Just Be Saved
by Jack Wald | May 3rd, 2020

For someone with an active imagination, a pandemic is not a good time to develop a high fever. On Wednesday afternoon I started shaking and shivering and eventually took my temperature. 100.5 F, 38 C. For two days my temperature varied from 100.5 to 102.5 F, 39.2 C. Friday night my temperature dropped to 99.5 F, 37.5 and Saturday morning my temperature was normal. I was highly fatigued and slept most of the time and, of course, I wondered if this was covid-19.

I really believe what I preach and the thought that I might have covid-19 and might die, did not panic me. I know I am safe with Jesus. I know that I am passing through this temporary home and moving toward my heavenly, eternal home. As Rich Mullins sings,
Everybody each and all
We’re gonna die eventually
It’s no more or less our faults
Than it is our destiny

Whatever happens to us on earth, we are safe with Jesus.

I have to say that I am glad this was not the end for me. I have so much to look forward to on earth. I feel like Paul when he wrote in his Philippians letter (Philippians 1:21)
For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.
I am looking forward to my heavenly home, but I’m reluctant to leave the people I care about so soon.

The week before this I had a significant spiritual experience.

There has been a lot of stress in my life. (I know I am not alone in this.) There is stress in being physically distanced from people. There is stress not knowing what will happen next, how long the physical distancing will last, what the economic fallout will be.

There is stress with having to find ways to put RIC online and encourage the community without being physically present with each other. There is stress because of concerns with the Village of Hope children who are locked down in the center in Meknes.

A crisis like this pandemic brings out the best in people and also the worst in people. So there is stress because of fears about how the world’s populations will respond to covid-19 as it spreads into less developed countries.

In the midst of this I have carried the stress of a marriage breaking apart, a young child who was discovered to be watching sexually graphic websites, and other distressing situations. The truth is these kind of things happen in normal times, but the weight they carry seems heavier during a pandemic.

So on Wednesday of that week I was lifting weights while listening to music on my mp3 player when the Casting Crowns song, Just Be Held came up on my shuffle.

Just Be Held
Hold it all together
Everybody needs you strong
But life hits you out of nowhere
And barely leaves you holding on

And when you’re tired of fighting
Chained by your control
There’s freedom in surrender
Lay it down and let it go

So when you’re on your knees and answers seem so far away
You’re not alone, stop holding on and just be held
Your world’s not falling apart, it’s falling into place
I’m on the throne, stop holding on and just be held
Just be held, just be held

I remember a time when I was in seminary, about a year before I began dating Annie. I was feeling overwhelmed. I had final exams to study for, papers to write, and if I recall correctly, I was dealing with a breakup with a girlfriend.

When I feel a lot of pressure, I want to escape, avoid the pressure. So what I most wanted to do was to put a couple pairs of jeans in a backpack, head out the door without telling anyone I was leaving, and hitchhike to someplace where no one knew me.

What I did was to sit down in a comfortable chair, pull my knees up so I was in a fetal position and pull a blanket my grandmother had knitted for me over my head. It was as if I was trying to crawl back into the womb, trying to find a place of safety. And then I began complaining. I talked about all that I was feeling. I talked for a long time about all that was going on, how it was making me feel, how much I wanted to run away. I talked until I had nothing more to say and then I was silent. In the silence I became aware of God’s presence holding me, loving me. I took refuge in the shadow of his wings. I surrendered to God. I thanked God that he was sovereign, in control of everything. As I prayed I felt loved and secure. I was a weaned child in his mother’s arms. I was at peace.

We talk a lot about trusting God but we use that word loosely. We trust, but our trust is not total, it is not complete trust. You have probably heard the story of a man who falls off a cliff and miraculously is able to grab onto a branch. He hangs there with nothing preventing him from falling to his death but his hold on the branch. He cries out for help and he hears a voice telling him, “Give me your hands and I will rescue you.” He reaches out with one hand and grasps his rescuer’s hand that will take him to safety. Then the voice says, “Let go of the branch and give me your other hand,” and the man asks, “Is there anyone else who can rescue me?”

We trust in God but we hold on to our branch. For me, the branch I hold on to is control. I want to fix things, make things better. I want to hold the RIC community together. I want to get the VOH kids to a place of safety. I want to restore marriages, help parents who are having problems with their children.

