If someone yells at us, we tend to snap to attention and listen more attentively than usual. Sustained volume intimidates and concerns us. But sometimes volume is necessary to rouse our attention.
The current COVID-19 crisis sweeping our globe is a wake up call. It has successfully grabbed our attention to the point that literally everybody is talking about it. Social media is alive with words of encouragement and conspiracy theories. Pastors are penning articles to instruct other pastors what to do and not do. Numerous memes have been produced providing humorous relief. Governments are issuing daily updates and warnings. Media companies are making good use of words like “panic”, “grim”, “heart-breaking”, “pleading” and “apocalyptic”. In almost every phone call, every online meeting, every text message, every church service, and every trip to the grocery store people are talking about the virus, the virus, the virus. In all of this, I wonder: Are we listening and learning from God? What does God want to teach his people through crisis?
What do we need to learn?
As a preacher, part of me is thankful for our current circumstances. I am thankful because many of the biblical themes I have preached on for years are no longer falling on deaf ears. I do not say this to accuse my readers, but I think we all have known for a long time that the western church is overweight, lazy, short-sighted, consumeristic, and far too in love with the temporal world. In short, we have had it easy. In our lifetimes, we have experienced minimal persecution, relative freedom, and have mastered the art of drawing crowds to our services. God has spoken warnings to us time and again, but now he has turned up the volume. We must listen.
Lessons we can learn
A friend of mine recently commented that we cannot afford to waste this quarantine, but to ask what God is doing in his church. Another friend reminded of the need to seek God’s will in all of this and then he referenced Psalm 143:1, Teach me to do your will, for you are my God! Let your good Spirit lead me on level ground. I think God is up to something and many of us are listening carefully! He wants to teach each of us a valuable lesson. Are you listening?
I cannot presume to know precisely what God wants to teach each person, but here are several truths that God appears to have turned up the volume on:
1/ We need to heed the Bible. Plagues have been one of God’s means of chastising nations, and the Bible speaks of increased catastrophes as we near the end of this world (Gen. 12:17; Ex. 9:13; Rev. 9:18). Signs are meant to be heeded, and while many need a word of encouragement today, many more need to repent to God for their rebellion against God because the time is coming when this world will end, and we will be held to account (Acts 3:19).
2/ We can no longer deny how fragile we are. Even though 150,000 people die everyday on our planet, it tends to go unnoticed. The COVID-19 virus has served to remind everyone that they are not invincible and need to be prepared to die at any time (Job 1:21; Amos 4:19; Jam. 4:14). Thankfully, the Gospel of Jesus gives us hope beyond the grave, and we can have eternal life through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 15:19).
3/ We must stop trusting in our wealth. No matter how high-paying our jobs are, or how rich our country is, we are not guaranteed another paycheque (Prov. 11:28). Not only is this a reminder to be thankful for our daily bread, but it’s also a call to God’s people to minimize debt and stop frivolous spending habits (Heb. 13:5).
4/ We must fall in love with the local church again. Our time apart from our churches, unable to meet because of government mandates, has only served to remind God’s people of how precious our time together each week is. Sadly, too many believers have taken church for granted and are now beginning to realize the priority of gathering together weekly (Heb 10:25). Some statistics indicate that many Bible-believing Christians attend church less than fifty percent of the time. Hopefully this crisis will renew the commitment of God’s people to meet together regularly.
5/ We must rest in the sovereignty of God. The sovereignty of God is such a beautiful doctrine and especially during times of trouble. God’s absolute control over all things might be tested in trial, but when affirmed brings a peace that truly does transcend all things (Ps. 9:10). And so we choose trust over fear (1 Pet. 5:6-7).
6/ We cannot rely on our ingenuity. So many Christians claim to believe in the supremacy of God but actually rely on human expertise to save them from every crisis. Militarily we consider ourselves safe if we have expert soldiers. Medically we consider ourselves safe if we have access to quality healthcare. While we must not disregard all human expertise, the fallibility of medical specialists and global leaders is evident in how unprepared we were for this virus. No one has promised to save us because they cannot. While we applaud the work of those that work hard to try to protect us, only God can truly protect and sustain us as his people (Ps. 20:7). His authority must be cherished above all others, and we must return to a place of daily reliance upon Him.
7/ We must anchor our morals in an unchanging God. A month ago the top societal moral discussions involved climate change, euthanasia, open borders and LGBTQ issues. Not only are many of these issues no longer newsworthy; some are being contradicted. Borders, for example have slammed shut in the name of national preservation and discussions about euthanizing the elderly have become pleas to help protect our seniors. A month ago global leaders said the climate will kill us, now a virus is killing us instead. These rapid changes in moral priorities are not surprising, but they do illustrate how societal morals are so often contingent upon what appeals to the majority, or what makes sense from our limited perspective. In contrast, God’s morality is consistent (1 Pet. 1:16). God is consistently concerned with stewardship, the value of life, the plight of the homeless, and biblical sexuality. He is our unchanging moral compass, and our beliefs about right and wrong must be firmly anchored in his unchanging Word.
8/ We have to learn to wait upon God. Culture has falsely taught us that we can solve any problem. Clearly, we cannot. This virus has brought the world to its knees and now we have only two options: (a) live in fear, or (b) wait upon God to deliver us. By choosing to wait upon the Lord, we not only grow in faith but God receives the glory due his name (Is. 40:31; Zeph. 3:8). In time, God will redeem us either in this life or the next. This is our confident expectation!
Which of these lessons are especially applicable for you? What does God want to teach you? As you ponder these questions, make sure you do not waste your quarantine; draw near to the Lord, rest in him and find peace.
Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.” (Ps. 50:15)