The pandemic marches on, but rather than talk about fear and worry, I want to give you something different to focus on. For many of us, these days are more important than we know, so we cannot afford to waste them. This pandemic has given all of us an opportunity to slow down and refocus - not on the pandemic - but refocus on letting God do something incredible within us.
The Apostle Paul is one of my favorite writers in Scripture, writing nearly half of the New Testament. His letters have impacted billions of lives, but Paul did his writing while being held prisoner. If he hadn’t been confined, he might never have had the time to write.
Some of you feel like you’re confined to prison because there’s really no place to go. Believe me, your idea of prison is nothing like the prison Paul was in. But let me show you how your confinement (not imprisonment) gives you some opportunities to make a powerful impact on your world.
First, you can model faith to your children. Instead of spending your time worrying about your bills and about your job and about what you’ve lost, let me encourage you to model faith that God will take care of your bills and He will take care of your job and He will restore what you’ve lost. Instead of speaking about fear and doubt, speak about faith and hope. Proverbs 3 tells us: Trust the LORD completely, and don’t depend on your own knowledge. With every step you take, think about what he wants, and he will help you go the right way. (Proverbs 3:5-6, ETRV)
The greatest lesson you will ever model for your children - and the greatest gift you will ever leave to them - is to teach them that God is faithful in every circumstance. Because when this is over and God comes through - and He will - your kids are going to remember and apply these lessons for the rest of their lives. Second, read your Bible. It’s easy to get caught up in all of the news stories about this pandemic. But if that’s your focus, you’ll find yourself living in great fear and worry. Instead, read your Bible! Instead of focusing on what main-stream media says, focus on what God says. (Hint: What God says is better!) I love what Paul wrote to Timothy: Using the Scriptures, the person who serves God will be capable, having all that is needed to do every good work. (2 Timothy 3:17, NCV)
Some of you don’t feel capable of handling all that’s being thrown at you right now. But Paul said that using the Scriptures, you can do it. So start reading your Bible. You will thank me later if you’ll get started on this now.
Third, set goals for this down-time, and work hard to meet those goals. How many times have you said, “When I have the time, I’m going to get this project done.” Well, now’s the time. Maybe it’s time to make overdue changes and take care of some of the things you’ve been putting off. And maybe it’s time to make some big, bold plans for the future. So get busy. You won’t be disappointed when you begin to see that list take shape and then begin to see those goals reached.
Third: Make prayer your new normal. Most people pray, but sadly, only in a crisis or when they need something. Let me suggest to you that you turn prayer into a daily habit, into your new normal. Here’s what James, the brother of Jesus, wrote about prayer: When a believing person prays, great things happen. (James 5:16b, NCV)
Forget about how long you pray. Instead, focus on praying a bit every day. If you create that habit, and deepen that habit, you will own life’s greatest skill.
And finally: Reconnect with God. Some of you were staying close to God long before any of this happened. But for others, let’s be honest, you’d kind of let that relationship slip. Right? I’m not judging you, I promise. But be honest about it. Life got busy. People wanted your time. You picked up a new hobby or two. Work got crazy busy. The kids needed to be 23 places at once. Life happened and something had to go.....and one of the things that went for a lot of people was their relationship with God. And I get it. There’s this thing inside of us that says, “If anyone knows how busy I am and how crazy life is, it’s God. Surely He’ll understand.” God does understand, but the truth is, it’s us that suffer when we let that part of our lives slide. James also wrote this: Come near to God and he will come near to you. (James 4:8b, NIV)
The easiest way to do that is to pray and open your Bibles. Maybe for you it will also mean getting back in church when all of this is over. Or maybe getting into church for the first time. It might include being baptized. I would love to celebrate that with you. Whatever it means for you, let me invite you to reconnect with God, which will serve you, not just now during this crisis, but for the rest of your life and on into eternity. So what are you waiting for? Jump in with both feet and see what God does!