We have heard a lot about and have practiced “sheltering in place” lately as we deal with this coronavirus pandemic. Even though restrictions and some discomforts have been the consequences of the call to stay at home, we know it is for our safety as well as the well being of others. What is so amazing is that “sheltering in place” has probably been one of the greatest blessings we’ve received in a long time. Families have grown closer together. Parents are spending more time with their children and husbands are making progress at catching up on their “honey do” lists. Actually, we’re doing life the way we ought to have been doing it all the time. But we couldn’t figure that out on our own, so God sent a virus to help us. Now the virus is one horrific enemy and has caused much heartbreak, suffering and death. Yet, God is not surprised and neither should we be. We’ve had this coming for a long time! Although none of us want anyone to die or to be sick, this virus may turn out to be the greatest blessing in our lifetime. God does test us but with each testing He always sends a blessing. Blessings come when we recognize God as the most important being in our lives and realize how fragile our lives really are and therefore how depend- ent we are on Him. God wants His people to love Him, trust Him and depend on Him. And sometimes, it takes a pandemic to get them there.
Our government leaders imposed a shelter in place order because limiting human activity and associations in crowds or large gatherings will help combat the virus’ spreading since it is a human to human contagion. Sheltering in place not only protects the individual home, but also helps others. So sacrifice is really a building block of a shelter. Other important braces for a shelter are submission, self examination and certainly security. Those four “s’s” will fit our spiritual lives as well.
A shelter is defined as a cover or protection. Think of the roof of your house as a shelter that protects you from the elements of nature like rain, cold, and wind. Our roofs protect us from bad weather and or danger. A shelter can be a noun or a verb. The verb form protects and shields us from danger while the noun form is the place of protection and shielding. Some examples of shelters are: air-raid shelters, animal shelters, emergency shelters, fallout shelters and homeless shelters. You can provide shelter for someone by providing them with a place to stay or live. A shelter is one of the basic human needs along with food, water and clothing. So, a shelter is a structure that protects you from the elements and gives you a place to live.
One problem we have when it comes to shelters is that we don’t appreciate them until there is a problem. When is the last time you thanked God for the roof over your house? Probably during Hurricane Matthew! The only time our roofs get much attention is when they leak or when leaves fill the valleys.
Jesus is truly our shelter in the time of a storm. Not only is Jesus our only Savior, He also is our protection and place of refuge when things get rough. Sometimes it seems as though each day we’re confronted with one terrible tragedy after another. A constant stream of bad news and trouble in the world can make us feel exhausted and hopeless. No matter where we go, we are always in danger of coming under attack. Physical and spiritual warfare are real and both can be life threatening and peace pinching. Really, the only place we can find complete and lasting refuge is with the Lord. Regardless of what’s going on around us, we can find shelter in Him at all times.
“ Lord, thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations.” Psalm 90:1
God does not guarantee us a life free from virus and trouble, but He does promise to be a refuge in the middle of it all. Yes, with our Lord, we have a “shelter in grace!” There is no trouble, no disease, no power of Sa- tan that is too much for God to handle. Remember, our Lord Jesus Christ died to pay our sin debt, rose to conquer our greatest enemy - death, and right now is interceding for us in Heaven. Anything of value requires a good shelter. God’s people are the apple of the Almighty’s eye and when God says nothing can separate them from His love and no one nor any thing can pluck them from His hands, he really means it!
“And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.” John 10:28,29
The same God that holds the universe up with one hand takes hold of our hand and shelters us in His grace. Since we are sheltered in God’s grace we can be confident that we’re going to make it through all of this and whatever else we have to get through. No matter what comes, His sheltering grace will be our sufficient security. At our lowest point, God lifts us with hope. When we are at the weakest and last straw, His strong arm will give us strength. If our hearts are hurting and our eyes are full of tears, God will hold us close with consoling comfort. And in our darkness, He will open the windows of light and love. In times like these, it’s good to know that we have this wonderful “shelter in grace.” Here are three“shelter in grace” guidelines to help us live more abundantly, more than conquerors and content with such things and circumstances as we are facing.
God knows what we are going through, so the last thing we should do is try to run from it all. We must face our challenges head on. David killed the giant with a little stone, so surely we can
face our giants as we stand on The Rock. Jesus is a rock in a weary land the song says. And the scripture says that He shelters us as a great rock casts a comforting shade in the parched and dry desert.
“And a man shall be as an hiding place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest; as rivers of water in a dry place, as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land.” Isaiah 32:2
Adam and Eve were in the place God put them in the garden of Eden. When they sinned though, they hit the road and hid in the woods. They tried to make a shelter out of fig leaves but the leaves shriveled up and exposed their sins. We often leave God too when we sin. And often, when our conscience starts leaking in the guilt, we try to patch and paste our lives with superficial pleasures and prominent places. There is a great difference between being sheltered in grace and being sheltered in paste. The paste will flake off; it will melt when the heat’s on. Grace though, will always be there because it’s from God. We can be sure that His grace will be sufficient for any trial or trail. God knows we are weak and sneaky too. So He designed a shelter in grace even though we didn’t ask for it, nor thought we needed it. He killed an animal and used its skin to protect Adam and Eve. He also killed His only begotten Son and used His blood to protect us from death. Next time you commit a sin, don’t get discouraged and quit serving God, rather, stay in your place. Confessing to God right where we are assures that we will bloom where we are planted. Horticultural experts and nurserymen advise using “tree shelters”to place over newly planted seedlings to protect them from animals and herbicides. These plastic shelters actually enhance the growth of the little plants by enhancing the sunlight rays’ warmth and intensity. If you buy a containerized tree or shrub, you plant it in your yard and you leave it plant- ed there. You make a place for it, and you place the plant in this place. It would be pure folly to go back every few months and move the plant to another location. The reason is that the plants must put down roots in order to be productive, live, and bear fruit. In a like manner, God has made a place for us and He plants us in the place He has made and intends for us to stay put. (Unless of course, He decides to move us.) He shelters us in His grace so that the sovereign, yet soothing, Holy Spirit may produce fruits within us believers which in turn brings glory to the Master Gardener, Jesus Christ.
