Do you ever look around you and think this world is completely out of control? These last two years especially have been filled with a global pandemic, earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, and an economy on the edge of collapse due to out of control inflation.
In this seemingly out of control world, I have some good news. Our God isn’t shocked by what’s going on. Even though things may look chaotic, He is still in control. He is our mighty God, God Most High!
Today’s post is the first of several covering names of God that begin with the word El, which is usually translated God, and is often used in conjunction with other words to designate various aspects of God’s character. Today we are looking at one of the most frequently used names, El Elyon.
El comes from a root word meaning might, strength, and power. In Scripture it is usually used in conjunction with other words to designate various aspects of God’s character. Elyon expresses the sovereignty and majesty of God, and His preeminence (having first place in everything), superiority and excellence, above all others in quality or rank.
El Elyon puts these two names together and identifies God as the sovereign ruler of the universe. This important name of God is used fifty-three times in the Old Testament, including twenty-two times in the book of Psalms.
The first use in Scripture of El Elyon is in Genesis 14:18-20, in the passage that speaks of Melchizedek, king of Salem, as priest of God Most High.
“And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. (He was priest of God Most High.) And he blessed him and said, “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand!” And Abram gave him a tenth of everything.” Genesis 14:18-20 ESV
One of my favorite uses of this name of God is found in Psalm 57.
“Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for in you my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge, till the storms of destruction pass by. I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills his purpose for me.” Psalm 57:1-2 ESV
When our circumstances feel overwhelming, it’s time to take refuge in God Most High. This prayer of David was written when he was in a cave, hiding from Saul who was trying to kill him. We may be walking through difficult and chaotic times, but they’re probably not as hard to deal with as what David was facing. David knew God Most High was his refuge and place of safety. Let’s remember, no matter what our circumstances, that our God is still in control and find a place of safety and rest in His presence.
“For I will satisfy the weary soul, and every languishing soul I will replenish.” Jeremiah 31:25
When I read this verse Monday morning, it opened my eyes to where I’ve been walking since March. This COVID-19 pandemic that has turned our lives upside down seems like it will never end. Add the civil unrest and violence in our nation and the situation seems dire. Soul weariness has made it difficult for me to accomplish anything during the last couple weeks.
The Hebrew word for “weary” is used of one who is “wearied out from a long journey and at the same time suffering from thirst.” Has this “journey” caused you to be “wearied out”? Has it caused you to “hunger and thirst for righteousness” (Matthew 5:6) instead of the injustice and violence that seems to be thriving? Is your weary soul needing to be replenished? To be filled up and restored? Mine sure is!
So how do we replenish our dry souls as these circumstances drag on and on? Here are five ways that have helped me. (All verses in ESV unless noted)
“Be still, and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10a) To be still means “to stop frantic activity, to let down, and to be still.” It is a stillness that leaves behind the pressures and even the jobs that still need to be done for a time of rest and restoration. To know is to perceive by observing and reflecting or by experience. As we become still and allow our minds to take a rest from the things of this world, remember how this Psalm begins. God is still “our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” (Psalm 46:1) He is there for you if you’ll just take your needs to Him.“Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a while.” (Mark 6:31 NASB) The word “rest” in this verse refers to taking a break from your labor. Find a “secluded place” and rest for a while, relax and simply enjoy the presence of the Lord. For you that might be by taking a short walk and enjoying the birds singing and flowers growing. It may be a short trip to the beach. But resting doesn’t always mean a change in your physical location, as long as you’re leaving behind the daily stresses and spending time with the Lord. Find a restful place and allow the burdens of this season to be rolled off your shoulders and onto the shoulders of the Lord.“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.” (Psalm 1:1-2) As you rest, ask the Lord to speak to you through His written word. Listen. Is there a specific Scripture that comes to mind? Take time to meditate on that Scripture. Start with prayer and ask God to help you understand the verse or passage. How does it apply to what you are currently walking through? Is there anything God is showing you that you need to obey?“For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” (Matthew 18:20) One of the biggest struggles I’ve had during this season is the requirement for social distancing. To prevent spread of the virus, we’ve been asked to wear masks whenever we are out and stay physically separated. But we can still gather together during this season in other ways. Reach out to someone else who may be struggling with weariness and loneliness with a text or phone call. “Talk” with a friend on Facebook Messenger. Send a card to someone who is struggling during this time. Remember, God isn’t limited by social distancing. When we reach out to others in His name, He is there among us.“But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:23-24) The hour is now here, when true worshipers worship the Father in spirit and truth. What does this mean? This idea was a part of Jesus’ conversation with a Samaritan woman at the well. The message was that worship of God is not to be confined to a single geographical location. Many of us have not been in our local church for months, instead having to “worship” online. The Holy Spirit isn’t limited to one specific building for true worship to happen. True worship comes from the heart. It is doctrinally grounded and focused on the truth of all we know of our great God. It’s the Holy Spirit who stirs in our spirit a desire to celebrate and rejoice and give thanks to God for all He has given us in Jesus Christ. Corporate worship is a blessing, but until that is once again safe, let’s remember that we can worship the Lord in spirit and in truth right where we are.