So this song seemed to speak to me.

Hold it all together
Everybody needs you strong

I feel the pressure to lead well. I feel the pressure to make wise decisions. I am pastor of RIC. I am the shepherd for this flock of sheep and I need to be a good shepherd.

Hold it all together
Everybody needs you strong
But life hits you out of nowhere
And barely leaves you holding on

There are things that are too big for us to control. We cannot control natural disasters or pandemics, or government policies. We are small fish in a large ocean.

And when you’re tired of fighting
Chained by your control

We work and struggle to keep things together. Day after day we work to do our best, but we become overwhelmed by the scope of the problems. We become tired of fighting against the forces that seem so destructive.

How do we fight against the power of the internet? How do we fight against government policies? How do we fight against human nature, the pull each of us feels to think of ourselves first? We may be able to handle one problem and maybe two or three, but what do you do when you have four, five, six, seven or more problems at the same time?

Plate spinning is a circus act where a person spins plates on poles, without them falling off. It is easy to spin one plate on a stick, but then as you add plates, it becomes more and more frantic as the performer runs from stick to stick to keep the plates spinning.

By the way, the Guinness World Record for spinning multiple plates is held by David Spathaky, assisted by Debbie Woolley, who spun 108 plates simultaneously in Bangkok, Thailand, on television in 1996.

Some are more capable than others at spinning plates but eventually there is too much to handle, we reach the breaking point, and the plates begin falling. Eventually, even the best of us are out of control.

When the world is spinning out of control, there is only one person who can keep it together. Paul writes in Colossians 1:15–17
The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

I am not the one who holds all things together. I am only his servant and I repeatedly need to learn my place.

And when you’re tired of fighting
Chained by your control
There’s freedom in surrender
Lay it down and let it g
o

Because this is something I struggle with, one of my favorite psalms is Psalm 131, one of the psalms of ascent.
My heart is not proud, Lord,
my eyes are not haughty;
I do not concern myself with great matters
or things too wonderful for me.
2 But I have calmed and quieted myself,
I am like a weaned child with its mother;
like a weaned child I am content.

There’s freedom in surrender
Lay it down and let it go

So when you’re on your knees and answers seem so far away
You’re not alone, stop holding on and just be held
Your world’s not falling apart, it’s falling into place
I’m on the throne, stop holding on and just be held
Just be held, just be held

“Your world’s not falling apart, it’s falling into place” That is a radical perspective.

When Joseph was thrown into a pit by his brothers and sold to slave traders, when he was accused by Potiphar’s wife of molesting her and thrown into prison, his world was falling apart.

But then he was released from prison and placed in a position of honor and power. And toward the end of his life, when his father died and his brothers feared he would now take revenge on them for what they had done to him, he said, (Genesis 50:20)
You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.

Joseph had learned that when things looked like they were falling apart, they were instead falling into place.

The week between Jesus’ triumphal parade into Jerusalem and his resurrection was the most stressful week of the disciples’ lives. It was the most traumatic week of the disciples’ lives. It was the most exhilarating week of the disciples’ lives.

David Bosch writes in A Spirituality of the Road,
It was Thursday night, the night before Passover, the night before Calvary. The disciples, wide-eyed and scared, were sitting with Jesus in the upper room, ready to partake of the bread and wine. But the walls of their world were crumbling around them. First Judas left the room, without the others really grasping what was going on. Then Jesus said to Peter, “Before the cock crows twice, you will denounce me three times.” To the others he said: “In this night everyone of you will take offense at me.” In the heart of Thomas, and possibly also others, a thousand questions were raging simultaneously: “Where will this end? Where is this leading to? Who will survive? Who will manage to persevere?” There was so little real understanding in their hearts that the words about his imminent death were an offense. They had visualized it so entirely differently: a king’s throne, and places of honor on both sides of the king. Should it surprise us if several had begun to wonder: “Is it possible that we have made a mistake? Suppose he is not the Messiah? Suppose we have made the wrong choice? “

In the midst of this electric atmosphere they heard his calm and reassuring voice, “You did not choose me: I chose you. I appointed you to go on and bear fruit, fruit that shall last” (John 15:16).

