As COVID-19 seems to diminish, many are looking forward to getting back to normal. Practically speaking, I understand this desire. We all do. But for God’s people, is it the best course to excitedly anticipate a return to former norms? The question must be asked because there is another, more important normal to consider. God wants His people to remember Him and the normal of loving God with a revived heart. As portrayed in Acts, living a life full of faith and the Holy Spirit is the normal for New Testament believers. The normal Christian life is designed to be “not I, but Christ.”
I love America and the opportunities it affords. But if we do not remain vigilant, our pursuit of the “American dream” can distract from what matters most: loving God—especially loving God more than things.
My friend, Jeff Vaughan, recently pointed out that just before the great revival promise of 2 Chronicles 7:14, God said, “or if I send pestilence [a plague] among my people.” Did you catch that? A plague from God? The majority of Old Testament plagues among God’s people came from the loving, chastening hand of God to turn His people back to Him. When they did return, He blessed them—always.
Any plague should give us pause and lead us to consider the real plague, the plague of our own hearts. In a parallel passage to 2 Chronicles 6-7, 1 Kings 8:38 mentions “What prayer and supplication soever be made by any man, or by all thy people Israel, which shall know every man the plague of his own heart.” The focus here is on a personal plague in the heart. If there is such a plague that keeps us from wholeheartedly loving God, that must immediately be dealt with. It must be. It is time to seek the Lord.
Many wonder, did COVID originate with bats or escape from a lab? Was the idea hatched among world elites with dark motives? These are the wrong questions. Was the virus a plague from God? Whether it came directly from Him or was indirectly allowed, it doesn’t really matter. Ultimately, God allowed it, and God allowed it for a reason. We must not be numb at such a time. We must let the physical plague awaken us to the spiritual and consider the plague of our own hearts. We must seek the Lord.
This is not just a time to get back into familiar American norms. This is a time to get back to the Apostolic normal. In fact, we don’t even need to restart a chase of the American dream, but we absolutely need to return to the Apostolic dynamic. This is a time to love the Lord with all our hearts. This is a time to run to prayer meetings with hearts full of faith and fervency. This is a time to flock to the assembly of the saints as we see the day of Christ’s return approaching. This is a time to witness to the saving and delivering power of Jesus Christ. This is a time to experience Jesus and demonstrate Jesus!
For those whose eyes are not steadfastly fixed on God, fear of the pandemic will fade in comparison to a fear of persecution. What would be our lot should the American dream be turned into a nightmare and tyranny changes everything we’ve known of the American way? And what if this meant persecution of professing Christians? If persecution was to come to God’s people in America, would we find satisfaction in God (where we ought to have found it from the beginning)?
Where is our focus? Where is our love? Sin? Our religious set of rituals? The good life? The America dream? Except for sin, these matters are not intrinsically evil, but they must not be our love. We must love the Lord!
If we feel numb and unable seek the Lord with what we sense is genuine seeking, we can cry out with the essence of Jeremiah’s prayer of Lamentations 5:21, Oh Lord, turn our selfish hearts to You, and we will be turned! This heart cry is genuinely seeking the Lord. When you seek Him, He will be found of you (2 Chron. 15:2; James 4:8).
The plague of our own hearts is anything that distracts us from looking to and loving the Lord wholeheartedly. It is time to seek the Lord. It is time to love the Lord. It is time to choose Jesus who alone can heal the plague of our own hearts.
John Van Gelderen