In generations to come, historians will write about how the COVID-19 virus affected our world. They will write about what countries were most affected, what precautions and restrictions were imposed by the quarantine, how many deaths occurred, and how it effected the economy, mental health, sports, etc. Historians will write about all this and more, including how we responded as citizens to this pandemic and this life-altering and historical event.
As I write this article, we are in our fourth week of quarantine. Schools, stores, gyms, sports leagues, and all «non-essential» services have been forced to close down by the government. We have seen numerous and different reactions and responses to the virus over the past few weeks. I have heard of chicken and toilet paper being stolen out of another’s grocery cart because there were no more available in the store. News of trucks crashing through the windows of sporting good and outdoor stores in order to steal guns and ammunition. There has been stories of people yelling, swearing, and threatening parents for walking to the end of their street with their children so they could play. But, we have also seen retired nurses and doctors return to the workforce in order to serve the sick. We hear of young adults doing groceries for the elderly and those who cannot leave their homes for health reasons. We hear of people who are risking their time, energy, and resources in order to contribute to the needs of our societies. Then, we hear of those that act like nothing is going on, keeping their regular routine, almost in denial of the pandemic that is currently plaguing our whole planet.
As I ponder on all this, I cannot help but wonder about what spiritual effects will occur due to this virus. It is my hope and prayer that we will see a spiritual ripple effect in our culture and a much needed paradigm shift in the Church. I pray that historians will be able to write about how an awakening, like in centuries past, had occurred. As I pray for these things, I also wonder if the average follower of Jesus is praying for the same thing. I hope so. I am trying to encourage it in my own heart and in the hearts of those I know.
What kind of ripple effect am I praying for to occur in our culture. I am hoping that with much of the free time that many people now have, that some will look to God. Before the virus came, most people were just too busy to seriously think about the things of God. But, now that many of our plans have been derailed, time we now have. Many are filling their time with Netflix, porn, alcohol, drugs, house projects, activities with the kids, and many other things. But, I am praying, that in the midst of all the time fillers and activities, that some will take time to reflect and think deeply upon where they stand with God. That they would understand that life is short and can be taken away from us at anytime. That we will one day stand before the Lord as Judge and give an account of our life. And that we are not as in control of our schedules, nor our lives as we think we are. For those that are seeking satisfaction in things that cannot give them the happiness they are looking for, my prayer is that they will find fulfillment, contentment, joy, and happiness in Christ, for there is no greater treasure or source to find life’s ultimate purpose. My prayer and hope is that historians will write about this as well.
What about the church? When I say paradigm shift, what am I meaning? I am referring to a renewed heart toward the kingdom principles that we see in Scripture. That rather than wasting the good side of being in COVID-19 quarantine, we would take advantage of the time we now have in order to take a serious inventory of our spiritual life in Christ. We must see this time «on pause» as a time to deepen our roots in the truths of Scripture, a way to seek the Lord more fervently in prayer, an opportunity to redefine true priorities and goals, a chance to connect intimately with other believers through phone calls, texts, messaging, and voice calls, and a moment to see our world, country, and city for what it is: lost in sin and without Christ.
Church, we spend too much time running after things that do not matter. Activities, for the most part, are neutral in nature, but can become a waste of time if not seen as missional or a way to worship and obey the Lord. My prayer has been and will continue to be that we as the church will get on our knees and truly ask the Lord to grow and mature us. That we would ask Him to break the hearts of our friends, families, and neighbours so they would look to Him. And that God would bring us out of this quarantine with a renewed passion to serve, worship, and obey. We need this, and we need this to be Spirit-led and fulfilled. If it is not Spirit-led, then we will come out of the gates of this quarantine with a great sprint of speed, only to lose steam after a short time and return back to our old mentalities and habits, conforming again to the ways of the world. If this winds up being the case, and I hope it is not, then the virus will pass and nothing will change spiritually, and we will be right back to where we were before all this began. My prayer for my life is that I would grow closer to Christ and know more the power of His resurrection (Philippians 3:10).
So, can we see a Holy Spirit led revival in the church? Well, there is a lot I could say here, but I will mention only a few things. Ultimately, it will depend on our response as individual believers and as a Church at large. What kind of response? When we look at God’s interactions with His people in the Old Testament, we see some common threads as we look at the messages from the prophets. First, a call to repent of sin. This comes as the prophet exposes the sin of the people (idolatry, indifference, complacency, disobedience, etc.). Second, a call to place one’s complete trust (faith) in the Lord Almighty. Third, a call to obey. This goes with trust, for one can not claim to trust in God and not obey. I placed this as a third call in order to show that trust must lead to action. Without living out in obedience what God has said, one cannot claim to really trust in God. Trust leads to obedience. Or, maybe better said, trust is obedience. Without these three things happening, a revival, in my mind, is absolutely impossible. Revival takes hard work, pain, and suffering. Why? Because it requires that we die to self and sin daily and decide to walk by faith in God’s word. This is walking in the Spirit. And this dying to sin and self must become the desire of our heart. Because we desire God more than all other things.
I read recently of an illustration by C.S. Lewis. A farmer, if he wants to produce a crop, must make a decision to work hard in preparing and planting his field. This hard work requires him to endure the suffering and pain that is needed to get the work done. This suffering and pain is not a burden, rather a joy, because it is part of the process of doing what the farmer wants to accomplish. Also, it is done in faith of the coming harvest. In a similar way, if we want to see a spiritual fruit come from our lives and the Church, it will require hard work. And that hard work will cause pain and suffering. But if done in faith, it will joyful, for we know who we are pursuing. We must stop trying wait on a pastor’s sermon or the ambiance of a worship gathering to magically change our lives. They can help us along the way, but we must make the decision to repent, trust, and obey. Rather than being spoon fed from Sunday to Sunday, which cannot truly sustain us spiritually, we must dive into God’s word as though our life depended on it. Our government has said that we are treating this virus with a war-time mentality. Oh, that we the Church would embrace the same kind of mentality when it comes to living the Christian life. Now, due to quarantine restrictions, most of the distractions have been forcefully removed from our hands, like a parent prying open the hands of their child who will not let go of something they want, and now, we have a unique opportunity to stop, pray, read, listen, ponder, repent, obey and rest in God’s word.
In my opinion, to miss this opportunity as the body of Christ, would be one of the biggest mistakes in church history. And if we do miss it, it will just add another piece of evidence that many have claimed on our generation of churches, that we are truly the Laodicean church. Not hot. Not cold. Just a luke-warm indifferent, complacent, and self-confident Church who just wants pastors to give them feel-good messages and music that gives a sense of spirituality so we can get back to doing what we want like before. In other words, not much of biblical Christianity.
What will the historians write about for the future generations to read in their history books? I have no idea. But, I pray, and I will keep praying that something will be written about the revival that shook the world more than this virus that plagues us. What will historians write? A better question is: how will we respond? For our response is what they will write about. If the church does nothing, they will write nothing.