By Dwight Sandoz
Many pastors and church leaders find themselves in a different situation than they expected for their lives and ministry. Some rural pastors have begun expressing their personal discouragement with the events of Covid-19, politics and disappointment with the response some members have shown toward faith and church. For some, the shine has come off the joy of ministry, giving pastors thoughts of leaving ministry. What most thought would be a few weeks of social distancing and extra precautions in March of 2020 now stretches into 2021 with no conclusion in sight. No class or seminar could have fully prepared church leaders for the events of recent months. Uncertainty that most thought would pass quickly and move back to normal now has become a new normal.
How do Christ followers navigate the dark paths of the unknown? What should guide and temper our response to the things we do not understand, do not like, and in the natural realm, cannot change? What can we use to provide a compass to find our way through the maze of months and even years of uncertainty? Those who follow Christ have some things that remain constant even in tumultuous seasons. Believers and leaders live under the lordship of Christ and the authority of scripture and in that understanding, find anchors to remain steadfast providing beacons for our paths.
God is good and He remains in control. Nothing in the season of uncertainty altars the goodness of God. We agree with Joseph when he said to his brothers, “God meant it for good” (Gen. 50:20). God’s goodness does not change during a pandemic or other areas of social, relational, or physical challenge. God works good in a fallen and broken world and He continues to work good even now. “Oh, give thanks to the Lord for He is good, and His mercy endures forever” (Psa. 136:1). Pandemics and political challenge do not alter the nature and goodness of God.
We must continue to fulfill the mission of God through the power of the Holy Spirit. Nothing in the past year changes the call for believers to continue the mission God called them to fulfill. The church of Jesus Christ has always thrived through difficulty and it will continue in this season. The light of the gospel shines brightest in dark hours and it must continue to shine through each of us. People need the message of a Savior now in this season and God’s call to point them to His Son, who is the only one who can save, continues as our premium priority (John. 3:16).
The Lordship of Christ should never resurface as a question for a believer because surrender at salvation settled that fact. We must address the question of how to live out His lordship in present circumstances. A certainty remains, believers must continue to live out His love for each other and love for our world. We must be known by our love for one another as John the Beloved noted, “He who does not love does not know God” (1 John 4:8). Scripture does not require us to agree with our brother; however, we must love them and love our neighbors who may be far from God (Matt. 12:31). Those who live under the lordship of Christ continue to live and walk, in love.
The revealed word of God serves as “a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path” (Ps 119:105). Scriptures teach us how to respond in challenging seasons. The Bible gives clear instruction, although living out that instruction serves as a challenge. The New Testament continually reminds believers to live out life’s journey ‘in Christ.’ Current circumstances call for a biblical response in the daily lives as the people of God
This can only be achieved through the power of the Holy Spirit. We must all pray, “Lord help me to walk and live through the empowering work of the Holy Spirit.” He points people to the Savior, Jesus Christ and helps us to bear the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, meekness, self-control, and faithfulness. The Holy Spirit serves as the helper who enables believers to live out vibrant faith in a hostile and broken world.
Finally, prayer helps us in our meditation, conversation, and action, engaging the only one who has the ultimate power. Prayer in the Spirit becomes a lifeline for believers to remain encouraged and strengthened (Jude 20). Paul encourages believers in uncertain circumstances to pray in the Spirit (Rom. 8:26-27; Eph. 6:18-20). Praying in the Spirit provides an active way to address a world where we do not even know how to pray and refocuses our attention on the Omniscient One, who knows the future, provides comfort, and gives direction for individuals and the church. Congregational and individual prayer provides strength as renewed joy, peace, and faith arise in the face of uncertainty.
Where do go in the seasons of uncertainty? We find our way forward by following the ancient paths. We find peace and direction with the security of following the ancient words in scripture and the knowledge that the scripture repeats multiple times, “I will never leave you or forsake you” (Heb. 13:5-6, Deut. 31:6-8, I Chron. 28:20, Is 41:10-13, Ps 55:22, Matt. 28:20). People of faith from Genesis to the current hour have leaned into the life of faith. We pray your faith will increase and the challenges of today will strengthen you and your ministry. Take courage, do not quit, God is for you and you will make it through this season!
Questions for Reflection
- How can I encourage myself in the LORD?
- Who should I contact to encourage them?
- How should I pray in this season?