The Most Significant Choice You'll Make This Coronavirus Season: Will You Actively Pursue Christ?
You could look back at this coronavirus season as one of the times where you grew exponentially in Christ. Or not. We each have the opportunity years from now to remember this season—with all its fears, confusions, financial struggles, and uncertainties—primarily as a precious time where we grew closer to Christ. Knowing him more. Loving him more. Or not.
Time Forced Upon Us
I mean that, and as a pastor, aiming to shepherd the flock (including myself) toward the Great Shepherd, this is the message I’d like to say the most right now during this coronavirus time. It’s an idea for us to each consider: This unique season, where so much has stopped, has been forced upon us. So how are you going to use this time?
On one hand, many of our normal avenues of growth in Christ are being altered. We cannot be present in person at church on Sundays, or do Bible studies with others as normal. We aren't able to gather in person for events or prayer, or even gather with fellow brothers and sisters throughout the week. All this is abnormal. It is nothing to fret over, because let us not forget: it is ultimately God who, in his providence, has decided for there to be these weeks. But it is still is irregular.
So on one hand, many of our avenues of normal growth have been closed for now. Yet on the other hand, with the closing of schools, businesses, churches, and with social distancing and the mandate for lockdown, can you think of a season when you’ve been forced to have so much time on your hands?
Both our God in his providence and our government in its restrictions are forcing this upon us. We’re a culture of “How are you? Good, but busy,” and now, all of the sudden, we’ve got lots to time. We finally can't say we’re busy. Time abounds.
Now, I’m not saying it’s easy to be locked inside; it has its very real difficulties. And this coronavirus season, with it's uncertainties and stresses, is no vacation. But when else have we had so much time, so much opportunity to grow in our personal pursuits of Christ?
When else has life so suddenly…stopped?
Let’s Not Spoil It
It would be a tragedy, then, if we were to spoil it. If we were to neglect the tremendous opportunity forced upon us by our God and government.
And this could happen in many ways. Some are obvious: We could spoil it by being consumed by news and social media. We could spoil it by being panicked in fear. We could spoil it by trying so hard to control our uncontrollable finances.
But there is another less obvious ways we could spoil this time: We could simply not take advantage of the time by pursuing more of the most important relationship we have, with our God. We may or may not be consumed by social media or news. We may or may not be fretting over finances. But if we don’t use this time actively to pursue Christ, it would be spoiled.
Seek the Lord, Don’t Be a Sluggard
We do well in seasons like this to recall that the Bible, when describing genuine faith, so emphasizes seeking the Lord. This is true both in the Old Testament (eg. Deuteronomy 4:29; Psalm 105:4) and New Testament (eg. Luke 12:31). In fact, in Hebrews 11 this is a defining characteristic of faith: “those who seek him” (Hebrews 11:6). God command to us is, “Seek my face,” and our response should be, “Your face, Lord, do I seek” (Psalm 27:8). Our faith is not a passive endeavor. It’s actively pursuing our Lord, our Christ (Philippians 3:12-14).
The one who doesn’t do this in the Bible, particularly in the book of Proverbs, is termed a “sluggard.” I know it sounds rude, but this is what we don’t want to be during this coronavirus season: “sluggards.” Or to use Jesus's word, “slothful” (Matthew 25:26). Both are opposites of seeking, of actively pursuing Christ.
The results of these two options are drastically different. If you diligently seek the Lord, you will find him (Deuteronomy 4:29; Matthew 7:7). But if you don’t, you won’t. Or to sum it up in a single verse: “The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied” (Proverbs 13:4).
Seek Knowledge, Seek Love
That, then, is the goal with our time: to seek the Lord, to not be a sluggard during this time. But what does this look like?
First, let’s be clear: It does not look like trying to earn your right standing with God through this seeking. That’d be a terrible misunderstanding. We aren’t saved by any amount of seeking. A right relationship with God comes only by grace through faith alone. We, who are ungodly and by nature do not seek God (Romans 4:5; 3:11), bank our all on Jesus. Then we’re saved.
But once saved, it does look like something. We must be careful not to flatten out post-saved Christianity. It'll hinder our zeal for Christ. There is growth or lack of growth in godliness. So what does this seeking and striving after the Lord look like?
