I’m sure that you may be like me and have grown weary of reading countless articles and web posts with opening paragraphs that recognize the obvious: 2020 was an incredibly difficult and challenging year. While it is one thing to state the obvious, it is quite another to glean meaningful takeaways and lessons learned as we move forward.
Several years ago, author Alan Smith related the traumatic story of a missionary family in China in his column “Thought for the Day.” The missionary family was forced to leave the China soon after the communists took over the country many years ago. A group of soldiers knocked on the door and told the missionary couple that they and their children had two hours to pack up before they would be escorted to the train station in order to be removed from the country. The husband and wife would each be permitted to take belongings weighing no more than one hundred pounds. That amounted to two hundred pounds for the couple.
Once the soldiers left, the couple began to debate what belongings were the most precious and worthy of joining them once they were deported. Keepsakes, family mementoes, practical objects used in their ministry, books, and other items were evaluated for their importance. Each object was then placed on the bathroom scale to determine if the physical weight matched the weight of its value.
At the end of 120 minutes of frantic decision making, the couple finally had a pile of possessions that totaled exactly two hundred pounds. Even though they could take some precious items with them, they couldn’t help but greatly lament over what would have to be left behind.
Their lamentations were rudely interrupted as the demanding knock on the door announced the soldiers’ return. "Are you ready?" they demanded. "Yes." "Did you weigh your possessions?" "Yes, we did." "Does it weigh no more than two hundred pounds?" "Yes, two hundred pounds on the dot."
"Does the weight include your children?" "What? We have to weigh our children?" In an instance, all the items that had been deemed as precious and valuable also landed on the trash pile. None of it meant anything compared to the surpassing value of their precious children.
Perhaps one of the most significant lessons our world has struggled with in 2020 is what should be deemed valuable in life and what should not. A pandemic did not just reveal the human immune system’s vulnerability to a disease identified as COVID-19. It glaringly revealed the human race’s pre-existing terminal condition of spiritual disease as the result of sin.
Opinions and emotions were amplified and exaggerated under the duress of COVID complications. Angry shouting replaced reasoned discussion. Minor inconveniences became major points of contention which resulted in great acrimony. Major choices were demanded that were not just difficult but gut wrenching and life altering.
Sadly, the church has not been immune to some of the ungodly attitudes and behaviors exhibited worldwide. Which brings us to the issues of the year ahead. A valid question we should all be asking as a new year dawns is, “what lessons have we learned as a result of the year that just passed?”
Indeed, how will the lessons of the past year better prepare us for the choices that will confront us in the next? The timely counsel which Paul the Apostle shares with the Ephesian church is an appropriate admonition for today’s Christians moving forward: “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore, do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” (Ephesians 5:15-17)
Let’s not be guilty of once again accumulating what could end up being two hundred pounds of unvaluable “trash” while neglecting to acknowledge what is of spiritual and eternal value. “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” (Philippians 3:7-8)
We pray for the encouragement and strengthening of the churches and friends of the MARBC as the year 2021 begins as we trust God to provide wise guidance and spiritual enablement.
Walking by faith,
MARBC Ministry Director
What a remarkable time it is in which to live! Entire nations have been brought to a standstill by an unseen enemy that is no respecter of persons, nationalities, or social status. Standard operating procedures are being thrown out the window. Improvisation is the new normal.
“The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.” (Psalm 19:9, ESV)
How did it go for you, your family, and your church family as you experienced the second “unique” Lord’s Day during this COVID-19 pandemic? Before I share with you something I gleaned from this past Lord's Day, I need to share with you what occurred three days earlier.
I experienced personal sadness as a direct result of this dreaded virus this past Thursday. I traveled to southwest Ohio where an Assisted Living Facility is located. My elderly mother is a resident there and I was meeting my younger sister in the facility’s parking lot.
As a new year approaches, it is typically accompanied by a review and analysis of what transpired in the closing year and the anticipated challenges, opportunities, and outcomes of the approaching year. It is amazing how changing one page of the calendar can produce such an intellectual and emotional exercise of contemplation and anticipation.
The MARBC is a regional partner with the General Association of Regular Baptist Churches.
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Grand Rapids, MI 49505
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