One Thing Remains
by: Carleigh Woods
Change is difficult. Change is scary. Change is full of uncertainty. Even the global and local church have been disrupted by COVID-19. Nothing in this world feels the same at this time.
Church family, let me reiterate what Pastor Andy has said: Though we are unable to gather together inside our building, church is not cancelled. The ministry of First Baptist Choctaw has not been cancelled. Has the dynamic of “faithfully meeting together” changed? Undoubtedly it has. But who the church is remains the same. Our mission remains the same. Our message remains the same. Most importantly, our God remains the same.
"Though we are unable to gather together inside our building, church is not cancelled. The ministry of First Baptist Choctaw has not been cancelled."
The scattered church is not a new concept. Throughout the Bible there are numerous accounts of churches being scattered abroad… but they did not allow that to hinder the spread of the gospel. The people that made up these churches faithfully shared the good news despite persecution and difficult times. God’s people, the body of believers, are who make up the church. We are not limited to experiencing the goodness, glory, honor, power, and presence of God only in a building. God’s permanent residence is not 2700 N. Main. We serve an omnipresent God who has given those who believe in him a down payment of our eternal inheritance through his Holy Spirit—his personal presence. Sustained by the Holy Spirit, we are able to continue to be the church, even as we are confined to our homes.
With new CDC recommendations coming daily, it’s hard to picture how our mission of loving our neighbors can still be the same. COVID-19 has given us boundless opportunities for sharing the gospel and loving our neighbor. As Andy has also said, we can be cautious and still be caring. By following the Connect 4 model, we are able to encourage our brothers and sisters in Christ as well as friends or family who do not know the Lord. Use your Connect 4 as a chance to reach out (virtually) in faith—share your reason for hope, ask how they are doing and if you can pray for them. We live in a broken world and that brokenness is increasingly evident right now — we have an opportunity to use our present circumstances as a chance to share the Good News of God healing our brokenness.
What does this look like?
Check on the most vulnerable members of the church. Can you have groceries or medications picked up and delivered? Can you spare a few minutes to call and ask them how they are doing? What about sharing homeschool tips with a parent who seems overwhelmed or even just providing an encouraging word and support? If you have the ability to sew, can you sew cloth masks to give to patients at the hospital to help the shortage? Can you take some time to spring clean and bag up gently used clothes and blankets and take them to shelters? Can you help provide meals to children who suddenly lost the 2 meals a day that they depended on to live? Can you continue to faithfully support the church in their efforts to do the same with your tithes and offerings? Church is not cancelled and neither is our mission. Find ways to show that to a world desperate for hope.
Hope. Good News. I think we are all yearning for these things. Can we take a moment to rejoice that, as believers, we have these things? Our hope is not in this broken world. Our hope is in Christ alone, our living hope! Our Good News does not come from media outlets, it comes from the Word of God. COVID-19 has not changed our message to the world. God is indeed good. God is indeed sovereign. God is indeed Creator and sustainer of all things. The World needs this Good News and it needs it now.
There is no time to wait, our message is urgent. Our message does not make light of COVID-19 or the devastation it has caused. Our message does not offer a salve that only temporarily offers relief. Our message understands the serious threat of COVID-19, but does not look to man to bring hope in a dark time. Our message lifts our eyes to things unseen, hope of what is to come. Our message of Jesus Christ’s redemptive death and resurrection offers an eternal solution to the pain of the world. Our message is the message of God’s Word.
Motivated by love for his children, God sent his son Jesus Christ to Earth to live a sinless life, that he may be offered as the only acceptable sacrifice for our sin. But he did not stay in the tomb. On the third day, he rose and when he left, he sent his spirit to be with us. That is where our hope is. When I think about the Pandemic happening, 2 Corinthians 4:17-18 comes to mind: “For our momentary light affliction is producing for us an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory. So we do not focus on what is seen, but on what is unseen; for what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
COVID-19 is a temporary, momentary affliction of the world. COVID-19 is not our end. But we can let COVID-19 implode us, OR we can let COVID-19 be a trial we rejoice in. As Romans 5:3-5 says: “And not only that, but we also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope. This hope will not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”
Church, will we allow COVID-19 to define this time as a time of fear and hopelessness? (Do not mishear me… there is a difference between fear and concern. We should absolutely be concerned about this Pandemic and adhering to the guidelines put forth by the CDC. But we should not live in fear that God is not going to see us through). Or when we look back will we remember the COVID-19 Pandemic as a time when the church rose up, loved its neighbors, ministered well, inspired hope, shared the gospel with urgency, and lived its faith boldly?
COVID-19 has shaken our world, yes. But it has not shaken our God. Our God, the One who laid the foundation of the Earth. The One who works everything for the good of those who loves him. The One who sent his Son to die for us. The God of all Comfort. The God of Peace. Our God who is sovereign. Our God who is faithful. Our Mighty and Awesome God has not changed. Not now, not ever.
Though our circumstances seem to be shifting daily as we navigate life during the COVID-19 Pandemic, uncertainties all around, ONE thing remains faithful, true, and certain: "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” Hebrews 13:8. Amen.