The Christian Life Under God’s Government
On March 31st, we practiced the 24-hour/21-day global prayer. In China, there were about 850,000 saints who joined this prayer. Outside China, there were 39,557 people who registered as 7341 small groups through the six websites hosted in the East, and 24,751 people who registered as 5273 small groups through the websites hosted in the West. The total number of saints is 914,328 (12614 groups), plus those who participated but didn’t register. For example, the prayer burden posted on 11 websites reached one million people outside China,. Thank the Lord for what He has done! May all the brothers and sisters who participated continue to pray steadfastly, and go on in a strong way. (For more information, please visit http://unceasinglypray.org).
“But the end of all things has drawn near. Therefore be sober-minded and be sober unto prayers” (1 Pet. 4:7). Darby, brother Nee and brother Lee all showed us that the subject of both the books of First and Second Peter is “the Christian life under the government of God”. This government is not something only for the life after death or in eternity, but is something specifically for the present. The pandemic is now spreading across the world. Humanity has never faced such a severe trial like this. This is God’s administration. We face not only the outbreak of COVID-19, but also the problems such as the environment, population, refugees, economy, international conflicts, etc. All these problems are without solution. It shows us that “the end of all things has drawn near”. Nowadays all mankind, from the world leaders to ordinary citizens, has been plunged into fear. People started to worry about the future. In the verse above, Peter charged the saints to “be sober-minded”, which means to “be of a sound mind, have a mind of sobriety, and be able to understand things properly and thoroughly without being disturbed “(footnote 3 of 1 Peter 4:7), and also means to “be calm and clear in mind, able to realize God’s economy in His salvation…without being disturbed by fear, anxiety, or any care” (footnote 2 of 1 Peter 1:13). This is the attitude we should have in order to face the challenge of this epidemic. As a brother puts it, “during this time, let us watch less news, but read more Bible; worry less, but pray more.”
Being Sober Unto Prayers
This calm and clear life, without fear and anxiety, is “unto prayer”. Prayer is the center and the purpose of the Christian living. The Lord charged us to “Watch and pray” (footnote 3 of 1 Peter 4:7). To have this kind of prayer, we need to be watchful. We must pray steadfastly. We cannot be loose, otherwise the enemy could give us a sudden attack when we are relaxing. Because of the spreading of the virus, most people have no other choice but to stay at home. Psychologists suggest that people spend quality time with their family at a set time and in a set place. For Christians, we should much more set a time and a place to pray to God. For us, to have a proper living is not just to take care of our psychological condition, but “unto prayers”; not being disturbed is not for redeeming the time only, but “unto prayers”; having no fear is not an issue of positive thinking, but being watchful “unto prayers”.
Having Love Among Yourselves
Then verse 8 says, “Above all, have fervent love among yourselves…” Today this is a great opportunity for us to practice the church life according to the new model, which centers on loving one another and taking care of one another. “One another” in Greek is ἀλλήλων, which is used multiple times in Romans chapter 12 (vv. 5, 10, 16) to describe the genuine church life. It shows us very clearly that the genuine church life is centered on “mutuality”. During this time of seclusion in our homes, we should exercise to stay connected with one another, to take care of one another, and to implement the new model of the church life through the internet. This matter is “above all”. Let us minister the word of God among ourselves “as good stewards of the varied grace of God” (v. 10).
In the next chapter, verses 1 to 4 speak of the shepherding in the church. Verse 2 says, “shepherd the flock of God among you.” The “flock” here, according to the original meaning, does not refer to herds, but “little flock”, i.e., a group of sheep in fairly small numbers. In other words, it refers to the groups in twos and threes. Today, the online social contact in twos and threes provides a perfect setting for the saints to practice this organic shepherding. These “little flock” will produce “vital groups”. The elders should take the lead to be the “patterns of the flock”, shepherding the saints in the vital groups. Then all the brothers and sisters “in like manner” shepherd one another. This is the genuine church life according to the New Testament model. This is the way ordained by God today.
Preaching the Gospel
During the times of crisis, we need to “be humbled under the mighty hand of God” and “gird ourselves with humility”. We need to show people that they cannot “set their hope on the uncertainty of riches”, but they should humble themselves under the mighty hand of God and turn back to God. This way they could be brought through these difficult times and be exalted by God “in the due time”. We should keep preaching the Gospel by making phone calls, sending Bible verses to others by texting, and reaching out to people actively. We can say to them, “you could practice ‘casting all your anxiety on Him’, because except for God, no one can really ease your anxiety, which is ‘the whole lot of your anxiety throughout your entire life’, and ‘the whole life with all its anxiety and all its worries’.” We should speak to them the mystery of human life.
Withstanding the Evil
In the meanwhile, the work of the devil somehow prevails. He kills and hurts men’s body and soul, and “as a roaring lion, walks about, seeking someone to devour”. Therefore we must watch and pray, not only for the unbelievers, but also for the saints. May God keep all men away from the evil so that they will not be devoured by the enemy, and preserve their spirit, soul and body complete at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. May we recover many saints who were lost and bring them back to the fellowship of the Body through our prayers and care.
Remembering All the Saints
Finally, we should pray for the children of God throughout the world, for “the same sufferings are being accomplished among your brotherhood in the world.” We should pray especially for those who are ill, who are in need, who fall into afflictions, no matter what kind of affliction it is—physical, economical, psychological, familial…We should pray according to 1 Pete 5:10 that after they have suffered a little while, they will experience the Lord as the One who Himself perfects, establishes, strengthens and grounds them.
May God strengthen us with varied grace, all grace and true grace during this special time, so that the Gospel can spread continually, the saints could be perfected, and the church could be built up. “To him be the glory and the might forever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 5:11)”
Brother Andrew Yu
April 5, 2020