Thinking Ahead

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For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

(Romans 15:4)

I’m familiar with the adage, “The only thing we learn from history is that we don’t learn from history.” I’m not quite that cynical, especially since the Bible can be said to be a history book. Paul said, “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Romans 15:4). In 1 Corinthians 10:6 he wrote concerning Israel’s failures, “Now these things took place as examples for us.” We should heed the lessons of history, particularly from historical events and experiences that will help us to be more faithful to our Lord Jesus Christ.

In January 1918, the Spanish Influenza broke out upon the world and finally ended in December 1920. It infected a quarter of the world’s population and took the lives of sixty million people around the world.

In Washington, D.C. and its environs, it lasted from October 1918 until December 1918. On 3 November 1918, Pastor Francis Grimke of Fifteenth Street Presbyterian Church preached a sermon called “Some Reflections, Growing out of the Recent Epidemic of Influenza That Afflicted our City.” It is worth reading the entire eleven pages, but the last paragraph is what I think is most relevant, in light of Psalm 46.

In that Psalm we are encouraged to trust God as our world is shaken. Our world is being shaken. And we have an opportunity to grow in confidence in the Lord—his person, his promises, and his purpose. Let’s not waste this crisis. Let the words of Pastor Grimke help us to steward this trial as he challenged his church members to examine what they learned through their ordeal.

If, as the result of such examination, we find that we did not get out of our religion very much help, in bracing us up under the strain through which we have been passing, then we know that there is something wrong; either we have no faith at all, or it is very weak, and therefore that we need to give a little more attention to our spiritual condition, than we have been giving. It shows that we are running down spiritually. Or if we find that we were helped, that our fears were allayed as we though of our relations to God and to his Son Jesus Christ, then we have an additional reason why we should cling all the closer to him, and why we should be all the more earnest in our efforts to serve him. We ought to come out of this epidemic more determined than ever to run with patience the race that is set before us; more determined than ever to make heaven our home. And this I trust is the purpose, the determination of us all. Let us all draw near to God in simple faith. Let us resuscitate ourselves, all of us, to him; let us all make up our minds to be better Christians.

Memorising Psalm 46 with you,

Doug