Uncertain times are upon us! And as we self-isolate, quarantine ourselves and undergo lockdown (three seldom used words that have become a mainstay of our current vocabulary) not just at a national level but at a global level because of the worldwide attack by a common enemy that is unseen to the naked eye, there is a plethora of questions bombarding our minds.
Such a condition would never have been anticipated by the current generation, which has, to my recollection, never seen or heard of a pandemic of this proportion. Being an erstwhile dentist, I too thought of epidemics (a local spread of a disease) let alone a pandemic (a global issue) as things reserved for the pages of history. We have been thinking that science and technology have advanced to such a level that these things should not be a cause of worry for the 21st century human being!
But we find ourselves at war! A World- war no less! We’re all at war, at a global stage, against a common enemy which is by definition one of the smallest infective agents smaller than many micro-organisms known to man but deadly enough to have left the greatest minds of the world scurrying for a solution!
But, as a born-again believer, who through their faith upon the death, burial and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, have been cleansed from all their sin, justified by grace, sanctified to praise and glorified for always, if you will, how should we react to this situation? How do I exercise my faith, practice my love and strengthen my hope for the future that right now, seems so uncertain and full of doubts and worries about short-term issues?
Yes! I said short-term because though, as believers, we know that our eternity is secure, puny humans like us have many things to worry about! It may be our job, our studies, our family, our health- short-term issues that are, without a doubt, important to all of us. Just as an example, just within my family and close contacts, there have been a few weddings which were postponed, jobs that are under threat, exams that were suspended, families that are separated by the lack of transportation, sick ones that are worried about their treatment and health in general, the list goes on and on! I too, find myself 1500 kilometers away from the place I call home, but thankfully still at another place I can call home. Many of our dear believers may not have had a similar ‘luxury’ if you will. I’m sure some of you who are reading this are in another city, state or country, probably alone in a strange place, genuinely worried about the well-being of your dear ones across the world. What do we do in this situation?
While we are ‘socially distancing’ ourselves because of the orders passed by our government (which let me say, is the right thing to do in the current situation), the only person to whom we can look for answers is God Himself and the only place where we can look for answers is HIS Word! The Word, which as a lamp to our feet, tells us how to take the next step and as a light to our path, shows us the way that we should follow! (Psalm 119:105). I’m thankful for the servants of God who, in these difficult times, in their own different ways, are sending encouraging thoughts, articles and exhortations so that all of us might find ourselves encouraged and edified in such uncertain, unusual and unprecedented times. May the Lord bless them abundantly is my sincere prayer.
So, what do we do in such a time? I would like to share three simple actions that we need to do under the light of the scriptures, as we spend time in our homes with our families.
1. Let us look back and REMEMBER
2. Let us look within and RESET
3. Let us look forward and REJOICE
1. OUR SALVATION
While we sit at home and worry about a virus that has taken the lives of thousands across the world, may we never forget that the condition that has affected the whole world and that is sin! The worst thing that the Novel coronavirus can do is take the lives of people. It is scary no doubt, especially when we think of our dear ones who are weak and elderly. And as we take the utmost precaution to keep ourselves safe and secure from the coronavirus may we never forget that there is a ‘vaccine’ for sin. It is the precious blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ which cleanses us from all our sin (1John 1:7). Sin can destroy our eternal future and whenever we are concerned about coronavirus let us be more concerned about the condition of sin that we all suffer from. Let us look back at that day, a little more that two thousand years ago when the Lord Jesus paid the price of our redemption on the cross of Calvary by shedding His blood even until the last drop. All those who believe in Him as their Lord and personal Savior shall be saved and receive eternal life. (John 3:16)
2. THE SAINTS
While we look at the past, may we also remember the great cloud of witnesses (Hebrews 12:1) who stand as examples for us to follow while we go through these difficult times of isolation. From the Holy Scriptures, we have the example of Noah and his family who had to stay isolated from the rest of the world, have no one else for company, nothing else to do and nowhere else to go for months on end! Think of Moses who had to live in isolation for 40 years in the land of Midian. A prince who had all the comforts of his life had to fend for himself in the scorching desert and the unforgiving terrain of the wilderness. Consider David, who had to stay away from his family, his friends and even his nation and live as a vagabond, even in a cave! How about Jeremiah, who had to see his nation being plundered, his fellow brethren made captive and he himself being ostracized from the society that he lived in. How can we forget Apostle Paul who spent days, weeks and months on end, in prison and under house-arrest, having nobody else to help him! And even Apostle John, who was so used to being at the bosom of his Lord, the company of his fellow-disciples and the fellowship of the assemblies but finally had to spend time languishing in the cruel, unforgiving situation in Patmos at a ripe old age.
