You're Not Alone

I'm sure we all remember the story of Philip and the Ethiopian in Acts 8 . Let's go back through that story for a moment. This Secretary of the Treasury from Ethiopia travelled from his country in Africa up to Israel to worship the God of the Jews. He was travelling first class in a chariot, not a chariot built for war but a proper posh one with a driver; he had a copy of the scroll of Isaiah and had just been worshiping in Jerusalem. He must have been feeling great! But the problem was, he was so unfamiliar with the Jewish scriptures and teachings he had no idea what things meant. That’s where God steps in. “Philip, go and join that chariot.”

When Philip is near the chariot he asks, “Do you understand what you are reading?” The Ethiopian said, “How can I unless some explains it to me.” He invited Philip to join him and the passage he was reading is found in Isaiah 53. Philip started there and told this man the story of Jesus and what it meant to be saved. At some point in time, the Ethiopian saw a body of water and wanted to be baptised.

What did he do when he got back to Ethiopia though? His joy was real. His hope of salvation through Jesus changed his life, but what happened when he got home? We don’t know, but he was probably alone in his new faith in Jesus. That joy could have turned away quickly, or perhaps he could have taken his story and shared it with others.

Today, we may well feel spiritually isolated. Instead of getting better, things are getting worse. We're not able to meet face to face and break bread together as an ecclesia. I don't know how you feel but we definitely miss this. We've been joining online with Kings Heath or Bournemouth Winton on a Sunday morning but it's just not the same, is it? I even gave an online Skype exhortation for the Irvine Ecclesia. Obviously with the current situation seeming to worsen it's just not possible to meet together in the hall for a good few months. We have the joy of our hope in Christ, but lack fellowship because of the current pandemic that we face.  These feelings of isolation that many may well be feeling are real, but we need to remember that the feeling of spiritual isolation is not new, even though it is new to many of us. There have been Christians around the world that have had to meet in house churches or “underground” just to be safe when they gathered. There are others, like the Apostle Paul, who were often alone spiritually throughout their lives.

2 Kings 5 we read of a man who was actually the commander of the army for the king of Syria; not really a friend of Israel. His name, we all know, was Naaman and he had a deadly and scary disease that was put in the general category called leprosy. How severe a case of skin disease he had, we don’t know. What we know is a young girl who was captured by the Assyrians and became his wife’s slave spoke about a man who could cure him. To make a long story short, after being told to dip seven times in the Jordan River, and finally being willing to do it, he found himself clean from the leprosy. Now this is the part where the story gets interesting.

If you heard that we came up with an instant cure for COVID-19 how excited would you be? How much would a cure be worth to the people of the world right now? If it was your spouse, child or parent who was sick to the point of death, how much would an instant cure be worth to you financially?

The interesting part is, this gift of an instant cure was offered free of charge. Here is what Naaman learned. There is no God in all the world except the God of Israel. To say that Naaman believed and was filled with joy is an understatement. But there was a problem; the king of Syria was not a believer in the God of Israel. So Naaman asked for a second gift. Two mule loads of dirt.

He had already received a cure, but here is his second request in verse 17. Here is a man who knew he would be spiritually isolated. A man who had a job in a world that didn’t believe, yet he became a believer. He didn’t want his spiritual isolation to end his relationship with God. Isn’t that where so many of us are today, with not being able to gather in a church building, praising God in hymns, sharing the emblems together as a family, reading from God's Word, approaching Him in prayer. There may even be a fear that the church won’t exist for a very long time because of COVID-19. It’s time for us then to get our two mule loads of dirt.

We know there is no other God. The creator of the heavens and earth. Through His love, His grace, His mercy we have a great hope in our lives. We’re not alone even if you are physically right now. We’re not alone, even if this time of isolation keeps us apart for several more months or longer. Let's keep affirming our faith in God.

The ground in Israel was no more holy than the ground in Syria. But Naaman knew he was going to be alone in a spiritually sinful world and didn’t want the king’s worship of idols to keep God from seeing his worship. So what did he do with all that dirt? Maybe it was to be a reminder of his cure and God. Maybe he took it back to have a place where he could worship God. He certainly must have felt that isolation.

We need to get our two mule loads of dirt. By that I mean it’s time for us to make sure we stay connected to God and as a church family. We have the opportunity online with Zoom Bible Class, Coffee mornings, fraternals, conferences and so on. Too often for ourselves we let work get in the way, we need to try harder to keep in touch with our Brothers and Sisters. Perhaps we could follow other Ecclesias and have an online Sunday Service since it may be several months yet before we can meet together?

Just because you are not in the building doesn’t mean you are isolated from God though. God will never leave you nor forsake you. Our connection right now is more through technology or a good old fashioned phone call than it is person to person. But we are never alone. We need to take our spiritual earth/soil and keep our ground holy in worship of God.

In conclusion, we miss you all. Online gatherings can be a great source of strength and connection but let us not forget that God’s message of salvation was not meant to be kept in isolation.

Perhaps now is the time for us to offer help to others, perhaps now is the time to be reaching out to our neighbours or family and friends who have not come to know God and the Lord Jesus as we have. Share your story and perhaps they'll come to realise that there is something missing in their lives.

God be with you until we meet again.

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