In Acts 14 Paul and Barnabas went back to the places where they had preached the gospel, and where people had believed. In verse 22 we read that they went around “strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith.” And their message was, “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.”
It’s tempting to look for proof that this Covid19 crisis is persecution against the Church. I don’t see it that way. I see it more like when Hurricane Irma shut us down for a weekend in 2017. Proverbs 27:12 teaches us, “The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and pay the penalty.” I think those in leadership are trying to be prudent, not trying to persecute the Church.
That said, I’m sure there are people in leadership whose eyes are clouded with hatred for the Church, and are using this as opportunity to “defavor” the Church. I’m sure some are overstepping. But that’s nothing unusual, right? A longer, more considerate perspective is that the Church is always being pushed at and prodded by the Enemy. In times of war and catastrophe we notice it, but it’s also true in times of peace. In fact, you could make the case that in times of peace it’s more threatening because we don’t think about it. In fact, the greater threat against the Church is the battle for love and faithfulness in our homes, not for places to meet publicly for worship.
This threat is always before us, and will remain before us after this temporary crisis is over. Use this time to learn to pray with greater focus. Take time to pray for the people in your circle. Start with your inner circle of family and close friends. Then build out from there. Think about your neighbors who live near you. Remember your church family who worships with you. Think about the people you work with. And remember the leaders who make decisions that affect these circles. Take time to pray for them by imagining their fears and hopes, describing their sorrows and joys to God and asking him to bless them. Ask specifically that he would fill their lives with love joy and peace as they learn to open their lives to the Holy Spirit. Is this not his will?
Prayer is a great work, and it accomplishes much. But then look for opportunity to live out your prayer. Look for practical ways to be that ministry of love, joy, and peace to them, however the Lord inspires you.
We are not alone if together we are in the Spirit. He has not forsaken us. He is with us if we are in him.
Pastor of Sarasota Community Church since 2009.