Find time today to bring your weary soul to the Lord so He can replenish your inner man, fill you back up again. Be still and remember God is still in control. Take times in your days to simply rest, to leave behind all your responsibilities and focus on restoring your weary soul. Let God speak to you through His Word. Soak up the peace that comes in His presence. And take some time to worship God for Who He is and all He has done for you. Even though this time of COVID-19 and civil unrest probably won’t be behind us anytime soon, let’s remember to practice these steps of replenishing our weary souls.
As we enter our third month of living with the changes brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, most of us have become very familiar with the precautions being made to slow the spread of this disease. Washing our hands repeatedly during the day, social distancing, stay at home orders, no large gatherings, closed businesses and schools, online church services and using gloves and masks anytime we are in public are all a part of keeping this contagious disease from spreading even faster than it has.
This morning, I had an email from Grace Fox, one of the ladies who writes for Proverbs 31 Ministries First 5 app. Her Connecting the Dots blog is one of my favorites, and today the title caught my attention right away: How to Spread Contagious Joy.
Grace said this virus is just one of many negative things that have been contagious during this pandemic. She wrote,
“COVID-19 isn’t the only negative thing that’s contagious. Fear spreads easily, too. During this time of media saturation, we read or hear the news that scares us, and we tell others about it. Trouble is, the news might not be accurate, or we hear only part of it and assume the rest. Nevertheless, we pass it on to others believing it’s fact, and the fear grows.”
One thing I’m trying to learn in our current situation is to make sure I’m seeing what we’re going through with a healthy perspective, one that reflects the fact that God is still in control, that He has promised never to leave or forsake us, and that He’s good and always faithful to His children, even in the midst of a worldwide pandemic. We may not know why God has allowed these circumstances, but we can know God has a purpose and it will be fulfilled. I’m not saying this is easy; it’s a struggle for me to not get so focused on the instability we are currently facing that I get overwhelmed. But with the power of the Holy Spirit who lives within each of us who have come to know Jesus as our Savior and Lord, it’s possible.
Before I started writing this afternoon, I looked up the meaning of contagious in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary. I was surprised to find one of the actual definitions has to do with the power of our emotions and conduct. Yes, contagious refers to transmitting infectious disease to others. But a less familiar definition is exciting similar emotions or conduct in others. When we lean on God in the midst of our trials and choose to walk in joy and rest in the goodness of the Lord, our attitude is capable of being easily spread to others. In essence, we cause those who observe us to “catch” our attitude and behavior!
As we move into May, let’s make it our goal to rest in the Lord and choose joy in His presence. Let’s start this today, by focusing on how God has revealed His goodness and lovingkindness to us during this season. Remember, Proverbs 17:22 tells us, “A joyful heart is good medicine…” Let’s draw close to the Lord, for King David wrote in Psalm 16:11, “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy…” Remember God’s presence brings joy, and joy renews our strength to keep moving forward. “And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10b)
Grace Fox ended her article with a challenge that I’d like to share with you.
“Choosing joy amidst the most difficult circumstances benefits us and blesses others. Our attitudes, words, and actions no longer breed fear. Now they speak encouragement and spark hope… Imagine how different the world might look if everyone spread contagious joy during this time. What’s one action you can take to start a ‘Contagious Joy’ movement in your home, neighborhood, and beyond?”
