Weeks ago, when all of this wildness began, I was using language like “survive” and “get by.” I was praying and racking my brain as to how I would help our church family “hold on.” And now weeks later, I find myself apologizing to the Lord for thinking that the best I (and my church family) could do was “survive.”
I now understand survival-language to say to the world and to my own soul that my circumstances are bigger than our God. For me, it said that God has finally met His match and that the best that He can do is to limit the casualties.
Does that sound like the God of the Bible to you? Does that sound like the one who splits the seas, calms the storms, feeds the multitudes and raises the dead? Does that sound like the God who promises to His children abundant, all-satisfying, eternal life? Is our God the One whose plans and promises are overcome by a pandemic?
Instead of calling this article “How do I survive COVID-19?” I am going to call it “How do I thrive during COVID-19,” because the Word of God tells me that our God is bigger than our present circumstances. It tells me that He desires thriving over and above surviving and that He is able to meet those ends.
So, how can I and others thrive during COVID-19?
We have got to do two things,
- Keep our eyes fixed on the right goal, and…
- Keep our eyes fixed on the right God.
The Right Goal
I have never witnessed the kind of joy that I see in the apostle Paul in his letter to the Philippians. If you can find discontentment in that letter that please email me the verse reference because I don’t see it. Instead, I see a man who, given his present circumstances (Roman prison, impending death, loss of possessions), should be barely surviving and yet he is rejoicing.
He should be lamenting to his friends about his pain but, instead, he is testifying to them about God’s goodness and saying things like “I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Phil. 3.8).
How? Because his eyes are fixed on the right goal.
Listen to the way Paul speaks from that prison, “…that I will not put to shame in anything, but with all boldness, Christ will even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death” (Phil. 1.20). He is not seeking Paul’s welfare, or Paul’s praise or Paul’s glory. His life is controlled by a single desire to see God glorified, whether that is through his living, dying, pleasure or pain. Every circumstance in Paul’s life has become an opportunity to serve this one singular mission.
The result in Paul’s life is a thriving, overflowing joy in God that is uninterrupted by situations.
Do you know that you were created for a single purpose and that that purpose has nothing to do with you? The Bible marks out the ultimate end of all creation as God’s glory. All things were made for and exist to this end, that God would be worshipped and enjoyed above everything else. There is no higher aim in the universe.
- Paul writes in Colossians, “All things were created through him and for him” (Col. 1.16).
- Isaiah similarly says, “Everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory” (Is 43.7).
- The angel tells John, “Worship God” (Rev. 22.9).
When we start to see this theme threaded throughout and saturating scripture, we start to see the grand purpose of our own lives. And when we discover this purpose, when God’s glory becomes our singular passion on earth and our ultimate aim, then every circumstance starts to become an opportunity to glorify Him. Even pandemics become opportunities to worship God; chances to say and display that God is enough; that He is bigger than viruses and more valuable than health.
And when we step into God’s glorifying design for our lives, we will finally find a full and ever-increasing joy that rejoices in God’s glory and thrives through times of difficulty and pain.
The Right God
Relatedly and completely overlappingly, we need to keep our eyes on the right God. There is nothing like suffering to bring out the idols in a person’s life. We don’t like pain so we recoil, we turn from it, and what we turn to is the one or the thing that we serve. So, ask yourself today, “What am I turning to? Where am I seeking joy, and comfort, and satisfaction and strength?”
Again, Paul did not just survive in prison, he thrived. And that thriving was directly tied to the One whom he turned to for everything.
- He drew grace and peace from God – “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Phil 1.2)
- He drew purpose from God – “My imprisonment is for Christ.” (Phil. 1.13)
- He drew joy and strength and hope from God – “Yes, and I will rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance.” (Phil. 1.19)
- He drew a right attitude and posture from God – “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus…” (Phil 2.5)
- He drew the power to persevere from God – “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 3.14)
- He drew his physical needs from God – “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 4.19)
- He drew lasting contentment from God – “I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (Phil 4.12-13)
This is far short of any kind of exhaustive list, but it is enough to make the point clear: Paul’s eyes were fixed on God and God alone. And of course, they were since God supplied Paul with everything a person could ever want for and He supplied it abundantly.
The God who supplied the Apostle Paul will supply your needs. So, while the rest of the world turns to its god’s to deal with the times, whether it be alcohol, recreation, television, relaxation, spending or sex, where will you, where have you and where are you turning?
It is possible to thrive through COVID-19 and return to life and church on into eternity, but it depends on us turning away from the idols of our world who will never satisfy and to the one true God who has said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10.10).