Today is the Day

Today is the Day.

With the President’s dire report yesterday of the possibility of up to 240,000 deaths in the coming weeks, I wanted to put down the thoughts spinning in my head today. These thoughts may seem conflicting but they actually are both as true as true can be. On the one hand, I want to shout, “NO! In Jesus’ Name, No! We will not receive this. We reject this plague from the enemy and we send it far away from us in Jesus’ Name.” You see, I believe that God, through Jesus Christ, has given us authority over evil. Jesus told us in Mark 10:

19 I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you

This verse always reminds me of the sweet elderly man who was the crossing guard at Carver Elementary when my older kids were young. I remember watching him one day as he hobbled out to the center of the street, dressed in his orange vest, and held up what looked to be a frail arm. His outstretched arm and his planted feet (with weak knees, I might add) was in reality no match for the line of cars and SUVs before him. And yet, every car stopped. What could have trampled over him in a second, did not. And why is that? Surely, it was not because the drivers were all patient, perfect people. No, the reason was because he, as weak as he seemed, had the authority.

Believers, we must stand up and fight—stand up on our knees. We must pray and believe that God can do something about this. We must fight for our trust in Him. And that is not easy when there is death and destruction around us; when there is a dark cloud of the unknown hovering over us. And there is absolutely nowhere to run from it because it is everywhere, all over the world.

Lest I sound too “doom and gloom”, we need to see the second part of this verse. You see, Jesus was pleased that disciples had exerted their authority. But he also gave them direction in where their focus should be.

I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. 20 However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

The true celebration is not the authority that God gives us, but rather the salvation that He gives us through His Son, Jesus. Jesus defeated sin and death forever for us who believe. And no virus can ever take that away from us. In that we can celebrate as we stand in the authority given to us and do our part to pray this pandemic away. So, I must ask: Do you know Him? Have you surrendered to Him? Is He not only your Savior, is He your Lord?

As has just been said: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion.”

                                                                                    Hebrews 3:15

My husband and I have taught a weekly Bible Study for high school students for the past six years. For two weeks before Spring Break, I felt this urge to repeat the saving truth of the Gospel to them. These are good kids, Christian kids. They knew the way of salvation, and yet, I felt this prompting to tell them, “Do not wait to secure your relationship with the Lord, for you never know what is coming in the near future.” I told them of an account by the famous preacher, Peter Marshall. Marshall had been invited to preach at the United States Naval Academy on Sunday morning, December 7, 1941.  He prepared an encouraging talk, but was bothered by a nagging feeling that he had prepared the wrong message. Encouraged by the chaplain to speak whatever God had laid on his heart, he put his prepared message aside and preached to the young soldiers the message of Today—today is the day for salvation; do not wait. He quoted James, 4:14, “Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.”

As he was driving home from this event, he heard on the radio that Pearl Harbor had been bombed. The young men who heard his message of Today were immediately sent off to fight in World War II. And many did not return.

The next week, I repeated this story, and told the youth that I had realized that I had told them not to wait to secure their relationship with the Lord, but I had not explained how to do that. I said, “It is as simple as A-B-C. A: Admit. Admit that you are a sinner in need of salvation. B: Believe. Believe that Jesus is the only way to salvation. Believe that He died as a sacrifice for our sins and rose again in victory. Believe that He is who He said He is and that He can save us. And C: Confess. Confess with your mouth. Confess to another person that you have made a commitment to Christ. Speak up.”

That was the last time we met with those youth. We expected that there would only be a week’s break, and now we don’t know when we can meet again. I believe that prompting was from the Lord for all of us, even if we already know the Lord. Is there any part of our hearts that we are holding back from the Lord? Is there any unfinished business in your spiritual life? Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts. Today is the day.

Today is the day. Today is the day to secure your relationship with the Lord. And then, today is the day to stand up in the authority God has given His followers—and pray this virus away.

 

PS  Below is the full message that Peter Marshall preached that day in 1941.

James, 4th chapter, 14th verse, “For what is your life. It is even a vapor that appeareth for awhile, then vanisheth away.”

What a queer thing for James to say?  It’s a strange statement to find in the New Testament, is it not?  Is he being cynical?  Is he joking?

Well, hardly.

