From Virus to Revival? We Pray.
Written from Brussels, Belgium
CHURCH: It is no secret that we find ourselves in curious times. This particular set of circumstances, which we clearly do not have a handle on, has some people in a mindset of denial or ignorant jest while others are in a frenzied panic and consumed with worry. This pandemic reveals that we are not in control; if we are honest, it reminds us that we never were in control, though we have much responsibility in this life. Thankfully, our lens for all matters is the living hope bought by the blood of Jesus. I speak often on how the Christian must walk the balance beam of faith in a broken and distraught world. Thankfully, by grace through faith we are saved, and the Spirit holds us fast from moment to moment, in all circumstances.
We as believers should not be hysterical in fear, nor do we downplay the seemingly “small” statistics shared on every platform regarding this sickness, which applied to the masses points to significant loss of life—thousands of grandparents, brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, classmates and coworkers. Perhaps this concerted focus on a widespread virus is serving a greater purpose than we yet realize. Perhaps you are still spellbound and questioning: how might God use this for His glory? Believer, maybe you have stocked your pantry for the unknown ahead, or you have spread favorite memes concerning the coronavirus—or maybe you have done both. Wherever you stand, whether on facts obtained winsomely through research, or in prideful disregard towards the general foolishness of the world, or dazed and confused by what you heard at coffee break yesterday from your coworker, I invite you: please read along.
Thursday, I went by metro to visit with a Congolese brother in a downtown Brussels café—we meet and talk about Jesus each week. Everyone on the metro kept an above average distance from one another, and if someone coughed, all were alarmed. On Friday, announcements were made that all cafés, restaurants, bars, and nightclubs were required to shut down to halt the spread of the virus. This, in essence, is the lifeblood of Brussels coming to a screeching halt. We see churches fellowshipping and hearing the Word by broadcast the world over, and major sporting events and cinema put on pause. I want to encourage my stateside friends not to take the coronavirus lightly—nor to miss Gospel opportunity.
As my wife and I went on our weekly grocery store run Thursday evening, we were alarmed. Every parking spot was filled, though the workday was not yet over; we normally have no problem finding a spot up close. The pasta, eggs, many canned foods, and toiletries had been cleared from the shelves. I spoke with several locals who had never experienced this in their lifetime. Personally, I’m only familiar by way of snow days in North Carolina—where the bread and milk disappear—or my one and only Black Friday outing. Everyone was on edge. After you waited by someone’s car while they finished loading their groceries, you could then take their cart, as all were in use.
My background is risk engineering—efficiency and preparedness—and I come from the land of preppers. We filled our buggy not out of fear of coronavirus, but with a sense of the panic in the air and a desire to have the essentials for the weeks ahead. We are living in a country that is largely unfamiliar to us, and we are so thankful the Lord has us here. Perhaps, He has us here for such a time as this. Schools are out. People are thinking on their mortality, perhaps for the first time ever while not at the funeral of a beloved relative. Many are frantic and fearful. We came here for the purpose of sharing grace and peace, the only living hope found in Jesus Christ. We came to extend the hope and joy we have in Christ, despite circumstances. What better time than now? I believe this is the fertile soil in which the Gospel will take root.
I pray for revival all the time. It is one of my foremost prayers for my life, for my young family wherever the Lord leads, and for brothers and sisters in churches across the Western landscape. It is also my prayer for those living on mission in hard to reach places. You might ask: what does this statement have to do with anything shared above involving the coronavirus? Well, I’ll tell you.
I believe rooted in Scripture we see the beautiful truth that God sees fit, in this post-fall world, to use trials of all kinds to bring glory and honor and praise to the name of Jesus. We see this among the early church and the persecution they faced while proclaiming the name of Jesus and the Gospel message. We see this today in places where persecution is prevalent; the Gospel spreads. We see this in certain mission fields, where hopelessness abounds, people are hungry for hope. We see this in the eyes of the desperate, on ordinary hospice deathbeds. I think of the sustained growth of Redeemer Church in Manhattan led by Tim Keller, following 9/11.
How might this take place in our circumstances? How through the panic and heightened fears, through work schedule changes and halted schools and entertainment closures, might the souls of believers and the souls of the lost, and ultimately the kingdom of God, benefit? Let’s think together.
May we as Christians find ourselves reproved. Why? I believe many, like myself, take for granted our norms and traditions. We would not ordinarily admit this reality within the Protestant Church, but in light of restricted gatherings from the impending virus, are we seeing our own predicament? Is it possible that we lack regular gratitude and a posture of thanksgiving, in light of how our fellowships have gone on for so long, so uninterrupted, so predictably? Have we become lackadaisical in living out our faith, hard-hearted even in the midst of our orderly worship?
Perhaps God is using this moment in history to bring us back to the simple Gospel, back to the pure spiritual milk of His Word in our hands. And in our families. Maybe you, like me, have become trained to expect our gathering as Church family. Maybe we fall into a routine of appreciating the buzz or the vibe of community and fellowship. Let us remember in this time, that this is not a guarantee but rather a blessing that much of the world never sees. Let us pray for the persecuted church around the world as we learn, in some small way, how to relate with them.
From another angle, let us count now how such blessings in our own lives may have served to cripple our faith, having been poorly regarded. I see our freedoms, our wealth, and our many resources which all ought to be leveraged unto the Lord, often times strangling us. Am I wholly dependent on the loving God of the Scriptures, or have I fallen into monotonous reliance on a spoonful of the Word on Sundays, along with the handshakes and smiles of those I am cordial with inside the meeting place? We have tricked ourselves, believing we are self-reliant, yet taking supplements from the Word of God.
We as the global church must reflect. Maybe the solitude your soul longs for has been avoided long enough. This delay in proceedings could be exactly what we need. Some of the things we count as indispensable—items which fill our time even to the point of keeping us from nearness to God—have been taken away. Things we would say cannot be given up have dried up for the time being.
I believe God can use this in a miraculous way to reveal how misplaced our ideologies and priorities have become. Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. I challenge you not to neglect the Word of God in this season, or ever again. Be filled with hope regardless of the circumstance and results of this apparent pestilence. Be reminded that Jesus reigns. Remember that God is sovereign and unsurprised. Recall to mind your salvation. Ask yourself, “Am I truly growing in holiness, in the ways of my Lord and Savior? Do I honestly love Him, wholeheartedly, full-mindedly, unceasingly, in every way with all that has been given to me?”
How might we participate in what the Lord is doing? How might we encourage a brother or sister, better see to it that our family is built on a firm foundation, and reach out to a lost friend who has no eternal hope? It’s an exciting time, believer. Why? Because we yet have breath in our lungs and the opportunity to worship our King with life itself. Join me, and pray for revival to come. The screenshot posted above is from a young brother in the Lord here in Belgium, who has been faithful to share with his friends. Though formerly disinterested, his friends have a growing interest in the face of concern. Pray!