April 15 is an auspicious day for many reasons.
On this day in 1783, the US Congress ratified articles of peace ending the Revolutionary War with Great Britain. On this morning in 1865, Abraham Lincoln was pronounced dead.
On April 15, 1912, the RMS Titanic sank. On this day in 1947, Jackie Robinson became the first African American to play in Major League Baseball. On April 15, 1955, Ray Croc opened the first McDonalds. The Boston Marathon was attacked by bombers on this day in 2013.
And on this day in 1957, my parents were married, a fact for which I am obviously and personally grateful.
“The most important silver lining in this crisis”
April 15 is best known to most Americans as the day when our income taxes are due, a deadline that was moved to this date in 1955. However, because of the coronavirus pandemic, the deadline has been postponed ninety days to July 15.
This is just one change caused by the most disruptive event of my lifetime.
As catastrophic as the coronavirus pandemic has been for the world medically, financially, and socially, God has been at work using this tragedy for spiritual good as well. For example, well-known pastor Greg Laurie posted an article to Christianity Today describing some of the ways people are searching for God in these days of crisis.
He points to a Pew survey in which 55 percent of Americans stated they had “prayed for an end to the spread of coronavirus.” He notes another report that Google searches about prayer skyrocketed when coronavirus went global. In yet another poll, nearly half of respondents called the pandemic a “wake-up call” from God.
Bestselling author Joel C. Rosenberg notes: “Americans in near full lockdown are anxious, and understandably so. Yet millions are turning to God, the Bible, and Christian sermons for answers, some of them for the first time. That may be the most important silver lining in this crisis so far.”
Learning from The Good Doctor
God will do his part in redeeming this crisis, but we must do ours.
Human words cannot transform human souls. You and I cannot convict anyone of sin or confer salvation. God wants to use us, but we must be yielded to his use with the prophet’s prayer: “O Lord, you are our Father; we are clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand” (Isaiah 64:8).
My wife and I have been watching The Good Doctor, a television show about an autistic surgical resident and those with whom he works. The residents have graduated from medical school and are now working with actual patients, but under the supervision of those with far more experience.
They could insist on operating based on their limited experience and knowledge, but if they seek and follow the wisdom of their supervisor, they become much more effective surgeons and their patients have much better outcomes. They are still themselves, using their skills and experience, but they are following the leading and encouragement of those who can make them better than they could be otherwise.
Why we need Cuban Christianity
If I will not yield to my Supervisor despite the clear fact that he is wiser and stronger than I am, it can only be because I want credit for the operation. I want to do it by myself. I want to be my own God (Genesis 3:5).
This is a subtle temptation of the enemy—if I will not use my gifts and abilities in ungodly ways, I am tempted to use them in godly ways but without the help of God. The enemy knows that I cannot do anything eternal or spiritual in this way. He would rather lead me to do positive harm, but if I refuse, he will then tempt me to waste my life on that which does not do real, but only apparent, good.
Even if people applaud my articles and talks, are they any different when I am done? They may affirm your gifts and abilities, but has the Spirit been able to transform their lives through you?
By contrast, when I have been to Cuba, I have seen the book of Acts come to life. I have witnessed miraculous movements of the Spirit. I have seen souls saved and lives changed.
Their sermons are not different from ours theologically. It is not that they have discovered a new technique or program. But they depend on the Holy Spirit. They are yielded to him and expect him to work. And he does.
Can the Spirit use you in the same way today?
“Hope has a name”
Greg Laurie’s congregation, Harvest Christian Fellowship, had an online audience of around 8,000 per week before the pandemic. The first week after they were forced to worship exclusively online, their audience skyrocketed to 250,000. The following week, 350,000 tuned in. The week after, the audience grew to 634,000.
Last Sunday, they had 1.3 million people watching their livestream.
Even more significantly, his church over the last four weeks has seen more than 21,000 people indicate their desire to put their faith in Jesus for salvation.
Laurie is praying that God is using the pandemic to spark a spiritual awakening in our day. His article closes: “We will get through this crisis. We just don’t know how long it will take. But we know this: we are not alone. Hope has a name, and it’s Jesus Christ who loves each and every one of us and longs for a relationship with us.
“So, hold on to hope. Hold on to him.”