In March, the media said the virus was not able to survive in the heat. I was eagerly anticipating somewhat of a return to normalcy. However, in our state, Georgia, the numbers are trending to the wrong side. More and more people are contracting the virus, public schools are remaining virtual, and now the experts are saying we could possibly remain in this crisis until 2021.
As I listened to the news and heard what is happening in our nation, I started feeling depressed. In fact, I stopped watching the news because I could not bear any more bad news.
While I was feeling down, one of our ministers asked me to walk him through his upcoming Sunday sermon. As we discussed his outline regarding the greatness of God, I was convicted.
The more we discussed how powerful, omnipresent, and omniscient God is, my heart began to soften, and I no longer focused on my discomfort.
Instead, I began to ponder the thought, Maybe God is teaching me something through this pandemic, and I do not want to miss the lesson. Thus, Dr. Jackson, the brother who preached, and I started discussing that we all needed a second wind. Although God is powerful and He can change our situation in a blink of an eye, for some reason He has us right here waiting for this pandemic to subside.
This past week I did an in-depth Bible study on disciples who had to push through difficulties and find their “second wind.” This led me to the book of 1 Peter, where Peter reminds the brothers and sisters to see their plight from a spiritual perspective. For examples, although they are “exiles” dispersed throughout Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey), Peter reminds them that they were a people known and chosen long ago by God (1 Peter 1:1-2).
Furthermore, although they were facing suffering and marginalization, Peter reminded them that their futures were filled with hope because of Jesus. After all, they had been “born again into a life full of hope, through Christ’s rising from the dead! You can now hope for a perfect inheritance beyond the reach of change and decay” (1 Peter 3:3-4).
Even though as Christians we may experience difficulties, Peter said we have a life “full of hope.”
In my fleshly mind, I question the rationality of having hope when situations feel dismal. Recently, however, I have learned when I use secular meanings for biblical words, I miss the message that the Holy Spirit is trying to convey. Far too many times I use a shallower definition of hope: as a “wish” or a “desire.” Hope in the Bible is confident expectation which rests in God’s faithfulness.
Peter was challenging the church, although scattered across a region, to keep their focus on God’s power and trust his faithfulness in a difficult situation.
Too many times when faced with difficulties, I internally panic and start trying to find solutions to fix the situation. However, there are instances when such difficult situations occur that it’s clear no amount of money, knowledge, or experience can fix it. Only God can change the circumstances and the situation.
Peter explains that, in moments of fiery trials and temptations, we can take courage. Why? Pay attention to Peter’s explanation:
“This means tremendous joy to you, I know, even though you are temporarily harassed by all kinds of trials and temptations. This is no accident—it happens to prove your faith, which is infinitely more valuable than gold, and gold, as you know, even though it is ultimately perishable, must be purified by fire. This proving of your faith is planned to bring you praise and honor and glory in the day when Jesus Christ reveals himself. And though you have never seen him, yet I know that you love him. At present you trust him without being able to see him, and even now he brings you a joy that words cannot express and which has in it a hint of the glories of Heaven; and all the time you are receiving the result of your faith in him—the salvation of your own souls” (1 Peter 1:6-9).
Did you notice that Peter not only reminds the church to be hopeful, but he also tells them to have “tremendous joy”? What—be joyful? The church he is writing to is scattered, they are suffering marginalization because of their faith, and they rarely see the Apostles. However, Peter said their situation was right where God wanted them.
Where does God want His people? God wants us to be totally and completely dependent on Him.
I have heard and used the word joy numerous times, but as I stated earlier, I needed to better understand the biblical definition. I like Kay Warren’s definition of joy:
“Joy is the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be alright, and the determined choice to praise God in every situation.”
As I began to wrestle through my thoughts, I was deeply convicted. Ultimately, I had to acknowledge that I hate being inconvenienced. My displeasure at being disrupted was having a negative spiritual impact.
I began to ask myself a series of questions:
Do I find more joy in going out to dinner than celebrating the Lord’s Supper?
Do I find more joy in a good movie that spending extended time in the Word of God?
Do I enjoy the fellowship of my brothers and sisters more than the fellowship with God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit?
Although my life has felt interrupted lately, I can read my Bible, talk to God in prayer, and remember Jesus as my family takes communion. After all, as I evaluate life right now, has my spiritual life been inconvenienced? As I mulled over the thought, I concluded that very likely Jesus wants extended time with me.
Perhaps He is refining my character so that, in the future, I can be more useful in the kingdom.
I encourage everyone to take some time to meditate on God’s Word and pray. We should ask ourselves, during this pandemic, will we allow God to refine us? I dare say it would be a shame to miss the lessons that God is teaching us during this time of refining.
- Dr. Michael Patterson