When I pastored in Colorado for a number of years, I taught at a conference at the Navigator’s Glen Eyrie Center near Colorado Springs. As the evening speaker, I would drive the 50 miles in late afternoon down Highway 83. The road follows a ridge that forms the Black Forest. As you get close to Colorado Springs, the road has many curves through the forest and ravines on either side of the road. One night as I returned, an incredibly dense fog set in. The car lights were helpless to penetrate, only creating a cloud of light at the end of the hood. It’s not a road you can safely drive in dense fog, but I realized as I looked out the side of the windshield I could see the bold white line that marked the edge of the lane. I could safely drive if I kept the car aligned to the painted line. It was slow but safe.
As we live in a world in the grips of the COVID-19 virus, we are in a period of history’s deep fog. None of us could have imagined a world which has all but stopped. People are sheltering in place. The economy, as one commentator described it, has been put in a coma. Schools, churches, and most businesses are closed. Over 180 nations are dealing with the virus in their country. A fog no one can penetrate to see when or how it will end. No one can plan for the future. Yet life goes on. How do we navigate as disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ, as we are utterly unable to see tomorrow and what it will bring?
A children’s song has much help for us. There is a song that says, “My Lord knows the way through the wilderness. All I have to do is follow.” This season of unknown length is a gift to us, for it compels us even more to live by faith. It takes away all the assumptions we have about today and tomorrow. This is a time when no one has the wisdom to show us the way through the wilderness, a future over which we have almost no control. This is a time we are compelled to walk by faith or to stumble in the darkness. The statement of Jesus takes on an essential meaning as He said in John 10:27, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” We know the voice of Jesus’ leading comes through the Holy Spirit and the Word of God working together. “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” (Romans 8:14). The Holy Spirit uses the Word of God as Psalm 119:105 compels our trust and obedience, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” Like the white line defining the side of the lane, if we stay aligned with the Word of God listening for the voice of Jesus guiding us, we will find the way through the wilderness.
But as we walk the line of faith in this time of dense fog, we realize there are dangerous craters on either side of the line of faith. On one side is fear that will lead us to a paralyzing numbness or choices that will add to the danger and casualties of our times. Fear leaves us prone to vast conspiracy theories or cruel hoaxes. On the other side of the road is the crater of foolishness. In the African wars where children were used as soldiers, they were told they had magic shields and the bullets of the enemy couldn’t penetrate them, so many fearlessly went to their deaths. We see some in the Christian world living in defiance of the virus or believing somehow the blood of Jesus will exempt them from harm. One pastor in the Washington, D.C. area went ahead with church services as the virus was spreading. He said God was bigger than a virus (which He is). The next week he came down with COVID-19, and on Easter Sunday he died. Faith doesn’t live in defiance of reality. Thus, as we put our eyes on Jesus and live in confidence that He knows the way through the wilderness, how do we find the safe line of faith that will safely lead us, avoiding the craters of fear and foolishness?
A good example for us is in the history of the Kings of Judah. The truth is recorded for us in 2 Chronicles 20. Jeshoshaphat was King. He was leading the nation in revival. But as he did, the nation was challenged. Great armies came from the East. Jehoshaphat felt powerlessness and fear. He knew he and his armies could not overcome the enemy. However, fear quickly turned to faith. He called for a fast, and then called people together in assembly before the Temple. He called on the promise of God that He would hear and respond to their prayers. He said to the Lord as recorded in 2 Chronicles 20:12, “O our God, will you not execute judgment on them? For we are powerless against this great horde that is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” There is faith that puts its eyes on the Lord in the fog. It is honest in feeling powerless. They were honest in saying they didn’t know what to do, but they had eyes of faith. They fixed their eyes not on the enemy. They refused to live in fear. They refused to surrender to the enemy. They refused to turn to their own plans. They refused to surrender any of their brothers in battle. Their eyes were on the Lord. They knew the Lord knows the way through the wilderness and all they had to do was follow.
After their prayer, God answered through a man named Jahaziel whom the Holy Spirit came upon. He brought the way through the wilderness. He said, as recorded in 2 Chronicles 20:15, “Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God’s.” He then said to them the secret of spiritual battle. He said in verse 17, “You will not need to fight in this battle. Stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the LORD on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem.’ Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed. Tomorrow go out against them, and the LORD will be with you.” As Ephesians 6 reminds us, we stand in the power of His strength as He fights the battle.
The next day when Israel went by faith to face the enemy, the strategy was clearly of the Spirit of God. At the front, rather than putting the best soldiers, he put singers in their holy attire used for worship services. They were to go before the enemy, singing the praise of God while He fought for them. 2 Chronicles 20:21-22 describes the action, the song, and the results, “And when he had taken counsel with the people, he appointed those who were to sing to the LORD and praise him in holy attire, as they went before the army, and say, “Give thanks to the LORD, for his steadfast love endures forever.” And when they began to sing and praise, the LORD set an ambush against the men of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah, so that they were routed.” The victory was so total it took them four days to take all the possessions of the enemy. The people sang in praise while God fought the battle.
