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3 Possibilities

March 18, 2020

As I see it, there are 3 possibilities for what’s ahead through the mist of this present COVID-19 crisis.
1) the world will come to an end. Not with a bang but a whimper. But not until we endure a post-apocalyptic wasteland and a zombie uprising.
2) Jesus will come back and rescue His Bride.
3) we’ll “flatten the curve,” lives will sadly be lost (but perhaps no more than would have been lost to influenza), the economy will slowly recover and life will go on.

My preferred of the 3 possibilities is number 2. I would be thrilled to see Jesus split the skies and return as Conquering King.

My least favorite of the 3 is possibility number 1. I’m fairly confident this won’t happen.

Although I’d vote for possibility number 2, and I intend to live my life with the reality that ANY day could be the day of Jesus’ return, COVID-19 or not, I’m guessing possibility number 3 may be the case. There’s a strong possibility that in under 12 months, the replica of the Statue of Liberty on the Strip in Las Vegas will be free of the mask, holding the torch instead of a can of Lysol, and the tablets instead of toilet tissue, and life will be more or less back to normal.

In the meantime, whether we’re blessed with possibility 2 or experience possibility 3, we will endure hardship. There’s no going around this crisis and the distress it brings with it. Many families are experiencing a dramatic loss of income. Many moms and dads are being laid off. School closings are making one of the parents in a dual-income home figure out how to be home with the kids or arrange for childcare. Finding childcare will be somewhere between exceedingly difficult and impossible. Perhaps the economic stimulus the government is planning to provide will help some, but recent memory for me (the financial crisis of 2008) is that there’s no way to make everything just fine with a stimulus. There’s not that much money available, except in imaginary currency.

Virtually every system that makes up our infrastructure is being stretched to its limit. No doubt some will break under the strain. Others will hobble along doing the best they can with what they have.

If you’ll pardon my clinical terminology, this is only the leading edge of a crap storm that will alter the landscape of life for longer than any of us wants.

Us wishing it to be otherwise won’t change it. An act of God would, and it’s worth praying for this. It’s also worth us choosing a wise and responsible response to what’s happening to us. This is, after all, the only thing within our control – our response.

There are many helpful places to look for help with this. Although you can’t shop at one today, bookstores (you know, the ones with physical books of paper and ink…) have shelves and shelves of “Self Help” books, some of which could be helpful for this. But you know that I believe the Source Book for help is The Bible. I want to point to only three short passages in the New Testament to recommend help and hope from God’s Word to us.

Colossians 2:6  So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him,

So, how did you receive Christ? Me, I was a 9 year old kid on the plains of Kansas who didn’t want to be left behind when the Rapture happened, or die and go to hell. A singing midget had preached a revival at our little church (while standing on a chair behind the pulpit) and scared me spitless. I wasn’t theologically educated, and my understanding of God and His ways was very naive. But I said yes to Jesus, even if it was out of fear. There are worse motives.

If you were a full-grown adult when you came to Jesus on His terms, believe it or not, you had to come in much the same way I did. Neither of us came to Jesus to get cleansed from our sins and have His Spirit live in us on the basis of our merits. We came with nothing to contribute. Humbly. Broken. Needy.

I think it’s the humble thing that Paul is referring to here in Colossians 2:6. Continue living as you came to Him, in humility.

Humble people aren’t bullet-proof. They’re not self-sufficient. They’re not proud of what they’ve done with themselves, and condescending to “lesser” people. On the other hand, humility isn’t thinking of yourself and treating yourself as worthless and useless. C.S. Lewis said it best, I believe. He said, “Humility isn’t thinking less of yourself. It’s thinking of yourself less.”

Romans 8:11 And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.

It’s sound interpretation to understand that when Paul wrote, “And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living you you…”, he was implying that yes, that Spirit is living in you. He’s offering a certainty, not a question. When you said yes to Jesus on His terms, the Spirit of God, the Spirit who raised Jesus for the dead, took residence in you and is giving life to your mortal bodies because of this.

This is HUGE! In this is the promise that you’re not living life on the basis of your own resources and effort. You’re empowered by the unspeakable power of God! The One who raised Jesus from the dead, the ultimate act of power and authority, is living in you by His Spirit and giving you life moment to moment. Even in – especially in – times of crisis and uncertainty.

I’m prone to anxiety. Not the garden variety that everybody has. I live on or near the edge of anxiety that attacks and holds me hostage. It was debilitating after my heart attack. I’ll tell you more about that someday, maybe. But for people like me, this is not a fun time. Every headline I read or hear pokes at the anxiety that’s always spinning just beneath the surface. The message is nearly always the same: you’re not going to make it. In it’s less intense form: how are you going to make it?

The answer to this kind of anxiety is in Romans 8:11. It’s not about what I’ll do, all by myself. It’s not even about how much I can bear on my own. And this isn’t because God’s promise is to make my life happy and simple. It’s because His promise is that the same power that raised Jesus from the dead is at work in me. That kind of power is capable of meeting any and every challenge. My task is to hide myself in, to stay securely in God, responding to what happens to and around me from within His power. That’s not an easy thing to do.

1 Peter 2:12  Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.

I know it sounds like one of those things you read or hear from positivity people, but it’s true. This present crisis, the challenges that we dare not minimize, is a context for the grace, love and goodness of God to be lived out by His people. Live such good lives, pour out grace in such a consistent way, that people who don’t know God or even care about Him will see you pouring out God’s grace and glorify the God they don’t know or care about. My generosity with what God has provided, my peace in the midst of the confusion and panic, my other-awareness, how I notice and treat others, send a message that will be received.

I’ll land the plane with this. If you have studied world history, you know that the cultural and historical context in which Paul and Peter wrote these things to the nearly-newborn church is one of crisis that eclipses our current one exponentially. In other words, our crisis is nothing compared to what the first century church went through.

Heathcare, hospitals, hygienic practices, government assistance, technology? Nope. Didn’t exist. Not in the way we think of these things. Germ theory hadn’t even been posed yet. And for the early Christians, add in the fact that there was direct persecution from both the culture and the government. It was not a happy time for people of weak faith and constitution. I often wonder if I would have made it then. Usually I think not.

From within that context, the Apostles taught that the love and power and grace of God give us everything we need to thrive. And thrive they did, the early Christians, until they turned the world upside down.

I think the way they did this is in one more verse from the letters of Paul (Ephesians 5:16): making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.

Evil days serve up opportunity for the grace of Christ to transform people’s lives. And when Christians make the most of these opportunities, the world changes, even if the crises don’t abate.

Wouldn’t it be awesome, given all the tools we have at our disposal that the Apostles didn’t have, if we made the most of every opportunity to inject the grace of Christ into our world, however small it might be, as we journey through the uncharted waters of this COVID-19 crisis? If this happens, it will happen one person at a time. That means it starts with me. It starts with you. In partnership with the One Who raised Jesus from the dead, and is living in us by His Spirit.

From → Marriage, Parenting

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