Now compare our isolation to them! Can we even compare our situation with theirs considering that their problems were much greater than we can ever imagine? I am not belittling the mental and emotional struggles that we go through in times of isolation but when we have the examples of such people like us going through harder situations, we can glean a great deal of comfort and strength from them. And why not! Because after his time in isolation, Noah received a covenant from the Lord! Moses received a great commission from the Lord,
David received a crown from the Lord , Jeremiah received comfort from the Lord, Paul received courage and strength from the Lord as evident in Philippians 4:13, and John received the celestial revelation from the Lord on that blessed Lord’s day on the isle of Patmos (Revelation 1:1). Oh, may we understand the reward of the faithful after periods of isolation, that they spent looking unto the Lord!
While the COVID-19 pandemic is slowly gripping the entire world in its clutches and governments and healthcare professionals are trying to counter to the best of their abilities, let’s just look back for a moment into the great pandemics that have affected the world before this! Having read about the various pandemics that obliterated large populations over the ages would send shivers down anybody’s spine! Whether it be the plague, yellow fever, cholera, the flu etc. over the ages, mankind has been ravaged by these microscopic enemies in a much higher degree as compared to the current crises. I’m not downplaying the seriousness of the current pandemic but praise God we don’t live in medieval times! As compared to the people of those times, we live in relative comfort even amidst a crisis such as this! Our suffering and worries, though serious, are much lighter, if you will, as compared to those days.
While we look into the past and REMEMBER the suffering, the saints and our salvation, let us…
Secondly, In the present situation, there is a need for us to press the proverbial reset button in our lives! And we can do that in three ways
The first action that we need to do is to build up the broken walls of our lives. It reminds us of Nehemiah who left the creature comforts of the palace and went into the desolate city of Jerusalem. To the city that lay in ruins and the walls that were broken down. In` such a time, Nehemiah decided to go and build the broken walls of Jerusalem! (Nehemiah 2).
Recently, as I was travelling within the city just a couple of days before the lockdown, I noticed many restaurants and small businesses with a board on their shutters, “Closed temporarily. Under maintenance”. It had me thinking, in like manner, isn’t this time of self-isolation, social distancing and lockdown a time for us to rebuild the broken ‘walls’ in our lives? Just like the walls of Jerusalem our personal testimony, our family altar and our assembly fellowship do require some rebuilding. Believe me, I keep myself first and then speak to you when I say this. Sadly, even though we have been doing a lot of things outwardly (out of a good intention no doubt), our personal lives, our family bond and our assembly fellowship need a great deal of rebuilding and restoration!
Can we say for sure that we have been spending time just in meditation and personal prayer like the few great people of God in the Bible? I’m not speaking here about our preparation for certain word ministries and our public prayers. How sad it is that we open the Word of God or come down on our knees when there is something for ‘me’. My ‘self’ that should have been crucified with Christ! Intercessory prayers are unheard of and our busy schedules, have left us with little or no time to build up our personal walls!
