No Better Time Than Now - Coronavirus (COVID-19) Lockdown period
I would like to continue from Coronavirus and the Church Part 1- What has Coronavirus to do with the church? 27 March blog post. (If you have not read it, that is a prelude to this. You can read it at :https://www.karengan.blog/mull-stones/coronavirus-and-the-church)
Quite a number of people read and shared it, and some whom I know personally told me they really liked it. One of them said, "wow, I will put this in my resource folder to send it out to different people". Others I know said to me "wow, this is the paradigm shift the church needs".
Great, then let's continue with part 2!
In Singapore, the government introduced a “circuit breaker” (CB) to bring all non-essential services to a complete halt for about 1 month from 7 April to 4 May 2020. As I am writing this, the Singapore government just announced an extension of “circuit breaker” (lockdown) for an additional 40 days to 1st June and to be reviewed thereafter. And oh yes, something really newsworthy, bubble tea stalls are shut, because surprise, surprise, it is a non-essential! Sorry if you are a bubble tea lover...too much of that stuff is bad anyway!
Counting Down or Numbering?
In the midst of the circuit breaker, I observed that many went on social media # hash-tagging each #CBDAY, and were counting down the days towards the last day of CB on the 4 May. Then CB was extended.
Being in Australia when the lockdown started weeks earlier before Singapore’s lockdown, I knew that it was no fun to be at home all the time! After 14 days, even an introvert like me, felt the need to head out and have some kind of real contact with real humans (not just online over video!)
“So teach us to number our days,
That we may gain a heart of wisdom.” (NKJV)
For me I don’t count down days, I prefer to do what the Psalmist says, to number my days, that I may gain a heart of wisdom.
You may ask: “What’s the difference between counting down days vs numbering my days?
Oh yes, there is a vast difference!
Counting down days is a sense of resignation to the situation and like a prisoner waiting and hoping for the day of their release; whereas numbering days, is understanding the brevity of life and living life with a sense of purpose and fulfilment.
In this COVID-19 lockdown period, I am experiencing greater fruitfulness than before, living life to the fullest with purpose. So I am thankful for this period that has helped me to have greater focus to accomplish the tasks that I had always wanted to get done.
No better time than now!
quarantine [kwawr-uh n-teen, kwor-]
a period, originally 40 days, of detention or isolation imposed upon ships, persons, animals, or plants on arrival at a port or place, when suspected of carrying some infectious or contagious disease.
Origins of Quarantine
"Entering English in the early 1600s, this “isolation” sense of quarantine comes from the Italian quarantina, a period of forty days, derived from quaranta, the Italian for “forty.” The Italian quaranta, if you’re curious, comes from the Latin quadrāgintā, also meaning “forty.” "(Source: https://www.dictionary.com/e/quarantine-vs-isolation/)
What’s so special about 40? Historically, a quarantine referred to a period—originally of 40 days—imposed upon ships when suspected of carrying an infectious or contagious disease. This practice was done in Venice in the 1300s in an effort to stave off the plague.
Sounds all too familiar? Yes, recent cruise ship sagas – Diamond Princess, Ruby Princess etc! (If you did not know, the 2019–20 coronavirus pandemic spread to a number of cruise ships and they were infection hot beds.)
Much ado has been made about the 40-day extension in Singapore.
Singapore’s 40-day CB extension is NOT new prophetic revelation (King Solomon says "there is nothing new under the sun"), because these were all historical practices.
There is nothing magical or mystical about the number 40. Without the sovereignty of God in play, it does not matter how many 40 things or 40-day programs or how much alignment it can have with Jewish festivals and calendar, which one organisation, group, church or movement can come up with and implement.
Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchmen stay awake in vain and the best of men’s intentions and efforts will come to nought.
Prayer and Intercessions by the Help of the Holy Spirit
Nevertheless, we need be in prayer and intercessions for kings and all who are in authority (1Tim2:1-2), so that we may lead godly, quiet and peaceable lives.
But we do not need another program to tell us how to reach out, to pray, or another discipleship program to make disciples.
We need to depend on the Holy Spirit in our lives to pray together with the others whom we are vulnerable and authentic with and available to - i.e our real spiritual communities. This lockdown is forcing us into a corner to get to know our neighbours, our neighbourhoods and realise the God-given potential we can make on our true communities round about us.
