I don’t know when or where I first heard the illustration but I found it both funny and apt at the time. I have heard it many times since, both in a Christian and secular context. Nevertheless, it has some truth in it: People are like tea bags, you only get their full flavour when they are in hot water. We have been, and to a certain extent still are, in hot water. Coronavirus with all its potential to bring fear and anxiety, not to mention sickness and death; the lockdown and its accompanying loneliness and isolation for many; the easing of lockdown with its double-edged effect of freeing us, but also putting us in risky situations that demand unselfish, controlled actions. All this we, as believers, experience along with our neighbours and friends and all of society. But for us the hot water we have been plunged into takes additional forms: isolated from other believers; prevented from gathering in our chapel for worship; unable to join our voices with others in singing the praise of God; relying on our own Bible reading and prayer life for spiritual sustenance; engaging, where possible, over screens with electronically transmitted voices in prayer meetings; watching services on a screen. This is the hot water that will bring out what flavour we have inside. It is when we are hard pressed that we discover where we really are in our relationship with God. The gospel reminds us that we do not look inside ourselves to find strength and help; we look to our God in Christ who has supplied all our needs. Just as a cup of tea can be refreshing and welcome, so our lives can emerge from the hot water to bring refreshment to others.
Brief Devotional: Hard pressed, but not crushed
We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair. 2 Corinthians 4 v 8
Paul, writing to the Corinthian church in the first century, gets very personal in his second letter. In chapter 4 he explains how he and his team of workers keep going through many difficulties. He says that they “do not lose heart” verse 1. Given all they went through in their missionary journeys, it is hard to understand how they kept going without losing heart. But Paul explains. It is all to do with the ministry that, by the mercy of God, they had received. They had a message of good news. This good news was found in Jesus Christ. The message wasn’t about Paul, or any human philosophy. They were not preaching a message of self-help, or of personal improvement through following a human system of thought or practice. It was a message of hope from God. Light had shone in their hearts to give them the light of the knowledge of God in the face of Christ (verse 6). What more did they need? They knew God and had received the greatest revelation of all. They knew God, and the blindness of their old lives had been taken away completely.
This meant that they could face anything in this world. They could say that “our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” (verse 17). They had a hope for the future that enabled them to endure all sorts of troubles. Now, this did not mean that Paul or his companions made light of the hardships. He tells us that they were hard pressed, perplexed, persecuted, struck down, (verses 8 & 9). Yet, each time he describes his hardships he also adds a “but not”. Hard pressed, yes, “but not crushed”; perplexed, yes, “but not in despair”; persecuted, yes, “but not abandoned”; struck down, yes, “but not destroyed”.
I remembered this passage the other day when I read in the Barnabas Prayer diary the report of a Pastor in Turkmenistan (a country where Christians are severely persecuted). He said, “I think that this crisis has prompted many believers to cope with spiritual problems, such as fears. Due to the uncertain future, many people experienced fear, which even without this attacked many believers. Of course, there are cases when the brothers fell into despair in the face of the situation with the virus, but we do not stop encouraging and supporting each other.”I’m sure similar things could be said about us. Fear is real, but don’t stop encouraging and supporting each other. We have seen the glory of God in the face of Christ. So we press on, never losing heart.
Brief Prayer Requests
1. The Book of Common Prayer has two special prayers of thanksgiving after a time of plague or sickness. Here is the first
O LORD God, who hast wounded us for our sins, and consumed us for our transgressions, by thy late heavy and dreadful visitation; and now, in the midst of judgement remembering mercy, hast redeemed our souls from the jaws of death; We offer unto thy Fatherly goodness ourselves, our souls and bodies which thou hast delivered to be a living sacrifice unto thee, always praising and magnifying thy mercies in the midst of thy Church; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
It may sound old fashioned to us, but our forefathers who wrote that book of prayer knew how to give thanks to God and respond in the right, biblical way, when coming out of a time of widespread sickness and death. We can learn a lot from them.
2. This week the EMW are screening several meetings for children, youth and adults as part of Aber Lite. This is in place of the residential conference that would normally be taking place this week. If you have access to the internet, you can find it on the EMW website www.emw.org.uk or the EMW YouTube channel (search for Evangelical Movement of Wales).
3. Jim Davies would value prayer as he has a DVT behind his knee. Thankfully it was diagnosed and is being treated. Continue to pray for Graham Jones and Michael Nicholas with their ongoing needs.
3. Don’t forget the bible’s instruction that we are to “encourage one another and build each other up” (I Thessalonians 5 v 11) and that we are to “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom” (Colossians 3 v 16). Now that we are coming out of lockdown it is even more important that we keep in contact with one another and use those means to build one another up in our faith. Let’s share what we know of the bible and of the Lord’s work in our lives to encourage one another.
Finally, for those who are following the daily readings, here are the readings from this Wednesday.
Wed 12th Romans 2 Thursday 13th Romans 3
Friday 14th Romans 4 Saturday 15th Romans 5
Sunday 16th Romans 6 Monday 17th Romans 7
Tuesday 18th Romans 8 Wed 19th Romans 9 Warmly yours in the Lord Your Pastor Jeremy 10th August 2020