The current sheltering in place our country is going through has strengthened the church because families have been strengthened. For most people, before the sheltering in place order was in place, we were going to so many places. We didn’t know where, when, or even why we were going to the places we were going. One young business executive said most of his week was filled with meetings to decide when the next meeting would be. God is more pleased with our being and staying in the place of a shelter in grace than He is our busyness, performances, worship services, and missions. Remember, Jesus commended Mary for being in the right place, sheltered in grace, though Martha was busy making sure things were in the right place. Also, God whittled down Gideon’s army just so He could show the Midianites and Gideon that His shelter in grace was most effective when everyone was in their place.
“And they stood every man in his place round about the camp: and all the host ran, and cried, and fled.” Judges 7:21
One thing this COVID 19 has taught us is that we have a great need for God! Our unseen enemies are the worst kind and there are plenty of invisible foes that would like to take us out. But God is always ahead of us and the devil and He always pitches a shelter in grace just when we need it most.
“ God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Selah. ” Psalm 46:1-3
We must never lose sight of our need of the grace and assistance of God. Never for even one moment think you can do life or anything else worth- while on your own. When we keep our mind; our focus on Him, we find calmness in our souls. God’s word says that when our minds are upon Him we will have a realistic, meaningful peace. Calmness and prayerfulness always go hand in hand. When we pray, we are acknowledging that God is sovereign. We cry out to Him because we believe He and only He can help us. There is no way we can pray in the spirit and in the name of Jesus Christ submissively to God’s will and not be calm. Even though God may not answer our prayer the way we think He should, we feel better just talking to God about it all. Actually, a shelter in grace and a prayer room are on the same page. I think the serenity prayer must have been written from a shelter in grace.
“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change: courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”
Just think about the earthly life of Jesus our Lord. Outwardly, His life was one of the most troubled lives that was ever lived: There seemed to be a storm brewing on every one of His horizons, yet His inner life was like a calm sea of glass. It is true, everywhere Jesus went He did something good and everywhere He went, there was calmness. That’s because He was a shelter in grace. Sometimes God calms the storms, and sometimes He lets the storms rage and he calms us.
Don’t panic because of this pandemic. There is a shelter in grace! God never sends you into a situation alone. He goes before you and stands beside you. He walks behind you too. Whatever you’re going through right now, be confident and calm as you pray to the most powerful being in the universe who loves you beyond comprehension. We should be afraid of being afraid because we might grieve the Holy Spirit by our foolish distrust. It may be tough times with darkness all around us, but do not fear, the God of love and grace does not change.
If you get lost in the woods during a rainstorm, the first thing you should do is seek shelter, or a protected place to stay. Whether it’s an invisible virus, a guilty conscience, or just plain worry that causes the storm, we have a place to go, a safe haven. The God of all grace provides us a place and we must stay in grace. That means we remain committed to Christ no matter the price.
A shelter in the storm is wonderful, but it should also be wonderful when the sky is clear. I have noticed more outward signs of Christian commitment during the shelter in place ordinance we’re going through than ever before in my life. You won’t have to look far to see a cross in someone’s front yard. And a good many of the crosses are lighted which magnifies the light of the world, Jesus, drives the darkness away and is a personal, stay in grace, Lord. Christians have probably read more Bible, heard more preaching, prayed harder and loved others more during the pandemic than we have in our prosperity. We have a tendency though to forget God when things get better. Surely we will continue to show our appreciation to God for a shelter in grace when corona is removed.
God is clear about commitment as His greatest command calls His people to love Him with all their hearts, souls, minds and strength. Maybe God has sent this pandemic to test our love for Him. Another thing God is clear about is that he hates lukewarmness. Halfhearted commitment is not commitment, it’s arrogance. Some people were following Jesus because they liked the miracles He performed and the bread He made. When the pandemic of sin called for crucifixion they turned and ran the other way. Jesus noticed that and reminded His disciples of a shelter in grace and where they stood in the storm.
A shelter in grace is more than a place, it’s a force of love and it draws us to Christ. That’s why we are saved by grace, through faith. We owe Jesus Christ our all, because He gave His all for us. He did not have to provide a shelter in grace, but He has. And no matter the circumstances, we should be committed to Him. Simon Peter is right, there is nowhere else to go. So, as we go on with the shelter in place, we realize there are some things we can do without. There are places we don’t have to go to, and there are people we don’t have to see. God, in a way, is forcing us to fast and rejoice in His shelter in grace knowing that it’s all we need and want.
There is a hymn entitled “A Shelter in the Time of Storm” which presents Jesus Christ as a Rock in a weary land and a shelter in the time of storm. One of the verses captures the principle of commitment.
“The raging storms may round us beat,
A shelter in the time of storm
We’ll never leave our safe retreat,
A shelter in the time of storm.”
One thing is for sure, Christ will never leave us. Even though we can’t see this corona virus, we know it’s real. We know it’s here because we see the results; sickness and death. We can’t see Jesus either, but we know and the world will know He is real because of the results of being committed to His cause. I believe Christ is counting on us or else He would not have allowed this pandemic to happen. Don’t’ you think we can count on him since He is our shelter in grace?