A little over a dozen of us gathered in the front yard of one of the church members on a Wednesday night to bring our praise, thanksgiving and supplication together before our mighty God. We had the chance to hear the prayers of young and old alike. We had the opportunity to agree together. As some of the older members prayed, you could hear their many years of walking with God instructing the younger ones among us what it is like to walk with God intimately. It is hard to think of a greater blessing than uniting with God’s people and praying for the salvation of souls and for the needs of the saints. This memory is from a church meeting we had this past summer, in between shut downs. The cases have started rising again here in Belize, and so the church prayer meetings have been temporarily put on hold.
Like many of you, I do not like to hear about Covid 19 rearing its ugly head again. I am sad for the families who are or will be facing serious illness, knowing it may be hitting close to home at any time. As a Christian it also grieves my heart when the meetings of the church have to be altered or in some cases cancelled, making it hard to have the kind of fellowship with God and with one another that is so vital to our walk with God. And yet, Covid 19 did in no way take our all powerful God by surprise. He is sovereign over all things. As Hannah prays in I Samuel 2:6-8:
“The Lord kills and makes alive;
He brings down to the grave and brings up.
7 The Lord makes poor and makes rich;
He brings low and lifts up.
8 He raises the poor from the dust
And lifts the beggar from the ash heap,
To set them among princes
And make them inherit the throne of glory.”
It is wise to focus on doing our part to curb the virus. I am thankful for our governments and international health communities taking their God-given role seriously, trying to figure out how to protect lives and economies from the threat of Covid. But it is the fool indeed that doesn’t acknowledge the God who is control of this virus, seeking to repent and turn from our blindness, from our arrogance in believing that we were in control of our lives in 2020. I heard someone this week compare the Covid crisis in the churches to the exile that the Jews experienced in the Old Testament. God punished His people for their idolatry by sending the Assyrians and Babylonians to take them into captivity, away from the promised Land. Likewise we as Christians have had our God given means of grace, in the worship service, the Lord’s supper, the church prayer meeting, significantly altered. God’s people in the Old Testament never again worshiped idols. What will our response be to this trial that God has allowed? Will we turn in repentance? Will we seek His face with all our heart? Or will we fritter away hours of our time on social media, getting angry at whoever disagrees with our position on face masks?
When we first faced shut down, my husband and I committed to spending some of our extra time making sure our morning prayer time got a solid block of time. But some mornings we discovered that we had dug into that time by talking about the latest controversy we had seen on Facebook the night before. Some mornings we didn’t end up praying at all. In the moment, it seemed like we really needed to talk it over. But as we saw a pattern emerging, we realized that for us, we needed to take a step back from so much social media. In fact, we were getting side tracked from God’s mission. There is a real spiritual battle and we as Chrstians are in the middle. Satan would love us to be a distracted church.
All manner of trials, including this pandemic, provide a merciful opportunity for human beings to hit the pause button and consider our spiritual state. We will all stand before a holy God to face judgement one day. The pandemic reminds us that that day may come sooner than we imagined. Are we ready? Those of us who have put our faith in Jesus Christ can face that day by the covering of His blood. Are we living like we have been redeemed, excited at God’s grace that has been poured out upon us? Or are we living just like the world, trying to distract ourselves with banal pleasures? Make no mistake, it takes work to keep our focus on eternal things, as the world, the flesh and the devil are conspiring against it.
As I close, I want to loop back to the story of the prayer meeting that I started with. We may or may not have the opportunity to attend the church prayer meeting during this pandemic. But one thing that is certain–we all have the opportunity to pray. Intercessory prayer is hard work, and make no mistake, it takes faith and it takes discipline. But it is also one of the most powerful ways to make an impact in the kingdom. We arrived here in Belize in February ready to get to work. The setbacks from Covid have at times been frustrating. But the reality is, we can still pray. We know the pandemic is in God’s hands, and we also know that faithfulness to God requires that we develop a strong prayer life. So, on the one hand Covid is a genuine setback, but on the other hand, it has the potential to be the beginnings of a great revival that God can use to extend His kingdom to all parts of the world. It is easy to grow weary during this difficult time, as I can attest. But let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.