Earlier this year, the arrival of the COVID-19 virus turned the world upside down. This had an impact on me and my family in a number of ways. Like most churches in Georgia, the church I serve had to transition to online worship. Let me tell you, that was quite a learning curve! Truett McConnell University (TMU) also transitioned to online-only instruction resulting in having to move our son from the TMU campus, where he’d been since the beginning of the 2019-20 academic year. He wasn’t happy, and neither were we.
As a pastor on staff of a local church here in South Georgia, online professor, parent of a TMU student (and maybe a future student too), a lot came at me quite suddenly. The US Marine in me immediately set about doing what Marines do: improvise, adapt, and overcome. Today, that means first turning to Scripture and seeking the guidance of the Lord. Recently in my quiet time, Romans 12:12 has been brought back to my mind again and again. The Holy Spirit has been teaching me some things during this unique season we are in about this verse and how to apply it today.
Rejoice in Hope
If all you saw was the national media each day and their reporting on the COVID-19 crisis, you might be convinced the crisis will never pass. Let me say, you would be forgiven for thinking that, but remember, we are not people without hope. In fact, God’s word calls us to rejoice in hope! That word “rejoice” means to be glad, take pleasure, delight. Hope is a welcome thing and delighting in, taking pleasure in, etc. is a pretty easy thing to do! So, what exactly does that look like right now for us?
Rejoice: we have a son that has just completed his first year at TMU.
Rejoice: he will be returning to campus in the fall for his next year at TMU.
Rejoice: our daughter will be graduating from high school in December.
Rejoice: there is a good chance we will have to move our daughter to TMU next January!
There is so much more I could add to that list, but this is just a small sample of the things to rejoice in. We don’t know our future, but we know who holds our future. There is hope in the future that this virus will be, but a memory and God’s blessings will continue to be poured out upon us. There are a lot of good things happening even in the midst of this global pandemic. We have a hope and God calls us to rejoice!
Be Patient in Tribulation
Let’s be honest. Rejoicing is considerably easier than being patient, even under the best of circumstances. Patience here means to be persistent, refuse to stop, to endure, wait expectantly, stand firm. This is another list I could add to, but the point is clear: patience is ongoing, consistent, and lasting. Tribulation is an oppressive state of physical, mental, social, or economic adversity. Depending on your perspective, all of those words may describe your experience with this coronavirus.
For us, patience in tribulation is remembering what Scripture says repeatedly: it came to pass. We don’t know when this crisis will pass but we are to patiently endure until it does. This also means that we are prepared when this season does pass. The time will come when we are not dealing with social distancing protocols, reading about the latest virus news on the internet or watching reports on the news, etc. There is a time after “it came to pass” and we will be ready for it. Fall will be here before we know it, and I eager to move our son back to campus to resume his studies. He is eager to get back too!
Be Constant in Prayer
To be constant is to preserve in some activity to the point of devotion, to be faithful, to persist. Our ability to rejoice in hope and to be patient in tribulation is directly related to the consistency of our prayer lives. Too many of us do not have the kind of consistent, daily prayer time with the Lord that we should during good times, much less when we are forced to deal with trials, great and small. We should be so attached to the prayer aspect of our lives that we feel much the same way about missing our quiet time with the Lord as we do about missing lunch or supper.
I am not one that needs to be encouraged very much to spend more time in the Word and in prayer, but I sure do need to be encouraged to set time aside to do so. Like a lot of folks, I know serving in local churches across Georgia and the nation, we have a lot on our ministry plate, and it always seems like there is always one more thing to do. I have found the seasons where balance was most evident to be the times when I spent more time in prayer. Seeing that has been a blessing of God and has helped me a great deal.
My prayer for our TMU family is that we will rejoice in the hope that we have in Christ and in our future that He holds in His hand, that we would be patient as His plan unfolds, and that we would press into our prayer lives, using this opportunity to see what the Holy Spirit will teach us if we will simply be still and know that He is God.
Dr. Sanchez is the Administration Pastor of Northside Baptist Church in Valdosta, GA. He serves Truett McConnell University as an online adjunct professor in the Hans Hut School of Business and as a member of the Board of Visitors. His son is a current TMU student. Dr. Sanchez and his family reside in Hahira, GA.
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