A Year Behind: A Year Ahead
It is hard to view a new year without reflecting upon the old year we are leaving behind. There were many blessings in 2020 we can celebrate individually and as a community of faith. However, for most, it was a lean year marked by constant disappointment and the unknown. Some of the disappointment and frustrations is rooted in the constant changes that were forced upon us due to the pandemic set in a charged political arena. At both the state and national levels, we weathered many storms that have impacted our country's moral culture and social structures. Bible-believing Christians experienced quiet growing persecution for their convictions in 2020. Believers in Christ faced many spiritual, financial, and social challenges in 2020. Many churches are shrinking in size, though not in significance, and some have shut down, never to reopen again. The question many Christians and church leaders are asking is, "What do we do when what is before us looks nothing like what is behind us?" In other words, there is no specific manual or seminary course for how to carry out the life of a believer in the church during a pandemic.
One historical story that has helped me to process this is that of Lewis and Clark. When Louis and Clark set out to explore the newly acquired Louisiana purchase at Thomas Jefferson's commissioning, they did not know what they would discover on their quest. They were charged with finding a water route from the East to the West on the continental United States. When they came to the Missouri River Headwaters, they expected to find the Columbia river to lead them into the Pacific. Instead, they faced the daunting obstacle of the Rocky Mountains. The Rockies were not like mountains in the East in size or scope. These were high granite walls topped with mountains of snow. Louis and Clark's story demonstrates the need for adapting to a new frontier in uncharted territories by possessing the right tools and having knowledgeable guides. They were more familiar more with rivers than mountains. They faced a decision, adapt or fail, and face possible death.
In many ways, this is the landscape before believers in Christ and the faith community. Thankfully, God has given us what we need to understand the path's direction and know the destination. We are given the tools and guides by God to get through the unknown before us. There are three guides we can lean into for help when the way is uncertain. First, when Jesus ascended into heaven, he left a Holy Guide for us in the Spirit of God. The ministry of the Spirit to convict, comfort, guide, and protect is essential. The early church was to face all kinds of hardship and complexities in the 1st and 2nd centuries. If they were to hold together and grow the Kingdom of God, they would need to rely upon the Spirit of God as revealed in the Word of Christ to lead them forward and outward. A second guide for believers today is the Spirit-inspired Word of God. The Bible gives us great wisdom and guidance to live through uncertain times with confidence and hope. The people of God in the Old and New Testament lived through slavery, exile, oppression, and poverty. However, they also experienced the never-failing presence of God and the fulfillment of His promises. They saw firsthand that God is trustworthy as a Shepherd. His word, as the Psalmist so eloquently writes in Psalm 119:105, is a "lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path." This verse does not mean that God's Word is a spotlight that we can see far ahead in our lives with incredible clarity. No, it means that God lights the path in front of us so we will know the direction to take and the steps to make as they are illuminated before us. A final guide God has given us is Spirit-filled, Biblically knowledgeable, life-experienced men and women of God. These men and women of weathered souls have endured many a dark night of the soul. They have seen God's Word prove true throughout the light and dark seasons of life. Through harvest and poverty, God has been faithful to them in peacetime and war, and they have attentively obeyed his voice and experienced his faithfulness and provision. Paul desired the early church of Galatia to be encouraged to reap a harvest with this same notion of enduring. In Galatians 6:8-10, he writes, "For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. 9 And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. 10 So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith."
Wayne Hills Church Family, we must not give up on Kingdom work before us. We will reap a harvest of spiritual fruit if we lean upon God's Spirit, His Word, and His Spirit filled people to get us through the weary winter seasons of life. We must continue to do what is good for others, especially those in the community of faith. The harvest is coming for those who endure!!! Will you be counted as a faithful laborer with Christ?