We are living in difficult times and everyone feels the stress of the situation to varying degrees. From a church perspective, I feel a sense of lament. Lament is a deep sense of sorrow. I feel lament because we are not able to gather currently as a congregation. My parents took me to church soon after I was born, and I have not missed this many successive weeks of gathering in person with God’s people in nearly forty-nine years.
Meanwhile, the announcement came yesterday that it will definitely be a while longer before we can gather. The earliest we will gather is in May. I am grateful for how our church has stayed together so far by engaging in online opportunities and faithfully giving. Yet it is not the same. We all know it is not the same, we can feel it, and it is painful.
Many churches are caught up in busyness. We equate activity with spirituality. Activity is necessary and can be good, but it can also be an idol. Our first response could be in a time of crisis to ask what we can do. The question is certainly important because we want to meet people at their point of need and be the church as the hands and feet of Jesus. Our church is actively seeking to meet needs and help people during this time. I do not think this is the ultimate question though. What if God wants to use this as a time of preparation for his children so we can grow deeper in him and be more faithful in the future? What if God wants to use this as a wake-up call to the church to teach us that we cannot afford to operate in a business as usual mode?
There are many verses in the Bible that speak to urgency and recognizing the time at hand.
Romans 13:12 The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light.
1 Peter 4:7 But the end of all things is at hand; therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers.
We could waste the moment that is upon us by worry, speculation, or even spiritual laziness. Do not yield to the temptation to do so. Pray like never before. Read your Bible like never before. Share your faith like never before. Ask God to grow your faith and dependence on him.
Lament and preparation can lead to anticipation. God could bring a worldwide spiritual awakening. He has done it before and he can do it again. Let us pray by the power of the Holy Spirit in Jesus’s name that God will shake this world to the core so that people will be saved and look to him for their hope.
I thought this morning about the parable Jesus told in Matthew 25.
“Then the kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. 2 Now five of them were wise, and five were foolish. 3 Those who were foolish took their lamps and took no oil with them, 4 but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. 5 But while the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept.
6 “And at midnight a cry was heard: ‘Behold, the bridegroom [a]is coming; go out to meet him!’ 7 Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps. 8 And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ 9 But the wise answered, saying, ‘No, lest there should not be enough for us and you; but go rather to those who sell, and buy for yourselves.’ 10 And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding; and the door was shut.
11 “Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open to us!’ 12 But he answered and said, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you.’
13 “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.
The greatest sense of anticipation any of us could have is anticipation about the coming of the Lord Jesus. You ask, how close are we to his return? Only the Father in Heaven knows. What I know for certain, is that we are closer to his return than we have ever been before. Let’s make sure we are ready. Maranatha!