This week, Jason Roach (Senior Pastor of The Bridge Battersea) writes to encourage us to spend time looking back to the 19th century at J.C.Ryle to encourage us to nurture our relationship with Christ during these challenging times.
Facing Coronavirus with J.C.Ryle
There are few preachers whose words encourage and challenge me more than those of J.C.Ryle. He was a 19th Century evangelical Anglican Bishop who spoke and wrote with incredible power and searing clarity.
Among his many writings is a little essay on sickness. His words are incredibly apt for our current season. His conclusion encourages us to use seasons of sickness to examine and nurture our relationship (or communion) with Christ.
It is our union with Christ, marked by our faith that secures our eternal future. But it is our communion with Christ that brings us experiential comfort in times of crisis. It is when we face a tough time that we realise how much we have or haven’t nurtured this. There could be no better time to start.
It would be a wonderful use of your time to read the whole of his essay. But failing that, why not slowly read each paragraph of his conclusion below and pray after each one:
The day may come when after a long fight with disease, we shall feel that medicine can do no more, and that nothing remains but to die. Friends will be standing by, unable to help us. Hearing, eyesight, even the power of praying, will be fast failing us. The world and its shadows will be melting beneath our feet. Eternity, with its realities, will be looming large before our minds. What will support us in that trying hour? What will enable us to say, "I will fear no evil" (Psalm 23:4)? Nothing, nothing can do it but close communion with Christ. Christ living in our hearts by faith--Christ putting His right arm under our heads--Christ sitting by our side--Christ alone can give us the complete victory in the last struggle.
Let us cling to Christ more closely, love Him more wholeheartedly, live to Him more thoroughly, copy Him more exactly, confess him more boldly, follow Him more fully. Religion like this will always bring its own reward. Worldly people may laugh at it. Weak brethren may think it extreme. But it will wear well. At the evening time of our lives it will bring us light. In sickness it will bring us peace. In the world to come it will give us a crown of glory that will never fade away.
The time is short. This world is passing away. A few more sicknesses, and it will all be over. A few more funerals, and our own funeral will take place. A few more storms and gales, and we will be safe in the harbour. We travel towards a world where there is no more sickness, where parting, and pain, and crying, and mourning, are done forevermore. Every year heaven is becoming more full of God's beloved children, and the earth more empty. The friends that have gone before us are becoming more numerous than the friends left behind. "In just a very little while, "He who is coming will come and will not delay" (Hebrews 10:37). In His presence will be fullness of joy.
Christ will wipe away all tears from His people's eyes. The last enemy that will be destroyed is Death. But he will be destroyed. Death himself will one day die (Revelation 20:14).
In the meantime, let us live the life of faith in the Son of God. Let us lean all our weight on Christ, and rejoice in the thought that He lives forevermore.
Yes: blessed be God! Christ lives, though we may die. Christ lives, though friends and families are carried to the grave. He lives who abolished death, and brought life and immortality to light by the Gospel. He lives who said, "I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death. Where, O death, are your plagues? Where, O grave, is your destruction?" (Hosea 13:14). He lives who will one day change our vile body, and make it like His glorious body. In sickness and in health, in life and in death, let us lean confidently on Him. Surely we ought to say daily with one of old, "Blessed be God for Jesus Christ!"
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