How about our families? It is saddening to see that families with the assembly have been broken because of the myriad issues plaguing the families of believers. The dining table becomes a place of gossip and family get-togethers are spent just for the sake of photos. Have we not understood that even though a family looks happy and intact on a public profile, it is actually in shambles! Parents are in tears for rebellious children. Wives compare biblical submission to slavery and husbands mistake biblical authority and headship to treat their wives as slaves. Many homes reek of unfaithfulness, fornication and hypocrisy. I speak from issues that I’ve come across and I’m sure there are many more. Families are broken, my dear believers and they need fixing! We need men like Obed- Edom, who teach their family the importance of the knowledge of the presence of God in their home. We need women like Tabitha, Lydia, Lois and Eunice who know their specific roles very well and served the Lord to the fullest within the sphere that was entrusted to them. We need young men like Timothy who learn to flee youthful lusts and pursue that which is good (2Tim 2:22), young women like Ruth, who exhibit virtuous qualities from their lives, just like she did. Dining tables should be like the one at Emmaus, (Luke 24:32), where the hearts of the family burn with joy and encouragement when they remember what the Lord spoke to them through His word.
And as for the assembly fellowship, it is in times like these when we are devoid of it, that we understand the beauty and the warmth of true Christian fellowship! The Lord, in this present situation wants us to build, rebuild, strengthen ourselves, our families and ourselves in the assembly fellowship, which is why maybe, He has given us this current situation as a ‘reset button’ to ponder upon and to renew our relationship with the Lord and with each other.
While we build up our lives, isolation is a time for us to break a few things in our lives There is a high probability that in such a time as this, people will spend more time in front of screens. Screens that are our windows to the world! Watching the news, the television in general and even the menacing cob-web of the internet, for long periods of time, can have negative effects on our physical and mental health. This is a statement made by healthcare professionals around the world! How much more should a believer take heed in such a situation! Let us break these habits which rob us of the joy and peace that comes from within! An that can be received from the other ‘window’ that we have- the Word of God, the window to Eternity!
Yes, these are unprecedented times and it is but natural to have some fear or trepidation about the situation. But isn’t it wonderful to know that though the world is in chaos, the Lord is on the throne! He is the unchanging God in an ever-changing world! Believe, that even in these life-altering times, God’s sovereign will, will be revealed for each and every one of us personally. No matter where we are, He is in control of our lives and even the world as a whole.
AND as for the future,
1. HIS PROMISES
The Lord Jesus Christ said “In this world ye shall have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world! (John 16:33). HE also said “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the world” (Matt 28:20). We can quote well known verses like Jeremiah 29:11 or even Romans 8:28 but THIS is the time we ought to hold on to these promises! As we look into our uncertain short-term future let us be certain of one thing, His promises are Yea and Amen for us in Him to the glory of God (2Cor 1:20) and let us hold on to them. He will never fail those who put their trust in Him.
2. HIS PROPHECIES
Just like any other event in history, this situation falls into His great grand plan and is a part of His divine time-table! And no matter how bad the situation is, the Lord in his foreknowledge knows, not just this situation but even the outcome. Much more than that, whatever the outcome in the world, He has prophesied, whatever happens, our eternity is secure in his hands. May the prophecies of the Bible remind us that worse days will come after this but there is a day we look forward to, when we all will be taken up to be with the Lord. (1Thess 4:16-18)
3. HIS PRESENCE
His presence was in our midst in the past. At his incarnation, He was called Emmanuel (God with us). John testifies of that in John 1:14. At present, the Holy Spirit indwells in us, the Lord Jesus intercedes for us and the Father is interested in our life, and is attentive to our cries. And let us not forget that one day we will be taken up to be in HIS presence for ever and ever. Coronavirus may or may not affect us, other diseases may or may not affect us but one thing is for sure, He who came and paid the price of my ransom on the cross is the one who intercedes for me to the Father and it is He Himself who has promised us that we will be in His presence for ever and ever. (John 14:3)
God in His Sovereignty, is in control of your past present and future. Your security is not something you need to worry about if we have believed in him. What matters though, is that I keep continue to live a holy, sanctified life for the glory of God!
May these words enrich, encourage, correct and comfort us to be faithful believers in the days and years to come. May His name alone be glorified!
-Dr. Joel Albert