Introduction Albu van Eeden
In spite of the current situation God would like to have fellowship with each one of us. We trust that He will speak to us and that which we will hear will assist us to remove everything that may stand between us and God so that we can hear His voice. We have all experienced isolation but for that reason we need to experience the fellowship of the living God even more.
God does not expect us to lose contact with reality in order to have faith. Wherever God’s children found themselves, whether in captivity in Egypt, during drought, during pestilences and plagues, God expected His children to reckon with reality and He spoke to them in the context of the reality they experienced.
Presentation on COVID-19 Dr Albu van Eeden
There is an urgent message which we feel is of great concern for South Africans. An Italian, Victor received a message from his daughter who is a pharmacist in Italy where she begs her father to pay attention to the guidelines she sent. He shared the message with other South Africans with a prayer that we will take things seriously.
The first 12½ days after contracting the virus is the incubation period where the virus multiplies until it makes a person sick. During this period a person is not sick because the germ is still multiplying but that person can spread the disease and infect others during this period. Some people may get sick after 5 days, others after 7 days but some will not get sick for 12½ days. Such people do not have symptoms of the disease but they can pass it on to others. When a person is sick they spread the disease even faster through coughing and touch. Once people begin to get sick the disease explodes.
What is the incubation period in South Africa? From 27 March to 9 April people can be incubating i.e. they have the disease and it is growing but they are not sick. We are in the incubation period until 9 April. Please stay in your homes. From 9 April the incubation period will be over and people will begin getting sick. This is the most dangerous time for everyone. This period can last until 21 April when people will have positive infections. It is even more important during this time not to drive in taxis. People should take extra care. Do not make contact with other people because this is when the disease will reach its peak, many will become very ill and some will die. Sickness and death may happen before and after this period but it will mostly happen then. After that period of sickness of about 25 days, it might begin subsiding.
Another important thing: During the incubation period, a person is not sick but from day 3 after contraction, the person can infect others. Once the incubation period is passed, the next period of 12½ days is one of sickness. 1 out of 4 people who have the disease, has no symptoms – no cough, no sore throat – but they can infect others, therefore do not only stay away from sick people, but others too.
This is the mistake they made in Italy: They did not take into account the second 12½ days when the people got sick, after the incubation period was over, the disease then spread further through the population. For the next 24 days it is extremely important for us to abide by the regulations. Please convey this message to your family members.
We get much information from the CDC in the USA. For a long time they have said that only people who are sick or who care for sick people should wear masks. Two days ago they changed their position on this issue. Everyone in public places should wear masks. A mask protects even healthy people. Surgical masks keep the wearer from infecting others. A mask that protects you covers your nose and your chin. A piece of wire around the top of the nose stops air from penetrating from the top. These masks are very expensive. The CDC suggests that masks can be homemade from material. The mask must cover the face over the nose and extend to below the chin. It must be washed every day in boiling water with a bit of Jik.
People who deliver parcels to family members at the gate: One person should deliver the parcel and one person should collect it. There should be no physical contact. No visiting of groups is allowed. Both parties should wear masks.
Friends, we do not trust in our own skills and wisdom. Martin Luther said something very profound, “Pray as if everything depends on God; work as if everything depends on you.” So let us work as if everything depends on us but when we pray, let us pray as if everything depends on the living, omnipotent God.
It would be good to take to heart everything that Dr van Eeden has said. If we obey we will save ourselves and many others but if we do not, we will put many others at risk. Obedience is and has always been important but at a time like this it is vital. There are people who do not take things seriously; they say ‘we will see how things go…’, they ask ‘how many people have died?’ and when they hear that the death statistics are low, they say things ‘are not so serious’ but they do not realise that they may be the next statistic. We have heard about the incubation period but this is not the only time we need to be alert – the period following that is even more critical.
We are living in critical times. Who could have imagined this? A large auditorium with nobody on the benches. The only people present are the sound engineers and the interpreters so that you can hear the service in your language. We thank God for the technology we have. No matter where you are, locked in behind closed doors, the message of the Gospel has no boundaries. It can reach you there.
Brethren, this time should be an important time. This time should find us united in the Spirit of God. This time should draw us close to God so we can hear what He says. Such a time can reveal what kind of believers we have in our midst. This will be a sifting time where many are drawn closer to God and it will become clear that others are far from God. This is a time where some will fall into sin because they do not experience the fellowship of the saints and do not see the children of God in front of them. Although we cannot have physical contact, we have phones and other means of communication. If you need prayer pick up the phone and ask someone to pray with you. If you feel weak and spiritually withered, contact your counsellor and ask for prayer that God can strengthen and revive you. If you read your Bible and feel that it is dry, it does not make any difference and God does not speak to you, phone and ask for prayer that God can restore and revive you. Do not become so busy with your phone looking at things that are useless, that tear you down, defile you and cause you to sin. Use the technology positively, in a way that will draw you closer to God and closer to another child of God. Even if you are an unbeliever, you should be drawn closer to God. You should see that your family members get help from this source.
