Things aren’t as bad as you might be thinking they are. As we move into the cold, dark, winter months, it could be easy to allow the unusual challenges and set-backs of this COVID-riddled year to drive us to despair. Let me encourage you to look beyond the things Satan wants you to see and fix your eyes firmly on the Savior.
I know some of our pastors and churches are facing serious challenges. They’re wondering how long it will take to get attendance back to pre-COVID levels. They’re wondering about discipleship activities, outreach events, finances, and a myriad of other things. Too many of our churches are still divided over the very matter of wearing masks. And in between all of these things, stands the pastor and church leadership.
Some of our pastors and other church leaders may be feeling very alone right now. I want to assure you that you are not alone. The Lord Jesus Himself is standing there in that gap with you. As a Christian, you have the Lord’s promise that He will never leave you nor forsake you. This is a promise for hard times. It’s of very little value to have someone tell you he’s standing with you when everything is good. The real test of that promise is when things are bad and you’re really feeling the pressure.
The Apostle Paul serves as exhibit A that the Lord keeps His promise to stand with those He has called into service. Remember when Paul and his companions were on their way to Rome (Acts 27-28)? That trip was fraught with setbacks. Eventually, they were even shipwrecked on Malta, but Paul knew His Lord had not abandoned him. Even when a deadly snake did its best to end the work and ministry of Paul, the great man of faith simply shook off that serpent like one might sweep away a pesky fly. Those who waited to see the Apostle “swell up or suddenly fall dead” from that snake bite witnessed something much different.
Unexpectedly, Paul spent three months on that little detour, but he just went on doing what he did everywhere else. He preached the gospel and let God reveal His power through His chosen man. Now, we might think of those three months as lost months, but that would be only from our perspective. If Paul had not been stranded on that island, some people might never have been saved, and others might never have seen what God’s faithfulness really looks like in the lives of those who remain faithful regardless of their circumstances.
In the Lord’s timing, Paul eventually made his way to Rome, but not before the people of Malta supplied these gospel travelers with “all we needed,” in the words of faithful Dr. Luke. Never think your current moment sits outside of God’s plan for your life or that you are in a hopeless situation. We will never know what God can do and is prepared to do on behalf of His faithful servants until we find ourselves in times of need. God has allowed us, you, to face these unique, once-in-a-generation times. But, even here, in fact, more likely, only here, can we, you, know what it means to serve a faithful God. There are things for us, you, to learn during these times. There are things that we, you, need to adjust to in order to make the most of these times. There are things that others need to see and be witnesses to in our lives, your life, that they can only see right now.
Don’t despair. God has not abandoned you. He remains at work and He is calling you to be a part of something completely unexpected. Trust Him. You will be glad you did, and those watching will be even more glad, and probably a little surprised, when they witness the power of God. Your God is able. Watch Him work.