This past season has been marked by words that speak of uncertainty and disruption: lockdown, cancellation, pivot, distancing and flattening the curve. While it has been a challenging time, with many of us experiencing everything from disruption to bereavement, it has also provided an opportunity for us to reawaken ourselves to principles and practices that are fundamental to being followers of Jesus.
As the COVID-19 lockdowns began, we rolled out a gift book I had written entitled If Jesus—Revisiting a Life-Changing Question. Within it was noted the core qualities of Jesus’ life: intimacy with the Father, the companionship and empowerment of the Spirit, developing disciples, and pursuing the lost. Foundational to these qualities were two core practices: solitude and simplicity.
It struck me as timely, perhaps prophetic, that as the virus went global, we were reminded that Jesus’ life and ministry were built on the foundations of solitude and simplicity. As stated in If Jesus: “Jesus lived a life of intimacy with the Father. Everything He did was done in the power of the Spirit. He stayed committed to His calling to make disciples. And His passionate pursuit of the lost never wavered. As I read the Gospel accounts, I see Jesus exercising two key spiritual disciplines [solitude and simplicity] that enabled Him to live this kind of life. Though these are not frequently referred to in sermons or in Christology classes, I believe it was these disciplines that allowed Him to maintain His priorities and stay focused and available throughout His life and ministry. Without these disciplines active in our lives, it is highly unlikely we will succeed in spending our time, energy and money like Jesus would if He were physically living in our world today.”
The season we have been in has driven us back to fundamentals, “main things,” that provide a foundation to address the day-to-day realities of uncertain times. In times like these I have found myself humming songs that speak of our Lord as a “friend,” “solid rock,” and “anchor.” As noted in If Jesus, it was in times of solitude that Jesus would find the solitary place—withdrawing to commune with the Father and to clarify His purpose and direction. It was a discipline Jesus practised regularly. In solitude Jesus enjoyed intimacy with the Father and replenishment from the Spirit. Numerous times, Jesus comes back from the solitary place and clearly states what He will and will not do, where He will and will not go. He emerges from solitude with renewed strength to fulfil His ministry call.
Combined with that practice was Jesus’ commitment to a life of simplicity. Jesus maintains His focus on seeking first the kingdom of God and calls His disciples to do the same. They are not to have their focus distracted by serving money, popularity, tradition, or self-interest. The result is that Jesus demonstrates a simple lifestyle and a free spirit to serve others as He is led and empowered by the Spirit. He does only what the Father tells Him to.
These practices and their resulting lifestyle stand in complete contrast to the cultural norms we knew before COVID. The season we have been living through has given us an opportunity to recalibrate our lives, families and churches on the priorities and practices of Jesus and the kingdom, and to focus on the “main things.”
I have recognized some of these “main things” as I have pondered the question, “If Jesus were physically living in Canada during these times, how would He live?”
Jesus was always realistic about the challenges we would face in this life. Persecution, trials, and end-time realities were to be expected. There would be sufficient evil for every day! Closures, isolation, social bubbles, and quarantines have proven to be challenging. Jesus would not deny that. But through these tests He would point us to the place of knowing intimacy with God and others. While not minimalizing the impact that social isolation has had on many, an opportunity has arisen for those of us who, before COVID, found ourselves living frenetic schedules, often feeling inwardly drained.
The solitude and simplicity Jesus practised once again beckon us so that we will know intimacy with the Father and have clarity about priorities at the centre of our lives, our families, and our churches. As individuals we have been invited to deepen our inner life of prayer and to prioritize our key relationships, including those with our neighbours. Huge challenge has brought great relational opportunities, both human and divine.
For families—especially those with school-aged children or seniors facing health challenges, even death—there is no denying the difficulty that has been faced. Yet the opportunity has been there for families to rediscover the home as the principal disciple-making context for children and youth. Online resources for family worship and discipleship have multiplied. New means for family communication and activity have been discovered.
Churches and church leaders have faced huge challenges. How do we get online or enhance our online presence? How do we stay engaged as a congregation while reaching out to the community in new ways? What will happen to our finances? How do we respond to the diverse opinions regarding COVID restrictions? Is this a public health issue or one of religious liberty? When should we regather and how do we prepare for that? I honour the multiple pastors, church leaders, and congregational members who have walked through these and other issues.
Consistently we in local, district, national and international leadership have found ourselves beyond the limits of our own understanding. How grateful we are for Jesus’ promise never to leave us or forsake us. In the place of solitude and communion, we are rediscovering simplicity—the “main things.” He offers wisdom for what matters if we are available to hear His voice and then trust Him. This has been an important season to rediscover that and to realign around the purposes of the church and its mission.
May we not forget the lessons learned in the new season we are moving into. Whether as individuals, families or churches, I pray we will recapture the main practices and disciplines of Jesus’ life and ministry. Let us live “kingdom normal” as He did.
Our Almighty God, thank You for drawing us near in times like the one we are experiencing. You knew we would encounter times of trouble, but You have always promised Your presence, companionship, counsel and power. With clarity given by Your Spirit, let us focus on the “main things” of the kingdom in our lives, families, and churches. For Your glory. Amen.
- David R. Wells, If Jesus—Revisiting a Life-Changing Question (Mississauga, ON: The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada, 2019), 62.
This article was written by David Wells, the general superintendent of The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada. This article appeared in the Fall 2020 issue of testimony/Enrich, a quarterly publication of The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada. © 2020 The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada. Visit www.testimonyenrich.ca.