Believers are accustomed to meeting and encouraging one another through times of fellowship but this period is different. We need to realise that there is the One who knew about this beforehand and He understands and knows everything. It is to Him that we need to draw nigh. South Africa is known as a country with a high percentage of Christians. Let it become evident that we are truly a Christian nation at this time.
Easter will be celebrated next weekend. This is probably the most important period on the Christian calendar and it has never ever happened that Christians we have not celebrated this period together. Although we cannot meet physically, we will celebrate the Passover and remember the Lamb who was slain for us. We pray that God, who is in control of all diseases, will have mercy on us during this COVID-19 pandemic. Let us draw nigh to God with our families and afterwards when we look back at this time we can agree that it was a difficult time but also a special time with God, a time when we learnt to pray to the living God, a time when we better got to know the Lamb who was slain for us – the precious lamb of God, the time when we learnt to go down on our knees and pray to Him.
The text for this morning is taken from Matthew 13:44 – 46
44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.
45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. 46 When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.
Jesus spent time with people. He spoke to great crowds and to His disciples. Jesus used every opportunity to bring the Word of God, whether in the synagogue or not. Crowds followed Jesus wanting to hear from Him and get to know Him better after hearing about Him from others. One day the Lord Jesus was at the seashore and He climbed into a boat from where He preached. He spoke to the people using common, every-day parables to make the mysteries of God known to them. The Bible says the Lord said nothing without using parables. The Lord Jesus used a language that everybody could understand. One of the illustrations the Lord used was one of seeds. He spoke about a sower who sowed seeds some of which fell on rocky ground, some fell among thorns but the weeds choked these seeds. Other seeds fell on good soil and produced good grain – a hundred-fold, sixty-fold. His disciples asked Him why He spoke to the people in parables. He replied, “Because the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. Matthew 13:11 This is why I speak to them in parables: “Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand. Matthew 13:13 But I bring this message because I want people to hear and understand the message from heaven.
Do you see how important it is to hear and grasp? You may think a person is listening and yet he does not hear. You may think that a fellow brother or sister is serving the Lord but they are not. That person attends services and does everything expected of a Christian but in his private life things are not right. You may think the person hears, but he does not. He does not understand. The things he needs to let go of he does not. He does not live the life of a true believer.
This is the reason Jesus used everyday examples and parables so that everyone would understand. Some believers do not grow even though the best seed is sown. Why not? The seed has been sown on hard, rocky soil. They are believers but the thorns and weeds in their lives choke the good seed. Dear brother, sister you have a problem if you allow the weeds and thorns to grow in your life. You allow them and you are happy with their growth. The things of the world that you allow choke the word of life in your life. The seed wants to grow but it cannot. The tree wants to bear fruit but how can it if you allow all these things to choke it? That is why it is important that you pull out those weeds. Brethren, beware of the thorns and weeds that choke out your life. Get rid of those things that restrict God’s word in your life!
In this text, Jesus speaks about the kingdom of heaven. He does everything in His power to connect man to heaven.
44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.
The believer needs to be wise, discern and understand what to do. When we meet the Lord Jesus that mist of ignorance is cleared away from our eyes, that cloud of ignorance is removed from our minds so that we can see things clearly and understand as He does. There are things that are made expounded through the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. A child of God cannot be like other people. He does not think like others. He does not see things in the same way as others do. Others may swear or blaspheme but a child of God never does that because He fears God. People may gossip and slander, fight or become involved in witchcraft or the occult but a child of God will not get involved in any of these things.
There is a great heavenly treasure that the children of God need to grasp. This kind of treasure is not found just anywhere. There is a particular place, a particular field where you need to seek for this treasure and it is only there where the treasure will be found. Very often precious metals are found in arid, wilderness areas, places that are unpopular but it is there in the earth that the treasures are found. Those who understand, who are educated in that field will select an area no one else will have thought of. They begin prospecting, searching and digging, deeper and deeper until they find the treasure they are searching for. This treasure, that we find in Jesus, is of greater value than any other treasure and the one who finds the treasure in that field …he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.
Pastor, minister and you at home, are compared to this merchant who searches for and then finds this pearl. He sells all that he has to buy the pearl. He is wise to sell all that he has because all his possessions cannot be compared to the value of that which he will obtain. The gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ is that field. We need to purchase it because it contains this great treasure of greater worth than anything else. Jesus is our treasure. He is our strength. He is our joy. In Him we have everything. We need to get rid of everything else and sell it all in order to gain Him, who is of greatest value. Some people so easily get rid of what they have, they easily sell their salvation, the Gospel for something of lesser value – a sin they want to indulge in. They sell it easily because their salvation cost them nothing. They sell their first-born right for something that is of no value.
The one who knows how much it cost to get this gospel, the one who knows the value of this gospel, to that person it is precious and he will never let go of it. Is it easy to let go of the gospel for something which sweeps you along – if it was easy to come by, it will be easy to let it go. But if you found the gospel with tears, you will not easily let go of it because you know how much it cost. So brother, sister, hold on to that treasure! Do not let go of this treasure for it is worth more than gold and precious stones. You dug for it, you had to find it, you sought it with tears. Do not let it go because of pornography or any other kind of sin.