Earlier this year, officials at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warned that it wasn’t a question of if but of when the novel coronavirus would spread in the United States. They warned that the spread of this disease would drastically change our daily lives. In this past two weeks, we have seen what was expected and more.
The spread of this virus has been not just in the US, but around the world. No matter where you live, you have probably experienced major changes in your daily life. Unfamiliar terms have become commonplace: pandemic, self-quarantine, social distancing, lockdown, shelter in place or stay at home orders. Non essential medical procedures have been put on hold. Churches are now restricted to internet broadcasts of services. Grocery stores are lacking the things we routinely buy, from milk and eggs to toilet paper and sanitizer products. And the list goes on and on.
We are living in a drastically different world, with no idea if or when we will return to the world we once knew. The Coronavirus Pandemic has produced a “new normal” for all of us!
The question on my heart as I’ve walked through these last two weeks has been how does God want us to live during times like these? In an atmosphere of fear and panic, how can we walk in a way that both enables us to have joy and peace and also draws others to the God we serve? This was on my heart when I sat down on Monday for my daily quiet time.
I had my quiet time all mapped out, but as I sat down to spend time in God’s Word the Holy Spirit led me in a different direction than I had planned. In essence, the Lord led me to a verse providing the instruction I was needing to walk in peace and victory during this unique season none of us have ever experienced before. As I was reading Romans 12, a familiar passage, verse 12 jumped out at me like I had never seen it before.
“Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” Romans 12:12
REJOICE IN HOPE
To rejoice is to be in a state of happiness and inner sense of well being that is not affected by outward circumstances. It is to be “cheer” full, calmly happy. Rejoicing includes both inner joy and outward rejoicing.
The Greek word translated “rejoice” is in the present tense. It paints a picture of living with a habitual attitude of inner joy that results in outer rejoicing. Joy is the deep-down sense of well-being that abides in the heart of the person who knows all is well between them and the Lord and is independent of whether circumstances are favorable or unfavorable.
God is not asking us to rejoice in our circumstances. He is calling us to rejoice in Him in the midst of the circumstances. We do that as we walk in anticipation of what He is able to do in them, through them, and in spite of them.
According to Psalm 118:24, rejoicing is an act of our will, a choice we make. “This is the day the LORD has made; We will rejoice and be glad in it.”
Our rejoicing is to be in hope. Worldly or cultural hope is an optimistic desire that something we desire will happen. Biblical or Christian hope is different. It is the assurance that God will do what He has promised. This is the only kind of hope that has the power to anchor our souls, holding us steady during times of uncertainty. It is the kind of hope described in Hebrews 6:19, “We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul…”
BE PATIENT IN TRIBULATION
The Greek word translated “patient” literally means “to stay under”. And what are we to stay under? Pressure or pressing circumstances. Sounds a lot like our daily lives since COVID-19 was declared a pandemic. This is basically a call to stand firm in our faith when circumstances feel overwhelming.
Persevering when you are experiencing crushing circumstances is not a call for you to just “man up” or to “grit your teeth” and “bear it.” That is the “world’s way” of dealing with difficult situations.
As followers of Christ, the answer is not found in self-reliance and self-effort. If you have accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord, the Holy Spirit now indwells your body (see 1 Corinthians 6:19). He came to be your Helper in situations like the one we are currently walking through. He provides what is needed for us to walk through difficult circumstances, as we yield to His supernatural enabling power.
Rejoicing in hope enables us to persevere or remain under the circumstances that are pressing down on us. As we lean on the Helper, we are empowered to wait calmly as the Lord works everything in conformity with the purpose of His will.
BE CONSTANT IN PRAYER
Someone has said that prayer is the breath of the Christian life. There is nothing more more vital to living a victorious Christian life than prayer. Unfortunately, few aspects of the lives of Christians are more vulnerable to neglect.
Prominent nineteenth century American evangelist Dwight L Moody said, “I’d rather be able to pray than to be a great preacher; Jesus Christ never taught his disciples how to preach, but only how to pray.”
Charles Spurgeon, England’s best known preacher during the second half of the nineteenth century and known as “the prince of preachers,” said prayer and an open Bible together were the key to bringing the will of God to bear upon the distresses of this life.
