As I type this, here in Melbourne Victoria Australia we are in stage 4 lockdown due to the pandemic. There is a roadmap our State Government has given and as of today, the numbers of new COVID-19 cases has finally dropped below ten. This is great news—especially for weary church leaders and yearning to gather again for Sunday services.
Yet as one who believes this moment in History is not out of God’s hands I am also concerned that we not become like the people of old who forget the lessons of history.
The Bible is filled with stories of forgetful people.
The Bible is filled with stories of forgetful people. I am always confronted by how easily the people of Israel forgot what God had done in their various seasons of history. Honestly, I tend to shake my head and think, come on guys. Get with it. Really? How could you?
But warnings against forgetting are everywhere:
Then take care lest you forget the Lord, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. (Deuteronomy 6:12)
And you shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not. (Deuteronomy 8:2)
Even the Ten Commandments begin with a reminder:
I am the Lord your God who bought you out of the Land of Egypt. (Exodus 20:2)
The Israelites needed continual reminding that God had saved them. They needed to lift their eyes and see that they were part of a bigger story. Wherever they were, they needed to understand their time in terms of God’s past deliverance. What about us?
We are all desiring to go ‘back to normal’… but which normal? That life of being so busy that it defines us as a people? That life of doing many ‘good things for the Lord’ that gets in the way of knowing the Lord? That life of Sunday gatherings which is followed by a week devoid of disciple-making? That life where being so busy at work or in leisure at the cost of spiritual life, family life and church life?
Don’t get me wrong, I long for things to go back to normal: I yearn for that hug; that handshake; hearing brothers and sisters sing, having a meal with seekers and saints. And we should be crying out to God for the mercy of our city and world and his church.
But before we move on, we need to remember and consider:
We need to remember that God is sovereign.
We need to remember that Jesus has died for our sins so we can live a new life.
We need to remember that he is risen, ruling and is coming back.
And we need to consider. This is a season the Lord has placed us in.
What has it revealed about the idols of our lives, our church culture?
What flaws has it exposed in our mission of disciple-making?
What has it shown us about our state, our world, and our own finitude?
What things do we need to repent of?
When things ‘go back’ what pattern, discipline, rhythm will I keep from this season?
This pandemic looms large for us. But are much larger realities.
This pandemic looms large for us as we wait for relief. But there are much larger realities to remember. And there is a much greater hope for us to look forward to than simply the end of restrictions:
After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’ (Revelation 7:9-10)
This is God’s goal and plan and no pandemic will stop that.
I pray that we as gospel leaders are not so itching for everything to go back ‘to normal’ that we will end up forgetting the one who disrupted our normal. May Jesus succeed in getting us to pay attention to things He has pressed into our hearts. May He send His Spirit and enable us to will and work as His people in this world.