By Timothy D. Sprankle
Crisis is a heavy word. It makes us panic. It makes us cringe. Crises come in various forms, ranging from running out of gas on your commute home to watching your house burn to the ground as you reach your driveway. All crises disrupt. They force us to pause, re-calibrate, and remember God’s faithfulness.
The recent COVID-19 pandemic has reshaped the world in a matter of weeks. Supermarkets are running low on supplies. Stock markets are tanking. Schools, churches, and businesses are shutting their doors to create “social distance”; to forestall the spread of disease; to wait and see what’s next. Behind closed doors, many people feel a mixture of emotions: worry, fear, doubt, skepticism, frustration, isolation, and uncertainty.
For Such a Time as This
For such a time as this, godly leaders must arise. In churches, businesses, and homes, God has called leaders to help people prioritize wisdom, love of neighbor, and trust in divine providence.
Years ago, I had the privilege of working with Barb Wooler, leader of Encompass World Partners’ Crisis Response Team, in developing a sermon series based on her devotional. Barb wrote 30 Days to a More Resilient Faith because she encountered “resilient faith” in the face of remarkable trials. Her devotional chronicles the responses of biblical figures and people from recent history who have stared down lions, withstood earthquakes, and survived tsunamis.
Resilient faith has two common threads: an eternal perspective and active response.
Resilient faith views crisis as God’s curriculum. We are not victims of chance. Life is not a mix of happy and unhappy accidents. Resilient faith people know God always aims to teach His people. He uses crisis as a central part of His curriculum.
Resilient faith chooses to trust, pray, think critically, and persevere. While the flight-fight-freeze response may be their first impulse, resilient faith people respond wisely. They recognize crisis (and the suffering that follows) is inevitable, but an active response keeps them from sinking deeply in despair.
The biblical story records numerous stories of resiliency in crisis. Abraham faced the crises of infertility, war, and dislocation from his homeland. Moses braved the crises of Pharaoh’s cruelty and Israel’s skepticism during his emancipation campaign. Joshua encountered the crises of succeeding Moses and leading the emerging generation in the conquest of the Promised Land. David endured the crises of King Saul’s jealousy, as well the family fallout from his own moral failings. None of these can outweigh the crisis experienced by Jesus as he bore the cross for the sins of the world, forsaken by the Father who loved him before the world came to be.
Crisis happens. Suffering follows.
We all face it. How we face it makes all the difference. Those who face crisis and endure suffering with resilient faith will come out the other side with a stronger witness, tougher soul, and firmer trust in God. The “great cloud of witnesses” (Hebrews 11:1–12:1) are our guides. Contrarily, those with faltering faith will focus on their lost wages and opportunities, missed friends and opportunities, political and social media debates. Or they’ll simply forget God during a month-long Netflix binge.
Leaders who want to demonstrate resilient faith during this crisis might benefit by meditating on Joseph’s life. The Joseph novella (Genesis 37–50) records several ironic reversals, as the main character goes from favored son to brother’s victim, prized servant to Potiphar’s scapegoat, and forgotten prisoner to Pharaoh’s second-in-command. Along the way, the narrator reminds his readers that God is at work despite Joseph’s crises. Additionally, three key insights emerge:
Three Key Insights
- Resilience in personal crisis prepares us to lead in shared Leaders, what crises has God brought you that has prepared you to lead your congregation during the COVID-19 crisis?
- Resilient faith sees through human agents to see God’s hands. Leaders, how can you redirect your focus (and that of the people under your care) to God, not the government, global maps, or greedy people in grocery stores during the COVID-19 crisis?
- Resilient faith remains godly amid crisis. Leaders, your posture during this crisis may matter more than your political/ethical position. Your people follow your example. How are you showing wisdom, love for neighbor, respect for authorities, and trust in God?
The COVID-19 crisis is real. The virus has spread. The world is shifting. My sleep has suffered. My church has barred its doors. I’ve found myself staring at walls. But I must lead. You must lead. In crisis, those with resilient faith stand up like Joseph and say, “I will trust God in my hard times so I can help others in theirs.”
(This article has been adapted from an earlier sermon. For the full version of the original message, go to: http://encompasscrisisresponse.org/resources/tim-talks/