Let’s begin with some very good news: millions of lives could be saved by a groundbreaking set of new vaccines for cancer and a range of other conditions. Dr. Paul Burton, chief medical officer of the pharmaceutical company Moderna, believes the firm will be able to offer such treatments for “all sorts of disease areas” in as little as five years. “It will save many hundreds of thousands, if not millions of lives,” he added.
In more good news: President Biden has signed a bipartisan congressional resolution ending the US national emergency response to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the news on the virus front is not all encouraging.
The Washington Post is publishing an extensive article titled: “Research with exotic viruses risks a deadly outbreak, scientists warn.” The Post found that the number of biocontainment labs handling dangerous pathogens worldwide is now believed by experts to be in the thousands. Risks from such research are so great that one expert warns, “This is a national security concern. It’s a global public health concern.”
Here’s one more disconcerting headline: “The Deadliest Volcano in the Western Hemisphere Might Be Waking Up.” A volcano in Colombia that killed twenty-three thousand people the last time it erupted is showing signs of activity. Residents on its upper slopes are currently being evacuated out of fear of a possible eruption.
The true definition of courage
These stories illustrate the degree to which most of us are “catching and not pitching” in life. Unless you’re a scientist specializing in immunology, you have little to do with the development of vaccines or the risks of research that could change the trajectory of deadly diseases. And none of us can stop volcanoes, hurricanes, tornadoes, and other natural disasters from striking.
The philosopher Martin Heidegger likened us to actors on a stage with no script, director, audience, past, or future. The true definition of courage, he claimed, is facing life as it is.
How do we choose such courage in the face of tragedy?
We are especially grieved and angered when mass shootings such as the tragedy in Louisville make headlines. According to the Washington Post, there have been 377 school shootings since 1999; more than 349,000 students have experienced gun violence at school since the Columbine tragedy. Pew Research Center reports that gun deaths among US children and teens rose 50 percent in the last two years.
The firearm-related death rate in the US is three times higher than in Nicaragua, nearly five times higher than in Uganda, five times higher than in Israel, and forty times higher than in the United Kingdom.
In the face of disaster and tragedy, it is a terrible feeling to feel that there is nothing we can do. But here’s what Christians can do that the rest of society cannot: we can be the change we wish most to see.
Our Lord commands us to “consecrate yourselves . . . and be holy, for I am holy” (Leviticus 11:44). We are told to “cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God” (2 Corinthians 7:1). Paul adds: “God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness” (1 Thessalonians 4:7).
“I belong to a new spiritual order”
To this end, I cannot overstate how important I think today’s reading in Oswald Chambers’ My Utmost for His Highest is for us. However, we need these reflections from Chambers in yesterday’s devotional to set the stage:
“I can have the resurrection life of Jesus here and now, and it will exhibit itself through holiness.
“The idea all through the apostle Paul’s writings is that after the decision to be identified with Jesus in his death has been made, the resurrection life of Jesus penetrates every bit of my human nature. It takes the omnipotence of God—his complete and effective divinity—to live the life of the Son of God in human flesh. The Holy Spirit cannot be accepted as a guest in merely one room of the house—he invades all of it. And once I decide that my ‘old man’ (that is, my heredity of sin) should be identified with the death of Jesus, the Holy Spirit invades me. He takes charge of everything. My part is to walk in the light and to obey all that he reveals to me. . . .
“God puts the holiness of his Son into me, and I belong to a new spiritual order.”
How can we experience this “new spiritual order”?
Today’s reading answers our question: “Even the weakest saint can experience the power of the deity of the Son of God when he is willing to ‘let go.’ But any effort to ‘hang on’ to the least bit of our own power will only diminish the life of Jesus in us. We have to keep letting go, and slowly, but surely, the great full life of God will invade us, penetrating every part. Then Jesus will have complete and effective dominion in us, and people will take notice that we have been with Him.”
The movement God is calling us to join
This process begins every day by submitting that day to the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18). We cannot give God “tomorrow” because it does not yet exist. But we can and should give God this Wednesday as it begins. Ask the Spirit to take control of your attitudes, thoughts, words, and actions. Pray through your day, submitting your plans to him. Ask him to empower you and use you for God’s glory and our good.
Then, as you walk through this day, stay submitted to the Spirit. In the challenges and opportunities you experience, ask the Spirit to guide you and reveal Christ through you. Make this your daily habit and commitment, and over time you will see the change the Spirit alone can make in a human life.
Imagine the results if two billion Christians were so Spirit-empowered that we manifested the character of Christ to our broken world. This and nothing less is the spiritual movement God is working to advance today. Right now, he is calling you and me to join him.
Will people take notice that you have been with God today?