By Y Bonesteele
As variants of COVID-19 begin to spread again and some countries re-entering mandatory lockdowns, our world is not out of the pandemic woods yet. However, with vaccinations on the rise around the world and more than a year’s experience under our belts, we now have a better perspective looking back and moving forward.
According to a 2020 survey by Pew Research, a large majority of U.S. adults (86%) say there is some kind of lesson or set of lessons for humankind to learn from the pandemic, while 13% say there is no lesson to be learned.
Among the 86%, 35% of Americans say the lessons were sent by God, 37% say the lessons were not sent by God, and 13% say they do not believe in God.35% of Americans say the lessons to learn from the pandemic were sent by God, 37% say the lessons were not sent by God, 13% say they don't believe in God, and 13% say there is no lesson to learn, according to Pew Research. Click To Tweet
Most of us, as believers, can agree that there are always lessons to be learned from God while journeying through hills or valleys. We cannot be like the 13% of American adults who believe there is no lesson to be learned.
As we think about what the pandemic may have taught us, our churches, and our ministries, here are a few potential lessons to reflect upon.
1. We are not in control as much as we think we are.
We are not invincible. We are not infallible. We cannot guarantee anything. As we look at our lives, our churches, our ministries, no amount of financial surplus could have prepared us for COVID. No amount of volunteers and staff could have prevented a lockdown. No amount of skill or charisma or training could have helped us foresee a pandemic.Though we may have personality, and education, and experience, God is still the one in control, not us. — Y Bonesteele Click To Tweet
We need to remember our limitations as we approach ministry and approach God’s kingdom. Though we may have personality, and education, and experience, God is still the one in control, not us. God is the one who is sovereign, not us. “A person’s heart plans his way, but the Lord determines his steps” (Proverbs 16:9)
2. God will allow whatever is needed to draw us closer to Him.
God’s heart is for relationship. As a triune God, He is constantly in relationship. As Creator, He longs to be relationship with His creation. But in His goodness, He doesn’t force us to be in relationship with Him. He draws us in. He nudges and woos and reveals Himself to us. And when we see Him clearer, we’re drawn to Him. Despite whatever our circumstances.
When we understand this, we can better understand how to draw others to God. Knowing God desires to be in relationship with all His people, in making disciples, we understand we need to help others know the love and goodness of a holy Father. The sacrificial and forgiving work of a merciful Christ. And the guiding, wise power of a discerning Spirit. God’s character draws us to Himself, whether we’re in peaceful pastures or stormy vales. And He will go to great measures to reveal Himself to us.
3. Always be ready to move for God.
Being comfortable is not what God desires for us. Cruise-control is not how God wants us to move through life. He wants us to be alert and ready, for whatever comes our way. “Be sober-minded, be alert. Your adversary the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour” (1 Peter 5:8). We cannot let our guard down and forget that a battle rages on. In our churches and in our ministries, it’s too easy to do things the way it’s always done or to get too comfortable or to leisurely go through the motions.If we are not constantly battling through prayer, persisting in Scripture, and training others to lead, we have not done all we can to fight for God’s kingdom. — Y Bonesteele Click To Tweet
If we are not constantly battling through prayer, through persisting in Scripture, through training others to lead and take over and work ourselves out of a job, we have not done all we can to fight for God’s kingdom. Be sober-minded and alert. The lion is prowling.
4. Always be ready for God to move.
We stay alert not only because we know the devil is prowling, but because we know God is moving. We wait for instructions. When He says go, we go. When He says stay, we stay. Many times, we don’t know how God will move. He may move through a global catastrophe. He may move through a small act of kindness. God still moves and in ways we sometimes don’t understand. That’s because we’re not God, we’re not all-knowing. But He is and being all-knowing and all-good, we can always trust in His plans and movements.Our allegiance to Christ is not a one-time act of obedience. It is a daily surrendering to Him and following Him in His steps. — Y Bonesteele Click To Tweet
Anticipating God to move makes us aware that we need to continue to follow Him, moving with Him and charging others to follow as well. Our allegiance to Christ is not a one-time act of obedience. It is a daily surrendering to Him and following Him in His steps. As great as it is to hear godly wisdom from those we respect and admire around us, we also must come before God, to hear His voice and instructions for us.
5. Prioritize first things first.
Through the Pew study, those surveyed who said there are lessons to learn wrote several statements from issues on politics to health care to prioritization. In the prioritizing category, family, unity, and kindness were some themes mentioned. Although these are great things, God and His kingdom should be of utmost importance.
In our church and ministry life, many things can be prioritized from programs to outreach opportunities to study groups and missions projects. But if Christ is not the center of it all, we have somewhat lost our way. Enduring a pandemic reminds us to set our priorities straight. But what are those priorities?The lessons we learn from the pandemic should wake us up and help us refocus and retrain our thoughts toward Christ and Christ alone. — Y Bonesteele Click To Tweet
In our lives, there will always be good things, better things, and the best things. May Christ and a saving knowledge of Him as we relate to Him as Savior and Lord always be placed in our lives and our ministries as the best of things. As churches and programs continue to reopen, this is a good time to reflect: Are our worship songs centered on Christ? Are our sermons centered on Him? Are our Bible study groups focused on Him? Are our programs? And outreach?
The lessons we learn from the pandemic should wake us up and help us refocus and retrain our thoughts toward Christ and Christ alone. Whether it’s a global pandemic or some other catastrophe or triumph, God is always trying to teach us things about Himself and His kingdom. May we have ears to always hear what He has to say.
Y is an editorial coordinator at Lifeway Christian Resources. She has her M.Div. from Talbot School of Theology with an emphasis in Evangelism and Discipleship.