Only a matter of days earlier, life was remarkably different than it is now. It may be that we are living in a time that has not seen its equal in our country for a hundred years. Many of us are working from home, with kids out of school, and it seems like each time we check the news something else has been closed or canceled to prevent the spread of COVID-19. We are trying to practice social distancing in order to act in wisdom and love, so we are unable to attend our church worship services and get-togethers with friends are becoming sparse or even non-existent.
With these changes, you may be experiencing flexibility in your schedule that is strangely unfamiliar, even jarring. What will you do with your extra time? What would be easy would be to spend way too much of that time scrolling social media or the news feeds in order to get the very latest information about the Coronavirus and everyone’s reaction to it. It would also be easy to binge watch Disney+ and Netflix or return to the pantry again to see if anything is there that wasn’t there 20 minutes ago. What is easy, however, is often not what is best for us spiritually. Now, this post is not meant to be a guilt trip for using social media or streaming services, but it is a post about trying to help us all redeem the time we have been given in these days to draw near to Christ and grow in holiness. So, let’s consider using this time to do some of the spiritually-enriching things that we frequently say we don’t have enough time for…and let’s pray that these habits stick after we return to more normal life. Consider the following as possibilities:
- Spend unhurried time with God in His Word – Often our time in the Word of God is so rushed that it feels like we’re just skipping over the surface of His truth without allowing ourselves time to plunge below its surface, deeper into the heart of God. Are we allowing the words of Christ to abide in us (John 15:7)? Our speed in devotional time can also have the effect of keeping us from actually meeting with God in His Word. We may have read God’s Word, but this does not necessarily mean that we have meditated on God’s Word and responded to it in prayer and praise. We tell ourselves and others that we have been in the Word (which soothes our conscience and satisfies those who are checking up with us), but being in the Word is not the same as fellowshipping with God. May we be able to say with the psalmist, “Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day” (Psalm 119:97).
- Pray through your church directory – Take a few families or individuals each day and pray for them during this time when they are struggling like you are, or perhaps, more than you are. This will serve to protect us from the inconsiderate self-preservation that trials can commonly provoke in us. During these days, may the Lord give us the others-minded heart of Epaphroditus who was near death, but was “distressed because [his church family] heard that he was ill” (Philippians 2:25-27), and may our others-mindedness show itself in prayer.
- Pray for all of the missionaries your church supports – The Coronavirus is all over the globe right now, not just in America. Therefore, our brothers and sisters serving in foreign countries need our prayers as well. Our church supports The Masters’ Academy International which trains indigenous church leaders in 15 schools around the world. Now would be a great opportunity for us to lift up each one of these schools by name and plead with the Lord to use this hardship for His glory in further equipping future pastors. Who does your church support? You can do the same.
- Play with your kids – I don’t mean just being in the same room as your kids or doing something with them while your mind is elsewhere. I mean that we should engage with them in play that is intentionally focused on loving them during a time when they can’t play with their friends as usual. Now is a time for dodgeball in the backyard, piggyback rides down the street, pretending to be ninjas together, silly dancing in the living room, or actually playing Monopoly until the game is over. This kind of attention shows our children what God is like…the God whom David says is mindful of us and cares for us (Psalm 8:4).
- Listen to your kids and tell them the Gospel story again – Your more flexible schedule can also be an occasion to spend unrushed time talking with your children. Ask them good questions that will draw out their hearts, really listen to what they are saying, and then bring Christ into the conversation and apply it to their situation. Don’t miss an opportunity to “tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders that he has done” (Psalm 78:4). You can also read good books that will spark gospel conversation with you kids. I just read a great one by Randall Goodgame called, Jesus and the Very Big Surprise.
- Read good books to stimulate love for Christ – If you’re a slow reader like me, then more time in your schedule means that you could actually finish some books. Perhaps you’ve always wanted to read a book by John Piper, but every time you try you find it’s going to take more time than you imagined. Well, now could be the time that you finally pick up Desiring God or Future Grace. It may that the biography of John Newton or Amy Carmichael has been calling your name from your Amazon wish list. Now could be the time that the Lord uses that book to challenge and change you for His glory.
- Listen to good preaching and teaching to stimulate love for Christ – Are there some sermons from your church that you need to catch up on? Are there some solid podcasts that you can put on your queue? Ligonier Ministries announced that all of their teaching series are free to access through June 30. And there is always free access to all of the biblical counseling and discipleship teaching from the CBCD that you can search by topic. Let these resources draw you Christ-ward and then use what you learn to encourage others.
- Employ the different forms of communication at your disposal – I agree that face-to-face is much better (see 2 John 12), but that doesn’t mean that you can’t have some truly valuable conversations and prayer time with your church family on the phone, through FaceTime, or Skype. Use this time not only to pursue spiritually-encouraging ministry with your closest friends at church, but also those saints that you are less familiar with. We pastors definitely need to be diligent in our shepherding during this time, but we also need the congregation to minister to one another for the health of our churches as we are separated. Even though we are not gathering, we can still “rejoice with those who rejoice” and “weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15), and “bear one another’s burdens” (Galatians 6:2).
There are truly so many more things that could be added to this list, but hopefully, this will only be the beginning of us seeking to use this unique time to magnify Christ. And let us pray that new habits formed now will transcend the weeks and months of the Coronavirus and set a more God-honoring tone for the rest of our lives.