Rom 8:26-27 tells us that “in the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weaknesses. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.”
Rely on the Holy Spirit. He is not only the best Teacher but the best Intercessor and Prayer Warrior. Let Him teach you and show you how to pray and intercede. Rebuild your family prayer time during this period. There is no better time than this COVID-19 lockdown period!
Preparing the Ground of Our Hearts for Greater Fruitfulness
These extended 40 days of stay-home can result in you being truly more fruitful or less! There is no better time than this lockdown period!
Here are some things you can learn from the quarantine/self-isolation/stay home situation:
Let this period be a:
1) Time of "Separation"
Quarantine simply refers to a time of separation from others to prevent others from possible infection if you are a carrier of a virus.
There is no better time than now to be distancing or "quarantining" yourself from the things that have made you less fruitful as a follower of Christ. This period of time could bring out the best or the worst in you.
It is a time to be introspective of what you have been distracted with and be more "separated" from the world, to be set apart and consecrated unto God. What are the things in the world you need to be separated more and more from?
You are now physically separated from the materialistic pursuit of material things, because the malls are shut.
You are now forcibly separated from going to the movies and events. But wait a minute, there are alternatives: - online shopping is massive, Netflix is having a higher rate of subscription, online gaming has also increased by leaps and bounds.
Without vision and purpose in life, we will see greater boredom and a rise of more compulsive habits and disorders. It could lead to poorer spending habits, over-indulgence in food, movies and drama serials and online gaming in order to get by. This phenomena will inevitably impact the health and well-being of individuals, whether emotional, mental or physical.
The whole idea of "self-quarantine", CB, or lockdown, is physical separation. But with virtual and online worlds, one can get more and more distanced from the real world too, heightening compulsive and uncontrollable disorders.
So the whole idea of separation from the world in the Bible is not referring to physical separation, or suggesting that you go hide away in a mountain or go into a monastery or nunnery from the ever-increasing crowds in the world. It has to do with our hearts.
Jesus said "where your treasure is, there the desire of your hearts will be also" (Matt 6:21 NLT). Where is your heart's preoccupation all this while? This season will reveal it even more starkly than before.
In Paul's exhortation to the believers in Corinth, believers should be "separated" from idols, so that we can know who we are, our identity as sons and daughters of God our Father. It has everything to do with knowing our identity and who we are and what defines us.
2 Cor 6:16-18 (NKJV)
16 What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said:
“I will live with them
and walk among them,
and I will be their God,
and they will be my people.”
“Come out from them
and be separate, says the Lord.
Touch no unclean thing,
and I will receive you.”
“I will be a Father to you,
and you will be my sons and daughters,
says the Lord Almighty.”
What is clear is that we cannot serve both idols and God at the same time in our lives. Idols take the place of God. Idols substitute God. Idols, as we know, need not take the shape of a statue, but act as gods we keep close to our hearts and we serve them and are enslaved by them.
Idols can be the love of money, the lust after material wants, lust for fame and fortune, including addictions and compulsions. Even your ministry and service to God as well as relationships closest to you like your spouse or children, could take the place of God and be an idol in your life.
What are the idols that God wants you to be "separated" from, so that you can cleave unto your Heavenly Father and know your identity- who you really are, as a son or daughter of God?
If you do not know what God’s will, plan and purpose is for your life, then it is probably that you do not know your identity as a son or daughter of God. And if you do not know that, then there are idols in your life that takes the place of your Heavenly Father.
It is time to be separate from your idols.
No better time than now to let God define who He has created you to be.
1John 5:21 (AMPC)
“Little children, keep yourselves from idols (false gods)—[from anything and everything that would occupy the place in your heart due to God, from any sort of substitute for Him that would take first place in your life]. Amen (so let it be).”
2) Time of "Denying Self"
The last thing we need once the lockdown/”CB” ends, is for people, including Christians to go crazy over their new found "freedom" and start to let loose, revel and party. You might see long queues of people at the bubble tea stores, or a rush to the shopping mall again to have a spending spree, or long queues at certain food outlets for foods which they have had a craving for.
