A couple of months ago during a sermon, I mentioned a movie, titled “Paul, Apostle of Christ,” that I highly recommended for adults (only) in our church to watch. And then several weeks ago we all unexpectedly got thrust into this current battle against the coronavirus outbreak. As you know, this virus has changed life, as we know it, for the entire world. And now some of you are probably asking, “How in the world is a movie and the coronavirus connected?”
Soon after the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, life was truly turned upside down for those first believers and followers of Christ in the city of Rome. The emperor Nero and the Roman empire were persecuting and killing followers of “the way” of Jesus, by feeding them to lions, or burning their bodies as “Roman candles” on palace walls.
Our lives have been “turned upside down” by coronavirus. We can’t go to restaurants, meet in groups, or perhaps have become unemployed. But mostly, we have an anticipation of soon being able to return back to normal.
But then, what, actually is “normal” to be for a follower of “the way” of Jesus? Is it being able to “wine and dine” again? Or, continue with the “American dream?” Perhaps to have excess “spending money?”
This week my wife and I re-watched the movie, “Paul, the Apostle” and my heart was deeply moved. Why? Because those early believers were faced with persecution and death. They also were debating among themselves whether to take up weapons and revolt against the Roman government, or to give their lives in “the circus” where lions would rip them limb from limb. They were faced with those decisions because they were responding at a level that we have not even had to consider as a possibility in our lives.
Before watching this movie on Wednesday evening, I was asked on a telephone call, “Gil, do you think that what we are facing is possibly the beginning of the tribulation?” And I responded by saying, “No, I believe this is a precursor moving towards the end. However, I also believe the tribulation will be multiple times worse.”
My concluding summary of this story that I’ve just shared is this. We are in the middle of a moment of grace—as opposed to a moment of suffering. God’s grace has been extended to us as believers during this time so that we can truly take inventory and re-evaluate what are our eternal values. And “why” would we do that?
Jesus Himself gave His life for us, died on a cross for us that we could start experiencing eternal life right now, rather than settling for temporal, short fixes. And as our Savior, He is worthy of our lives being fully lived in worship of Him. Therefore, we should be re-evaluating our priorities in life and looking afresh at our lists by which we’ve previously lived. Hopefully my list and yours are becoming much more focused, much more defined, much much narrower with an eternal perspective—rather than just hoping we can get back to our temporal comforts. May we be filled with grace and faith—and a passion for the eternal—as we re-form our list of priorities for our lives.