What will it Take?
By Sam Nadler
As the old joke goes, “Why’d the farmer hit his donkey in the head with a 2×4? Just to get the donkey’s attention!” With a worldwide pandemic, one would think that reasonable people might wonder if God is trying to get our attention. But, that’s not really how it works. Donkeys remain donkeys. As I’ve taught on many occasions, repentance for followers of Yeshua doesn’t take an excruciating public failure that brings us to tears and wailing (though it might). But for spiritually healthy believers, repentance is our daily lifestyle as we grow into Messiah, outgrowing our old self (habits, impatience, etc) and putting on the new self in Him. After all, “He must increase, and I must decrease” (John 3:30).
When we go through a worldwide pandemic, believers don’t blame others; we repent, drawing closer to God, for we know how extraordinary God is and how very ordinary we all are –“O wretched man that I am” (Romans 7:24). As Yeshua said, “‘Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore, be zealous and repent.’” (Revelation 3:19). These situations surface deeper matters that we simply agree with God about (i.e., confess) and thank Him for the cleansing in Yeshua’s sacrifice (1 John 1:7,9), and then we press on in our Good News service for Him.
Don’t get me wrong, we all should take proper precautions, but no believer should be overwhelmed by panic. God is very much on His throne. And, yes, I’m very thankful for the brave doctors, nurses and other first responders, as well as for all the “good neighbor” stories in such a crisis – but believers recognize all of this as God’s grace in the midst of trials, and we give Him the glory for it all.
But this is not the case for the rest of the world. Without faith, people are overwhelmed by their fear, anger, resentment and self-serving survival instincts of the self-important. “Abundance of precaution” becomes an excuse for taking every roll of toilet paper in a state of desperate dread. What then should the world do? Repent and trust in Yeshua for the forgiveness of our sins – sins that are surfaced much more evidently through a crisis.
But Scripture states that the world, like the donkey, may give God their attention; though not for a humble response, but in a hateful reaction. This rebellious attitude will also be the characteristic response of the world in the Tribulation period: “People were scorched with fierce heat; and they blasphemed the name of God who has the power over these plagues, and they did not repent so as to give Him glory… and they blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores; and they did not repent of their deeds” (Revelation 16:9,11). So, rather than “repent for their deeds,” they “blaspheme the God of heaven because of their pains.” Difficulties bring one of two responses: humble repentance before God, or further rebellion against God.
So, those of us that have humbled ourselves and repented, we now pray for all the others –for we know that unless we repent, it can get much worse: “‘I gave her (Jezebel) time to repent, and she does not want to repent of her immorality. Behold, I will throw her on a bed of sickness, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of her deeds’” (Revelation 2:21-22). Jezebel trafficked in idolatry and immorality. But eventually her putrid party ends. Like her, many may be thinking, “I’ll get through this crisis in a month or two – no need to get ‘all religious’ about it.” So, what will it take? Will it be this crisis, or will Jezebel wait until the next? Or shall it be “great tribulation” that will bring about a global wake-up call? Still, regrettably, unless people have their hearts broken, they’ll just sinfully harden their hearts all the more.
The darker it gets, the brighter the light shines. For believers, a crisis reveals our faith in Messiah all the more clearly. We are in Messiah, reflecting His light into this world. We repent humbly, easily and often – for we want only to glorify the Lord. And in our repentance, we further mature in Yeshua – our conversations become even more focused on “Yeshua the Messiah and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:1) as the only hope for this poor, panic-stricken world. By faith in Messiah, we are God’s calming influence in chaotic circumstances. With Yeshua, the Prince of Peace, we have peace with God (Romans 5:1), peace with one another (Ephesians 2:14) and yes, even peace of mind (Philippians 4:6-7). Yeshua is the hope of the world and we are His hope-filled messengers!