This is probably the exact opposite of the intended hopeful outcome governments wish for from the lockdown period, which is to have a disciplined people being able to keep physical distancing in order to prevent a 2nd wave of infection!
Deprivation does something to a person. It makes one feel a sense of loss and that they need something even though they don't .
On the flip side, deprivation can make you really appreciative of the things you have as well. Appreciate your loved ones, appreciate what you have - the roof over your heads, food on the table, breath of life itself!
This is the example and words of Christ to every follower of Christ in Matt 16:
24 Then Jesus said to His disciples, If anyone desires to be My disciple, let him deny himself [disregard, lose sight of, and forget himself and his own interests] and take up his cross and follow Me [cleave steadfastly to Me, conform wholly to My example in living and, if need be, in dying, also].25 For whoever is bent on saving his [temporal] life [his comfort and security here] shall lose it [eternal life]; and whoever loses his life [his comfort and security here] for My sake shall find it [life everlasting].
26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life [his blessed life in the kingdom of God]? Or what would a man give as an exchange for his [blessed] life [in the kingdom of God]?
What do you need to die to and what you really need, in order to live the blessed life in the Kingdom of God?
This CB/lockdown is a great teacher. Learn from it. No better time than now!
3) Time of "Shutting Down" Non-Essentials
In this period, the economic implications are huge. The whole economy apart from basic necessities have come to a standstill. People are losing their jobs and income and livelihood.
As of a few days ago, a total of over 26 million people in the USA have filed for unemployment and many are queuing at food banks since President Trump declared a national emergency. This is something not seen since the Great Depression in the 1930s.
The spending habits of people have changed drastically. People realise that they do not want to frivolously spend on non-essential luxury items and are beginning to tighten their pockets. And even if they wanted to spend on luxurious items online, they might not be available for purchase, as services for non-essential items have also come to a complete halt without the logistical support to deliver those products.
One thing I find happening to me whenever I am already fruitful is this: God will take out His pruning scissors and start cutting away branches that are dead weight in my life. Dead weight can be very serious if you are a drowning person. It can be a matter of life and death!
I welcome this pruning process because that means that I am already bearing fruit and God is helping me become MORE fruitful. (John 15). Cutting away things can be a painful process if you are experiencing it for the 1st time. But it can be taken with a joyful and rejoicing attitude.
I once had a tomato plant which I watered and nurtured for 6 months, but it bore no tomatoes. I was not happy. So I took a pair of pruning scissors and started to cut off almost 1 to 2 kg of branches with leaves! In a matter of days, I saw my tomato plant fruiting like never before. 10 to 20 cherry tomatoes appeared in the course of the next week! I was a happy gardener again. My 6 months of investment in the plant bore fruit, but only after much pruning!
I then realised that the leaves and branches were sapping up the nutrients from the flowers to bear fruit. And had I not pruned it, it would have continued to be fruitless.
What is sapping your time, energy and even resources?
Perhaps, it is time to prune and cut them off, even if it looks beautiful and even if you have invested much into it before.
Over the years I have learnt to actually enjoy the pruning process, because I have seen the benefits it brings me in the long run! On hindsight, for many of the ministry endeavours I have started or been involved in, shutting them down or handing them over has saved me much frustration, stress and hair-loss which were the results of carrying unnecessary burdens and stress God had not intended for me to carry beyond His season of grace.
I simply recognise that God sees the problems beyond what I can see and when I simply obey by shutting things down, instead of trying to put in more wasted time, energy, resources to prop it up, I remain in His grace. There is no striving of the flesh and I can be in His rest at all times.
I say this with regards to both business and ministry endeavours alike, don’t be afraid to shut them down if you need to. It will save you and help you be more fruitful in the long run.
Discern for yourself if it is God’s time for the season to cut somethings off and move forward to more fruitful endeavours or niches.
Are you striving in your strength or resting in His?
Are there unfruitful activities, endeavours that you can scale down on or stay out of or even shut down?
With the shutting down of non-essentials in your life, you are living the best life you can possibly live – simply.
Those who live simply, simply live.
Let God strip away the clutter. The best of life is ahead of you, with God.
And there is no better time than now!
Part 3 is coming up very shortly...On "Bearing Fruit for Christ". Stay tuned.