We are works in progress, and God finishes what He starts
Football taught me life. It was one school of many that can teach, from art and film to music or fashion. For me, my life school was football. High school football in Florida is a year-round commitment. But one week out of 52 stood out each year: the start of Fall practice.
Fall practice always made me anxious. Every Fall, the coaches found out who had trained, and who didn’t. There was no hiding, you either got gassed & winded during sprints, or you didn’t. Here’s the point: our faith in the middle of this pandemic was shaped in our yesterdays, in our offseason training.
Today’s faith is the result of yesterday’s trials.
Every disciple is in a test right now. But today’s faith is not the result of today’s test. Just like sprints & gassers in September showed whether or not we trained in June, our endurance & faith for COVID-19 was forged months & years ago. During lockdown, I’ve been confronted with my sin, with selfishness, idolatry, and anxiety. But those didn’t materialize out of thin air, they were simply lurking beneath the surface of my soul. God showed me sin that remained undetected (to me) and unpurged (but not unforgiven) from yesterday’s tests. We are works in progress.
On the other hand, we should also find fresh fruit— if we are truly a disciple, Scripture says we will. (2 Corinthians 13.5) Perhaps you’ve discovered a Spiritual resiliency, a deep well of Scripture stored up in your heart, or you’ve found joy. If so, it’s because God has graciously done it, He’s forged it through months and years of testing. He’s patient. He’s a master artist. We are works in progress, and God finishes what he starts. (see Philippians 1.6)
Testing separates what’s real from what’s fake.
Fall practice showed who was ready for the game. You either got gassed or you didn’t. Starting jobs were on the line. Jesus is like a good coach, He sees & separates what will last and what won’t in the 4th quarter. (See Matthew 3.12 & Hebrews 6.7–8) Don’t fear the truth, we should welcome it. Don’t we want to make it to the 4th quarter? To finish the game & raise the trophy?
Many of us struggle to believe that repentance is a joy and not a dirty word.
In every disciple, God is exposing what is fake in our faith right now. If disciples emerge out of COVID-19 with tips on how to work from home, stream a sermon, avoid a virus, even a new desire to be together in community, but haven’t repented of the life we lived before? We’ll have missed it. Here’s the thing. Many of us struggle to believe that repentance is a joy and not a dirty word. But when we know the truth, the truth will set us free. (see John 8.32)
There’s freedom in being straight with God. When we come to him, needing forgiveness, needing righteousness, He never mocks us for our need. (see James 1.5) He provides for our needs in Jesus. (see 1 Corinthians 1.20) Lockdown is a good a time as ever to be real before God. To confess sin, to reject passivity, to repent (literally turn towards) and run after Him.
Tomorrow’s faith is the result of today’s surrender.
The fruit of good habits are always on a delay, and because of that — we quit early because we don’t see results immediately. This is our medical struggle in flattening the virus curve, and it’s the same struggle in not wasting our lockdown Spiritually.
James warns us in a trial to “let endurance have it’s full effect”. Enduring lockdown will affect every disciple Spiritually. God has an agenda for every disciple during lockdown.
We say, “God, what you’re doing in me, what you’re calling me to is hard, I’d rather numb myself with Netflix, with porn, with food, with chore lists .”
Nobody asks the doctor to sew them back up in the middle of surgery. That’s crazy. But we do it with God, all the time. We say, “God, what you’re calling me to is to hard, so I’m going to numb myself with Netflix, with porn, with food, with chore lists .”
These are all too present realities in a lockdown. It’s not that God is hard, He promises us ease at the yoke of Jesus. The problem is our complacency. Complacency avoids the work of God. This sin blunts and delays Spiritual work in progress. (see Ephesians 4.30)
Dare to pray a dangerous prayer during this season, “God don’t let me tap out of what you want to do in my heart during lockdown.” Craig Groschel puts it plainly, “Jesus isn’t inviting us to a life of comfort and ease, but one of surrender and sacrifice.” Could God call people into a faithful marriage, to a bolder ministry in the office, to a new city or an old one, for his glory and mission during the quietness of a lockdown? I believe he wants to.
Don’t Waste Your Lockdown, Don’t Go Back
What sort of Churches will emerge into the next world? What sort of Christians?
If we spend our lockdowns obsessed over returning to normal and restoring the status quo by making plans and projections, are we putting on a mask? Could we drop the mask for a moment & consider repentance as the only way forward? We have a truly historic moment to deal with God in the quietness of our own homes, and to come together renewed by His Spirit.
I submit we are being led on a 21st century exodus, and we don’t want to go back to Egypt. The status quo God seeks is plastered across every page of Scripture: Jesus. The Spirit of God hasn’t been sent to bring God’s people to yesterday’s status quo. His mission in this world is ushering us towards a status quo we have yet to fully see, Jesus.
In the words of the Japanese theologian Kosuke Koyama, “the future belongs to those who repent.”