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Tiny Things in Terrible Times

The virus that changed your life is a 1.25 Nanometer sphere. That is one-billionth of a yardstick, tiny but traumatic. For decades you worried about something tremendous, an atomic war with blazing radioactivity. Yet that titanic threat with its megatons never happened. A tiny object that looks like a soccer ball with spikes has paralyzed the world.

The wise writer of Proverbs almost ends the book writing about ants, badgers, locusts and lizards (Proverbs 30:24-28). He wonders at their foresight, habitation, progress, and perseverance. Consider the lizard. The Jaragua Gecko can curl up on a dime, a fraction more than one-half inch. Yet that lizard can get past armed guards, elaborate security, and the best impediments humans can provide. It can even get into a king’s palace. If Solomon or someone like him wrote this wisdom book, he one day watched a little lizard on the wall over his sumptuous bed and laughed at his own security detail. A cohort that could keep out a lion could not stop a lizard.

Our age has taken the narcotic that a global economy prohibits a nuclear war, postmodern culture has changed life, and technology can find information about tiny lizards in ten seconds. Yet this day you find yourself closer to the Great Plague of 1665, of the Spanish influenza of 1918 than the promised world of flying taxis and a colony on Mars. Most folks worried about finding a chicken or tissue at the grocery store are not thinking about flying taxis.

God did not “cause” the virus. Jesus makes that kind of speculation clear in John 9:1-3 and Luke 13:1-5. No mortal can connect cause and effect with God and disease. You have already fallen through thin ice and are sinking into cold depths when you say God did a specific thing to that specific person/group. But what God did not cause, God can definitely use.

In your life and in mine he can use a tiny virus to stop us, make us look down so we can look up, and even take our breath away. This year, like every year, we finite, mortal, proud, independent, sinful people need to know we are all of that without him. He has used what he did not cause to arrest us with our finitude, reminded us of our mortality by going to the grocery store and hoping the guy next to us does not sneeze on us, humbled us in taking away mobility, workspace, and even toilet tissue, stuck our nose in our dependence on systems we do not understand, and reminded us that we are sinners on the way death. God used something one-billionth of a yard to do that. Lizards can get into the king’s bedchamber.

But there is another tiny thing, faith. To be sure that does not mean faith in faith. The cheery and necessary human encouragement, “Cheer up, it will get better,” is nice but meaningless. Not one of us mortal creatures can make something “better” in any ultimate sense.

The faith Jesus commends is faith in the promises of God in his holy Word throwing yourself on that Word alone, without anything else to prop you up. It is not the size of your faith. Your faith may be the size of the virus, just barely able to be measured. The hope is in the object of your faith.

The words were written by Edward Mote, a British Baptist preacher who was also a carpenter: “I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus name” (“On Christ the Solid Rock I Stand”). He recognized that no frame he could build could sustain him, not even the best and most appealing. To trust him means to put all my weight on him, even with tiny faith. That is not faith in faith; that is like anchoring a boat by casting the anchor on the boat.

These are faith testing days. Faith may look tiny in the face of the present terror. Yet faith the size of the virus leaning on the risen Lord Jesus Christ can move the mountain of mortality because of a hill called Calvary. We are having to stay in our homes, but we have triumph because he did not stay in his tomb. Lizards can get into palaces, but tiny faith can triumph in terrible times.

Dr. Joel C. Gregory is Director of the Kyle Lake Center for Effective Preaching, holder of the George W. Truett Endowed Chair of Preaching and Evangelism at Baylor's Truett Seminary, and the founder of Joel Gregory Ministries.

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