About this treasure: it may be hidden in the field but unless it has become yours, it remains there. It may be valuable and shiny but unless you have made it yours, it is not your own. We need to make faith our treasure, our pearl. It should be part of our life. If this gospel is in you it will be obvious that you love and serve God. Some people wear their Christianity like a borrowed shirt. It is not theirs but if you have met up with the Lord Jesus, He is in you, part of you and nobody can separate you from Him. Have you bought this field? Have you taken ownership of the gospel? What is holding you back, you who haven’t yet taken this step?
I have heard that there are people who are very distressed during lockdown because they cannot visit taverns to buy alcohol. Now they have hangovers and cannot bear it. Some people feel so sorry for them because they are suffering withdrawal symptoms. Such a person will remain thirsty until death unless he finds this precious pearl that will quench his thirst.
What I love about this parable is that this merchant, in his joy, sells all that he has to buy the pearl …and then in his joy went and sold all he had… When he found that which is of true value, everything else became worthless. How long will you continue without true joy in your life? For how long will you continue in those worldly gatherings, drinking, yearning for and being dependent on those things? Our Jesus is more precious than anything else. Friend, have you sold off all those things in your life? You possibly say that you serve God but your life is not as it should be. You try to serve the Lord but remain dissatisfied and unfulfilled. Why? There are still many other things that are important to you and of value in your life. You need to part with all and then acquire this pearl of great value, bank it and keep it faithfully. Sell off your unfaithfulness, unbelief and grudges you have in your heart then receive from God a heart which is soft that accepts the things of God and then see whether that will not satisfy and fulfil you. This is an amazing gospel because it separates a person from evil things. He rids himself of the heart of stone which does not accept things from God – the lies and grudges – these need to be removed in order to serve God with a perfect heart. Then, no matter the cost, he will serve God with all his heart.
The gospel is more precious than anything else. It is hidden in the heart. It is like that precious and undefiled milk hidden in the mother. It is like the manna hidden in the dew. It is like water in a deep fountain. It is like honey from the honeycomb. That which is from the Lord is pure, unsullied. All of us can run to this field. Anybody can come to this field whether you have money or not, it depends on our desire. If you want this treasure to be your own, go to that field. When you get there look in that field, dig in that field and you will find that hidden treasure that is of greater value than anything and you can then buy it to be your own. The world is in its present state because it has not found this treasure, this pearl of great value. Young person, you are seeking, you are thirsty, hungry and unsatisfied. Why? You have not given your soul that which it needs. Rich or poor, young or old, no matter who you are, you can find the Lord Jesus. We need to pay whatever the cost, give up all we have, sell all we have, that we may get hold of that treasure. You cannot sit on the fence. You cannot have a foot in both camps. There is something you must separate from in order to find this great treasure. It is a precious title to be called a child of God. How precious it is to receive this treasure and be known as a child of God! There are so many who will never understand how precious this treasure is. This is what we do when we receive the word of God – we store it away where no moth or rust can destroy it.
Those who have received this treasure will not easily sell it and let go of it. They know how precious it is. We will fight with anyone and anything that wants to rob us of this treasure. We will oppose it. We will not let go of it. We will cling to this treasure which is ours in Jesus Christ. That is why we should persevere in prayer. Let us hold onto our God that nothing may rob us of this treasure.
We know that believers will meet up with many challenges in their lives because of the Gospel. The things that we are experiencing right now are signs of some of the things that will still affect us in the future. We should seek this treasure, find it in that field and hide in Christ.
Do not become lukewarm and lose your faith due to the 21 days of lockdown. That would be a disgrace to the church of God. Do not use the circumstances as a license to hide your sin and cover it up. Expose and bring your sin to the light, anything that harms or oppresses.
So wherever you may be, this is a time when we should grapple with God, as Jacob did. Tell the Lord that we need Him to stand with us.
We do not want to lose this great treasure, this one pearl of great value because we know what it means to us. The gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ is powerful. It is alive. We know what the work of the Gospel has done in our lives. We know what victory was obtained at Golgotha. We know that the One who completes and perfects our faith died for us on the cross. We know the one who cried out and said, “It is finished.” The enemy of our souls was forever conquered. Our salvation was procured at a great price on the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. How can we ever part from it?
Conclusion Detlef Stegen
We thank the Lord for the wonderful treasure we have in Jesus. These words are life giving. Friend, is Jesus your greatest treasure? Have you sold all for His sake? Is He your greatest joy? Is He the pearl of greatest price? How terrible if you have sold this joy. Your life should become a treasure because of Jesus in you. As we approach Easter we are reminded of the time He gave His all for you so that you can become a person of value because of what Christ suffered and died for. If you are lacking and you have lost the glitter and splendour, come to the cross. There is forgiveness. There is new life.