This is part 2 of 5 of the mini-series: Peace in a Pandemic.
4:4-5 “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.”
Someone, somewhere at sometime said: “Don’t waste a crisis.”  Whoever said it was giving some really good advice. The Covid-19 pandemic has already begun to seriously sift the sources from which we seek joy. I’ve said it a lot these past few weeks and will probably continue to do so for awhile: “So often our faith becomes polluted with lesser things: trusting in our health, wealth, and prosperity. Ironically, in our current time of trial, it is our health which has been shown to be weak, our wealth which has had the biggest one-day plunge ever and our prosperous homes which have now become temporary prisons.” All too often our “rejoicing” flows merely from the shallow springs of our current circumstances. A new home, a new job, a new friend, a new car or a new shirt—all are things to be thankful for, but they are not reliable springs from which to drink. If we try and find lasting joy in those type of things we can slide very easily into the endlessly futile pursuit of the grass is always greener. Thankfully, the Apostle Paul didn’t say, ‘rejoice in your circumstances'. He was a man that knew challenging circumstances in life are inevitable. Take for example his time in Philippi. While planting the church there Paul & Silas were attacked, dragged into the marketplace, falsely accused, unjustly condemned, stripped naked, beaten with rods, severely flogged, then thrown into prison (Act 16:19-23). And yet, in the midst of those horrific circumstance we discover: “Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God…”  What was his secret? How could they rejoice and sing in times like those? Why didn’t they flee when their circumstances could change thanks to a get-out-jail free card that came via an earthquake? I think Paul was drinking from the true spring of joy, the Lord. Rejoice in the Lord is what he wrote. The Lord is near is what he minded them to focus on. Don’t waste this crisis. Take the opportunity Coronavirus has given us all to shift our heart onto something, better yet, someone much more solid—the Lord.
One of my favourite Old Testament examples of this principle is found in Genesis 15:1 “After this, the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision: Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.” The verse begins with “after this”. Two words with a lot behind them. Let’s take a quick look at what had just taken place. In Genesis 12:1-9 Abram left his family and began a faithful journey to the promised land. Then chapter 12:10-20 we read about a famine that drove Abram to go to Egypt where due to fearful deception he and his nephew Lot become incredibly wealthy. Then in chapter 13:1-18 we learn that Abram and Lot had to part ways because of the ill-gained wealth and shortly after that God makes some grand promises concerning all the land that Abram’s offspring will inherit. Continuing on from there in chapter 14:1-24 Lot ends up being caught up in some serious trouble which prompts Abram to launch a successful rescue mission to bring back his nephew and his whole household. All of that is then topped off through a mysterious communion service with the mysterious Melchizedek, king of Peace. Despite all of that God comes to Abram and says: “I am your great reward”. The reward wasn’t the Promises or the Promise Land, it wasn’t the wealth or the great wins, it wan’t even the epic communion with Melchizedek. The reward was God Himself. When He is our reward we can, like Paul & Abram, rejoice always.
Don’t waste this crisis. Let it sift your heart and make a choice today to shift your heart away from your circumstances and onto the Lord, your great reward. Hear the warning from CS Lewis, “It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” 
May our prayer be the of the Psalmist:
“Whom have I in heaven but you?
And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
26 My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever.
27 Those who are far from you will perish;
you destroy all who are unfaithful to you.
28 But as for me, it is good to be near God.
I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge;
I will tell of all your deeds.”
 This quote is attributed to several different people including: Rahm Emanuel, Winston Churchill, and Niccolo Machiavelli
 The New International Version. (2011). (Ac 16:25). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
 C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory, and Other Addresses