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Pastors offer encouragement, support in crisis

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The Wilson Times asked three area pastors to share comments from their Sunday sermons, addressing concerns of their congregation during the COVID-19 pandemic. Pastors who would like to participate in this feature over the next few weeks can contact Lisa Boykin Batts at lisa@wilsontimes.com.

Gary Combs

Gary Combs, senior pastor at Wilson Community Church, has been preaching through the book of 1 Samuel in a sermon series titled: “The Original Game of Thrones.” This past Sunday, he focused on 1 Sam 13-14. Here are a few words from the sermon:

“Who or what are you counting on today? When we try to sit on the throne that belongs to God, we try to be in control of our own lives. But today, everything seems to be spinning out of control, doesn’t it? Schools are closed and restaurants, too. Shortages at the grocery store. Many are being laid off from work. The number of coronavirus cases continues to rise and with it, so does the panic and fear in our country. We read in 1 Samuel 13 and 14 today that King Saul was counting his Philistine enemies and seeing that they had 30,000 chariots and infantry like the “sand which is on the seashore in multitude” (1 Sam. 13:5). And when he counted his own men and implements of war, he worried that he had only 600 soldiers armed with farm tools and only two men with swords, himself and his son, Jonathan.

“Yet while King Saul was counting on numbers, his son, Jonathan, was counting on God. Listen to what Jonathan says to his armor-bearer, ‘Come, let us go over to the garrison of these (Philistines); it may be that the Lord will work for us. For nothing restrains the Lord from saving by many or by few’ (1 Sam. 14:6). Did you hear that? Jonathan wasn’t counting on how many soldiers Israel had. He was counting on God! He knew this truth: Me + God = A majority!

“Did you hear that? Quit trying to play the game of thrones with God today. Surrender the throne of your heart to God. Instead of worrying about all the numbers, about your 401(k), your groceries, your school graduation, your job and your income — instead of counting on all these things, count on God!

“As the psalmist said, “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God” (Psalms 20:7). Surrender the throne of your heart to King Jesus today. You can always count on Him!”

Ray Wells

Ray Wells, senior pastor at Marsh Swamp Free Will Baptist Church, used “What Can We Do?” as his sermon topic Sunday, using text from Psalm 91:1-6.

“At a time like this, remembering the truths of God will empower us to live our lives and respond in ways that are for our good and His glory. I know right now, things are really crazy. All we need to do is look around, and we can see that our world is filled with so much fear, anxiety and uncertainty. Every day seems to bring with it another wave of disheartening news.

“We need to understand that this is not a time for us to live in fear, anxiety and panic because there is hope.

“So the question becomes, “What can we do as children of God and as church members?

“1. We can remember God is on His throne (Isaiah 6:1). God is in control (Matthew 28:18.) God can still be trusted (Psalm 28:7.) God is still our help (Psalm 121:1-2.) And God is still great and good (Psalm 145:3.)

“2. We can resolve that we will not fear (Psalm 23:4); that we will not worry, but we will pray (Philippians 4:4-8); that we will be a light to other and live differently (Matthew 5:14.); that we will show compassion to the people who are fearful, and we will be concerned for their needs; that we here at Marsh Swamp will seize this moment (Esther 4:14); that we will pray for national healing (2 Chronicles 7:14); that we will fix our eyes on Jesus, not on the crisis, not, on the media (turn your TV off), not on the fear and panic, not on the tweets and posts, not on the wind and waves, but on Jesus.”

In concluding, Wells offered this practical guide: trust Christ as your personal Savior; ask the Lord what He wants us to learn in this trial; ask the Lord to bring this country to repentance; ask the Lord to give wisdom to our government; ask the Lord for a cure; ask the Lord to guide medical research teams, give strength to all caregivers and protect them.

“Ask the Lord to give you open doors of opportunity to minister to your neighbors and community.”

CHRIS GREENWOOD

Chris Greenwood is pastor at Forest Hills Presbyterian Church.

“Over the past few weeks, the congregation and I have been walking through the book of Esther. I felt the Lord leading me to this Old Testament book back in January, so I titled it, ‘A Journey Through Esther: For Such a Time as This.’ It has indeed turned out to be a wonderful book for such a time as this.

“In Chapter 8, we see a long awaited turning point finally arrive. The enemy of the Jews, Haman, has been cast down — or hung up might be a more accurate description — and all that was his has been given to his arch-enemy, Mordecai. Yet, while Haman has been defeated, his plan to wipe out the Jewish people living in the Persian Empire is still in effect. Queen Esther approaches the king to intercede on behalf of her people with a humility that should challenge us every day, let alone in such a time as this. In the ESV translation of verse 5, Esther asks four conditional qualifiers before getting to her true request. Let’s briefly look at them.

“‘If it please(s) the king, and if I have found favor in his sight, and if the thing seems right before the king, and (if) I am pleasing in his eyes, let an order be written to revoke …’ In each of these four qualifiers, Esther demonstrates her deference to the king. Her example is one we should emulate as followers of a far greater King. Our intercession should follow these same four markers:

1. “It’s about the King’s pleasure not ours (His will not mine).”

2. “It’s about remembering His favor has granted us the right to approach Him in prayer (His grace not our right).”

3. “It’s about what seems right to Him not to us (His ways not our ways).”

4. “It’s about how He sees me not how I see me (How He defines me not how I, others, or our culture define me).”

“When we understand these four things: His will, His grace, His ways, His defining view, then and only then can we ask what we would of such a wonderous King. As we turn to the King of Kings in this season of uncertainty, know this: He is not shaken. He is not unsure. He is not fearful or caught off guard. He is in absolute control. Our greatest mistake often comes down to this. We think He is like us (see Psalm 50:21). He is not. Esther understood this, and so should we. Come to Him and know that He is able to do what no one else can. He is able. He is the King and His name is Jesus.”

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