Verse for the Week: “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son … It was I who taught Ephraim how to walk, taking them by the arms, but they did not realize it was I who healed them. I led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love. To them I was like one who lifts a little child to the cheek, and I bent down to feed them” (Hosea 11:1-4).

Study Reference for Small Groups: Hosea 11:1-4

What’s the difference between fear and near? Just one letter right? In reality there’s a world of difference. And the nearness of God can cast out all fear in uncertain times. Just one letter makes all the difference. And like I said, there is a BIG difference between the two.

Never lose sight of God’s presence
It’s a lesson I learned several years ago. I questioned God. I was in the middle of a very difficult time in my life. If you’re like me, by that I mean a committed Christian, divorce is like a swear word. And if you, like me a few years ago, find yourself in the process of one right now you know what I’m talking about. On top of that I’m a pastor. “How can a pastor get divorced? He must be doing something wrong or have a secret sin life that no one knew about!” Those are all thoughts that ran through my head. And one night I lost it on God. After I put my son to bed I wondered where was my heavenly Father? Where was my bedtime Bible story, tuck in, and kiss goodnight!? After all, isn’t the one true God a better Father than me? If I do all of those things for my child, why wouldn’t my heavenly Father do them for me – especially in the darkest moment of my life. In that moment I lost it. I forgot that my God is a loving Father and an ever present help in times of trouble.

Everyone has their struggle
We don’t have to look far to find fear. Right now it’s got a grip on all of us just like it did me several years ago. King Coronavirus has us all wondering where we’ll find food. Will our kids be ok? Will our businesses and our sanity survive? If you’ve been alive for any length of time, it’s not the first time you’ve asked those questions. It’s just the first time they’ve been asked by us on such a massive and collective scale. So, of course, we all have our struggles. Maybe yours is a divorce. Maybe it’s financial problems or a relationship. Maybe it’s a mental disorder or health issues. It’s just that right now things are different. We’ve all got a problem whether we actually have the virus or not. We’re seeing restaurants close and grocery stores selling out of bread. Did I mention toilet paper? Seriously!!! Is this all real? Whatever it is, we’re afraid. And we don’t know what the future holds … or do we?

Are you a child of God?
Really this question makes all the difference. Are you God’s son? His daughter? Do you belong to him? If you’re not sure I want you to know today that you are by inviting Jesus into your life. Knowing that truth really does change everything. In my case, many years passed since I blatantly challenged him. Where are you!? Where is my Father!? Mentally I moved on. Or at least I thought I did. I moved out of my house. I made some new friends. You know, I just forgot about it. Something I wasn’t paying much attention to were my spiritual habits. I guess in the years following that event I just felt like I needed Jesus more than ever. So I spent more time with him, you know, reading my Bible, praying for others, worshipping him with an unhindered heart both in private and sometimes in public. Every night I would stay up late and rise early to rest in God’s presence. If that’s something you’ve never done I highly encourage you to give it a shot. Being with God will change your life just like it did mine. And just like me, he wants you to know that you are his child, that you belong to him.

Recognize God’s nearness right now
Whatever your struggle or fear. Know that NEAR is right around the corner. That’s what I realized one morning. I read these words in Hosea and it was like my life flashed before my eyes: “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son … It was I who taught Ephraim how to walk, taking them by the arms, but they did not realize it was I who healed them. I led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love. To them I was like one who lifts a little child to the cheek, and I bent down to feed them” (Hosea 11:1-4). At that moment I began to weep because I remembered my own wilderness experience. I remembered my complaint. I remembered my fears and my bitterness. But so did my Father. And in the form of my personal revival, he read Bible stories to me every night. Sure, I was the one doing the reading but the Bible teaches us that his Spirit speaks to us when we do. So in another sense, God was the one reading to me. Over those months and years, his presence was more real than I remember it being for a long time. The time I spent worshipping him before bed, tucked me in with perfect peace. His goodnight kisses calmed the turmoil in my heart with joy. Wow! He was with me the whole time and I didn’t even know it. In fact, the trials I faced only brought him closer. That’s where God is. He is by your side in this moment. He’s right there and he’s working in unprecedented ways to bless you.

Conclusions about Corona
We’ve all been through life. And wherever you are in your walk with God you’ve had moments where you knew he was watching over you as only a perfect Father could. Today is no different. None of this is catching him by surprise. None of it challenges his sovereignty. The fact that we’re facing fears actually means that God is on the verge of a huge breakthrough. We just don’t see it yet. In the moment, headlines and “head-lies” (you know, the lies inside our minds) get us thinking he’s forgotten about us. But nothing could be further from the truth. He’s only waiting for the right time to reveal his glory and his love for you. In the meantime, draw close to him. Draw close to him and one another as a family. That’s what he wants. That’s what he’s waiting for. He wants you. In the world he’s working through disease and even death to hasten resurrection power in your life. God has good things in store for his children and where we’re going is better than where we’ve been. So let’s draw close to him now. Let’s pray for our elected officials just like the Bible instructs us to do. The restrictions they are implementing instill fear but they are also meant to give us a future. God is doing a mighty work in our day and who can hinder the work of the Lord? All of his works are wonderful and he is fighting for us even in the midst of our darkness. God is near. So fight your fear with his nearness today!

Application Questions:
Are current circumstances causing you to forget that God is near? How have you responded to those feelings? What steps can you take to draw closer to him now?

Do you know that you are a child of God? How do you think this might make a difference during times of trouble?

Think of a time in your life when you felt close to God. What made you feel that way? How might God be calling you to help someone else during this difficult time in our culture?

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