Wow, what a different world today versus just a month ago! Seemingly overnight millions of parents began homeschooling, folks began attending church online, restaurants became “drive-through only,” high school and college seniors close to graduation were suddenly in a quandary as to whether or not they would or could graduate. The sports world screeched to a halt, just in the midst of entering playoffs for some and the beginning of the season for others. The Summer Olympics had to be postponed for a year. Millions of people do not have a job to which to go. We went from probably the lowest unemployment rate in history to one of the highest. Store shelves became bare as people started panicking and hoarding items like flour, sugar, canned goods, hand sanitizers, bleach, and paper products. Stores had to reduce their hours just to have more time to restock. Many grocery stores have special times for seniors and at-risk folks to shop. Much of the world is on “lock down,” travel is restricted, and we are to practice “social distancing.” And there is only speculation as to how long this CoVid-19 pandemic will last before life returns to what used to be “normal.”
While it is tragic that many will contract the virus and a percentage of them will die, especially if they are elderly or physically vulnerable, at the same time it is providing a unique opportunity to experience a slowed-down lifestyle, quality family time, a time to rest our bodies and minds from the hectic pace they have been trying to endure, and a time to refocus on what really matters and spend extra time in prayer and in God’s Word. I was teaching a class at a local mission training center and had to stop a day early so the students could get back to their homes while they could. The Bible studies we teach had to be cancelled until further notice; our church, along with nearly all in the country, had to close their doors and make the sermons available online through a video or live streaming. Pastors are having to preach in empty buildings. What a strange time. But, what a great time to draw closer in our walk with God. In addition to our local church sermon on their website, there are lots of opportunities—and time—for us to live stream messages or watch a service on television. For example, we got to join some 20,000 others to listen to Brett Meador, pastor of Athey Creek Christian Fellowship in West Linn, Oregon this past weekend. His is the church our son and family attend, so we have visited there on a number of occasions. Brett holds a Saturday night service and three on Sunday and has continued to do so live even though no one attends! He teaches through the Bible, chapter by chapter, verse by verse and teaches for close to an hour, Bible in hand. (We recommend you check it out) We also have added David Jeremiah’s service (via television) to our Sunday worship. So, we are actually getting in on more services than before the “shut down!” And I would guess that is true of many. Now that people can’t go to church, more are going to church!
This has to be one of the most unique times in history and probably one in which hearts are more prepared for “Good News” than ever. Those who don’t have God as their refuge are prone to fear and panic and are much more willing to listen to the message of hope in Jesus Christ. Let’s not miss this opportunity to share Him and His love and forgiveness and hope in whatever ways we can—thank God for modern technology right now which enables us to still communicate when we are restricted in socializing. And, as believers, lets take advantage of this time to really refocus our lives and draw close to our Lord through spending extra time in His Word and in prayer. If you are like me, your probably have a stack of good Christian books you haven’t had time to read. Well, take time to get started. My fellow worker at Hyster and a good friend and brother in Christ, Gary Sedivy, always closes his emails with “So many books, so little time!” Well, God is giving many of us some extra time—take advantage.
I’m reminded of James’ words of encouragement and challenge to the Jews who were dispersed because of persecution. Their worlds had definitely changed suddenly too and they needed help to maintain a right perspective. James writes: “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all men generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him” (Jas. 1:1-5). The purpose of trials in our lives is to grow us in our faith. We get so caught up in the rapid pace of life in this day and age, that we occasionally—as now—need to have our world crash down around us to get us to slow down and “re-prioritize.” We may have good intentions in “seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Mt. 6:33), but it is so easy, due to the many distractions, to allow the “world to (gradually) squeeze us into its mold” (Ro. 12:2). Persevering under trials and uncertain times not only helps us grow spiritually now but also affects the inheritance we are storing up in heaven. James went on to say, “Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial, for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life, which the Lord has promised to those who love Him” (Jas. 1:12).
The lyrics of Andre Crouch’s “”Through It All” have always been a comfort to me when I face adversity and uncertain times. May they encourage you as well and remind you to take advantage of this unique opportunity being given us:
“I’ve had many tears and sorrows, I’ve had questions for tomorrow. There’ve been times I didn’t
know right from wrong; but in every situation God
gave blessed consolation that my trials come to only make me strong.
I’ve been to lots of places, and I’ve seen a lot of faces, there’ve been times I felt so all alone; but in
my lonely hours, yes, those precious lonely
hours, Jesus let me know that I was His own.
I thank God for the mountains, and I thank Him for the valleys. I thank Him for the storms He bro’t
me through; for if I’d never had a problem I
wouldn’t know that He could solve them, I’d never know what faith in God could do.
Through it all, through it all, I’ve learned to trust in Jesus, I’ve learned to trust in God;
Through it all, I’ve learned to depend upon His Word.”