June 13, 2020

I thought about asking this question in the plural – “what have we learned?” – Then, I thought better of it. Why is that?

Well, for starters, the plural “we” takes away the sting of personal responsibility, and that is what I have really been driving at these past 10 weeks. I have been trying to emphasize the personal opportunity to spend significant time with God, to deepen our relationship with Him given the “dead time” that this Pandemic has created. This, much maligned, government mandated, mitigation effort of “lock-down and social distancing”, has given us a pause from our regular, frenetic, routines. And, thereby, I see God inviting us to social closeness with Him, in spiritual fellowship. It’s a once in a lifetime chance to take the closures as a forced Sabbath and develop spiritual depth.

Therefore, to reinforce the opportunity of closeness with God I’ve been sending out thought provoking, biblically based, current event oriented, “devotionals” for you to meditate on. I had hoped that real life change; that is, thought, heart and behavior change would result because of our being closer to God; realigned in deeper, intimate fellowship with Him.

So how’s it going? How has it gone? May I ask you “what have you learned”?

I think it’s a great question to ask. I’ve asked it of myself – and you ought to try and answer it for yourself. By the way, I noticed that Paul emphasized this Idea of “learning” as he addressed his protégé, Timothy. Here is that entry in his second letter to the younger preacher…

You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, 2 Timothy 3:14

There, those two things. I want to ask you about those, except the “whom” isn’t from Paul, as in Timothy’s case, Or of me, in this case, but of God. He is the great, “Whom” that we learn from.

So again, what kind of things have you learned during this “Sabbath” time?

What have you learned about…

  • Yourself? Have you found yourself impatient, uninterested in spiritual things, missing the things of your past routine? Are you too trusting of government, not enough – never really thought about their role and how “all powerful” with commands yet impotent with fixes the government is
    • What about yourself and your wife? Your children? Your neighbors? Your business relations or those in your church?
    • Did you find you have some addictions or dependencies you weren’t familiar with or willing to confess?
    • Did you find yourself surprisingly innovative, willing to wait, able to discover work arounds, able to advise others meaningfully, more at peace?
  • God? What have you learned about Him? Have you found Him closer than you expected or more distant? Did you struggle to concentrate on Him or find His word relevant or just the opposite – that He was amazingly available, conversant, comforting, excelling in timely counsel, and infusing you with strength and wisdom, peace, love, joy; hope?
  • And, I could go on by asking you about your other observations and what opinion you’ve recently formed. For example…
    • Friends – what did you learn about them – your importance to them, and they to you?
    • Family – who surprised you the most and why/how?
    • Governments – good, bad, competent, incompetent, human as can be or other?
    • Media – trustworthy or agenda oriented, enlightening or engendering fear; helpful?
    • Health care providers – hardworking and competent, lifesaving, sacrificial, or some other viewpoint?
    • Educators and educational alternatives – useful, or not, disappointing or greatly missed and underappreciated? And our children – do they need more time under the observation and instruction of education professionals or come to find out, they actually need less time with professionals?
    • Food and basic necessities – availability, quality, distribution chains and safe access to the products you need; were they adequate? Do we take our current system for granted? Or were you disappointed, but also, just glad to be eating and not tending a garden or managing livestock?
    • Businesses – What is your new definition of necessity when it comes to the businesses that were deemed “essential” or “nonessential”? Were you one of the unemployed or one of the employers struggling to stay alive – or were you unaffected altogether?
    • Christian values and responsibilities – what is your thinking now on the issue of consumption, entertainment, the role of happiness and the road to contentment?
    • Citizenship – What about the rights and freedoms of American citizenry and the routines that represent our customary freedoms? And what about American worship-goers? Do societal rights and freedoms synchronize with biblical rights and freedoms, or did you learn they occasionally conflict?

There was much to learn, if we cared to learn at all. I know I was confronted with “relearning”. I found there was much to reevaluate and redefine, for much of my American routine was just that – a habit not a holy necessity. After 10 weeks of “closure living” I must admit that some of the dross, in my own set of expectations has burned off leaving me with God-taught-truth about what is essential (for me), what really matters and what doesn’t. I find myself admitting that many of my expectations (assumptions or “rights”) were just a passing blessing and therefore I must release it for the sake of my soul and contentment.

We are not the first to go through such trying times, confusing circumstances, and disappointing judgments from our trusted authorities. Take Elijah, for instance…

Elijah was once asked by God, the most penetrating question. It came during an unsettling time when his country was run by wicked and selfish rulers, the common people were lost in self-satisfaction and false religion, and prophets, such as Elijah, found their lives in jeopardy by the life threatening laws of the ruling class. Running in fear for his life, Elijah found himself hiding in a cave, miles from his troubles. There God asked him a simple question, which changed his life. It was this…. “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

After a retort of self-important and self-justifying excuses undergirded with sympathy seeking whining, God demonstrated His awesome power in a storm. Afterward, in quietness, He asked Elijah again; v 13 “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

To that, Elijah repeated, in rote, his previous lame, self-justifying, sympathy seeking reasons for abandoning his post. After he finished his criticism of EVERYONE ELSE, God simply swept the prophets’ statement aside and, firmly, unsympathetically gave him a command. God said “GO”.

With that, God recommissioned Elijah to go on to the next phase of his ministry – God providing him some help; a protégé named Elisha. Indeed, just as God gave a protégé to Paul (Timothy), after a similar time of conflict and distress, so God gave Elisha to Elijah. And Elijah obeyed. He went forward and quit looking back; experiencing even greater fruitfulness in his faith.

What about you, and me? What have we learned and who have we helped? How do we account for our attitudes and actions? Why we are we here is the question as well. Answer: we are here for a purpose, not for an explanation – nor sympathy, applause, self-justification or self-defined satisfaction!

God gives the orders and orders our steps (Psalms 37:23). Ours is not to complain or whine, nor run away from frightening circumstances. Ours is to salute, stand our ground and do our job. We should not expect the “authorities” to bend their agenda, nor God to entertain our desire for sympathy; since we “have it so hard”. We should, instead, expect to experience trials. This is, after all, a life and death mission, this gospel thing we’ve been called to…

Yes men, our best option is to simply say yes to God, no matter the disruption that afflicts us, “yes Lord, I’ll go, send me”; then, let’s “go and do” as He commands without criticizing others.

Further, I believe it helps (attitudes and actions), if we remember that any mission for God invites the attack of our Enemy the Devil and his minions, be they spirit or human, government organizations of virus organisms, we’re to do what He asked us, not waiver in anger or anxiety.

Finally, if waiting on God is a temporary “red light” to the “green light” of going; then we need to learn to do that faithfully; too. It’s all part of our mission, the particular assignment in our era of world history.

Men, our mission is simple, go make disciples – not go achieve the American dream. If you are fortunate enough to get the dream while you are going for God, good for you, but don’t consider it a right. Consider it an asset and use it wisely.

So, may I ask you the big question right now? Have you learned that during this COVID-19 season, it is now, as always, His will not ours, His way not ours, His glory not ours? Has the virus and all that has occurred since then, taught you (and me) that truth more profoundly than we knew it before? Or are we still in the cave trying to figure out what the heck just happened; and wishing it hadn’t?

Talk to you next week…