REFLECTIONS & ENCOURAGEMENTS: understanding and growing through the covid-19 challenge.
Bishop Peter Brain Reflection 57: Reliable teachers for the year[s] ahead.
Most years bring their share of challenges. 2020 brought us one more with covid-19, bringing anxiety, heartache and loss to many around the world. There are a group of people, for whom the pandemic is an added burden, whose acquaintance with suffering, qualify them as reliable teachers and patterns for us in the West [metaphorically as a prosperous nation and literally in WA with our isolation advantage].
Of course I am thinking of our persecuted brothers and sisters in many lands who are no strangers to the heartache of persecution: be it privation, prison, death of loved ones, isolation, inability to worship without fear, starvation, unemployment and the like. With years of experiencing God’s faithfulness, they have proven day after day the Bible promises and abiding presence of Jesus their Saviour and Lord through His Spirit [John 14:27; 16:33; Romans 5:1-5; 1 Cor 10:13; Hebrews 13:5-6; James 1:2-8; 1 Peter 1:3-9]. There is no doubt in my mind that these people are our most reliable teachers who can be trusted to keep us [so easily thrown by relatively minor troubles and worse, the pleasures we feel are our due-from both God and our governments] on track, with and for Jesus into 2021.
When these Five Things We’ve Learned In 2020 came to my email from Open Doors on 23rd December, I felt they ought to be shared with you [apologies if you have already seen them]. The writer, Nicole Todd wrote: Though 2020 was a year that nobody saw coming, many have weathered the storm with exceptional faithfulness and wisdom. As we take stock of the year that was and look forward to the year to come, we hope that these beautiful reflections from the persecuted church encourage you to follow Jesus, no matter what the cost.[https://www.opendoors.org.au/persecuted-christians/blog/]
- To get to know Jesus, build yourself a cell. For 23 years, Wang Ming-Dao was imprisoned in China for refusing to renounce his faith. During his sentence, he shared Jesus with his inmates through the sewer pipes that linked their cells. 96 people came to Christ. When I was in the cell the only thing I focused on was getting to know Jesus, it was only me and Him in that cell, he said. You need to build yourself a cell where it’s only you and Jesus.
- Deep Roots Bear Fruit. Muktar* disciples secret believers in one of the most dangerous places to follow Jesus. Discipleship training has been conducted for more than two years now, he said. Because of that disciples have become deeply rooted in Jesus. They are able to share the gospel with other people. One of our disciples recently had the opportunity to share the gospel with five fellow students at school. One of them came to Jesus, and we believe the other four are on their way. I believe in the future they will take the gospel forward.
- Jesus Is The Missing Peace. During the pandemic, change and upheaval have been at the forefront of everyone’s minds, and people are seeking answers and meaning more than ever before. House group leader, Suri*, said, People are searching for answers everywhere. They seek God, as only with Him do they feel the peace they’ve been searching for. In an age where truth isn’t always absolute, Jesus remains the answer and peace that people are seeking.
- We Know Where We’re Going. Sop*lived in a village in Laos. His fellow villagers beat him and cast him out when they discovered his Christian faith. In his new village, Sop experienced more threats. But he refused to stop sharing the gospel. I’m always reminded that if people try to kill me for my faith, the Bible says not to be afraid, he said. They can kill my body but not my soul. If they want to kill me, I have no problem with it for I know where I am going after.
- In Crisis, There Is Opportunity. In Yemen, COVID-19 compounded the hardship in a country already suffering from years of conflict and famine. One believer said, Even in light of the difficult conditions we feel that the Lord Jesus is with us. We feel His mercy and closeness to us. A lot of people complain about emptiness and boredom because of the need to stay at home more, but I have found it to be a valuable opportunity to pray, draw closer to God and feel the affection of His hand outstretched to His children.
These brothers and sisters have to be our most reliable guides because our prosperity so easily chokes us to spiritual death [Luke 8:14], and our pursuit of accepted worldly pleasures, so easily adopted by us believers, not only deceive us but can be counted upon to disappoint and let us down big time [1 John 2:15-17]. Persecution, pain and pandemics on the other hand, can be relied upon to strengthen our resolve, prove God’s faithfulness, testify to others, sharpen our resolve and grow us to be more like Jesus [Romans 8:29; 1 Peter 4:1-5 and 4:12-19].
[*names changed for security reasons].
Peter Brain 5th January, 2021