I have been in lockdown since the 16th of March. In that time, I have really only been out of the house on four or five occasions and those were short walks around the block. Many of us are feeling the burden of the limiting of our everyday freedoms. It’s frustrating. It’s easy to grumble.
If we are honest, how does our limited exercise of freedom compare to that of Paul? What does the Holy Spirit and God’s word tell us?
If you think a couple of months of quarantine is bad, think about being a prisoner for the Gospel. Paul spent four or five years in custody.
It is his attitude in this confinement that is an example to us.
Philippians 1, Paul notes his love and thanksgiving for his brothers and sisters in Philippi and then verses 7 – 14 says:
It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus. And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.
Although physically isolated from them he is still in harmony with them as they shared the grace of Christ. We may not physically be together today but we are linked and united in that grace.
Paul then continues in verse 12:
Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ.
Members of the Emperor’s household guard were coming to the Lord as a direct result of Paul’s captivity. It may not seem it now, but you may well be making a bigger difference in this time of restrictions than you are aware. It may be through your examples of faith and perseverance, or it may be through such links and forums as these online worship sessions which bring us together and link us to some who have never worshipped with us before. We are only the sowers, but God will reap the harvest.
In Ephesians 3:14-21 Paul tells the church not to be disheartened by his tribulation. He instead explains his wish for the saints:
For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
Paul’s desire was for the church was for it to know that no matter what the outward appearance of things may seem, God is bigger than it.
So in a practical application, we can see in Philippians 2:14 and 15:
Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky . . .
We need to examine where we are today. Not only in this Covid crisis, but in all life’s other lockdowns, as well. Job losses, bereavements, strained relationships, and the like are all lockdowns emotionally, but they don’t need to be spiritually.
What can we do? Well look at the opportunities. In this long isolation I have had more time for the word. Have you? More time to pray. I have really focused on many of you, and for families around the world who have suffered loss in these times. More time to encourage. The internet is wonderful when applied to godly purposes. I really have been blessed myself in being able to send little words of hope and encouragement to others.
In the end, in life’s lockdowns, it’s a time for joy.
If you have noted that the format of this isn’t exactly the same as my usual posts, it is because this in a manuscript of a sermon.