If you look at the context in which this statement appears, you will see that James is speaking to those who make great assumptions as to the future, with never a thought of the contingency of life itself.  He’s addressing himself to those who never think of God, and who act and live as though they had a mortgage on time; those who give no thought to the fact that they may never see tomorrow; those who act as though they had a long lease on life; as though they had immunity somehow; as though that cold clammy hand of the dread messenger would never touch their hearts.

Yet, death inevitably comes to the king in his palace, the beggar by the roadside, the animal in his hole.

But what is death?  Is it to be blown out, like a candle in the wind?  Is it a shivering void in which there is nothing that lives?  Is is a cold space into which we are launched to be evaporated, or to disappear?  Are we to believe that a half-mad eternal humorist tossed the worlds aloft and left their destiny to chance?  That a man’s life is the development of a nameless vagrancy?  That a hole in the ground six feet deep is his final heritage?  There are a thousand insane things easier to believe than these!  How can we believe that human personality will not survive when One who went into the grave and beyond came back to say, “Whosoever believeth in me shalt not perish, but have eternal life.”

In a house of which I know, a little boy, the only son, was ill of an incurable disease.  Month after month the mother had tenderly read to him, nursed him, and played with him; hoping to keep him from realizing the dreadful finality of the doctor’s diagnosis.  But as the weeks went by and he grew no better, the little fellow gradually began to understand the meaning of the term “death”–and he too knew that soon he was to die.

One day, the mother had been reading to him the stirring tales of King Arthur and his knights of the Round Table, and of that last glorious battle in which so many fair knights met their deaths.  As she closed the book, the boy lay silent for a moment, then asked the question that had been weighing on his childish heart.

“Mother, what is it like to die?  Mother, does it hurt?

Quickly, tears sprang to her eyes and she fled into the kitchen, supposedly to tend to something on the stove.  She knew it was a question with deep significance.  She knew it must be answered.  She leaned for an instant against the kitchen door and breathed a hurried prayer that the Lord would not let her break down in front of the boy; that he would tell her what to say.

And the Lord did tell her.

Immediately, she knew how to explain it to him.  “Kenneth,” she said, as she returned to his room, “you remember how, when you were a little boy you would play so hard all day that when night came you were too tired even to undress and would tumble into your mother’s bed and fall asleep.  In the morning, much to your surprise, you would wake up and find yourself in your own room in your own bed.  You were there because someone had loved you and taken care of you.  Your daddy had come with big strong arms and carried you to your own room.  Kenneth, death is like that.  We just wake up one morning to find ourselves in the other room; our own room where we belong, because the Lord Jesus has loved us.”

The lad’s shinning, trusting face, looking up into hers, told her that there would be no more fear; only love and trust in his little heart as he went to meet the Father in Heaven.  He never questioned again, and several weeks later, he fell asleep just as she had said.  That is what death is like.

Yet, in the life beyond, the question inevitably comes, “with what body do we move?”

Certainly not with such a body as ours is today!

Not with rickets or a club foot!

Not with twisted spine or withered arm!

Not with calloused hands or wrinkled brow!

Not with a heart filled with the broken glass of vanquished dreams!

Not with the drunkard’s thirst, like the fires of hell!

Nor the sensualist’s lust, like gnawing worms!

Not with the bitter memories of a son’s crime or a daughter’s shame!

Not with the scar across the throat that a frenzied maniac made!

No!

Not with them do we make our entrance upon that larger stage.  We rise, not clothed again in dying clay; not garbed once more with the faded garments of mortal flesh; but with the shining mercy of God.

If the Bible is true, and Christ has not deceived us, there awaits beyond the curtain of life that will never end, a life of reunion with loved ones, who, like ourselves, have trusted in the very presence of God.  There shall be no more pain; no more sorrow; nor tears; nor parting; nor death–anymore.  Age shall not weary, nor the years condemn.  We shall enter into that for which we were created.  It shall be the journey’s end for the heart and all its hopes.  It shall be the end of the rainbow for the child explorers of God.  We have His promise for that.

Let us pray.

Our father’s God, to Thee who are the author of our liberty, and under whom we have our freedom, we say our prayer.  Make us ever mindful that we are the heirs of a great heritage, and the trustees of priceless things, lest we forget the price that was paid for them–or the cost that may yet have to be met to keep them.  Make us strong, O God, in conviction with the insight of our perilous times and in the courage for our testing.

Amen.

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