Recent Sermons

Sermon Seventh Sunday of Easter – Revd Henry Naidoo – 24 May

1 Peter 4:12-14, 5:6-11

Greetings beloved family of St. Thomas.

I trust that you are all well. How are you doing during this time of the Lock down? I hope that it is not keeping you down but that you are rising above it, keeping your spirits high by being positive.

Today I believe that God has a very special word for us. God wants to bring us all safely through his pandemic and to strengthen our faith in him. Listen to what God is telling us this morning through Peter his Apostle.

If you have your Bibles with you please turn with me to 1 Peter 4:12-14, 5:6-11.

The Word of God is telling us this morning 3 things:-

God cares for you, so cast all your anxiety on him. (1Pet. 5:7)

After the brief suffering God will restore, establish and strengthen you (v. 10)

All power belongs to him forever and ever. Amen (v.11)

What words of hope and encouragement for the world that’s gripped by covid-19.

It seems that these three things have been written just for us who are caught with this virus.

This letter was written in Rome by the Apostle Peter. It could have been written around 70AD or a little later when Nero was emperor of Rome. Nero was known as the emperor who fiddled while Rome burnt. It did burn in 70AD.

Nero hated the Christians. There is an opinion that Nero was the one who orchestrated the burning down of Rome because he wanted to build the city according to his liking, but he together with some of his supporters blamed the Christians for setting the city on fire. This led to one of the worst persecutions of Christians in history.

During the next few years, Christians were thrown into arenas to fight against wild animals and gladiators for the entertainment of the Romans. They were crucified in great numbers. History teaches us that Christians living in Rome at that time were even tied into little stands, doused with oil and set alight, turned into human torches,  so that the emperor’s guests would have light for their evenings’ entertainment. There were some Christians, however, who wanted to escape persecution, palmed the authorities and Nero used this money to rebuild Rome, the city he destroyed.

I’m sure that Peter was referring to this ordeal when he wrote in 1 Peter 4:12, “Dear friends, do not be taken aback by this fiery ordeal.” Peter was encouraging his people not to be put off by these sufferings but to see it as a test. He also says that it is not extra-ordinary. In other words it is something to expect and something that happens every now and again.

You see beloved, Life is like a yo-yo; one day we’re up and the next we’re down. It’s like the way our economy operates. One day our money does well and the next day it’s down, good times first then times of recession. This happens in almost every generation; people and nations enjoying their life and going about things without a worry. Then suddenly some disaster strikes, disturbing their peace, joy and happiness.

On a national scale we have tsunamis, tornados or hurricanes, earthquakes, flash floods and monsoon rains.

Presently Cyclone Amphan is causing havoc and great destruction in India and Bangladesh.

On a personal level we encounter Loss of a job, loss of a loved one or someone very close and dear to us suffers from an incurable disease or family differences, financial woes and the list can go on.

And now the world is caught up in this pandemic of covid-19.

But this will not go on for ever. Good times will return. In the meantime how do we ride the storm? 

When disaster disturbs and interrupts our normal way of living Peter advises us in Chapter 5 to humble ourselves before God and in due course he will lift us up. He further encourages us

  1.  to cast all our cares and anxiety on Jesus for he cares for us.
  2. After the suffering which is brief God will restore, establish and strengthen us, and
  3. All power belongs to him for ever and ever. Amen

Thanks be to God for this word.          

When we go through a time like this it is important to know that we are not alone. Christ is always by our side. We are still loved by him and we are precious to him. His favour continues to rest upon us. During times like this he carries us on his shoulders.

Remember the story of Footprints? A man had a dream that when things were going right for him, he and God walked side by side on the sand leaving behind two sets of footprints. Then a time came when this man was going through some very difficult challenges in his life. He needed consolation and help. During this time he noticed that there was only one set of footprints in the sand. Assuming that these were his and that God had deserted him; he turned to God and asked where he was during his greatest need because he noticed only one set of footprints in the sand and that was his. God turned to him and said, “Those were my footprints because in the time of your greatest need I was carrying you upon my shoulders.”

Turn to spiritual giants and confide in them. Seek their counsel and ask them to pray for you. Read your Bible to find consolation and a word of hope from the Lord. Pray even if you don’t feel like it.  These activities will sustain you even if at that time they may seem empty. Never isolate yourself from others, especially in a time of anxiety and worry. Be part of spiritual groups for fellowship, support and strength. Keep in touch with others through technology. All these will slowly build you up and help you recover and restore your joy. 

There are times if we listen to others we’ll find that some of their problems are much bigger than ours and if they are coping why can’t we.

I know of a real case where the family lost everything and they ended up living in their car. They lived like that for a long time and eventually their family who lived thousands of kilometres away from them came to hear about their plight. They helped by sending them some money from time to time but just enough to get them through for a couple of days. Together with that financial assistance the family begged them to find a church and attend services regularly. Thank God they eventually did that. After a few days the Pastor heard about their condition and how they were living in a car. Immediately he phoned around and by the grace of God was able to fix their daughter who was a graduate with a B. Com degree, a decent job with a decent salary. With this they managed to rent a house and purchase their own groceries and other necessities. Soon the father landed himself a job. Today they are living with great joy and appreciation for turning to the Lord.

Turn to God in trust and speak to him about your problems. Let your faith be strong and don’t lose faith. Believe that He will take you out of that situation. Recall the good times and the joy you’ve had and like the psalmist in Psalm 51 ask God to revive the joy of your salvation.

Don’t expect life to be only full of peace, joy and happiness. Expect some disappointments and struggles. If you face life this way then when the lows come you’ll not be surprised or disappointed. When you expect something like this to happen then the blow is not too hard to bear. I’m always encouraged by the words that we use at our funerals; “in the midst of life we are in death and who can we turn to but to you, O Lord, who are justly angered by our sins.” Our fortunes can suddenly change.

We have Job in the Old Testament as a perfect example. Job had everything that one could ask for. Suddenly he lost everything including his family. Job ended up sitting among ashes with sores covering his body. He was consoled by three friends but never did Job curse God or doubted God. In fact he said, “Though he slay me yet will I trust him.” (KJV). Only one who has a close relationship with God and knows God well and how he operates could say this. After a long time of enduring suffering the story ends up with everything being restored to him. As God sustained Job in the time of his sufferings, he will sustain you in your time of trial.

In the history of the Israelites, God was forever coming to save and rescue his children out of some sort of suffering. So take heart and hang in there in your suffering and trust God for break-through.

There are many other examples I can cite of those who went through suffering and came out stronger and firmer in their faith. What about Horatio Spafford, the one who wrote that beautiful Hymn, “It is well; it is well, with my soul”? Like a modern day Job, he lost everything and almost his entire family but after that tragedy he penned that hymn. The first verse goes as follows:-

When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll
Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Sometimes suffering does test our faith and makes it stronger. It is like the refiners’ fire that turns our faith from impure to pure metal. The more we suffer the more closer we draw to Christ and identify with him in his suffering. If we can live out our faith in times of suffering then we can live it out at any time.

So may I remind you again of the three things God want for us.

  1.  to cast all our cares and anxiety on Jesus for he cares for us.
  2. After the suffering which is brief God will restore, establish and strengthen us, and
  3. All power belongs to him for ever and ever. Amen

The last point reminds us, especially during this time of Ascension,  that Jesus is King. He is ruler of the entire universe and he reigns for ever. 

May God bless you and protect you. May he see you through this time of covid-19 and the lock down?

To him be all glory, praise, power and dominion. Amen.