In 2004 I was hired by Disney Cruise Line to come aboard one of their ships as their resident DJ.
I flew from Albuquerque to Orlando, completed shoreside training for the cruise line at Disney World, and then boarded the Disney Wonder ship, which was going to be my home for the next 5 months.
The day I boarded the ship for the first time, I walked onto the 918’ foot-long ship rolling my one suitcase that I was allowed to bring with me, and went to go find my new stateroom.
In my mind, I envisioned my stateroom to be this big, spacious room with a window overlooking the ocean and a terrace I could sit on after working.
I got to my stateroom, and I discovered that the crew quarters were much different than the luxurious guest rooms. My stateroom was about the size of a walk-in closet. No window. No terrace. Not even a porthole to look out of. In fact, I was on deck B, which meant I was “below” the waterline, so even if I did have a porthole, I would just be looking at the fishies and sharks, ya know? I looked at my tiny, windowless, porthole-less room and said to myself, “This is a lot different than what I expected… but it’s fine. It’s all good.”
I looked in the bathroom. The toilet was so small it almost looked like a footstool. The shower was so small that if you turned around in the shower, the shower curtain would cling to you and wrap around you like Saran wrap. I remember thinking, “This is a lot different than what I expected… but it’s fine. It’s all good.”
I went to the crew eating mess hall. I had envisioned buffets of exotic foods and crab legs. Maybe even tables full of the 31 different types of Oreos that they only sell internationally and don’t sell in the United States. But I soon realized that the crew food options were not anything close to what the guests got to eat. The limited food options made hospital food look gourmet, and I remember thinking, “This is a lot different than what I expected… but it’s fine. It’s all good.”
Shortly after that, we set sail and took off from the port. I remember going out onto the deck of the ship and watching as we cruised by West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale and Miami. I made a few phone calls along the way to friends and family members saying farewell, and then my phone service cut out the further we got away from shore. I hadn’t thought about how I wouldn’t have phone service out on the open ocean, and I remember thinking, “This is a lot different than what I expected… but it’s fine. It’s all good.”
And then we sailed past the southern tip of Florida, where 2 major ocean channels converge together between the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean.
When oceanic channels merge together like that, big waves are formed, and when big waves are formed, even a cruise ship that’s 918’ long can be tossed around like a toy in a swimming pool.
I started to feel motion sickness coming on, but there was nothing I could do. The ship wasn’t going to stop for me, and the ship kept going up and down, up and down, up and down. I remember lying in bed in my stateroom thinking, “This is a lot different than I thought… and it’s NOT fine. It’s NOT all good.”
I went to bed that night—nauseous and horrified—thinking, “I’ve made a terrible mistake coming to work on a cruise ship. I can handle a lot of unexpected things, but the way I feel right now… this I can’t handle!”
Have I just described how many of you feel right now?
When this quarantine started, many of you probably thought, “This is a lot different than what I expected… but it’s fine. It’s all good.”
- But then your kids got sent home from school.
- Or you lost a job.
- Or your “non-essential” business got shut down.
- Or your “essential” business had to figure out how to operate in ways you’ve never operated before.
- Or your income dried up.
- Or the oil industry not only hit $0 per barrel, but plummeted into negative territory that’s never happened ever before in the history of the oil and gas industry.
- Or you got sick.
- Or your loved one got sick.
- Or someone close to you passed away.
And all along in each phase of this quarantine, you’ve tried to be positive and say to yourself, “This is a lot different than I expected, but it’ll be fine. It’s all good.”
But perhaps you’ve reached the point where you’re going to bed nauseous and horrified thinking, “It’s NOT fine. It’s NOT all good.”
Many of us have been okay enough so far in this pandemic, but we’re starting to get worn down wondering, “When will this all be over?”
While nobody knows how long it’s going to last, many people have been quick to offer the encouragement, “THIS TOO SHALL PASS.”
And while that is a true statement, because…
- the disruption from the virus won’t be around forever, and
- the price of oil won’t be this low forever, and
- the unemployment rate won’t be this high forever, and
- the stay-at-home order won’t be around forever…
- and eventually there will be a vaccine…
…it’s important to understand that the phrase “THIS TOO SHALL PASS” didn’t come from God. Nowhere in the Bible does that phrase “THIS TOO SHALL PASS” appear.
But just because the phrase never appears in the Bible doesn’t mean you should never say the phrase. There’s nothing wrong with encouraging people by telling them, “THIS TOO SHALL PASS.”
The reason I even bring up the fact that God never said is because God is referred to in the Bible as the God of all comfort. We looked at these verses written by the Apostle Paul last week. He said:
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)
Paul says there are 2 reasons to praise the God of all comfort.
- Because He comforts us, and
- Because He comforts others through us.
We give praise to the God of all Comfort as He comforts us… and as He comforts others through us.
That being said, the enemy does not want to see this unity. The enemy does not want to see people coming together in the name of Jesus to show His love and support to others.
Over the last few weeks, President Trump has referred to the coronavirus as our “invisible enemy”.
While the virus might indeed be our invisible enemy, the truth is, we have had an invisible enemy that far pre-dates COVID-19. Listen to this description of our enemy:
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6:12)
Friends, COVID-19 is not our only “invisible enemy”.
Satan and his rulers, authorities, and powers of this dark world are also our invisible enemies, and our invisible enemy does not want us or others to be comforted by God.
Therefore, we shouldn’t just pay attention to the invisible enemy that’s taking lives, we should also pay attention to the invisible enemy that’s taking eternities!