That night, Judas came with the Temple guard and Jesus was arrested. They all fled, afraid they would be arrested as well. Unsurprisingly, Peter followed the Temple guard from a distance. Peter was the one disciple who dared to walk out on the water to Jesus. Peter was the one disciple who followed Jesus when he was arrested. He followed Jesus from a distance, but he followed.

But even Peter’s bravado had its limits. When he was accused of being one of the disciples of Jesus he denied it. He denied being a disciple of Jesus three times, the rooster crowed, and then Jesus looked at him. (Luke 22:60–62)
Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.” 62 And he went outside and wept bitterly.

Jesus was beaten, mocked, made to carry his cross, was nailed to the cross, died, and was laid in a tomb. John was there at the crucifixion but the rest of the disciples were in hiding. Judas hanged himself. Peter, their leader, was disgraced. The Messiah they had followed for three years, the Messiah who had healed the sick, gave sight to the blind, cleansed lepers, raised the dead, this Messiah was now dead and rotting in a grave. The Messiah was dead and so was their hope.

Do you think the disciples thought their world was falling apart? It was not only falling apart, it had imploded. It no longer existed.

On the day Jesus resurrected from the dead, he appeared to Cleopas and another disciple who were walking away from Jerusalem, discussing the reports that the tomb was empty and that angels has said he was alive. They did not recognize Jesus who said to them, (Luke 24:25–27)
“How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.

The disciples thought that everything was falling apart and did not know until after the resurrection that everything had been falling into place.

When Paul was arrested and put into prison, I am confident the churches he had planted were thinking things were falling apart. Paul had suffered from being beaten with rods and flogged so many times, from being stoned and left for dead, that his body was a physical wreck.

Doctor Luke who accompanied him on his travels was a gift from God because of his ability to help Paul move and walk with a minimum of pain.

If Paul had not been arrested and put in prison, how many more beatings could he have taken before they killed him?

So the churches prayed for Paul to be released, thinking his imprisonment was a huge defeat for the church. Meanwhile, Paul wrote letters from prison: Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon that have fed the church for two thousand years. When things seemed to be falling apart, they were really falling into place.

My own reality is that in these weeks of the lockdown there are some days when my mood is good and some days when I feel depressed. My moods swing from day to day, week to week. Chris Loose has been called to be the next senior pastor of RIC and that is good news. What will I do when I leave RIC? I have anxious thoughts about that.

The VOH kids weigh heavy on my heart. I want so much for them to succeed and prosper in life, but their circumstances are so difficult. They have so much to overcome. I am grateful for the Zniber Foundation that has kept the VOH children safe, but the center is not the best environment for a lockdown.

How long will the lockdown last in Morocco? Morocco has done a great joy in preventing the spread of covid-19 but what will happen when Morocco opens its borders? Will there be a resurgence in covid-19 infections in the months to come? When will it be possible to travel as freely as we have done in the past? Annie and I have grandchildren in Thailand and in Boston. We would love to see them.

What fears and anxieties do you have? What is making you feel stressed? What causes you to be restless as you try to get to sleep?

We need more than a superficial trust in God. We need to let go of the branch on the side of the cliff and put both hands in Jesus who rescues us and will keep us safe. We need to surrender and be held.

This is not to say that we should not work as hard as we can to do what we can to fix things, to make things better. But we need to let the weight of the stress and anxiety we carry slip off our shoulders by putting our trust in God who is in control, who is on the throne, who is sovereign. Who says, (Psalm 46:10)
“Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”

Who says, (Hebrews 13:5)
“Never will I leave you;
never will I forsake you.”

Who says, (Matthew 28:20)
And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

God is sovereign. God knows what we do not know. God sees the future we cannot see. We are safest when we place ourselves in his arms. Those we care about are safest when they are in his arms.

Psalm 131                       
My heart is not proud, Lord, 
my eyes are not haughty; 
I do not concern myself with great matters 
or things too wonderful for me. 
2 But I have calmed and quieted myself, 
I am like a weaned child with its mother; 
like a weaned child I am content. 

We need to be held.

So when you’re on your knees and answers seem so far away
You’re not alone, stop holding on and just be held
Your world’s not falling apart, it’s falling into place
I’m on the throne, stop holding on and just be held
Just be held, just be held