Preparing For The Long Haul
It has just been announced that the lockdown will continue for at least another three weeks and I guess that most of us realize that the likelihood is further extensions to the lockdown which will eventually be gradually eased. It is hard to imagine that gatherings like church services will be a priority to re-establish so we may be a while before we gather together again. For some of us this will put us under significant strain and I would want you all to know that I am available, even if mainly over the phone, if you feel a need for someone to talk to.
I recently received a circular email from John Stevens, who heads up the FIEC. He discusses whether the current events stemming from the coronavirus pandemic are a specific judgment for sin. He concludes that we cannot know for certain whether it is, although I think the (Amos 8: 11), ‘famine ............ of hearing the words of the LORD’ points us in that direction. However he points out that certainly the discipline discussed in Hebrews 12: 5 – 11 is not so much associated with punishing sin but has to do with the general aim of developing and training us. So he asks: What is God Teaching Us through this Crisis?
He wisely points out that while we may not appreciate fully what God is seeking to teach his people during this time for years to come (if ever!), it is already possible to suggest some lessons we ought to be learning:
As we are unable to gather physically as churches, God is perhaps training us to appreciate the vital importance of the church community and making meeting together a priority;
As we feel our individual weakness and vulnerability, God is perhaps training us to repent of our self-dependence and to learn to live by faith and prayer
As the vulnerable are in self-isolation for a long period, God is perhaps training us to care for others and put their needs ahead of our own;
As we find ourselves restricted in our homes and communities, God is perhaps training us to gain a renewed evangelistic heart for our neighbours;
As we find ourselves confined at home with spouses and children, parents, or other relatives, God is perhaps training us to deepen our relationships and put right any unresolved tensions or distance that may have damaged them;
As we find ourselves unable to do many of the things we have taken for granted, God is perhaps training us to value what really matters in life and forcing us to give up our consumerism and idolatry;
As we find ourselves threatened by something that is affecting the whole of society, God is perhaps training us to value the government he has placed over us to ensure order and protect us;
As we find ourselves with time on our hands, God is perhaps training us to regain a habit of daily prayer and bible reading;
As we find ourselves in awe of the dedication and sacrifice of healthcare workers and those who are performing essential jobs that sustain life, God is perhaps training us to re-evaluate who we regard as heroic and freeing us from our adulation of over-paid celebrities and sports stars;
As we feel the fear of death and frailty of life, God is perhaps training us to appreciate the assurance of the gospel hope of resurrection and liberating us from the unconscious fear that prevents us from living life for him to the full with joyful confidence in the future that awaits us;
As we sense that the lock-down is going to last longer than we first imagined, God is perhaps training us in the virtues of patience and long-suffering;
As we begin to understand the devastating impact that the virus will have in less developed countries of the world, God is perhaps training us to regain our passion for world mission and to care for our poorer brothers and sisters around the world.
You may find it valuable to read through the list prayerfully and to consider whether there are lessons that are particularly applicable to you and which you need to take to heart. For myself I am particularly made to think by 4. and 12. It was a strange providence to be asked to speak on Matthew 28: 18 – 20 just as the lockdown was due to commence. However the circumstances simply put us on level ground with believers over the centuries who have had to obey the Great Commission in what they cannot but have felt are disadvantageous circumstances. This period of comparative isolation for all of us is a time for reflection which I pray may be profitable for us.
One person who is active in seeking to evangelise and encourage at this period in time is Roger Carswell, who has a video on You Tube with the link: https://youtu.be/KoQMg4-u-wU, on ‘Hope after the Coronavirus’. The content of his talk is also available from Ten of Those as a tract.
Do continue in prayer for one another. For myself I really covet the prayers of the Lord’s people. Ministry in lockdown is something which has its own pressures and demands and I am very conscious of weakness and need.
Yours in the Lord,
17th April 2020