How do we do that?
Well, we fight the war again COVID-19 by washing our hands, avoiding touching our eyes and face, and we social distance.
How do we fight the invisible enemy of spiritual forces of the dark world?
Look at what Paul says:
“[B]e strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.” (Ephesians 6:10-11)
Look, you might not be able to see the devil’s schemes, but he’s coming for you. So how do you put on the “armor of God”? Paul continues on:
“Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist…” (Ephesians 6:13-14a)
What’s the “belt of truth”?
In ancient times, the belt is what held the sword. The sword was positioned in such a way that the soldier could draw it out from the belt in a split second. Are you ready to pull God’s truth out in a split second?
Look at how our invisible enemy is referred to in scripture:
“When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (John 8:44b)
Our enemy is the father of lies.
That’s why Paul says to arm ourselves with the “belt of truth”.
We need to anticipate that our invisible enemy is going to come at us with lies.
So where does the truth come from? God’s Word.
Give yourself quick and easy access to God’s Word. Don’t resort to God’s Word last, go to the truth of God’s Word first.
Paul continues on explaining the armor of God:
“Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist with the breastplate of righteousness in place…” (Ephesians 6:14)
What’s the breastplate do? It protects your heart. We need to protect our hearts during this time from attacks from the enemy.
“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” (Proverbs 4:23)
Both Solomon and Paul are both making the point… protect your heart. And help protect the hearts of those around you. Speak kindly to them. Be gentle with how you speak.
It would be really unfortunate if your words were used by the invisible enemy to hurt people’s hearts rather than used by the God of Comfort to bring hope to people’s hearts. Protect your heart and the hearts of others around you.
Paul continues on with the armor of God:
“…and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.” (Ephesians 6:15)
What is the gospel of peace? How can we be ready with the gospel of peace?
Well, “gospel” means “good news”. Even more specifically, it means “good story”.
There are good stories we can focus on right now, even in the middle of a pandemic.
For example, it’s good news that the City of San Francisco sent 100 doctors to help with our friends on the Navajo Nation. That’s good news. People might complain that doctors didn’t come to their specific area. They might complain they don’t want doctors from San Francisco.
If we want to complain, there will never be a shortage of things to complain about. But if we choose to see the good in situations, it’s there.
We can be ready to share the bad news… which there is plenty of… or we can be ready to share the good news… which there is plenty of.
Be ready to share stories of good that are taking place. The good stories provide people with peace.
The ultimate “good story” or “good news” is that Jesus paid for our sins on the cross. We should be ready to share that good news as well.
“Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” (1 Peter 3:15)
Friends, don’t be ashamed of the gospel. Don’t be ashamed of the good news. Be ready to share the gospel of peace.
Paul continues on with the armor of God:
“In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.” (Ephesians 6:16)
The shield was a soldier greatest defensive piece of armor. The shield was used to fight off the arrows, stones, rocks, and everything else an enemy would use to attack a soldier.
Again, the attacks from our invisible enemy will oftentimes come in the form of lies and deceit. Using the shield of faith you believe what God says rather than what our enemy says.
How do you increase your faith? By doing what you’re doing right now. Listen to God’s Word. Listen to the teaching of God’s Word.
“[F]aith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.” (Romans 10:17)
This is why it’s so important you don’t come to church a few times a year, or even just once a month. It’s important to keep coming back to the word over and over.
In fact, to be honest, even once a week isn’t enough. My role as a pastor is to help you taste and see that the Lord is good, but eventually you have to take responsibility on your own and feed yourself.
Dive into God’s Word. Read it yourself. The more you engage with God’s Word, the stronger your shield of faith will become.
“Take the helmet of salvation…” (Ephesians 6:17a)
Just as we need to protect our hearts, we need to protect our minds.
“[T]ake captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5b)
Part of protecting our minds is reminding ourselves that our eternity is with God. No matter what happens on earth, our eternity is with God.
Paul continues on:
” …and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” (Ephesians 6:17b)
Everything we’ve talked about so far in the armor of God is defensive, but the sword of the Spirit is one of 2 offensive weapons we have.
Look at how the Bible is described in Hebrews:
“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)
The Word of God changes everything about you. Use it as an offensive weapon.
But there’s a 2nd offensive weapon, which is the final part of the armor of God that Paul talks about:
“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.” (Ephesians 6:18)
Pray in the Spirit… when? On all occasions.
And pray what? All kinds of prayers and requests.
And for whom? All the Lord’s people.
Friends, the God of all Comfort not only comforts you, but comforts others through you.
Our invisible enemy doesn’t want you to be comforted nor others to be comforted through you.
Let’s listen to God, not our invisible enemy.
How can we listen to God?
We can listen to Him and the comfort He provides us, but also listen to His warnings in scripture about how important it is to get ready to fight our invisible enemy with the armor of God.
We need to listen to God by:
- Being ready to draw quickly with the belt of truth having God’s Word at the ready.
- Protect our hearts with the breastplate of righteousness.
- Be ready to share the gospel of peace.
- Be on guard with our shield of faith.
- Protect our minds with the helmet of salvation.
- Prepare to fight with the Word of God, the sword of the spirit.
- And hit our knees with willingness to pray on all occasions, all sorts of requests, for all of God’s people.
Not only do we want to suit up and protect ourselves from attacks from the invisible enemy, but we want to pray for others on all occasions, for all sorts of request, for all of God’s people.
Take a moment right now to pray for someone else. Comment below with other ideas for how you can bring comfort to those in their time of need.