Our current situation might seem difficult; however, it is important to remember that God's authority does not diminish during troubling times. Trials and tribulations do not act as roadblocks to God's plan. As God's people, now more than ever, we have to be attentive to the Holy Spirit's guidance for our lives.
Looking at the life of the apostle Paul, we see just how much the empowerment of God can do in a man or woman's life. From the Damascus road, God completely transformed Paul into someone that could and would be used to further the kingdom of God. Much of Paul's journey can be seen throughout the book of Acts. We see him standing in approval at the death of Stephen, the first Christian martyr, completely changed by the presence of Jesus Christ into the man that would pen the majority of the New Testament epistles.
We also get a glimpse into the trials in Paul's life. He was brought before hostile councils, thrown into prisons, beat for preaching the gospel, shipwrecked, and, as if to top it all off with a cherry on top, was bitten by a potentially poisonous snake, yet, in the face of all these obstacles, the New Testament book ends with a sentiment that permeates throughout Paul's journey in Acts.
The final two verses of the book describe Paul's arrival to Rome, "He lived there two whole years at his own expense, and welcomed all who came to him, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance." (Acts 28:30-31)
Regardless of his circumstances, Paul was able to accomplish the tasks set before him. It is important to note that it was by the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, not by any merit of Paul, that he was able to do all that he had accomplished. He spoke with the anointing of God and was able to further His kingdom in spite of all the hardships he faced.
Today, we face a collective hardship in the form of a global pandemic. Most of us are confined to our homes in order to keep the infection rate down and, to use the present terminology circulated on the various media networks and websites, flatten the curve. However, in light of all the precautions that we need to take, are we being attentive to what the Holy Spirit is speaking into our lives?
Make no mistake. I am not saying that you should defy the government's order to stay indoors as much as possible. I am not saying to disregard any advice the CDC is distributing to the population. Take the precautions necessary. Stay at home if you can. Distance yourself physically from others. There is a scary pride in gallivanting about in the community falsely believing that your faith makes you powerful and immune to COVID-19. Paul's faith did not keep him from prison, beatings, mistreatment, natural disasters, or execution. His faith made him able to follow God's call on his life. Likewise, we are not immune to hardship.
What then shall we do? How do we reconcile isolation with furthering the kingdom of God? We must remember to be attentive to the Holy Spirit. We must remember that COVID-19 will not hinder the kingdom of God. The church is not neutered because we cannot meet on Sunday morning. Our power and ability does not come from within the church building. It comes from God and God alone.
Martin Luther had an exemplary perspective on how to handle a pandemic as a Christian. He wrote, "I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine and take it. I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance inflict and pollute others and so cause their death as a result of my negligence... If my neighbor needs me however I shall not avoid place or person but will go freely as stated above. See this is such a God-fearing faith because it is neither brash nor foolhardy and does not tempt God."
We live in a unique time in history. Though we are indoors, we have access to technology that allows us to remain connected. I spoke for hours at length with friends from several different states without leaving my bedroom. Are we using this technology in our current situation to make sure that our neighbor is alright? Are we being attentive to the moments that we have to check on others? We do not need to physically be present in someone's house to pray for someone. A phone call, a Skype session, or even a text message can speak volumes. Are we still encouraging one another as a church body?
Perhaps you know someone who got laid off from their job. Are we making sure that the people struggling financially are able to keep food on the table? Are we supporting our neighbors who are facing the reality of having their utilities shut off? As the government leaders continue to struggle with devising a plan to help these people, are we as the hands and feet of Jesus using the blessings God has given us to help others?
Are we praying constantly? Are we asking God to give our leaders wisdom and our neighbors protection? Are we asking God to use this pandemic to further his kingdom and use us as ambassadors for his mission?
This lock-down is not the time for the church to go to sleep. This is a deafening alarm for us as the church to proclaim the kingdom of God and teach about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.