2020 has been an amazing ride so far, hasn’t it? In a span of just a few short months we’ve seen some things that appear apocalyptic in nature. Earthquakes, locust plagues, tornadoes, wildfires, and yes, the widespread pandemic known as the Coronavirus. Into a year that held so much expectation and with the promise of a clearer vision (“2020 Vision”), we’ve seemingly had much to cloud up the lens. I like many of you, came into this year thinking “This is it! This is the year in which a lot of amazing things are going to happen. This is the year that in ministry (both personally and worldwide), things start to shift.” The problem is, when I look around I see all the reasons why mission seems derailed. The reasons why it’s tough to even talk to my neighbor let alone someone across the country about Jesus.
Shutting down is naturally where I go, until I step back and start to ask “why?” Why is all of this happening right now? And why am I alive for it? Why are you alive for it? Certainly there is a reason if we believe in a God Who is Sovereign and still has everything under control. You may have heard the phrase “Don’t waste a good crisis” and its use for whatever political means are most expedient. But what if God is calling us not to waste this crisis as well? What if the doors we think are closed aren’t really closed at all? What if the means to share the Good News and advance the Kingdom are as alive now as when they were in the days immediately following Christ?
Here are a few things I think 2020 is teaching us so far as Christians. I think a much longer list could be made but these are right off the top of my head and I hope they are some things you resonate with as well.
1. The Church is needed now more than ever
When tragedy strikes, people often ask “Where is God?” The question ultimately leads to a bigger, more broader question: Does God even exist? It’s been easy to force God out of many public avenues of our lives (government, school, businesses, etc). But in a time like this, people naturally turn to faith and to religion. The Church (Big “C” worldwide) has the opportunity to not only say God is here, but to lovingly display the hands and feet of Christ during this time. I’ll admit, we’ve been held back by social distancing and in many ways, it seems harder to minister because we lack the one-on-one relationships we so much crave. But despite that, I’ve heard, seen, and been a part of some awesome conversations with people on social platforms, Zoom meetings, and the like. Isn’t it amazing that the Gospel is timeless and transcends all mediums? For example, it can be just as powerful to be stirred by a pastor’s message on Facebook Live as it can be sitting in the sanctuary. The Church is vital right now, fulfilling a need that no other institution can fill. We change, we adapt, and we push forward with the truth God has entrusted to us.
2. Prophecies come and go, but we choose to stand on God’s word
I’ve been caught up in them. You’ve probably been caught up in them as well. End time prophecies. Are we in the tribulation? Are we in the last days??? I know as a believer it’s easy to go down that rabbit hole. And I know we are called to be mindful of the times and seasons….Jesus tells us this in Matthew 24,25. But into those passages He also says “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.” (Matthew 24:36). That little phrase “no one knows” coupled with “stay awake” are all we need to rely on during these times. We can get too preoccupied with prophecy and chasing the latest theory that we lose sight of our mission (explained in point #1). We have to stand on God’s word, His whole word, and not let ourselves be easily distracted by things of lesser value. Be mindful, be wise, but don’t forget why you are placed on this Earth for this very moment.
3. Being reminded of the brevity of life is a good thing
I know this one seems upside down. And I think that’s because it is. When we get into routines and rhythms of life and go years on autopilot, we start to think less about eternity and more about the here and now. We find ourselves drawn to our creature comforts believing that if we have our needs met, we’re good to go. But perhaps this whole thing has been a big reminder of God saying “Your life is a blip on the screen. Are you prepared for eternity?” My verse for 2020 is Ephesians 5:15-17. In those verses is the phrase “making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” Whether or not we are in the last days, I’m reminded that tomorrow never promised. Don’t put off to tomorrow what needs to be done today. Mend that relationship. Be reconciled. Tell that person about Jesus. It’s good to be reminded that we all die. Into that realization, we see our need to be prepared for what comes after this life. People everywhere are asking that question and those are onramps God is giving us to point people to Him.
4. Relationships in the home are vital
I wish it didn’t take weeks in home isolation for me to realize this, but it did. For far too long, I’ve taken the relationships closest to me (my wife and kids) for granted. And I think all over this land and the world, many (especially men) are seeing just how vital the home is. Not just right now, but even if and when life returns to normal. I’ve said it before in my blog, but the home is where it all starts. Moses reminds us what the home looks like in Deuteronomy: “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” Deuteronomy 6:6,7 This time, if for nothing else, has been a time for families to hunker down and reexamine priorities. Clear out the clutter and refocus. For me, I’ve seen God bring about some amazing conversations, certainly about end times, the shortness of life, and just what does all this mean. And I thank the Lord that my wife and I are able to talk about these things with our kids. I believe this is a watershed moment in their lives. They’ll never be the same after this, but that’s ok. God is using this time at home as the classroom where He can display Himself and we can all learn from Him more than what we knew before. Praise God.
5. God is looking for a renewed people
Jesus spoke these words of Isaiah to His audience in early AD. I believe He would speak them to us if He were here today: This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. (Matthew 15:8). It’s a sobering thing to do a spiritual gut check. But in the quiet and times of isolation, I believe we have to come to this point…sooner or later. We can fill up this time with noise and things to distract us. Or we can allow this time to recenter our lives. We can allow God to put His finger upon our hearts and ask Him to reveal anything, no matter how big or small, that is holding us back from trusting Him. You see, I believe He is looking for a renewed people. He is looking for Christians who are not ashamed of His name. And He is calling us out from the shadows. There are many voices being prepared behind the scenes in this apparent “desert” time. There are new voices emerging as He gives them platforms and venues to speak. And those voices will call for the same thing: a return to the Lord and a laying down of everything that hinders. Paul, being the assumed writer of Hebrews left this charge to his audience; it’s the same one we must have today:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured from sinners such hostility against Himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. Hebrews 12:1-3
Guys I don’t know what tomorrow holds. I don’t want to speculate too much about any of the unknowns. What I do want to do though, is renew my trust in Jesus and be absolutely unshakable in Him. As life moves forward, the cost is too much to sit on the sidelines and just wait it all out. No, He is calling out, wanting us to suit up and be in the race. Let’s run for His glory and fame. Your world needs your voice in these days. Point ‘em to Jesus.
I love you guys and appreciate all your words of feedback and encouragement. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Ephesians 5:15-17