Happiness Amid the Hellishness of COVID-19
Cliff Mansley is one of the most faithful pastors that I’ve ever met.
I’ll never forget how he jumped up in a clergy meeting in Pittsburgh during a hot debate about something and yelled, “Vote for Jesus!”
That’s been my guiding principle ever since.
Vote for Jesus!
Look at the candidates – what they have said, done and propose to say and do – and compare them to the red letters of Jesus.
It’s pretty easy to decide who to vote for after doing that.
Well, Cliff texted early Tuesday morning (4/21/20): “Bobby, in all of this madness, this is the first morning that I have awakened with a deep sense that things are about to spiral out of control in a way that we’re not prepared for. I hope that I am utterly wrong. At the same time, I have a deep abiding sense that I belong to Christ and I remain unshaken.”
After an emotional burst of amening to that, I wrote back, “Feel the same, amigo. I guess it’s time to brush up on eschatology.”
God knows I know I’m not an expert on theology about the last days with the rapturing of the Church, appearance of the Antichrist, great tribulation, millennium and all of the rest that we can read about in Revelation après spending a time with Jesus and His red letters in Mark 13, Matthew 24 and Luke 21 along with supporting texts throughout Daniel, Ezekiel and the Bible.
Still, I confess, I’m feeling a bit more expectant when I pray, “Come, Lord Jesus!”
I guess that’s why I’m feeling compelled to urge us to prepare ourselves and point people to Jesus so they can prepare themselves for the coming back of Jesus to establish His Kingdom; like the Biblical metaphor of a wife preparing herself for the groom’s arrival.
God knows I don’t know when it’s all gonna, uh, come down; pero I know it will just as every other Biblical prophecy has in human history which, ultimately, is His story.
So remembering it’s no-one-knows-when-but-it’s/He’s-coming-sooner-or-later not if-He’s-coming-back-for-His-family-by-grace-through-faith, let’s take up the Scouting motto and be prepared.
Vote for Jesus!
Let’s take your temperature.
Are you happy?
“Pastor,” some may think, “Hellllllloooooooo! Aren’t you aware of what’s going on? The entire planet is shut down. The economy is going down the toilet quicker than poop through a goose. People are walking on eggs and more and more and more of ‘em are cracking.”
These are hellish days.
Unprecedented, fluid and incrementally unfolding.
Because just about all of the prognosticating models of the Wuhanese COVID-19’s magnitude and duration have been as accurate as political polling manipulated by prejudice not dictated by data, the reactionary extremes dominate news feeds.
You’ve got the-sky-is-falling-Chicken-Little crowd that’s melting like snowflakes in a sauna and you’ve got the it’s-all-been-overstated-and-overreached conspiracy theorists that think it’s odd that the whole world and even America shut down and sheltered up so quickly as if orchestrated by new world order globalists dancing to the tune of the WHO.
I don’t know.
That’s why I haven’t guessed in public.
That’s why I’m concentrating on praying to the only One who does know and trusting the red letters promise of John 3:16-17 rather than pretending I do know like all of those conflicting “experts” on the fake news channels.
Again, I don’t know what’s going on but I know who is on God’s mind – you/me/them/everybody – and I know there’s no doubt about our ultimate destiny in heaven that generates our confidently living through the meantime by grace through faith in Jesus.
So are you happy?
Has your happiness been detoured, disturbed, distracted, tabled, postponed or destroyed amid the hellishness of COVID-19?
Just like we don’t know exactly what’s going on and what ultimately good Romans 8:28 thing is coming from God while knowing who is on His mind and that He’s always loved us and will never stop loving us from here to eternity as delivered in Jesus and appropriated by grace through faith in Him, we know how to live as His in the meantime and live happily ever after.
Read the red letters.
Believe the red letters.
Follow the red letters.
That’s how to live happily ever after and overcome the hellishness of these times.
Never forget Jesus said, “I have told you these things…[the red letters of the Bible]…so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete.
Simply, Jesus wants us to be happy.
Really, what did we expect?
“I have come and told you to believe in me so that you’d be miserable and go to hell?”
I know some churches and churchgoers – people with a religion about Jesus without a personal relationship with Him – make Christianity look like a bad case of hemorrhoids.
That’s not what Jesus wants for us.
He wants us to be happy.
He said so right at the beginning of the most famous sermon of all time – The Sermon on the Mount – in Matthew 5-7.
He begins by saying, “Blessed are…” and then proceeds to list eight surefire ways to be happy.
It’s His supernatural how-to-be happy guidebook.
Robert Schuller referred to them as “The Be Happy Attitudes.”
First word of the sermon was blessed.
“Blessed are,” Jesus said, people who…and then He lists the 8 ingredients of living happily ever after.
The Greek transliteration of blessed is makarios and the Latin is beatitudo. Both mean “to be happy and fortunate.” Hence, “How happy and fortunate are people who live like this…”
Let’s take a quick look at God’s formula for living happily ever after.
“How happy and fortunate and blessed are the poor in spirit, knowing their poverty apart from God, because the kingdom of heaven is theirs” (5:3).
The key to a happy life begins with a declaration of dependence upon God; admitting we are impoverished emotionally, intellectually and spiritually without God. We need God to be happy, whole, safe, sane, serene and saved in time and throughout eternity. I like how Jesus put it later in the sermon: “Seek God first and foremost and God will take care of everything else (6:25-34).
“How happy and fortunate and blessed are those who mourn their sins and don’t make excuses for them; for they will be comforted” (5:4).
