What strange times we find ourselves in. Only two weeks or so ago, it was business as usual here in Australia, even as we heard reports of COVID19 spreading overseas.
One week ago, it was church as usual, albeit with great care taken to sanitise surfaces and avoid the usual hugs and handshakes.
This week, wow! The bombshell has hit, and the floodgates have been blasted wide open.
We had already made the decision to cancel all church gatherings as a matter of prudence and safety for our people. Many churches tried to continue to meet, albeit with significantly reduced congregation sizes.
But as I write this, I hear reports that all church gatherings will be banned. Sunday worship, Connect groups, corporate prayer – all stopped until further notice.
One of the most important aspects of Christian life is the regular gathering together of the saints. Not only does Scripture insist on it (see Heb 10:25, for example), it is part of our growth to health and maturity as believers (see Eph 4:11-16).
How can we possibly fulfill these requirements if we are forbidden to meet together? How are we to grow as Christians if we can’t worship and hear the Word as one body regularly?
How indeed? Has the devil finally found a way to destroy the Church?
You know what my answer to that will be, of course…
Or course not! It is an absurd thought. That the devil could even put one toe over the boundary line that God has drawn for him is nonsensical.
While I can’t claim to know God’s mind and God’s purposes in this pandemic, one thing I know with absolute certainty – God is in control. Nothing – let me say it again – nothing is happening now that God is not in control of. I would stake my life on it.
And none of it can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. You will hear this passage quoted frequently over the coming weeks:
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
For I am sure that neither death (nor virus) nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. [Rom 8:35-39]
You will hear this passage frequently for very good reason. Firstly, because it is true. But it is also a great encouragement to us in times of trial, distress, sickness, danger.
And because it is true, we can – and we should – live our Christian lives with confidence, with hope, with joy, and with peace.
For that is one simple way we can shine the light of Christ during this crisis. And it’s one that doesn’t even require us to get out of our comfort zone. How easy is that?
But we can also shine His light in more practical ways, and in ways that will stretch us a little more.
If you’ve been checking the church Facebook page, you may have noticed a link to the Love Your Neighbour flyer: https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/love-neighbor/
I’d encourage you to print this off, fill it out with your contact details, and drop it in letterboxes around your home.
Just the simple message that someone cares will be enough for the Lord to plant seeds that will one day bear fruit for His kingdom.
And it is your opportunity to grow as Christians even while we can’t gather publicly.
It is also your opportunity to minister to others – and especially to those who are locked in and fearful.
For we are all called to minister to others. It’s not just the pastors and church leaders called to minister. Peter wrote to all the church, “But you are the ones chosen by God, chosen for the high calling of priestly work, chosen to be a holy people, God’s instruments to do his work and speak out for him, to tell others of the night-and-day difference he made for you” [1Pet 2:9 MSG].
Friends, we have never had doors open as wide as this for every believer to be beacons of light and hope, rocks of stability, generous, compassionate, sacrificial, loving.
I believe this is one of the things God intends to do through COVID19. He intends to mobilise all His people to minister.
Let’s seize the opportunity. Let’s spread the light of Christ while this door is open to us. And even if your theology tells you that this virus is all the devil’s work, then rub his nose in it by advancing the glorious kingdom of our Lord.
Remember, we are more than conquerors!
Stay safe, keep well, and “fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” [Isa 41:10].