By Jack Won--
As I reflect on the year 2020 and ponder what 2021 might bring, I thought of fear, anxiety, stress, frustration, fatigue, lack of "normalcy." I thought of our nation going through unparalleled social and political divide and unrest. The Holy Spirit impressed upon me these three thoughts to help me personally, and I hope they will be helpful to you as well.
The first thought was Hebrews 10:25: We are exhorted to “consider how to spur one another to love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another and all the more as you see the Day approaching."
How do we do this when the pandemic has given us "social-distancing?" Isolation has become a reality for many and impacts both spiritual and mental health. I know it’s not in the correct context, but in Genesis, God said it’s not good for man to be alone. I truly believe that God created us to be in communion with other people. We are designed to flourish and be most happy when we are amongst other people.
I also believe that the scripture teaches us that Satan is like a roaring lion ready to pounce on vulnerable targets, usually targets that are isolated from the rest of the herd or sick or injured. While zooming, texting and phone calls cannot replace meeting face to face or hugs or sharing meals together, and technical connections can be glitchy, I am thankful for these options, which are better than not meeting at all. Having a way to connect with other believers is good for ones’ soul. The other day, Miriam and I had a chance to Zoom with friends we had in Bible study when we were missionaries in Kenya some 20 years ago. It was so good to catch up, reconnect, and encourage one another in the Lord. It was good for my soul.
The second thought that came to mind was from Proverbs 29:18, ”Where there is no vision the people perish." With all the uncertainties and stresses transitioning into 2021, how are we to navigate these unsettling times? In ancient days, before navigation devices, sailors were able to set their course based on landmarks, if they were close enough to shore, or stars at night. In this way, they were able to plot their course. If they didn’t have these landmarks or stars they would surely be shipwrecked or, worse, lost at sea.
It’s one thing to be sailing in calm waters and in familiar areas and normal circumstances (life before COVID-19). However, when stormy waters and winds flare up, sailors need to depend on landmarks and stars to guide to their destination. What is the vision or landmark that is pointing you in the right direction during these uncertain times? Let me suggest two passages of scripture that might be good landmarks or a ‘north star’ to set your bearing for 2021. Philippines 3:10-14 and Matthew 28:18-20. Meditate on these verses and see how God might want you to respond to them this coming year.
My third thought, as I reflected on how we consider spurring one another on toward love and good deeds in 2021, is taken from Deuteronomy 6:4. The people of Israel were finishing their forty-year journey in the wilderness and would be transitioning to a new environment, the promised land. Though it was more hopeful than what we are expecting in our 2021 world, it was still fraught with the unknown, with temptations and enemies that wanted to prevent them from possessing the promised land. Deuteronomy 6:4 says “Hear O Israel, the Lord your God the Lord is one, Love the Lord your God with all your Heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all our strength.”
I believe Moses was exhorting the people of Israel, as they were transitioning to a whole “new normal." New adventures, new routines, new challenges, new social and relational dynamics. He was saying through all of it, keep God the foremost priority of your life. By doing this, you will keep from going astray and following other gods or the values of other nations. It will also prevent you from grumbling and being discontent, allowing a root of bitterness to grow in your heart and mind.
My hope for you and for myself is that...
- We would not give up meeting together (however that may look)
- We would place God firmly as our vision.
- We would determine to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind and strength.
Looking forward to what God has in store for us.