Christian: The real danger of Covid 19 is not getting sick or dying, it’s falling asleep.
While the world falls under the spell of social isolation and self centredness, Christians need to remember that life really is no fairytale.
As we start a new year with no clear end date for the Covid 19 pandemic it is a good time to reflect on what this last 9 months has meant for the Christian Church and the increasing risks and opportunities ahead.
Let me start by saying that I’m talking largely about the Church in the Western world, typified by easy access to in person church services, regular gatherings and largely free from persecution. Our brothers and sisters in the persecuted church are much more used to life without the comfort blanket of a cosy church community.
Covid 19 has meant that many churches have simply not been able to meet in person since March 2020. While services and meetings quickly went online engagement has slowly dropped away as people got ‘zoomed out’, or just added church to one of the optional social media sources that could be dipped in and out of. At the same time the lockdowns and fears of infection have led people to become much more isolated within small family bubbles at best. This all led to the temptation to focus on the needs of those within that bubble rather than those without; how do I stay safe, how does my family cope? In doing so the main vehicle upon which the Church has used to respond to the Christian message to GO to the world has had it’s wheels removed, and seen it’s occupants scattered to their homes.
Once there the test for Christians really started: did they have the desire and ability to self feed, and did they keep looking around them for opportunities to serve? So many Christians rely on the church for their weekly ‘hit’ of worship, teaching and prayer that once stripped of this comfort blanket of easy top ups those that didn’t dig in, get out their bibles and get plugged into other forms of teaching were going to start to struggle. Not being involved in the Christian lifestyle also meant that many believers saw their ministry opportunities stop as going OUT from church is a much bigger challenge than serving on a Sunday morning. Even those that did follow the command to GO saw their established ministries hard if not impossible to continue, due to lockdowns and contact restrictions.
Christians having found themselves sat on the couch and off the frontline quickly felt the lethargy creeping in: ‘why do I need to read and pray if nothing is happening?’. The temptation to shut down and wait out the pandemic was a sensous siren song. Like the rosy red apple offered to Snow White it appeared to have no downsides and no cost.
But while Satan cannot steal true believers, he can make them ineffective, destroy the good things in their lives and dim the light that they bring to community. As for those who are very young in their faith, or have not really committed themselves to following Jesus, Satan knows all he has to do is to get their eyes off Jesus for their Christianity to crumble to nought. More people are like the seed sown on the thorny ground than they would like to admit.
‘And others are the ones on whom seed was sown among the thorns; these are the ones who have heard the word, but the worries of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful’. Mark 4:18–19
And so believing the lie that we can just wait this pandemic out the church started one by one to fall into slumber, because unlike Snow White this is not the first time we’ve been asleep — we have bitten that poisonous apple once already:
Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.’” The serpent said to the woman, “You surely will not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate. Genesis 3:1–6
When Adam and Eve ate that fruit the immediate death they suffered was not physical but spiritual. They put all of mankind under the spell of sin. As it says in Ephesians:
‘And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walking according to the course of this world, according to the Prince of the Power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience’ Ephesians 2:1–2
There is a reason why the stories of Sleeping Beauty and Snow White chime so strongly with us. These stories are archetypal of the grand narrative of this life. That evil wants to corrupt goodness and bring eternal sleep but that there is a way to break the spell. The Bible is clear that the bride is asleep but the Prince will battle against the odds to free her and will win her with his love. Indeed the Prince of Life has come, has fought the Dragon Satan and won the battle for his bride.
Unlike the fairy tales our Prince gave his life to rescue us. We are so quick to forget that Jesus died to wake us up, that we have already been saved from sleep to a new life where nothing should ever be the same again. Having realised that this life is no rose tinted fantasy and that evil genuinely stalks us how can we live like we used to?
And arise from the dead,
And Christ will shine on you.”
Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. Ephesians 5:14–16
How galling for our Saviour that having been woken with a kiss Sleeping Beauty is now turning back to her bed, saying that it really was warm and comfy and seeing as there is nothing much to do at the moment she would like another nap. And so our Maleficent cackles as the Princes’ efforts appear to be for nought.
So Covid 19 is a Satanic plot?
I really don’t believe it is, but I do believe that Satan would use the pandemic for his own ends, and even if it is; well God has not been surprised, Covid 19 has not caught him off guard, or got him scrambling the angels to sort out the mess. Despite a significant impact on the ‘normal’ activities of his Church and individual Christians, the pandemic will have a positive outcome for his kingdom. The question we must ask is what is he doing? And more specifically what is God doing in your life?
