I love the Church. I love the body of Christ around the world, but I have a special place in my heart for the Church in my country. It saddens me to see her struggling. For many years, I have prayed for a renewal of the Church in North America. Now, with fears of the virus spreading, our church buildings are closed. Most gatherings are suspended in our churches. On a personal level, many wonder how long it will take to get through this. How long will it take to recover economically when all this has passed? As I ponder these thoughts, I wonder if we are missing the point. What if God is trying to speak to us? And what if we miss it?
I want to be clear; I am not claiming this pandemic is a judgment from God. But I think we have to ask, is God trying to speak to us? Do a simple word search in Scripture for “plague” and read the number of times God used outbreaks to speak to his people. Over and over again, he sent plagues to initiate repentance. He sent plagues to show those in authority he was God alone. He sent plagues to bring humility. He sent plagues as judgment. These are all ways God has already used plagues in the past. Therefore, if historically, God used plagues to initiate change among his people, isn’t it likely he is doing the same for our generation?
In 2 Chronicles 7:13-14, God says to Solomon, “When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”
Notice the pattern: God initiates a trial. God’s people respond. Based on the response, God responds with forgiveness and healing.
God longs to forgive. God longs to heal our land. He wants the very best for us. So he sends a drought, he sends an invasion of locust, and he sends a pandemic. Why? Because he loves us and wants our hearts to return to him.
Naturally, we tend to focus on how we can get out of the situation. We want to get back to normal life as quickly as possible. All of us want this to be over. This desire is human. But I doubt this is God’s perspective. What if God calls us to change, and we miss it? God help us if he has to send something worse to get our attention.
In this passage, we see four areas where God desires transformation: humility, our prayer lives, turning from sin (repentance), and seeking the presence of God. Based on this word from God to Solomon, here are some questions we might ask of ourselves and our churches:
1. Am I humble? Are there areas in my life where pride or self-sufficiency has taken hold? Before we answer, remember, pride is easy to see in others, but it is almost impossible to see in ourselves.
As a church, are we humble? Do we rely on God alone, or is there a part of us that relies on a great band, cool lighting, a beautiful building, quality teaching, or other resources to build the body? Do we believe God alone is enough, or do we think we can take of it ourselves?
2. Am I praying? Do I regularly spend time talking with God? Do I listen to him? Am I bringing my financial needs to him, or am I looking to others, a bank, a credit card, or the government to meet my needs?
As a church, are we praying? Do we believe that prayer matters? Do we spend time as a staff praying together? What part does prayer have in our services? Are we teaching our people how to hear God speaking to them through prayer? Are we expecting God to speak to us when we pray? Are we listening? Is God leading our church, or are we? Are we trusting God alone to meet our financial needs, or are we looking to others, a bank, a credit card, or the government to meet our needs? Is it time to call our people to fast and pray?
3. Am I seeking God’s face? Am I seeking his presence in every aspect of my life? Does his presence matter to me?
As a church, are we seeking the presence of God, or are we content to have a service done with excellence without a clear realization of the presence of God? Does the presence of God matter in our services? If so, what are we doing to foster his presence? How are we making room for his presence in our orderly, timed-to-the-minute one-hour service? What if the presence of God filled the temple? Would we continue doing what we already had planned?
4. Am I repentant? Am I turning away from known sin in my life? It is one thing to ask God to forgive me for sin. It is another thing to turn away from that sin, so I don’t repeat it tomorrow. Repentance involves turning.
As a church, are we repentant? Do we even realize we need to repent? Are we leading our people to repent? Is there brokenness over sin? Should we start over with the list and ask ourselves if pride is present? Is prayerlessness a sin? Is neglecting to seek the presence of God sin? Ask the hard questions.
I believe God is speaking to us as a Church. I’m concerned that we may not listen. I doubt God wants us to return to business as usual. I believe He is calling us to humble ourselves. He is calling us to pray. He is calling us to seek his face. He is calling us to turn from our wicked ways. Then he will hear us. Then he will forgive us. Then he will heal our land. This progression seems to be the pattern in Scripture.
It is likely, once again, God is speaking to his people. Oh, that we as a Church would hear his voice and respond.