To sum it up as the New Testament does multiple times, it looks like 1) growing in knowledge and 2) growing in love.
First, we seek to grow in knowledge. And this is the one we pass over more easily as evangelicals, but it’s also the one where I’d particularly challenge you this coronavirus season. Often when the apostles pray and write, we see them not only wanting Christians to grow in love, but that desire is almost always coupled with growing in knowledge. Which makes sense: If you want to love someone more, you must know them more; and so it is with God.
See, for example, Paul in Philippians 1: “And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, [how?] with knowledge and all discernment” (Philippians 1:9). Or see Peter’s final verse in his letters: “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18). We grow in knowledge. We grow in how well and deeply and intimately we know our God and Savior. This is first.
Second, we seek to grow in love. Loving God and loving others. If the knowledge doesn’t lead to love, then we’ve got an issue (1 Corinthians 8:1). But we can't skip knowledge and go straight to love. Instead, true knowledge will lead to loving the God you know more. And it will lead to loving others made in his image, especially those in his church.
In sum, we seek to grow in knowledge and love—we can’t do one without the other. We seek to grow in knowledge that leads to love. In love with knowledge. That’s our goal this coronavirus season.
Five Ways to Seek Christ this Coronavirus Season
But how? Here I’ll get specific. In the time you have—and again, let us remember we’re swimming in time, most of us aren’t so busy right now—you could seek to grow in knowledge and love in five ways.
- Read your Bible. A lot. Aim to do it more than you think you could. This may mean studying a certain book or chapter really deeply. Or it may mean reading your Bible for like an hour a day (it’s not impossible). Either way, immerse yourself in God’s word. Let it be the atmosphere you breathe while in lockdown. What could be a better use of your time?
- Pray. A lot. And like reading the Bible, this could involve various activities—writing prayers, praying over the Bible, using a prayer book, or a combination of all of them. But talking to God will help you grow closer to God.
- Memorize the Bible. This one particularly isn’t easy, it takes effort, but most of us now have time and energy for it during this season. You could memorize important verses or you could memorize larger chunks of Scripture (paragraphs, chapters, books—you really can do it!). Try them both.
- Read good Christian books. Personally in my life this has helped my growth tremendously—and I don’t put it far behind reading the Bible for myself. Why and how can this be? Because reading good Christian books is essentially having someone else slowly and deeply teach you the Bible well. (This is why they must be good Christian books).
- For some suggestions, I've written an attached article here, “Coronavirus Lockdown Recommended Books.” It includes 10 recommended books, of different lengths, that could help you really pursue knowing and loving Christ more this season.
- Listen to sermons and Bible studies online. I put this last not because it isn’t very important; it is. But there is a danger if this is all we do. It can lead to passivity, even consumerism, without doing the deep thinking and work ourselves, and thus seeing less growth. But paired with the activities listed above, listening to Bible teachings and sermons is an excellent way to grow, and to stay connected to your church and learn from us, your pastors.
The Choice Is Yours
The choice is yours. Will you seek the Lord this season? Or just coast?
The goal is to seek the Lord. The goal is to use, not spoil, this providential time (Ephesians 5:16). Will you?
If you answer yes, praise God, he has worked that good desire in you (Philippians 2:12-13). If not, then I’ll ask again: What else would be better than to look back at this coronavirus season as a time when you grew exponentially in Christ?
But if you said yes, I encourage you now to be intentional. You don’t seek a treasure willy-nilly. You plan. You follow the map. And so it is with Christ.
- Make a plan. Once you’ve made the choice to seek more of Christ, also then make a personal strategy for how you’ll pursue him this coronavirus season.
- Follow the map. Follow the ways God has ordained for us to grow during this season—through his word, through prayer, through hearing others teach his word in books and sermons.
As you do so, don’t think you’re saving yourself or earning grace (an oxymoron). By faith you already are saved in him. All is grace through Christ. But being saved and having God’s grace, now, this day, these weeks, while in your home, seek him with all your heart.
Our God has providentially given us more time on our hands than usual. Let’s use it to grow deeper with him.
Article also published on Pastor Ryan's blog at lookingatchrist.com
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