When we admit we have sinned – insulted God’s holiness and injured His people – we are comforted in knowing God won’t hold it against us forever.
Psalm 32: “How joyful/happy is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered! I didn’t try to hide my iniquity from God. I admitted it and He forgave me!”
1 John 1: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our and sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
“How happy and fortunate and blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth” (5:5).
Meekness is not weakness.
The Greek transliteration is praos and it means a humble disposition before God.
John MacArthur wrote, “Meekness means to be finished with me for good. It is to say, ‘Thy not my will be done.’”
“How happy and fortunate and blessed are those who hunger and thirst to be right with God. They will be satisfied” (5:6).
If you can’t wait to get into worship and Bible and prayer and sacrament and all of the ways God has given to us to get close to Him, you already know a peace that passes all knowledge and circumstances and overcomes every challenge.
If you are panting for God as a parched deer pants for water, as David sang in Psalm 42…
If you are like an immigrant man writing to his wife in Europe as recorded by Oscar Handlin in The Uprooted : “As a fish thirsts for water, so I thirst for you”…
If you are praising God and knowing/glowing Psalm 22’s promise about God “inhabiting” the praises and prayers of His people…
If you’ve got that kind of thirst and hunger to get close to God, Jesus says, you will be “satisfied.”
The Greek for satisfied means to feel like a contented cow in the field and doing what cows do as designed by God; or as Augustine confessed for himself as a suggestion to us: “Our hearts are restless until they find their rest in You, O God.”
“How happy and fortunate and blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.”
It doesn’t get clearer than this.
Unforgiving, well, uh, oops, sigh…
We don’t want to go there.
You know that part of the Lord’s prayer that comes in Matthew 6: “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who have sinned against us.”
It’s the only part of that perfect prayer that Jesus expounded upon immediately at its conclusion: “If you forgive others, God will forgive you. If not, not.”
For those who banter and moan that it’s hard to forgive, I recommend considering the options.
“How happy and fortunate and blessed are the pure in heart. They will see God” (5:8).
No one is pure and perfect in every way.
God knows that.
How do we know God knows that?
Uh, God is God.
God knows everything and knows who we need the most.
Jesus would not be necessary to save us by grace through faith in Him if we could leavenate and heavenate on our own.
Purity of heart means we want to trust and obey God or want to want to trust and obey God or want to want to want to trust and obey God or…
Actually, we will never be pure and perfect in every way.
We’ll always need Jesus to bridge the gap.
We’ll always need Jesus to deliver us to God’s side of life and eternity.
The pure in heart want to know God and make God known through their confession, conduct and countenance.
I think of Lloyd Ogilvie who was pastor of churches in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania and Hollywood, California before becoming Chaplain of the United States Senate.
Whenever we’d get together, he’s ask, “Bob, are you more in love with Jesus than the last time I saw you?”
An affirmative meant I was “seeing” more of God.
Feeling and experiencing God and being animated, revived, renewed and alive in, through and for Him.
Are you more in love with Jesus than the last time I saw you?
If so, you know what it means to see God.
It means, “He walks with me and He talks with me and tells me I am His own...and the joy we share as we tarry there, none other has ever known.”
“How happy and fortunate and blessed are the peacemakers. They prove they are part of God’s family” (5:9).
Whether it’s the Hebrew shalom or Greek eirene, Biblical/real/lasting peace and harmony with others is the product of peace and harmony with God; or as the Imperials sang, “There will never be any peace until God is seated at the conference table.”
There will never be global, national, church, marital, family, vocational, school, personal or whatever with whomever personal peace and harmony until we see each other through the eyes of Jesus with His love proven by grace, mercy and forgiveness.
“How happy and fortunate and blessed are people who get into trouble and suffer because they love God. They are saved for sure and will go to heaven and live confidently in the meantime” (5:10-12).
Jesus was unmistakably candid about what will happen to people who behave like they believe in Him: “If you follow Me, you will have to deny yourself and take up your cross…You will suffer if you follow Me” (see Matthew 10, 16:24-28).
That’s the bad news.
True believers catch anything but heaven for trying to love Jesus by loving like Jesus with grace, mercy and forgiveness.
Now here comes the good news that lasts infinitely longer than the bad news: “If you follow Me, you will live confidently because you will live forever with Me in heaven” (again, see Matthew 10, 16).
Persecution is proof of being a Christian!
We are going to catch hell for trying to leavenate and heavenate.
Considering what happens après the last breath – one way or the other – it’s a no brainer to follow Jesus through the cross to the crown.
So there it is.
Are you happy?
If you are, you know why.
He’s in your head/heart/guts and He shows through your confession, conduct and countenance.
If you aren’t happy, you know why.
Here it/He is.
Simply, know Jesus and you’ll know happiness.
No Jesus and you’ll see in faces of joy and happiness and strong, calm and sane serenity through this COVID-19 challenge what you’re missing - Who you are missing to take away your fear and the hellishness in your life!
If you’re not happy, you’ve made the wrong choice - life and eternity without Jesus.
If you’re happy, you’ve obviously made the right choice.
When Don Norek was in the process of being ordained as a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ, he was asked to describe his relationship with our Lord.
He answered with one word: tight.
Being tight with Jesus is the only way to live happily ever after.
When we’ve got heaven in our heads and hearts and guts – when we’ve invited Jesus into our lives as personal Lord and Savior - the gates and agents and ambassadors and demons and antiChrists of hell will not because they cannot prevail against us.
Blessings and Love!