As we look into the fog of history we live in, we are called to the same faith. The battle we are in is not ours. It is the Lord’s. We are not in control. We don’t live in denial of the realities of the virus or the social and economic consequences. We don’t live in paralyzing fear. Our Lord knows the way through the wilderness. All we have to do is follow. This is a time for us to lift our praise to the Lord and express our total confidence in Him.
The New Testament missionaries Paul and Silas come to mind. They were preaching the Gospel in Philippi and there was great fruit. But with great fruit, as always, came great opposition. Paul and Silas had been dragged into the market place and beaten. Many blows were inflicted upon them. They were thrown into prison and put into stocks. So here were Paul and Silas in the prison cell with their feet in stocks. They were powerless. They did not know what tomorrow would bring. They had no way to control what tomorrow would bring. They were in the most dense of fogs. At midnight, the Holy Spirit takes us into the prison cell and we see faith at work. Their actions are described in Acts 16:25, “About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.” Like the people of God under Jehoshaphat, they faced the fog and sang their praise to the Lord. They weren’t paralyzed by fear. They weren’t offering deliverance prayers, as if they could command their release from prison and the destruction of the enemies. They praised and kept their eyes on Jesus.
Why did they find their time in the dense fog to be a time of praise? They praised first because it is an evidence of someone who is filled with the Holy Spirit and totally under His influence. Ephesians 5:18 calls on us to continually seek to be filled with the enabling presence of the Holy Spirit, as He is the source of the life of Christ within us. The passage then gives the threefold fruit that comes from a life filled with the Holy Spirit: A heart that is continually praising the Lord as we make melody in our heart. A grateful heart that gives thanks for all things, even being in the midst of dense fog and events out of our control. The life of a servant giving love to others as we put them before us.
They praised God because He is worthy to be praised no matter what our situation in life. He is good and His plans are good. His grace is amazing. His wisdom so high it is beyond understanding. His eyes are on His children, and He never slumbers or sleeps. Jesus has promised in the Father’s plan He will never leave us. His grace is always enough. His will for our lives will be accomplished. Our salvation and place in the eternal kingdom of the Lord Jesus is secure.
Paul and Silas had an awesome confidence that while events were out of their control, they were not out of God’s control. God is working His plan to bring the Gospel to all nations. He is working His plan to make us each more like Jesus. He is working His plan to enable us to build up our brothers and sisters in Christ. It wasn’t one praising and the other not. They were both praising the Lord, encouraging one another as they did.
Their praise in the denseness of the fog, when life was out of their control, had a profound influence on the other prisoners. Their joy in their salvation, their confidence in God, their trust in Jesus. What power there was in their prison of circumstances when Paul and Silas did not turn to fear. They did not turn to foolishness. They did not try and control events themselves. They didn’t try and declare their future in some prayers that seemingly would put power back in their hands. They trusted. They rested. They didn’t know what to do, but their eyes were on Jesus. Paul had learned what he declared in 2 Corinthians 2:14, “But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere.” They had confidence that it was the Lord’s battle, and He would fight for them.
While they were praising, God sent a great earthquake. The prison doors were opened, and everyone’s bonds on their feet were broken. Yet, we see the influence of these men of God, as none of the prisoners ran to escape. We see Paul’s kindness to the jailer. The Gospel was shared with the jailer and his household. They all committed their lives to Christ and were baptized. Paul and Silas were legally set free in the morning, as the leaders were forced to acknowledge they had not treated Paul legally.
Not every story ends like this. We don’t know how this will go with the virus. We don’t know if it will pass, if a treatment will be found, if a vaccine will be created to protect the world. We don’t know what will happen to our economy. We don’t know if everything will go back to normal. We don’t know if churches will be opened to large assemblies any time soon. We don’t know if this is the final moment that will create an opportunity for Satan’s plan for a new world order in rebellion against God. We don’t know if this is the last moment for the church as Jesus will soon take us home. No one knows. Well, no one knows but God. So we will turn our eyes to Him. We will lift our hearts together in praise. God is absolutely in control, and He is fully worthy to be trusted and praised.
Let us as the church show the other prisoners of our world, who are with us in the grip of this pandemic, that they also can turn by faith to the Lord Jesus and enter into His salvation, His Kingdom, and His work on earth. May they see in us a peace that passes understanding. May they see in us a confidence that God fights our battle as we stand by faith on His promises. Let the world lean on our song, “The Lord knows the way through the wilderness. All we have to do is follow.” May our songs of praise in Jesus fill the darkness of our times.