing can separate you from God’s love.
Paul has written all this down, and Romans is a long book. Churches at that time would have read the entire letter out loud. As you can imagine, attention may have waned a
bit as all the chapters were read. This is why I love Romans Chapter 13 where, right in the middle of the chapter, Paul basically says, “Wake up!” Romans 13:11 says,“Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed.”
You hear that? Wake up because salvation is near. What does that mean? Well, we understand “wake up,” because we are often distracted and busy and not about what life is about. “Salvation is near?” What does that mean? Well, you get one life right? Your chance to choose Jesus is right now. You don’t get another chance to choose Jesus, and since you’re alive right now your chance is right now. That is also true for everyone currently alive on planet earth. Wake up! Salvation is near.
In many ways, I think coronavirus and the chaos it has caused has brought this verse to fruition. We were living like life goes on forever, right? Busy doing what we do: kids,
jobs, sports, leisure. Now, suddenly, we can’t live like that anymore. The fragility of life is
apparent and on our minds every day. Coronavirus has told the whole world to wake up!
Paul also lived in a time where the world was told to wake up for salvation is near, a time of chaos where things seemed out of control.
I was on Facebook the other day — you know, the number one place to look for news and
advice on how to live your life. One post had a list of how to maintain some sanity during chaotic times. It was full of things like: maintain a normal schedule by setting your alarm and going to bed on time, and dress for the social life you want, not the social life you currently have. So, basically, stop waking up at noon and wearing your pajamas all day. It struck me what most of the list had in common. It gave you control over something. Control over your schedule, how you dress, what you eat. We like that. We like to have control. It sets our minds at ease.
We like control, but coronavirus has shattered that. It has shattered all illusions of control that we have. We don’t have control over when our kids go back to school, whether there will be a graduation ceremony, what our jobs will be like, or even if we can find toilet paper at the grocery store. It’s all out of our control. One morning we thought we had control over all these things, and then overnight we didn’t.
Paul’s life was a little bit like that, too. He was a Pharisee living the law as well as he
could. He had control over his religion and his daily activities. Then Jesus came, stopped him cold on a road, blinded him, and said, “You are going to follow me now.” Paul lost all control. Think about it. He couldn’t see. He was taken to someone’s house who had reason to hate him and was totally dependent on him.
From then on, his life was directed by God, and not in his control. Preaching in the synagogue? Awesome! Some zealous Jews will plot to kill you, so out the window in a basket to preach at the next place. Spread the good news of Jesus to both Jew and Gentile? Cool! Well, some dudes vow to be on a hunger strike until they kill you. Want to comfort the Christians in Rome? Great idea! You can go there as a prisoner, but oh, by the way, you’ll be shipwrecked on an island along the way, a snake will bite you on the hand, and everyone will sit around waiting for you to swell up and die. But Paul “shook off the creature into the fire and suffered no harm.” (Acts 28:5)
He continued off to Rome, a prisoner, chained to a guard, preaching about Jesus to anyone who would listen until they killed him. All the while, with these crazy things happening to him, Paul continued on and wrote verses like Philippians 4:12-13, “I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Also, Philippians 4:6-7, “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Why? How? How could his life be so out of control and yet, he was content, at peace,
and continually serving the Lord? Because of everything that he taught us in Romans. He was a sinner, who Jesus saved. His eternity was secure. Nothing on earth could separate him from the love of Jesus. He was loved and led by God, and there were people all around him who didn’t know Jesus. The time of salvation was near, so it was time to wake up and live a life that made sense in light of that. God was in control of his life, both present and future. Trust me, you don’t want to get bit by snakes unless God is in control of your life. Paul was, as the kids say, woke. He knew what he was about, and each curve ball was just another opportunity for the Gospel of Jesus to go out.
As I think of coronavirus, this is what I want to focus on. Jesus is my savior, I am loved by Him, and my eternity is secure. Coronavirus has woken the world up to the briefness and fragility of life. So, the time of salvation is near, and I need to live a life that makes sense. I must take opportunities to let people know the hope I have that they can have, too, that they can have peace and security in a time of chaos. Especially this Easter week. Use social media or whatever means you have to spread the Gospel of Jesus. It’s time to wake up, for the hour of salvation is near.