No doubt we are all experiencing, to a greater or lesser degree, the effects of the global coronavirus pandemic in our daily lives. The social order as we knew it has drastically changed, and with little to no remonstrance we have seen communities giving up some of their cherished liberties, all of course in the name of public health safety precaution. Churches and schools are largely shut, sporting events cancelled, while public gatherings and traveling are restricted. Predictions are that it may take quite a long time before life returns to normal, if it ever does. Other experts are even talking of a “new normal” where people will have to adapt to live permanently with certain restrictions on their lives due to the virus.
However, of late many countries have started to gradually open up their communities, centering particularly on what have been identified as “essential service sectors”, which are those parts of the economy considered to be vital to basic human survival. As defined by the authorities the list has included things like food producers and stores, financial institutions, funeral parlors, transport operators, electricity generation and water authorities, mining firms, mobile phone and internet service providers, and so on. But the situation has sort of triggered a debate in some circles as to what is essential and what is not essential. After an initial alcohol ban, authorities had to reverse the decision, following a public outcry as a number of people considered this to be indispensable to their lives.
And in the US for instance, following a demand by some religious bodies, the government also had to re-open houses of worship as people deemed these to be essential to their livelihoods. While this might seem a positive thing to some Christians, it sets quite a dangerous precedent where religion can influence the government to advance religious interests. The inevitable result of such a situation may be the restriction of religious liberty for minority faiths. Who knows, someday Christians and major religions of the world may unite and request governments to enforce a particular day of worship, deemed as essential for human survival and all those out of sync with that day may be considered a pest to society. In this article however, we would like to focus on some essential services in a Christian’s life, without which a Christian won’t survive. In the Bible, there are at least three things we can identify as important to growth in a Christian’s spiritual life, and without these our spirituality will die. Let’s look at each separately.
1. Study of God’s Word. – In the book of Matthew, Christ says “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” Matthew 4:4. Here Jesus likens the importance of God’s Word in our spiritual lives to how food is important to our physical lives. Without access to food, people suffer hunger and if prolonged they can eventually starve to death. That’s the same thing with our Christian lives, without a regular and thoughtful study of God’s Word we grow careless and lose our connection with God. Through study of God’s Word our minds and natures are transformed and we gain the strength to overcome sin. When Jesus was tempted in the wilderness He always, each time, responded by an “it is written” showing how His heart was filled with God’s Word. The apostle Paul commends us “to God, and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified.” Acts 20:32
2. Prayer. – “Pray without ceasing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:17. One author has likened prayer to the “breath of the soul”. At all times the Christian is to be in an attitude of prayer. Through prayer we commune with God making known to Him our needs and hopes, thus expressing confidence in Him as our loving heavenly Father. Of Christ we are told “in the morning, rising up a great while before day, He went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed.” Mark 1:35. Though He was the Son of God, Jesus identified with our human weaknesses and this made prayer essential to Him. Through prayer He got refreshed and renewed for His labors in ministering to sin-sick souls. As Christians we need to engage in public prayer with fellow believers, and even more important we need seasons of secret prayer, where we have uninterrupted communion with our Maker.
3. Witnessing – “He that watereth shall be watered also himself.” – Proverbs 11:24. A vital part of our Christian experience is to communicate our faith with those who have not yet known the Saviour, showing them how great a friend we have found in Jesus. Of His people God says “ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, that I am God.” Isaiah 43:12. It is through the testimony of our lives that the world gets to know of the God of heaven. Jesus says “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” – Matthew 5:16. When we live according to God’s will, the world will see the goodness of God in us, and will be led to glorify Him. However, not only are our lives to testify of God, we are also to speak with our mouths, telling others about the Redeemer. Christ says “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” Matthew 28:20. This is a duty of every faithful Christian and not just a few, or the ordained ministers, as others have supposed. As we share the gospel with others, our Christian experience grows richer and our souls are uplifted as we see others come to the Saviour through our labors.
So in spite of the virus and the lockdown, remember these three remain vital to our walk with the Lord and are never to stop. Ensure you make good use of them as a good and faithful steward.