Redeem the Time—Draw Close to God
Earlier in April, Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan summed it up: “We’ve never experienced a time like this before—a global pandemic, a national shutdown—and may never again.” Wherever one turns—to America, Asia, Europe, Africa, South America and all points in between—no country or economy remains untouched by the deadly global spread of the coronavirus.
We in the Church of God have felt its toxic touch, whether from health, economic or lifestyle perspectives. Jesus prayed to His Father, “I do not ask that you take them out of the world” (John 17:15 John 17:15I pray not that you should take them out of the world, but that you should keep them from the evil.
American King James Version×, English Standard Version), and indeed that has been the case. We live in the thick of a truly historic moment.
One thing is certain: wherever we are physically, this time represents a most urgent time for all of us in the Church of God to draw close to God, to come to the point where Jesus Christ is more fully evident and living in each and every one of us (Galatians 2:20 Galatians 2:20I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.
American King James Version×).
This is a time for us! We who are privileged to be a part of the Church of God have been called to a purpose. We are to be shining spiritual lights to this world (Matthew 5:16 Matthew 5:16Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
American King James Version×), demonstrating God’s way of life in an increasingly lawless and turbulent world.
An important spiritual tool to help achieve this is fasting. For most, fasting is not a pleasant experience. Although tolerable, the feelings of weakness, fatigue, thirst and hunger accomplish a profound purpose. They deeply remind us that we are not God. These feelings remind us that we are fragile beings completely dependent on a steady supply of food and water. Without them, we would soon perish.
Of course, we do not fast to try to “get” God to see our way and somehow “make” Him to do something we want. We fast to humble ourselves, to spiritually reacquaint ourselves with our need to be connected to God, our need to praise Him for providing us with what we need and sheltering us in times of trouble. Fasting helps us understand how if we are to draw close to God, we must surrender every corner of our lives and fully yield to Him and His will.
As we fast, we can find direction and help in the 58th chapter of Isaiah. Here we read what God inspired: “this is the kind of fasting I want: Free those who are wrongly imprisoned; lighten the burden of those who work for you. Let the oppressed go free, and remove the chains that bind people. Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless. Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help” (Isaiah 58:6-7 Isaiah 58:6-7  Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that you break every yoke?
 Is it not to deal your bread to the hungry, and that you bring the poor that are cast out to your house? when you see the naked, that you cover him; and that you hide not yourself from your own flesh?
American King James Version×, New Living Translation, emphasis added throughout).
God wants our fasting to produce a new spiritual awareness and motivation of our purpose to be servants, to always be willing to serve, wherever God places us. He wants us to use the spiritual knowledge that He has given us and take action!
In this time of global disruption, are we reaching out to those in our physical and spiritual families? Are we repairing broken relationships and mending or strengthening our spiritual connections? Are we truly helping where we can?
Each one of us can help set people free by praying fervently for our public outreach, that we have the wisdom, the mettle, and the ability to mightily proclaim the gospel of the Kingdom of God. We must courageously and boldly reach out to peoples who are enslaved and shackled in spiritual chains by the god of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4 2 Corinthians 4:4In whom the god of this world has blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine to them.
American King James Version×).
As we fast and draw close to God, we can “pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields” (Matthew 9:38 Matthew 9:38Pray you therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth laborers into his harvest.
American King James Version×, NLT) that we as God’s church may fulfill our commission to “go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:18 Matthew 28:18And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, All power is given to me in heaven and in earth.
American King James Version×, NLT).
And as we fast and yield ourselves to God, let us pray fervently for the people of the world—and especially our spiritual family—in areas of the world that do not have the protection, the healthcare and the financial blessings that those of us in America and elsewhere are privileged to have.
Let us soberly remember what Walter Russell Mead, an international expert, recently wrote: “The pandemic may have peaked in many countries, but for much of the world the worst is yet to come.” That includes countries in Africa, South America and Asia where your spiritual brothers and sisters live!
Dr. Mead warns that in these poorer nations, financial collapse can lead to the overthrow of governments, fostering even more chaos. As he writes “Drug gangs, warlords and jihadist groups will be ready to step in.” It is indeed a dangerous time to live in some parts of the world.
Whether in America or Malawi, we are all in economic and political shock at the moment. We are all in uncharted waters. We in the Church need God more than ever!
But even in uncharted waters, God and Jesus Christ are with us. God promises that if we truly fast in the attitude and manner that He wants, “then shall your light break forth like the dawn… then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am’ ” (Isaiah 58:8-9 Isaiah 58:8-9  Then shall your light break forth as the morning, and your health shall spring forth speedily: and your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.
 Then shall you call, and the LORD shall answer; you shall cry, and he shall say, Here I am. If you take away from the middle of you the yoke, the putting forth of the finger, and speaking vanity;
American King James Version×ESV).
Let us use the tool of fasting to draw close to God, and to confidently ask God for insight and courage to act in this time of great challenge! Let us be “redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:16 Ephesians 5:16Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.
American King James Version×).