There is no doubt that a lot has changed in the last few weeks. The invisible virus has brought visible change. In many parts of the country, universities, schools, restaurants, and small businesses have closed. In my state (Massachusetts), our governor has banned the gathering of 25 or more people. This significantly changes the life and ministry of our church and members.
But at the same time, it’s important to remember what hasn’t changed. Here Christians need to lean in, not only to remember but also to respond in this season of change.
I know we know this on paper, but it’s important to be reminded of it anyway. God doesn’t change. He doesn’t need updates, go out of date, get better, or depreciate. He is and forever will be the eternal, “I am!” He is perfect. And he is self-sufficient. The Scripture means to encourage us when we read passages like this, “For I the LORD do not change…” (Malachi 3:6a) God doesn’t change his mind. His promises are as true and fixed as his character. This is good news in the midst of a constantly evolving news story.
God’s sovereignty over the world never waivers. From our perspective, the world might look like a series of dumpster fires. But God assures us of his enduring power, presence, and purpose—even in the mess.
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah. . . . The nations rage, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts. The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah” (Ps. 46:1–3, 6–7)
From our perspective, the world might look like a series of dumpster fires. But God assures us of his enduring power, presence, and purpose—even in the mess.
This unchanging, all-powerful God should bring us comfort in the midst of chaos. In fact, in this same psalm, he tells us, “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” (Ps 46:10). The chaos going on around us is the canvass that God paints the mural of his matchless glory.
I don’t know about you, but I could use some time to be still and contemplate the reality that God is God. And with that to consider his declaration that he will be exalted amid the mess. See your God’s immutable perfection, power, and promises!
This morning our family was reading Mark 14, and I was struck anew about our Lord’s words to Peter: “Watch and pray that you may not enter temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Mark 14:38).
We know what it means to watch. It’s about being on alert and careful. A few minutes ago, my town’s newspaper reported six new cases of coronavirus with nearly a hundred in our county. The message in the headline is: “Be vigilant.” The implication is with the virus spreading so quickly we need to be all the more careful, vigilant, to be on the alert. The watching Jesus is after here is not referring to a virus or germs but rather to the great spiritual danger that is before us. We need to be vigilant, watchful, on guard, defensive even against falling into temptation.
In tandem with this, Jesus tells his disciples to pray. We are commanded all over the place to pray (Col. 4:2; 1 Thess. 5:17), yet it seems so difficult. Why is this? It is because, as Jesus tells us, the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.
In this time of great physical concern, do not forget the spiritual vulnerabilities before us. Satan often takes good things and turns them inside out, and like a hockey player, before we know it, we are catching a beating. Don’t focus so much on the physical that you forget the spiritual. Yes, the virus is dangerous. But you mustn’t forget your vulnerability to greater danger in the spiritual realm.
We are all going to be spending more time away from other church members, with that we may get a sense of diminished accountability. There may be temptations to neglect our Bible reading, prayer, meditation, and watchfulness. This would be disastrous. We are vulnerable and even increasingly so when quarantined from our church family. Watch and pray that you do not enter temptation.
What does God require of his followers? Many would think of the various catechism answers to this question and heartily reply, “To glorify God and enjoy him forever.” This is a good and right answer. And it applies in times like the one we live in right now.
Our reflex is to take cover, but God may be calling us to take the opportunity.
Most of us are living in unprecedented times. Unlike some generations before us, we haven’t lived through world wars and the startling restrictions that come with it. But those saints found an opportunity to glorify God in their circumstances. Sometimes it takes creativity, prayer, and persistence.
Our reflex is to take cover, but God may be calling us to take the opportunity. Our opportunity now is to consider how we can glorify God by loving those around us. How can you love your family, your church, your neighbors, and friends? Brainstorm and make a list. Invite others into the collaborative process. Pray and ask God to help you not to waste your quarantine (couldn’t resist, sorry). I regularly pray that God would give me wisdom in how I can glorify him with the day that he is providentially bringing me. When we think about this unique time, we can prayerfully engage with this unique opportunity.
I could write more on this and ferret out some details (and hope to in the days to come). It’s obvious that the coronavirus has changed many things about how we live. But it’s also important to remember what hasn’t changed so we can faithfully respond in these difficult times.