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Emmanuel Church, Plymouth
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St Paul's, Efford
Tony's Reflections: 5
Daniel LaRusso is being bullied. What’s worse the bullies are good at karate! Mr Miyagi, the janitor where Daniel lives, happens to be a karate expert. He offers to teach Daniel karate. Do you recognise the plot of The Karate Kid film?
It looks like Daniel has it made! Except Mr Miyagi gets Daniel doing menial chores. No karate! Polishing Miyagi’s car was a favourite. Daniel gets angry. Why all these pointless chores? He needs to learn karate and quick! Pop
Then the karate lessons start. Surprise, surprise, karate comes easy! The movements Daniel has learnt in the chores are exactly what he needs for karate. The chores seemed pointless, but Mr Miyagi had hidden purpose in them.
As far as what is good goes, this virus seems pretty pointless, too. Could there possibly be a good purpose behind it?
The virus is so nasty and destructive. It’s easy to see the evil intent behind it. It’s much harder, though, for us to see any ultimate and good purpose in it at all.
The good purpose behind it is hidden. You won’t find it by watching the news. You won’t find it by listening to the scientific experts. Open your Bible, though and you will find it. It’s right there for us in the book of Amos.
Amos lived about 700 years before Jesus. He was a prophet, a spokesman for God. He looked at history. He looked at what was going on in his day. He looked into what was to come. Then he gave God’s take on past, present and future.
Amos was a master communicator. He knew how to hook his audience into what he had to say. He would make you think you knew where he was going. Then just when you reckon you know what’s coming, he hits you with something totally unexpected.
Take a look at this, from Amos 3:3-6:
“Do two walk together unless they have agreed to do so?
Does a lion roar in the thicket when it has no prey? Does it growl in its den when it has caught nothing?
Does a bird swoop down to a trap on the ground when no bait is there? Does a trap spring up from the ground if it has not caught anything?
When a trumpet sounds in a city, do not the people tremble?”
Something happens. Then comes something really obvious behind it. The second thing is so obvious it is no surprise at all. We look at it and say, "Well yes, of course … obvious!"
Just as we think Amos is reeling off a list of what is ridiculously obvious, he hits us with something totally unexpected. You can imagine Amos turning to us, saying, "Why are you so surprised with this? It's as obvious as everything else!"
Look at the surprise which comes at the end of verse 6:
“When disaster comes to a city, has not the LORD caused it?”
Now that is a surprise. We can easily see human evil behind many disasters. If you believe in a Devil, as I do, his hand is very easy to see too, especially behind this virus. We certainly don't normally think of God as being ultimately behind this virus! After all, he is good. How can he have given the go-ahead for something as bad as this virus?
Amos wants us to realise two truths. God is good AND, even though forces of evil are involved, God is the ultimate authority behind disaster when it comes.
We find that really hard to get our heads around. We naturally fasten on to just one of those two truths.
We fasten onto the truth that God is good. And then we can’t see how he could ultimately be behind this virus. We end up despairing and fearful. It feels like the virus is out of control and who knows where it will end.
Or else we fasten onto the truth that God is ultimately behind this virus. And then we lose sight of him being good. We end up despairing and angry. It feels like the God running our world is spiteful and doesn't care.
Can we break this way of thinking? Can we follow Amos and hold onto both truths?
If we can, we discover something precious and reassuring. This virus is totally in the hands of a God who is good. There is someone behind all this. That someone is entirely in control and he is good. He has purposed where it is going. He has purposed why it has come. He has set its end date, too. There is an ultimate purpose and that highest purpose is good.
What is that purpose, then? Amos tells us later in his book. We’ll take a look at that next time!
For now, let’s hold both of those truths together. God is good AND he is ultimately in control of this virus. And let’s rejoice in what those truths tell us!