I hate to be that one who brings up the dreaded rona’ chat, but it’s just dragging on, right?
If you are anything like me, you are frustrated and restless. How often do you notice your mind wandering back to better days? The days we could fill our homes with family. Travel the world. Sit with friends in a cosy café drinking coffee.
The days before this pandemic literally feel like a distant memory, and we reminisce, longing to go back to some form of normality. However, it’s not only for ourselves we despair, but also for the world around us. If you are a Christian seeking to share the gospel with your neighbours, I can guarantee you have questioned how on earth you can continue to fulfil the Great Commission and get alongside the lost in these current circumstances. Zoom just doesn’t seem to cut it.
Whilst it’s not wrong for us to long for the good old days, and also feel the weight of yet another lockdown, we must not lose perspective.
- God is sovereign over the coronavirus. (Lam. 3:37–39) Do we believe that?
- God not only knew, but planned, these days before the beginning of time. (Is. 46:10) Do we believe that?
- God’s ways are perfect. (Job 42:2) Do we believe that?
Yes? Why, then, do we grumble, moan, and complain? Why are we so discouraged that all our “ministries” are shut down, as if that is going to stop God’s plan and the spread of the gospel?
Don’t hear me wrong. It’s right to lament and ask God “how long?” I’m not saying this lockdown is easy. It certainly is not. But what we must remember is: God hasn’t stopped being God. The same truths we sang about God in 2019 (or even the beginning of 2020!) apply today. He is still on His throne, ruling and reigning. He is still building His church, and the powers of hell still cannot prevail.
Paul tells us in Ephesians 5:15–16 to: “Pay careful attention, then, to how you live—not as unwise people but as wise—making the most of the time, because the days are evil.” Or as other translations say; “redeeming the time.” Let’s have a think about two ways we can make the most of these strange times.
Walk in Humility
I have recently discovered a chapter in Francis Schaeffer’s book No Little People called “The Lord’s Work in the Lord’s Way”. If you haven’t already read this, I highly recommend taking half an hour to pour over these words.
Schaeffer focuses his sermon on humility, reminding us of the importance for the Christian to truly recognise their need and become a servant of all, following in the footsteps of our Saviour. Do we recognise our need for God in our daily lives and in our work for the Him?
If lockdown has done anything, it hopefully has humbled us. The control we thought we had over our lives and plans has been shown for what is always was: an illusion. It has cut our programmes, closed our ministries, shut our buildings. The busy activities we once relied on to fill our diaries and prayer letters have been stripped away.
What now? Do we despair? Has the work of the Lord been put on hold? Absolutely not!
Shaeffer claims the central problem of our generation is that, “The world looks upon the church and sees it as trying to do the Lord’s work in the flesh.”
It is very tempting and easy to become “busy” as a Christian, even as a church. And whilst 1 Corinthians 15:58 says we should “give ourselves fully to the work of the Lord” (NIV), I have been challenged as to how often my Christian “activism” is really a work of the flesh, rather than the work of the Lord.
How do we know, though, if we are doing the Lord’s work in the flesh or in the power of the Holy Spirit? Well, a good question to ask is: Do our “good works” look any different from the social action of our society, are we putting all our time and efforts into service that can be easily duplicated by the world?
We have an opportunity now, more than ever, to show that the “all surpassing power is from God and not from us!” (2 Cor. 4:7) It’s very easy, when we see “ministry success”, to subtly steal the glory, thinking that somehow God couldn’t have done it without us. This is what Shaeffer means by doing the Lord’s work in the flesh. What are we trusting in as we seek to work for God? Methods, ministries, creativity, human technique? Or, the power of the Holy Spirit? Let us remember that our only source of power and success is from the Lord.
Live in Dependence
Most of us wouldn’t deny any of the above. In our heads, we are very aware that we need to do the Lord’s work in the Lord’s way. But I found myself asking the question: What does this really look like for me today, in 2021, in lockdown?
I have recently been considering what it truly means to “wait on the Lord.” Throughout Scripture, we see God’s commands to His people to “wait on him” and we sing songs regularly about this—“I will wait for you; Lord wait for you. . . .” But what does it mean for us, today, to wait on God? Does this waiting involve doing nothing, sitting patiently, rocking forward and backward in anticipation of a “filing of the Holy Spirit”?
The short answer is: No. Waiting, rather, is dependence.
It is not about getting less done. If we are doing the Lord’s work in the Lord’s way, we will accomplish more, not less. We will be working not in the power of our flesh, but the power of the Spirit. After all, God can (by far!) accomplish more than we ever can.
It’s not about being passive. Waiting on the Lord comes at a tremendous cost. It will involve weariness, tears, and battle. Schaeffer says: “The more the Holy Spirit works, the more Christians will be used in battle, and the more they are used in battle, the more there will be a personal cost and tiredness.”
As we wait on the Lord, we begin to recognise that any work done in our flesh is not only powerless, but a waste of time. We begin to long for a moving of the Holy Spirit in our own lives and also the lives of our families, communities, even the world. We depend on the Lord. We know we can do nothing without Him.
How, then, do we know if we are daily depending on the Lord?
This will be seen by our prayer life. Schaeffer again: “Our prayers reveal our priorities and how much we really believe we need God.” One thing I’m sure all of us would agree on is that we don’t pray nearly as much as we should. If you are anything like me, your screen time will show you have more than enough “free time” to come before the Lord in prayer.
Do we want to make the most of these lockdown days? Do we want to see revival and breakthrough in our own lives and the lives of our families, friends, and neighbours?
Then let’s get on our knees before the Maker of heaven and earth with humility and dependence, seeking His face.
Are we frustrated we can’t “do” all the ministries we used to?
Then why not do the most powerful thing we can do, and walk the streets of our community, crying out to God for revival?
The days aren’t easy, and I would love as much as you for this to end soon. But, let’s keep perspective and ask God to humble our proud hearts, make us truly dependent on Him, transform us into the likeness of Christ, and continue to build his church.
“The sacrifice pleasing to God is a broken spirit. You will not despise a broken and humbled heart, God.” (Ps. 51:17, CSB)
I need thee every hour in joy or pain, come quickly and abide, or life’s in vain.