“Whenever your hope seems to fail you and your joy begins to sink, the shortest method is to take to your knees. By remembering the promise in prayer, hope will be sustained and then joy is sure to spring from it. An open Bible and a bowed head create a powerful atmosphere in which God’s will is brought to bear upon the distresses of life. Jesus even recommended we “nag” God with our requests, like a persistent neighbor at a friend’s door or a relentless widow harassing a presiding judge.”
GOD IS THE GOD OF HOPE In Romans 15, the apostle Paul shares a Messianic prophecy from the prophet Isaiah. He says, “The root of Jesse will come, even he who arises to rule the Gentiles; in him will the Gentiles hope.” The following verse gives a name of God that is only seen in this passage. “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” (Romans 15:12-13 ESV)
Biblical hope is found in a person, the root of Jesse, the One we know as Jesus Christ. He is the foundation upon which our hope is built, and He has promised to return for His body, the church. We are “waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.” (Titus 2:13-14 ESV) That truth keeps us firmly anchored as we go through hard times.
One powerful way to pray is to use God’s own words to seek His help in situations that we are powerless to change. We are enabled to rejoice in hope when we remember that our God is the God of hope. He is the foundation upon which our hope is build. And his desire is to fill us “to the brim” with peace and joy.
Are you feeling discouraged, fearful, anxious about what lies ahead? Let’s take our petitions to “the God of hope” and leave the burden on His shoulders. Let’s with confidence draw near to God’s throne of grace, that each of us may receive the mercy and grace to help us walk through this time of need (Hebrews 4:16).
My prayer for you today comes from Romans 15:13 (NLT): “I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.”
“Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, ‘Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!’ He replied, ‘You of little faith, why are you so afraid?’ Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm. The men were amazed and asked, ‘What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!’” Matthew 8:23-27 NIV
SUDDENLY! One minute the lake was calm. The next angry waves were battering the boat, and the disciples were filled with fear. Yes, Jesus was with them, but why was He sleeping? Didn’t He care if they perished? These may have been some of the thoughts going through the minds of Jesus’ disciples as they went to wake up their Teacher and Friend.
As I look back over the last couple weeks, life feels like being in a boat tossed around in a storm. Coronavirus – COVID-19 – has now been declared a pandemic, rapidly spreading around the world. This tiny virus of only 125 nanometers (a nanometer is one billionth of a meter) has literally changed our daily lives. A comment from an email from one of my nieces says it well: “Life as we know it is changing dramatically.”
Each of us probably have our own list of the changes this pandemic has already caused, so I’m not going to share my list. What I’ve been holding onto during this time is the truth that our God has power over every storm.
We can be like the disciples and turn our focus on the waves sweeping over our “boat.” Or we can choose to fix our eyes on the One who is Lord over the storms that touch our lives. We can give place to fear and panic like those who don’t know Jesus are doing during this time of uncertainty, or we can remind ourselves that our God is bigger than any storm and choose to keep our eyes on Jesus and walk in faith.
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27 NIV
The peace that will carry us through the uncertainties of life, what we are facing now and anything that may lie ahead, is a supernatural peace. It is the peace of Jesus, the Prince of Peace. But a small 3-letter word in the above verse is important. Will we LET our hearts be troubled? Or will we choose to turn our eyes on the Lord and walk in His peace?
“You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.” Isaiah 26:3
We normally live with an illusion of certainty, and that has been removed by the unknowns that lie ahead. We don’t know what lies ahead, even our leaders and experts aren’t sure what to expect during the coming months. And this makes us feel vulnerable.
But there is One who does know the future, and He lives within us if we have surrendered to Jesus as Savior and Lord. He is still in control, and His perfect love has the power to cast out fear. By the strength He gives, we can walk in His peace and have victory over fear and panic.
Remember, Jesus still has power over the storms that we go through. Fix your eyes on Him. Remember you are not alone. Walk in wisdom and take every precaution advised by health authorities. But remember God has not given us a spirit of fear. He has given us power to overcome fear, assurance of His love, and a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7).
Remember to wash your hands well. And every time you do, remember Whose hands you are in. Today and each day until this difficult season is behind us, CHOOSE FAITH OVER FEAR!