On this last day of winter 2020, I am sitting here in my home office looking at the snowflakes falling outside. It is March 19 and for many the world around us has turned a bit colder as we deal with the COVID-19 crisis. A good number of our family, friends, and neighbors are uncertain, confused, and anxious. Others are cynical, frustrated and angry. Businesses, schools, churches, community services, restuarants, movie theaters and more, are closing down. ALL of us are experiencing something the world hasn’t had to deal with since the Spanish Flu epidemic in 1918/1919. We are scrambling to keep some form of normalcy to our lives when much around us is far from normal. The disheartening word on the street says it is going to get worse before it gets better. Our faith is indeed being tested in ways most of us have never experienced.
Last evening the leadership team of the congregation we are a part of met (using ZOOM) to make some decisions about our weekend services and upcoming Passover events. We are not a large congregation and it is tempting to just go on as usual, not letting our surrounding circumstances and government issued guidelines and declarations determine what we do. After all, where is our faith? Certainly, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is our Shield, Protector, Provider and Healer! Isn’t cancelling our services and postponing events sending the wrong message? I am here to argue, “No! In fact, we are now able to send the right message!”
Friends, faith is far more than believing that God is our Shield, Protector, Provider and Healer. I won’t argue that truth for a split second. He is all those things…and far more. He is also our Instructor and Counselor. True faith is far more than what we believe about God. Faith is how we live. Faith is living our daily lives in alignment with His instruction and counsel while we trust Him to be our Shield, Protector, Provider and Healer. We must look to His Word for instruction in our current circumstances, rely on His Spirit to guide us, and chose to wisely act upon what He has told us. We do this in full confidence that He will take care of our needs along the way. When it comes to our hearts, walking in obedience is far more life empowering than quoting Scripture, shouting prayers, and making emotion-packed declarations.
One key principle given to us throughout the Bible is to walk in honor, respect, and obedience to those who have been placed in authority over us. This applies within the community of believers and in our place in the secular world. What our President, governors and local officials are asking of us thus far does not violate the principles God has given to us. We should follow God’s counsel to submit to their leadership…even if we don’t particularly agree with or care for it. We may have to adjust the “how to” (the forms) in our faith walk, but the principles (the functions) of God’s directives are thus far not in jeopardy. We continue to pray that this will not change.
Let’s get practical for a moment. Friday evening and Saturday are God’s Shabbat for us. For the time being our congregation is not having a potluck dinner and gathering for corporate services. Does this change the importance and the function of Shabbat in our lives? Absolutely not. In fact, if anything, the situation we are facing is testing our ability to obey and thrive as people of faith regardless of the circumstances. Fathers and mothers! Are you preparing to lead your family in a Shabbat meal at home Friday evening? What will you be doing to usher in the Sabbath? Our Pastor and Worship Team have decided to livestream worship and teaching, even the Shabbat blessings, at 7:00 PM. We are gathering electronically. Will you be participating? On Sabbath Day what are your plans? Will you be reading Scripture together as a family and discussing their application to your lives? How about worshipping and praying together? (You don’t have to sound good!) How will your family celebrate and rest together on this day? Keep in mind, when Moses and the Israelites first left Egypt God’s command for the Sabbath was “no one is to leave their tent”. Don’t panic about not being able to assemble right now. Let’s just do the best we can!
Another practical example. Passover is just a few weeks away. There is a good chance that we will not be gathering as a congregation to celebrate the Seder. However, the Passover celebration was originally instructed to take place in our homes during the overnight hours, with a worship and offering assembly the next day on the first day of the Feast of Matzah. We can still celebrate the Passover in our homes and not skip a beat in God’s timing of His Appointed Feasts. We can still mail in our offerings and meet electronically. Our form must adjust – but the function of this important celebration in our lives does not! If you’re not sure how to celebrate Passover at home, it is time to learn. (God has also given us Second Passover 30 days later for just this type of emergency. We can reschedule a congregation Seder for that date and see what happens.)
Friends, our life as believers in Messiah living in the Last Days world is not going to get any easier. The rubber is meeting the road. While it is important to hold on to and exercise the power of our words in declaring God’s Truth, let us not forget that our greatest testimony is in how we live our life of faith in Messiah. Surely, our faith is much deeper than going to services and church events. Will our families, friends, co-workers, and neighbors see us remain sincerely consistent and steadfast in the lifestyle God has spelled out for us? Are we ready to walk in patience and compassion with those around us – guarding their health as we guard our own, meeting their urgent needs as we seek to meet our own, sharing rather than hoarding, caring for the elderly, and helping our communities provide the vital services that we all need? Are we making every effort to better spiritually lead our families? Also so very crucial: Are you prepared and able to share the Good News of Messiah and His Kingdom with those who are watching you so very closely right now? We are to be His Light in the world – and the time to shine brightly has arrived.
In this COVID-19 season of testing, God is sending people of faith in Him a crucial message. The time is now to get off the bench and get in the game. There will be no replays or overtime. When that final buzzer sounds and the King returns the game is done, the score unchangeable. We must focus on developing Godly character, seeking out the Truth concerning what we believe and why, and choosing to live by our faith in all circumstances.
Let’s be sure FAITH per His Instruction is our LIFESTYLE!