One of the many things I love about my wife is how analytical and reflective she is. Over the years she has regularly challenged us to reflect and consider how and why we are doing things. She regularly encourages us to re-evaluate, to take a step back and look at our lifestyle, parenting and general approach to life.
It is often when I hear the words “I have been thinking…” that I know it’s coming!
Now, I have to admit, when I hear those words my first instinct is “oh no!” Because stopping and re-assessing is sometimes painful! It means you might have to repent of ways you have been doing things. You might have to admit the flaws in the ways you have been acting. You might have to swallow your pride.
“…I think the children are spending too much time on screens, I think we have become lazy and allowed them to be on them too much. I think we should restrict their time a bit more and help them to think sensibly about how much they use them. What do you think?”
It hurts to hear, because I know she’s right. First I have to admit to being lazy, and then I have to act on it, and I know it is going to be a battle… and all of that is painful. Can’t we just stay lazy!
Having a wife like this has been so good for me, because although I do like to be regularly re-evaluating the way I do things, I am not very good at stopping, slowing down and reflecting. It doesn’t come naturally to me. I like to be efficient and the thought of stopping and reflecting doesn’t sound very efficient. However, over the years, having been encouraged by Ruth to stop and re-assess, I have seen that in actuality there is a more important long-term ‘efficiency’ in taking that valuable time to stop and think, because the results it produces are often far more fruitful.
In Psalm 90 verse 12 Moses, reflecting on the brevity of life, prays:
“Teach us to number our days, that we may get a heart of wisdom.”Psalm 90:12
The truth is, our days are numbered, and we are each faced with the very real dilemma of how we will use each one. The decisions we make about our minutes and our hours will we born out in the bigger story of our lives. We each have the responsibility to use the limited amount of time God gives us well, and- in a nutshell- as Christians that means prayerfully considering how we use our time so as to best serve and glorify Jesus.
Yet, finding the time to stop and reflect in order to do this is often the hardest part.
In my last blog (sorry it was a little while ago) we began to ask the question- what is God doing in all this? How might a loving God use this time for our good?
And it has struck me, that although there are many negative and tragic consequences to the coronavirus pandemic, there are also some hidden blessings amongst it. One of those might just be the fact that this has forced us all to stop, slow down, and re-evaluate.
God has pretty dramatically stopped us in our tracks and given us time.
All of a sudden our frantic, fast paced lives have been brought to a halt. Many of the things that keep us busy and leave us with very little time on our hands have been taken away from us.
It is wonderful to see mums and dads out walking with their children in far more numbers and far more often than I have ever seen before.
All of a sudden our evenings are free, we aren’t rushing around to activities and we have chance to reflect and think things through in a way that has been slowly diminishing in a society where we are so busy and where any spare time we might have is often wasted scrolling through social media feeds.
This is a really good opportunity for us to stop and consider how we are using our lives. Is it necessary to be rushing around all the time? Are we making the most of our time? I have to admit, as someone who rushes around a lot, this slower pace of life is quite a novelty, and I have appreciated the time to stop and ask these questions.
So what positive consequences might slowing down and re-assessing have for our society, our families, our churches, and our ministry? How might God be causing us to evaluate how we are using our lives to glorify him.
One of the results of our usually fast-paced lives is that we tend not to have much time to invest in the people God has put right next door! But living in a neighbourhood where previously it was unusual to see neighbours from one week to the next, every Thursday we now all fling our doors open, spend 2 minutes clapping our wonderful key workers, and then chat across the road with each other. The other day our family got our instruments out and put on a mini (socially distanced!) concert for them all before the clap, and the next week the couple across the road suggested we all had afternoon tea outside on our lawns on VE day.
Conversations have led to us telling them about our on-line services and them suggesting that they would tune in! Much easier than inviting them to church, but we pray that it might bear fruit and we will one day see them attend church when it resumes.
We all know that a big part of God’s will for our lives is that we share his wonderful good news with a world that doesn’t know him- yet often we can feel daunted and overwhelmed, unsure where to start. Well, in forcing us all back in to our neighbourhoods and homes, the Lord has given us a wonderful opportunity to start right where we are- with the people that he, in his sovereignty, has ordained live right next door! Let’s not miss out on this opportunity, and let’s pray for relationships to be formed that will continue well beyond lockdown.
