A Reminder of Hope
By Dr. Michael Proud Jr., Director of Missions
Hello Pastors and Ministry Leaders,
On Father’s Day, I had the privilege of filling the pulpit for Pastor Pat Herring at Crescent Baptist Church in Anaheim while he and his wife June were visiting family in Florida. It was my first opportunity to preach since the COVID-19 shut down in March. As a Director of Missions, I had a unique opportunity to view the changes which the pandemic brought upon our churches, and overall I am so grateful for the way our churches responded. In a time when our churches needed to be visible and active in sharing the hope of Jesus during a time of great uncertainty-they were. I have heard testimony after testimony of the increased number of people who were watching online services and how churches found new and innovative ways to touch the lives of those who were struggling. This has been an incredible time of seeing the Church be the Church!
On Father’s Day, I felt compelled to remind God’s people of the hope we have in Christ, especially in times when we are going through painful circumstances. The text I used was Acts 7:54-8:4. Admittedly, the stoning of Stephen and the subsequent persecution of the church in Jerusalem does not seem like a text of hope. However, as we lean on the Bible’s declaration of God’s sovereignty in ALL things, our only conclusion can be that everything which happens in life, the good and the painful, are allowed by the Lord for a purpose. And while we may not understand why something is taking place-there is ultimate hope in knowing God knows and He is still in control.
I can testify to this truth personally having gone through a cancer diagnosis last July and subsequent treatments at the end of 2019 and concluding early 2020. While I was told my cancer was caught early and was very treatable, the word “Cancer” causes one to pause. Even though my cancer was not immediately life-threatening, the treatment options levied a significant chance of serious side-effects that were potentially permanent. There were moments of depression-not because I felt this was the end, but because I felt trapped. I did not want to go through this but I had no choice. Yet, the one constant was the reminder that God is sovereign in this-and if He is allowing it, then there is an opportunity for me to grow closer to Him through it.
There are times when God uses painful circumstances to bring about change. Think of how the Jerusalem church was instructed to be the Lord’s witnesses not only in Jerusalem but in Judea, Samaria, and the uttermost parts of the world as well (Acts 1:8). The church saw great spiritual fruit in Jerusalem but this seems to have led to a sense of contentment and a desire to stay right where they were. Yet, the stoning of Stephen and the persecution which broke out became the catalytic event that forced the believers to scatter.
However, this scattering led to a greater spread of the Gospel as Acts 8:4 tells us, “Therefore, those who had been scattered went about preaching the word.”
COVID-19 happened-none of us wanted it and no one would wish for the kind of devastation which it brought. But because of the pandemic, churches were forced to go online and to think of how to go beyond the walls of their buildings to do ministry. The result? Millions more heard the Gospel proclaimed and saw the church in action than they would have if the Coronavirus had never come.
While no one wishes for painful circumstances, it is good for us to remember that God is still in control and loves us beyond our wildest imagination-no matter what is taking place around us. And while we may ask, “Why is this happening?” the Lord knows and He is still at work moving history toward His ultimate purpose. While I may not understand what is happening, I can trust the hands that hold me through it! Let us all be encouraged and take hope in this!