Dear friends, one year has passed ever since the entire world has been hit by the Coronavirus. Although the vaccines have started rolling out in most countries, the virus has surfaced once again in what we call the second wave. While many physical lives have been claimed by the dreadful virus, one must not forget that a lot of souls are also being lost to the devil as a result of the various restrictions placed on religious gatherings that are meant to provide spiritual nourishment.
An invisible enemy from the devil’s camp appears to have been set loose to devour all those who are weakening spiritually. And since the virus appears to have come to stay for a longer time and the fact that the restrictions on spiritual gatherings will continue, undoubtedly the invisible enemy will be claiming more and more souls.
Effect of the pandemic on one's spirituality
Right from the time of the early Church, prayer, the Word of God, sacraments and Christian fellowship have always served as essential spiritual elements for sustaining one’s soul. A great number of Christians who at one time experienced the renewal at a retreat or a faith-conference have started going easy on their spiritual life as a result of the pandemic. Personal prayer, listening or reading the Word of God and meditating on it have all taken a backseat. There is no Christian fellowship. Participating in the online Mass for many is no longer as meaningful as it was at the beginning of the pandemic. At times, even that is being skipped to accommodate the chores of daily life – or even worse, a TV serial.
Consequences of giving spirituality a holiday
The impact of compromising over all these vital spiritual elements can be seen clearly in the way fear, pride, arrogance, bitterness, lust, materialism, etc. have entered the same heart that once upon a time used to beat for Jesus alone.
A number of marriages are on the verge of breakdown, children have gone astray totally. Well, all these are indirectly connected to the pandemic. But unknown to many, it is the invisible enemy who is destroying many good souls. As St. Paul would say in Ephesians 6:12: For we are not fighting against human beings but against the wicked spiritual forces in the heavenly world, the rulers, authorities, and cosmic powers of this dark age.
Shepherds who fail to play their role
What is more saddening is that many spiritual leaders who have been appointed by God to strengthen His people have also given themselves a holiday. There is absolutely no concern for the flock of Christ. And the Lord has this to say to them… “You are doomed, you shepherds of Israel! You take care of yourselves, but never tend the sheep. Because the sheep had no shepherd, they were scattered, and wild animals killed and ate them. So listen to me, you shepherds. I, the Sovereign LORD, declare that I am your enemy. I will take my sheep away from you and never again let you be their shepherds; never again will I let you take care only of yourselves. I will rescue my sheep from you and not let you eat them. (Ezekiel 34:2,5, 9-10).
A Christian Leader paralyzed with fear
There are also those spiritual leaders who are aware of what the enemy is doing to the flock of Christ. But they afraid to take bold and courageous steps in order to fight the enemy. Before the pandemic started, they were actively involved in evangelisation and disciple-building; but now, instead of relying on the Lord for help and daring to fight against the enemy, they stand helpless doing nothing.
They are like the prophet Elijah. At one time, Elijah did great things for the Lord. He predicted that there would be a drought in Israel, he spoke the message of God boldly against the evil king Ahab, he even had all the prophets of Baal killed. (1 Kings 17:1-2, 18). But when Queen Jezebel, the wife of Ahab, threatened to kill him, he was afraid and fled for his life. (1 Kings 19:3). Many Christian leaders today fall in the Elijah category.
In the backdrop of the pandemic, the spiritual situation around us today can be compared to the scene at the time when one single Philistine named Goliath challenged the entire Israelite army every morning and evening for forty days, saying to them “Here and now I challenge the Israelite army. I dare you to pick someone to fight me!" (1 Samuel 17:16, 10-11). Gloiath of course is symbolic to the invisible enemy. The forty days refer to a long period of time. In fact, the World Health Organization has warned that COVID-19 is ‘extremely dangerous’ and ‘will be with us for a long time.’ All this only means that the hidden enemy is going to be here for a long time; and each day, he is challenging all of us who are spiritual and who know what is really happening, “Here and now I challenge you Christians. I dare you to pick someone to fight me!"
