27 April 2020

During the covid-19 crisis, many countries, in trying to contain the spread, have instituted “lock-down”, quarantine, stay-home orders and social distancing. In the midst of all these, many have complained of ‘boredom’, lack of entertainments, the missing of interaction and fun, feelings of depression, anxiety and squabbles in the families and homes. It comes as no surprise that many of these complaints also come forth from fellow-believers; that set me thinking of how these various orders can actually contribute to our quest for godliness if only we ponder over how they may be in line with the exhortations from Scriptures.

“Beloved,we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when He appears, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who thus hopes in Him purifies himself as He is pure” (1 John 3:2-3).

The Apostle John is telling us that that the pattern of sanctification and godliness for believers is likeness to Christ. The image of Christ (and God) is being renewed in believers as they grow in sanctification and godliness and this would be perfected when Christ comes again. In addition, John is telling us that as we have this hope, we should pursue purity and the process of becoming more and more like Christ and God here on earth so that we will be moving in the direction towards the day when we can truly be in the likeness of the Son of God.

This quest for godliness and the renewal of the image of Christ requires the work of God in us and a process in which we are actively engaged. In other words, God works and we work (albeit with the enabling of God through His Holy Spirit). Our working with God’s help and enabling would involve certain relevant factors which we will now address.

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2).

“You made known tome the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11).

“Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting (Psalm 139:23-24).

These three passages from Scriptures point to us some of these relevant factors which can affect our quest for godliness:-

The Apostle Paul exhorted us not to be conformed to this world – one positive aspect of helping us not to conform is to be transformed by the renewal of our minds in Romans 12. We know that to grow in godliness, we have to battle our formidable enemy Satan, the negative influence of the world and the indwelling sin (sometimes called the flesh). The evil one can use various methods including affecting us with the attractions of the world and stimulating the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life to lead us astray. To combat this, we must renew our minds with God’s values and perspectives – these are revealed to us by God in the Bible. But how are we to renew our minds with God’s teachings, values and perspectives if we do not understand God’s revelation in the Bible? It is virtually impossible to obey biblical truth that one has not yet understood.

The time given us in the various orders to stay home provides us the opportunity for solid study of the Bible, disciplined meditation of God’s Word, hard work in prayers and ample time to spend in the presence of our God and Saviour. As we apply ourselves to these, the Holy Spirit would illumine the truths of Scriptures for us and as we imbibe and assimilate these truths and apply them we grow in the renewal of our minds and in true knowledge of God and His ways.

And that will invariably lead us to experience what the psalmist declares in psalm 16:- we would find the path of life, the fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore in the presence of God and at His right hand.

Consider what Spurgeon wrote:

“We meet with people whose hands time hangs heavily; they have nothing to do, and are dying of boredom. Why will they thus spend their time in waste? Yet all the while they give not God a thought, nor spend a little time in reading His Word, or in conversing with Him in prayer. Are they full of time even to boredom, and yet cannot they give ten minutes’ space to their Maker?”

The questions are telling; we need to evaluate what this godly brother shared. And that brings us to Psalm 139:-

Here the psalmist is calling for humble self examination before God. It is not a call to negative introspection which may lead to negative and unhealthy thoughts about ourselves. It is a call to single out worship as life’s primary activity and to humbly, patiently allow God, through His Spirit, to examine our inner being, our heart and motivations in the process of worship, honesty and transparency. The stress on God-centredness during such times is a divine requirement that is central to the discipline of self-denial and the pursuit of God’s honour and glory in our inner being.

We must recognise that feelings go up and down, and that God frequently tries us by leading us through wastes of emotional flatness. Sanctified suffering looms large in God’s plan for His children’s growth in grace.

It is interesting to note that after his conversion, the Apostle Paul spent three years in Arabia and only then did he return to Damascus (Galatians 1:17-18). During these three years of ‘isolation’ Paul must have had spent much time with God and reviewing his understanding of Scriptures and the gospel – this must have contributed greatly to his writing of many of the epistles in the New Testament.
It is also during times of imprisonment that John Bunyan wrote the famous book
“The Pilgrim’s progress”.

Time given by God can be a blessing to ourselves and to other fellow believes. It can also lead to boredom, feelings of anxiety, depression and perhaps the main reason is that we do not find our joy, our pleasure in the presence of God and in the quest for godliness. We still have time to consider this and to use our time profitably for God and for our pursuit of godliness.