It’s ironic, I think, that as we stand at the gateway to the Christmas season, we find ourselves suddenly in a panic. When we should be echoing the angel cry, “Peace on Earth,” we instead find ourselves full of fear, uncertainty, and doubt.
What’s driving this sudden assault on peace in our lives? If you’ve been in a box for the past week or so, it is the H1N1 virus.
I’m not going to take a stance on whether or not you, as a Christian, should go out and get the vaccine. Something tells me that if you want to find an argument for one side or the other, there are plenty out there on the internet. For some of us it might be as simple as logging in to Facebook. Like I said, though, that’s not why I’m writing.
Honestly, it seems that whether we have had the vaccine or not, we still find ourselves handcuffed by the spread of this virus. What does that mean for us? Does it reveal something in our lives? That’s why I’m writing today.
Today is October 31, and here in the county I live in there is little talk about the dangers of Halloween. For the most part, they are non-existent this year. Is it because the local churches have had such impact on our community that everyone has given up celebrating it? Not so much. It’s because H1N1 has spread so quickly through our area that everything is shut down tonight.
There will not be any school or church sponsored events to keep the kids safe, provide good, clean fun and send everyone home with a bag of goodies. In fact, most of our schools are closed until Tuesday or Wednesday when the H1N1 vaccine clinics come through. At the clinics they won’t even take a swab to test you for H1N1 anymore. Because of the number of confirmed cases in our county, they take the stance that, “If you have A, B and C symptoms, let’s be safe and say you’ve got it,” hand you some Tamiflu, and move on to the next in line.
Our schools closed late this week because of the number of children and teachers that were no longer attending. My older daughter is in 3rd Grade. On Tuesday there were four of fifteen in class, on Wednesday there were three, and on Thursday she was the only one. Midday that same day we received a message from the school that 66 percent of teachers and students were absent.
Something is feeding the uneasy spirit tracking its way through our community. On the news we hear about a young man who died with H1N1 earlier this week. Then we heard yesterday that there aren’t enough vaccines to cover those they promised, so now healthy adults are being denied it. Word on Thursday morning was that there were more than 100 confirmed cases in our small part of New Brunswick, Canada. And the frenzy grows, and grows, and grows.
Everyone is on edge, it seems. Should we really run to the store for that? Can we go out to eat anywhere? What about church on Sunday?
It doesn’t seem to matter if someone has had the vaccine or not. Everyone knows that vaccinations are not fool-proof. In fact, they are a small injection of the actual virus into your system so your body can begin producing the antibodies that will ward off a regular viral attack.
Last night I was reading the book of James. As I read the first chapter, I came across verses 9 to 11, and thought they fit in the context strangely. Here is a bit of that context:
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
Let the lowly brother glory in his exaltation, but the rich in his humiliation, because as a flower of the field he will pass away. For no sooner has the sun risen with a burning heat than it withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beautiful appearance perishes. So the rich man also will fade away in his pursuits.
(James 1:5-11, NKJV)
Many times we look at these verses and read them as James taking the side of the poor man over the rich man. But James is talking about major truths of the Christian life in Chapter 1: faith, patience, wisdom, and temptation are some of them. Why take a side note about being rich or lowly at this point of the letter?
The only reason I can think of is that it is an example, a concrete picture for the reader that emphasizes the point of something he has already said. Just before this, as seen in the text above, James is talking about the doubter. I believe the rich man is given as an example of the one who doubts.
To be rich means to have amassed a great many things. In the ancient world it would have likely been more than just the size of a bank account. It may have involved goods, land, property, number of animals in his possession. How hard is it for the rich man to have faith that God will provide all of his needs? What keeps his trust in Almighty God?
The test for this man is whether or not he will glory when everything is taken from him, in his humiliation (verse 10). Think of the story of Job. He had much, and when it was taken from him, he refused to curse God and die, even if it meant serving Him to a lonely grave.
We are tested by our trials. Why? To see if we truly have faith, or if we doubt. You can tell if you are one prone to doubt because your outlook and your faith are determined by your circumstances.
Verse 6 tells that those who doubt are like waves tossed and driven by wind. How easy it is to change the direction of the waves? If a wind is blowing, and a speed boat comes by, will the waves stay with the wind, or follow the wake of the boat? On a blustery day, does the wind continue only in one direction? Will the waves never change direction or size?
A wave is inconsistent. It follows the stimuli that are pushing it. So, too is the doubter. He is not grounded solid in a Rock that cannot be moved or broken. He is dependent upon sunshine and the currents of the air to go where he wants to or be what she wants to. When those change, and the self-selected destination or path is lost for even the smallest amount of time, peace is lost.
Take the wind idea one step further, and imagine a sail boat. Here the concept is the same, the boat moves based on the wind. But, there are extra factors that help harness the wind, keeping eyes on the goal and not straying from the path of peace. On a sail boat, there is a rudder, helping to keep the ship steered in the right direction. The sails are able to swivel, capturing the power of the wind, but allowing the hull of the boat to move as determined by the rudder.
If you are on the sea and all you have is a stiff mast with no rudder, you are doomed to the whims of the wind. But when you have faith in the only One who has the power to manage your circumstances, to use every part of your life to mold you into something good, to provide you with the power to heal the sick and shake of serpents, then you will be at peace.
I don’t think the “Peace on Earth” cry is being heard yet this year. It’s time to raise the banner and shout it from the rooftops.