Many people are spending more time together with their families. And while there are lots of memes out there about how awful it is to be stuck with your children all day, some of which, at certain moments, we can probably all relate to, there is an enormous blessing in having this extended time together without all the usual interruptions.
Christian parents are given a weighty and incredibly significant role to play in passing the gospel on to the next generation. In Deuteronomy 6:7 God addresses parents, saying of his words,
“You shall teach them diligently to your children and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down and when you rise.”Deuteronomy 6:7
In other words, God’s chief design for the passing on of his truth to the next generation looks very ordinary! Just chat the gospel to them, in your house, as you live life together.
Yet… most parents can probably identify with the problem that sometimes it seems like these ordinary moments are few and far between in the usual rush of life. But being forced to slow down has taken away that excuse! Not having to rush our for school in the morning gives more time around the breakfast table, a great opportunity to get the bible open and begin the day looking at God.
Not having a steady stream of clubs and activities to ferry them to in the evening means more time around the dinner table too! Bedtimes can be more relaxed. Might this be a time to start a new pattern of opening up the Bible with your children every day? It doesn’t have to be long or complicated (in fact it’s better if it’s not!).
Much as you might be longing for the day you can finally have some peace from them and get back to the normal routine, maybe God is giving you a window of opportunity to begin habits that will bear fruit in to eternity? Let’s not miss out on the opportunity!
For some of us though, lockdown has brought a completely different challenge, as you face what is a very real isolation of living alone. But it is wonderful to know that as those who are in Christ, we are never truly alone (Matthew 28:20). Christ lives in us by his Spirit and we can only ever get closer to Him!
In Psalm 46:10 God tells us to ‘be still and know that I am God.” What a challenge this usually is in our fast paced lives! But once again, this time provides a unique opportunity to do just this!
Whether or not we face lockdown alone or with others, we all have been given an amazing opportunity to spend more time with God in prayer and listening to his voice through his word. It is such an opportunity to develop good patterns of devotion and meditation. Why not pick a book of the bible and immerse yourself in it? Read it over a few times and pray that God would draw you closer to him and reveal more of himself to you at this time, moulding you in to a person he can use even more for his glory.
‘God does not need great talents or great learning or great preachers, but people great in holiness, great in faith, great in love, great in fidelity, great for God- people always speaking holy words, living holy lives. These can mould a generation for God.’– E.M. Bounds, Power Through Prayer
I have also been so encouraged with the way that our church have supported and cared for reach other at this time. I don’t think we have ever spoken to each other as much on the phone and provided care for each other so frequently as this!
As the lock-down continues, I pray that we will only see more of this. Why not phone someone this week who you haven’t been in touch with yet? You never know what an encouragement it could be. And more than just phone for a chat, why not think of a verse to share? Let’s use this time to keep ‘speaking the truth to one another in love’ as Ephesians encourages us to do. It may be we need it now more than ever.
And interestingly, it appears church is becoming more appealing to others as well.
A recent article in the Guardian said:
“A quarter of adults in the UK have watched or listened to a religious service since the coronavirus lockdown began, and one in 20 have started praying during the crisis, according to a new survey.“
It is without a doubt that online-virtual-church is a far less than ideal situation to be in, but how might we nonetheless use it for the glory of God?
Every Sunday we have around 40 devices tuning in to our YouTube channel at about 10am to watch our service. I assume that on the whole that is our normal church family. However, over the course of time, the services pick up other viewers of which most will certainly not be our local church family. One of our services had over 220 views.
Now, I suspect a number of those may have been my mum and all her friends as I shared it on Facebook and so did she! (I am aware that my old headmaster and my dad’s most ardent atheist friend even watched it!) But there will also be many people amongst that number who are not known to us but are tuning in, hearing the gospel and seeing what we are about. Let’s pray that this will bear fruit and that it would give us all confidence to invite people, to tune in and to share it with others.
Death is more real and in our faces than any other time in my life-time, and people are asking questions and seeking. So let’s also pray and ask that God might give us wisdom to consider what other creative and innovative ways we can use in this unique time to point people to Jesus.
Our lives are short, as Moses reflects back in Psalm 90, our days are “soon gone, and we fly away.” Let’s use this opportunity to slow down, re-evaluate, and pray for a heart of wisdom to number our days so as to make the most of every hour as an opportunity to bring glory to God.
By Jon Herring
Pastor, Christ Church Fetcham