Dear Wausau Alliance Church,
I feel like the Apostle Paul writing a letter like this to you given that I cannot see you in person, but this is the reality of our current situation. I miss being able to gather with you as God has designed the church to gather. I miss being able to meet together as Hebrews 10:25 instructs, and as we have been obeying in the past. Obviously now, with our current situation and with the gift of technology, we can still obey God’s Word in Hebrews 10:25, even if it looks quite different than we feel is best.
After sitting and processing our current situation, I wanted to write to you and encourage you to strive to glorify God in the midst of this pandemic. What does it look like to walk in the Spirit, seeking to glorify God in these times? What does it look like, on the contrary, to gratify the flesh during this pandemic?
It is easy to think of a wide variety of ways we could gratify the flesh in general, but how might we be tempted in new ways to gratify the flesh given these unique days? Like so many in the world, it could be easy to grumble and complain about our governing authorities placing policies and orders over us that we don’t like or agree with. It could be easy to presume our own sense of understanding and assume because we read an article online, that we know what the governing authorities should be doing. The reality is that just like we have numerous people feeding us numerous opinions, so do the leaders that God has placed over us (Romans 13). To assume that the leaders over us are leading out of some selfish or biased opinion is to assume something we do not, and cannot, ultimately know.
It could be easy to allow fear to overwhelm us. Anxiety is more prevalent in our day and our age than we often-times admit. In a situation where we are hearing about vulnerable people dying, and unseen viruses in the air, landing on gas pump handles and on shopping carts, it could be easy to lose sight of the sovereignty and goodness of God and to find ourselves paralyzed by a fear that we’ve only known in part before.
It could also be easy to gratify the flesh and take this as an opportunity to take time away from church, or finally have the opportunity to feed our introverted sides, or go into survival mode thinking only about ourselves. It is all too easy to become self-obsessed when we are struggling.
On the contrary, we have a significant opportunity to rise up and be salt and light in this world where almost every single human on this planet is dealing with the same issues that we are dealing with. How unique of a time to deal with an issue of suffering and struggle that our Chinese, and Italian, and Liberian, and Kurdish, and German brothers and sisters and neighbors are also dealing with. So, let me exhort you to look at these days as opportunities to glorify God in new and unique ways.
When you find within yourselves frustration about decisions your governing authorities are making, instead think about how you can show love and respect to not just your governing authorities, but to those around you. Could you demonstrate faith in God, showing the love of Christ by praying for your governing authorities? And when I encourage you to pray for them, I’m not only encouraging you to pray for their salvation, but also for wisdom on how to lead. When people around you express hatred for, and disgust in, governing authorities, could now be a good time to encourage people to honor and respect those authorities that God has placed over you?
When you find yourselves dealing with fear, how can you combat your fears? If you find yourselves terrified of being infected with COVID-19, whether your fears feel rational or irrational, preach the truth of God’s Word to your heart: God, you have not given me a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7). God, you do promise to deliver me from the deadly pestilence (Psalm 91:3). God, I know that doesn’t guarantee I will not contract COVID-19, but what I do know is that Psalm 91 promises me that even if I do, and the worst case scenario happens to me and I die, I will not perish for eternity. Your faithfulness promises me peace with you forever.
When this situation tempts you to disconnect from brothers and sisters in the church, or leads you to justify an introvertedness that is more self-centered than anything else, ask the Spirit of God to cause you to look for opportunities to glorify Him. I recently saw someone post online that Bibles are selling out in Barnes and Nobles bookstores. It could have been a freak thing that this one store was sold out, but it could be that God is stirring a brokenness and desperation in people that they did not have before. It could be that God is on the verge of leading our nation and other nations around the world to revival because people are faced with their mortality. In your introvertedness and lack of discipline in reaching out to others in community through this time, it could be that you miss out on being used by God to make disciples who make disciples.
What if we looked at this situation, as a church and as a people, as an incredible opportunity instead of a massive hindrance? What if we looked at this pandemic as a way to love the hurting, the broken, the sick, the elderly, and the lost around us? That would be the way to glorify God in the midst of a pandemic.
Lord, help us to think not first of ourselves, but of your glory, and your fame, and your renown! Lord, help us to love one another well in the midst of a season where loving others actually might take more discipline than normal. Lord, help us to use this time to press into our relationship with you, to be stirred up and sent out the moment this lock-down is over! Do this all for your name’s sake, Oh God!