God is faithful to His children in every generation, which is why in every era the Church can expect to undergo the Heavenly Father’s discipline. By its very nature, discipline is “painful rather than pleasant,” (Hebrews 12: 11) but our loving Father turns His pressure and pain to a good end: “that we may share his holiness” (Heb 12: 10).
So even though it’s difficult to imagine, brothers and sisters, in the coronavirus and all its fallout God is treating us as sons. Yes, our Heavenly Father has brought His church into this furnace in order to form us into reverent worshipers. Under God’s direction, we are becoming attentive and sharp-eyed to perceive His great and holy Presence in every part of life.
Fact: we’re not naturally worshipers. So then I don’t think it’s an overstatement: in all the social distancing, with layoffs and foreclosures brought nigh, etc. – we are being transformed.
Well, maybe ‘transformed’ sounds too much like science fiction. So let’s try this: “Behold, I am making all things new” (Revelation 21:5) – and in this phrase the participle is present becauseeven today God extends His work of new creation into His children. At this moment He’s remodeling our character so that we become worshipers.
Think about this. The monumental Divine project of new creation which will someday result in:
Springs of water will burst out in the wilderness,
streams flow in the desert.
Hot sands will become a cool oasis,
thirsty ground a splashing fountain.
Even lowly jackals will have water to drink,
and barren grasslands flourish richly. (Isaiah 35:6,7)
Well, that same new creation project – which remember leads to thirsty grounds becoming splashing fountains – even today 1 April 2020 is being pursued and accomplished in us… by means of our coronavirus discomfort.
How can I state that more clearly? Let me transpose a C.S. Lewis line: “The pain now is part of the happiness then.” Or even better, let me use terminology of Paul the Apostle: under the Father’s discipline we naturally groan; but the pains we experience actually are some of the birth pangs that will end in a healthy, bouncing new creation (Romans 8).
Summary: By coronavirus and other hardships God is transforming His children into bona fide worshipers. And this renovation is the early stage of an overall project that will eventuate in the creation of new heavens and new earth.
In the middle of all this productive pain, what are our instructions? Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of join, but rather be healed… It is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace. (Heb 12: 12, 13; 13: 9b)
You should be excited to learn that with these instructions the author of Hebrews is echoing words from Isaiah 35 (quoted above), a chapter where God is assuring His people that He will remake the earth.
Wilderness and desert will sing joyously,
the badlands will celebrate and flower—
Like the crocus in spring, bursting into blossom,
a symphony of song and color…. (Isaiah 35:1, 2a)
Energize the limp hands,
strengthen the rubbery knees.
Tell fearful souls,
“Courage! Take heart!
God is here, right here,
on his way to put things right. (Isaiah 35: 3,4)
To all of you brothers and sisters:
College student pushed off campus and sent home,
Homeowner who has lately thought the word ‘foreclosure,’
Medical worker daily exposed to covid-19,
Parents reluctantly scrambling to become home-schoolers,
Adult children impotent to help your parents from afar,
Senior saints painfully aware you’re among the vulnerable population,
Children cooped up at home,
All facing Orwellian phrases like “social distancing”
All wondering what the future holds for the world, the U.S., schooling, career…
#1 God is here, right here. Take a deep breath. Courage! Take heart! All this is on the way to God putting things right, including in you. Faith, brothers and sisters! And then from out of that courage:
#2 Energize the limp hands. There’s work to be done. Look around, and you’ll see it. Painting. Establishing a routine. Have you completed your taxes? Reading to your children. Help your parents with the younger children. Make a journal of your experience for your children and grandchildren.
#3 Strengthen your weak knees. Work toward stability. Trim your budget. Sharpen your tools. Begin to exercise. Watch some apologetic videos. Re-connect with your siblings. Clean the basement (ok, that’s going too far).
#4 Good to be strengthened by grace. In the phrase’s context, the ‘grace’ referred to is the teaching of Jesus Christ. Explanation: when you are training physically, two things in regard to food will crop up (or so I hear): a) you’ll discover how essential good food is for maintaining energy and increasing strength and b) you’ll develop an increasing appetite for nutrient rich foods.
Brothers and sisters, I can only recommend: These are not the days to increase your entertainment input. Rather, especially in the middle of this grueling regimen, we need extra spiritual nutrients. Spend more time in the Scripture. You’ll be rewarded with encouragement, hope, maybe even a little joy.
Now, as much as ever, God’s children need to attend to the Voice (not the show!). In fact, remember – this is one of the goals of the hardship: attention… Worship!
But we still haven’t answered: How do you know that God’s training is having its effect? Next time!