By Dr. Kelli Criss
During the current series, we’ve considered how King Jehoshaphat and the people of Judah received God’s victory over Judah’s enemies through humility, worship, obedience, and gratitude. As we experience the global pandemic, we are witnessing God glorifying Himself. Last week, we discussed America’s deliverance from Chinese pharmaceutical manufacturing.
In today’s blog, Glorifying His Name, Part III, our focus is upon God’s delivering the people of faith from themselves and their idols and teaching us to love one another. God is using the current crisis to deliver us from ourselves.
“Deliver Us, Oh God!”
The modern faith community, like the generations before it, is riddled with dependence upon ourselves rather than God. We want to be in control. The options for idols we seek to meet our own needs apart from God are innumerable – money, hedonism, perfectionism, people-pleasing, codependency, impurity, intellectualism, science, government, socialism, workaholism, etc. Consider how we can worship education and human accomplishment and believe that they are our hope just as Paul once did.
Paul was a man who had achieved the highest levels of religious education as a Pharisee (Philippians 3:5, New International Version) and who was “faultless” regarding how he kept the law (Philippians 3:6, NIV). As the archetypal “enlightened religious man,” Paul recognized the worthlessness of his own resume of religious education and behaviors:
But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. (Philippians 3:8-9, NIV)
It’s noteworthy that Paul did not recognize the “garbage” that had once filled his resume until he was struck blind and gained a clear awareness of Christ on the road to Damascus. At Florida Faith and Freedom Coalition, we feel God is glorifying Himself by using the current crisis to show us the worthlessness of the idols we use to prop ourselves up.
Why did God need to deliver Paul from his character defects/idols? Certainly, it was simply God’s will for Paul to be free from self-reliance and the worship of intellectual and religious accomplishments. Likewise, it was God’s will to deliver Paul from himself so that he could have a redemptive ministry which would serve people. His service to others enabled people to be rescued from themselves and be made free in Christ. When God sent Ananias to pray for Paul’s sight to return and for him to be filled with the Holy Spirit, Ananias hesitated and reminded the Lord of the severe persecution levied by Paul upon the church. The Lord elucidated the importance of Paul’s deliverance by saying to Ananias, “‘Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel’” (Acts 9:15, NIV).
Like Paul, we are being delivered from our idols so that we may carry out redemptive ministries as “chosen instruments” who will support people of faith and people who do not have a relationship with God. We know that even during the global public health crisis and America’s civil unrest, God is on His throne and ruling over everything with a redemptive purpose. God is for us, not against us. God is our ONLY security, wisdom, strength, righteousness, holiness, peace, and joy in the midst of crisis.
We thank God for all He has and will do in our world. The faith community is rising to minister through God’s redemptive work in our own lives so that those around us may also be delivered.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. (2 Corinthians 1:3-4, NIV)
Around the world, we’ve seen God’s “chosen instruments” at work during the current public health and economic crises offering God’s comfort through redemptive ministries.
Redemptive Ministry in South Africa
One example of a powerful redemptive ministry is found in South Africa. Recent international news has featured Andie Steele-Smith, former Australian banker who now serves as a missionary in the townships of Cape Town, South Africa. Over the last five years, his ministry has focused upon the poor and gangs in the townships or shantytowns. Steele-Smith has led “murderers and drug lords to cooperate amid the coronavirus pandemic as a new distribution network for soap and emergency food delivery.” This ministry was desperately needed in Cape Town, which as of late May, accounted for 60 percent of the coronavirus cases in South Africa.
Steele-Smith has seen God use the gifts of the gang members for the kingdom as they help distribute soap and food: “When people are set free from alcoholism, they still need to drink something. Gangsterism identifies the best entrepreneurs in a community. But they need legitimate enterprise so they can use their same skills and hustle for God’s kingdom and their community.”
God is glorifying Himself around the world through servants like Steele-Smith. During the current pandemic and civil unrest, Florida is called to serve others with the comfort and redemption God has given us.