For as far back as I can remember, Christians have been saying things like, “This is the greatest challenge the Church has ever faced in our lifetime”—or something to that effect. This rings true even more loudly these days, as many churches across the world have decided to forego in-person fellowship as a way to love their neighbors in light of the ongoing coronavirus threat. But beyond disease prevention that disrupts our normal services, we have a real enemy whose desire is to persecute and destroy the Church.
While we are right to acknowledge the intentions of our enemy and be realistic about the possibility of persecution, our hand-wringing about every challenge we face often betrays a lack of faith. Those of us who trust in Christ will face difficulties, persecution, and more, but God is with us, and these trials will not destroy us.
Jeremiah met with the remnant of God’s people who were still in Jerusalem after its defeat by the Babylonians. They came to him so that he might ask the Lord what they should do: stay in Israel or go to another land? They promised to obey whatever the Lord told them to do, and Jeremiah responded by waiting on a word from the Lord. Ten days later, the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah, and He said:
“If you will indeed stay in this land, then I will rebuild and not demolish you,
and I will plant and not uproot you, because I relent concerning the disaster
that I have brought on you. Don’t be afraid of the king of Babylon… I will grant you compassion,
and he will have compassion on you and allow you to return to your own soil” (Jeremiah 42:10–12).
The Lord held out hope to His people in the midst of coming trouble. We, too, have hope in Christ, no matter what comes. In Romans 8, we’re given a realistic picture of the life that a Christian can expect to experience in this world, things like affliction and distress, persecution and famine, nakedness and danger (Romans 8:35). However, we do not encounter our trials as passive victims who are being trampled by the enemy, because nothing can separate us from the love of Christ. And “if God is for us, who is against us?” (vv.38–39,31).
The people of Jeremiah’s day rejected God’s comfort and provision. They decided they would rather flee to Egypt than trust the God who loved them. Their pain, rather than being mitigated, was actually multiplied. Regardless, God’s purposes still stood. God still brought the people of Judah back into the land when the time came. And centuries later, one of the descendants of one of those exiled was Jesus. God’s plans cannot be thwarted, no matter what the enemy has planned.
Written by Scott Slayton