Welcome to part 3 of our devotional adventure, called "Shelter Me in Place". I still hope and pray you are finding this an encouragement and a blessing.
I prayed for you this week!
I prayed for your health and safety. And I prayed for your adaptation to this “temporary new normal.” I know by now it no longer feels temporary, but in a year from now I think we'll all look back on this time a little differently than we do right now.
People regularly ask me “What do you hope to accomplish as a pastor, and how do you want to become better at ministry and grow spiritually during this time of isolation?”
Let me ask you the same questions as they relate to our mandate to stay at home and remain socially distant:
What do you hope accomplish for the Lord?
How do you want to grow spiritually?
Here are three of my own answers:
I hope to demonstrate love to a lot of people each week (especially all of you).
I hope to read and learn more.
I hope this virus that we’re all fighting will cause us to realize that we are all frail and need to depend on God, and that people will turn to Him in large numbers. (Okay, so this third answer isn’t about me. But it’s a pretty good hope, wouldn’t you agree?)
During the Apostle Paul’s first lockdown in Rome, he accomplished two things no one but God could have anticipated.
The first was, he wrote letters that changed people’s lives and whole churches' ministries.
Ephesians, Colossians, Philippians and Philemon are some of his letters during this time.
In our country alone, an average of 168,000 Bibles are sold every day. How many lives do you suppose Paul is still touching by just these four letters?
The other thing Paul did was share his faith. During his first imprisonment He wasn’t in an actual prison. He was under house arrest. But his house arrest was different than ours.
His emperor was stricter than our government. Nero assigned Imperial Guards to watch Paul all of the time. For twenty-four hours a day, the Apostle had one of these elite soldiers beside him.
Paul told every one of those guards how Jesus had appeared to him and had changed his life. And that Jesus could change theirs as well.
This is what he reported to the Philippians:
Scripture for today
"I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. - Philippians 1:12-13
His guards rotated every four hours. So six times a day, Paul was given a fresh warrior to witness to. He flipped the entire situation on them! He used his captivity to set his guards and many other people free.
Over a two-year period, Paul led scores of soldiers to Jesus. Those soldiers in turn spread the gospel throughout the Roman Empire.
What do you suppose God wants us to accomplish in this world during our confinement?
Here’s some direction from another of Paul’s prison letters.
Hear it by reading it out loud:
"Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is." - Ephesians 5:15-17
What do you suppose God wants to accomplish in you and through you during this pandemic?
You are not forsaken! The Lord has not abandoned you. He is with you! All of your church leaders at Grace, including me, are here with you in spirit and in love!
Prayer for today
Father, use this COVID crisis for massive conversions to Jesus as Savior.
Use it to accomplish many new things in uses spiritually.
And use it in new ways for us to accomplish greater kingdom work.
In Jesus’ name, amen