How we look and listen matters
What is our response to the challenge of the enemy whom we are facing today? Are we going to respond as Saul and his men did? ‘They were terrified,’ says the Bible (1 Samuel 17:11b). "Look at him!" they said to each other. "Listen to his challenge!" (1 Samuel 17:25). That is the problem with many Christians today. They go more by what they see and hear from the enemy rather than relying on the strength of God and listening to His voice alone. The result is they end up getting terrified.
Responding the right way
David, the shepherd boy responded differently to the situation. His words to king Saul were, "Your Majesty, I take care of my father's sheep. Any time a lion or a bear carries off a lamb, I go after it, attack it, and rescue the lamb. And if the lion or bear turns on me, I grab it by the throat and beat it to death. I have killed lions and bears, and I will do the same to this heathen Philistine, who has defied the army of the living God. The LORD has saved me from lions and bears; he will save me from this Philistine." (1 Samuel 17:34-37).
Keeping yourself in training for a godly life is a must
From what David told king Saul, it is very clear that he was never on a spiritual holiday. He was constantly connected to God. In fact, the challenges that he faced each time led him to rely more on God and not on his own strength and wisdom. Please note, it was not a single lion or a single bear that he had killed; the plural is used here – lions and bears. God was allowing such situations again and again to keep him fit not only in terms of his physical strength but also his faith so that one day, he would be ready to fight a Goliath. Therefore, only a person who is constantly trained by God will be able to respond in the right way to a Goliath kind of situation. In other words, one cannot afford to give spirituality a holiday. Remember the words of St. Paul, “Keep yourself in training for a godly life. Physical exercise has some value, but spiritual exercise is valuable in every way, because it promises life both for the present and for the future. (1 Timothy 4:7-8).
Pandemic and the Great Commission
Keeping ourselves in training for a godly life prepares us to fulfill the mission of Our Lord Jesus even at the time of a pandemic. It is a mission, which He has entrusted to every Christian: Go, then, to all peoples everywhere and make them my disciples: baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and teach them to obey everything I have commanded you. And I will be with you always, to the end of the age." (Matthew 28:19-20). In situations such as the current pandemic, God empowers those who keep themselves in training for a godly life so that they are able to rise to the occasion. And He promises to be with them.
Striking the enemy and cutting off his head
It was now time for David to stand on the battlefield and fight Goliath. Kindly note what he said to the Philistine giant, "You are coming against me with sword, spear, and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the LORD Almighty, the God of the Israelite armies, which you have defied. This very day the LORD will put you in my power; I will defeat you and cut off your head…" (1 Samuel 17:45-47). And please note what David did next. He reached into his bag and took out a stone, which he slung at Goliath. It hit him on the forehead and broke his skull, and Goliath fell face downward on the ground. He ran to him, stood over him, took Goliath's sword out of its sheath, and cut off his head and killed him. (1 Samuel 17:49, 51). A Christian who is zealous about wining souls to Christ will always have this kind of attitude. He will not be able to tolerate the enemy devouring helpless souls and so he will not rest until he cuts off the head of the enemy. At a time like this when the pandemic is raging on, God is looking out for those who will step forward like David to strike the head of the invisible enemy and cut off his head.
Although there are various restrictions on gatherings for worship and fellowship due to the pandemic, God can still show us unimaginable ways by which we can strike the forehead of the enemy and cut off his head; not so much by relying on our thinking, strategies and human strength but by relying on the power of His Spirit. When we have the Spirit of Christ in us, like David, we can challenge the enemy in return, “This very day the LORD will put you in my power; I will defeat you and cut off your head. And I will give the bodies of the Philistine soldiers to the birds and animals to eat. Then the whole world will know that Israel has a God, and everyone here will see that the LORD does not need swords or spears to save His people. He is victorious in battle, and He will put all of you in our power." (1Samuel 17: 46, 47).