So wake up Christian, it’s not the pandemic that is the trap but in how we respond to Satans’ siren call of comfort and self centredness. Why are we assuming that we are going back to the same state we were in before? Can God not choose to change the way we do Church, the way we minister and the roles and responsibilities we each currently carry? The message of the Gospel will never change, but Jesus never laid down a model for church and said ‘do it like this’. No, throughout its history the church has had to react to the situation it finds itself in, and then adapt to carrying out the great commission.
We are running out of time
The second point is that the Bible constantly warns us that time is short and that Jesus is coming next. What’s even more clear is that it will be a shock to most when he does:
For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night. While they are saying, “Peace and safety!” then destruction will come upon them suddenly like labor pains upon a woman with child, and they will not escape. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day would overtake you like a thief; for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness; so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober. 1Thess 5:2–6
Yes, Jesus is going to come back and he expects us to be ready. This is no time to pull the bed clothes over our heads. We have a job to do as Jesus told his disciples:
‘Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age’. Matthew 28:19–20
The Covid 19 pandemic has made the way we used to do this harder and we may need to look outside of our usual domains, but it does not give us permission to down tools.
“No one, after lighting a lamp, puts it away in a cellar nor under a basket, but on the lampstand, so that those who enter may see the light. Luke 11:33
While we await our Prince to return we have to carry on doing what he did- shining a light in this ever darkening world. Showing the hopeless that there is hope, and waking the dead and sleepers around us. Just because Jesus hasn't returned yet doesn’t mean that it won’t be in our lifetime.
“Then the kingdom of heaven will be comparable to ten virgins, who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were prudent. For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, but the prudent took oil in flasks along with their lamps. Now while the bridegroom was delaying, they all got drowsy and began to sleep. But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. The foolish said to the prudent, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the prudent answered, ‘No, there will not be enough for us and you too; go instead to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.’ And while they were going away to make the purchase, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding feast; and the door was shut. Later the other virgins also came, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open up for us.’ But he answered, ‘Truly I say to you, I do not know you.’ Be on the alert then, for you do not know the day nor the hour. Matt 25:1-13
So remembering all of this what can we do practically to deal with this most current time?
Keep Talking: as every driver knows when you are starting to fall asleep at the wheel getting into a conversation with a passenger is a great way to remain focused. So we need to not only start praying and sending our request lists but also listening to what Jesus would want to tell us in this strangest of seasons. Now this isn’t just sitting down in silence but getting out your bible and reading it. Jesus talks to us more through his word than he ever will through our thoughts or ears!
For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do. Hebrews 4:12–14
As a friend reminded me it takes around 70 hours to read the Bible cover to cover, and if you struggle to read for long then download an app and listen to it as an audio book. If you really want to go for it then you can listen to Chuck Smith of Calvary Chapel teach 6 years worth of sermons on every single passage from Genesis to Revelation here: https://calvarychapel.com/pastorchuck/c2k.
Keep working: yes we all have work to do even in lockdown. That command to GO to the world isn’t just limited to a few special Christians but to us all, and there is no reason why a lockdown should mean that the great commission has stopped. Do all of your family and friends know Jesus? What about your work colleagues? How about going through your facebook friends and sending them a message to encourage them in these tough times — heaven forbid you could even pray for them! Why not arrange zoom calls with your community group with a Christian thought for the day before you start chatting? Why not call that new Christian and start to disciple them — if you are finding it hard how must they be finding things? The possibilities are endless but do need more thought and effort than many Christians in the West are used to putting in, and the pastors and evangelists that we used to rely on are no more effective than you at the moment as they are as restricted as you. So unless you GO how will the world hear, and unless they hear how will they be saved?
Do this, knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed. The night is almost gone, and the day is near. Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Romans 13:11–12
Christian it is time for you and the church to wake up. To take up arms and fight the fight we’ve been given. I don’t want to sound gloomy but we have no way of knowing whether we will ever get back to where we were and the way we used to do Church. So it is not only pointless but dangerous to sit here dozing.
‘Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you. Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world. After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you’. 1 Peter 5:6–10
You may ask how I know all this and why I’m sharing. That’s easy, because this is my experience. As a Church Minister and director of an international Fitness Ministry I have seen two of my three main ministry opportunities all but stop over the last year, I have watched as brothers and sisters who I used to speak to multiple times a week slowly disappear from contact. After 43 years of Christian service I have heard that whisper to ‘take a break, just relax you’ve earnt it’. So while this lesson may just be for me, I’m pretty sure that the reader will know exactly what I’m talking about. God’s shaking me- do you hear him?