What a whirlwind first three months of 2020. Who would have thought we would be here?
My year started out great. A short holiday with the family at Stuarts Point on the mid north coast of New South Wales. Then it was back home to clean out the garage—a job that had been waiting to be done since returning from New Zealand in 2018. And finally back to work.
All was right in our little corner of the world, or so it seemed. Then we started to hear about a virus starting to run out of control in Wuhan, China. Reports began to appear on our major news networks of many thousands becoming infected and of thousands dying. The city was locked down. Movement was restricted. It was developing into a major disaster.
Then there came Italy, the US, Spain and the UK. A pandemic was declared by the World Health Organization.
Now we are trying to control it in Australia, New Zealand and across the South Pacific. It has been sobering to watch the numbers grow and know that at any time it could infect you or one of your loved ones.
". . . if you don’t want to be surprised, keep a watch out and be prepared."
How quickly things can change. Within the space of a few weeks we had gone from a carefree life with freedoms to move and congregate to a closing down of society resulting in church closures, job losses, toilet paper and basic food shortages, and the inability to visit our friends and family.
As I think about all that has happened, the warning found in Matthew 24:44 admonishing us “to be ready” makes a lot of sense. If society can be shut down and be turned around in such a short time and by such a tiny thing like a virus, then it doesn’t take too much of a leap to see how the last things just before Jesus returns could happen rather quickly.
In Matthew 24 Jesus is instructing His disciples about His second coming. He says “no one knows about that day or hour . . . only the Father.” And that we will be going about our daily lives, eating, drinking and getting married. Then Jesus will come. There will be little warning, despite preachers telling us for decades. “Therefore,” says Jesus, “keep watch, because you do not know when . . .” In other words, if you don’t want to be surprised, keep a watch out and be prepared.
So what does this mean for you and me?
Every time we witness a pestilence or see reported an earthquake or significant flooding or famine or a war we should not dismiss it as “just one more”. Rather, it should be a wakeup call. It should be a reminder that we are living in the end times and that Jesus’ coming is getting closer. Jesus said, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains” (Matthew 24:7).
We should do all that we can to help others be ready for Jesus’ return. Peter Roennfeldt has prepared some great resources to help us share Jesus with our friends and neighbours (see www.following-jesus.com/resources/).
This situation also says to me that we should never take anything for granted. Our life and society can change quickly. It could be an illness or an accident. It could be a virulent virus that gets loose in society. Or it could be something altogether different that triggers a limitation on our freedom to be faithful disciples in our worship of the God of heaven.
Let’s stay focused on our God-given mission, particularly as we know how quickly things can change.