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God in Every Season  Mark Jennings

‘I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am’.    Philippians 4:11

A curious prayer is found in Proverbs 30:8-9: ‘Give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is my portion, so that I will not be full and deny You and say, “Who is the LORD?” And that I will not become impoverished and steal, and profane the name of my God’.

The Psalmist prays against both poverty and prosperity because both involve spiritual challenges. We can understand not wanting to become so destitute that we may feel forced to steal and to tarnish God’s name by doing so. But it’s curious that the prayer is also against accumulating wealth. Affluence also brings increased temptation – to forget God and to put our trust in uncertain riches. The hearts of Christians can be challenged by the good times and bad times.

Satan’s pleased when people live lives that waver between thankless self-reliance and stressed-out fretfulness. Never really knowing the peace of God, they spiral further and further away from the Saviour. Christians should have an awareness of the times: of how specific times might affect their faith and how these times might be opening new doors for the spread of the Gospel.

People often say that 2020 is a year they’d rather forget. There’s a t-shirt for purchase that pictures a skip bin on fire with a caption that simply reads ‘2020’. Yes, COVID-19 and lockdowns raised various challenges for the church. Social distancing isn’t natural for a church family. We’re accustomed to greeting one another with kisses, hugs, and handshakes. Singing via videoconference just isn’t the same. For many, the isolation has been difficult.

So where do we stand in the autumn of 2021? The mood seems to be shifting. The virus still haunts us but things are looking up. People are talking about life going back to normal. Many churches are meeting in-person again. Ministries are resuming. 

In Canberra we’re preparing to recommence our community dinners – a free-meal ministry that’s provided great spiritual encouragement to the church. After months of meeting remotely, the first Sunday where we’re able to gather together once again was amazing – the singing and the fellowship!

We hope that better times lie ahead. But each season comes with spiritual challenges. The 'post-COVID' season will be no different. We musn’t be tempted to stop relying on God when things get comfortable. We shouldn’t take the good times for granted.

The Bible reminds us that there are some things we should be doing in all circumstances - things that are essential to placing Him at the forefront, no matter what the season. In 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, Paul gave his final instructions to the Thessalonians: ‘Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus’.

God wills that in all circumstances – good and bad – we should be steadfast in rejoicing, praying, and giving thanks. These are antidotes to the troubled heart that rarely experiences God’s peace. The post-COVID period will provide a real opportunity for the church to present the Gospel to a restless world that has faced 2020 without that peace. I recently asked a visitor why he’s joined us for Sunday worship. He answered, ‘Because I’m depressed about COVID’. People are lost and hurting. They need us to share with them the Good News.

Philippians 4:11 says: ‘I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with little, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.’ 

Regardless of what goes on in our uncertain time on earth, churches and individuals must focus on what is certain. Let’s also focus on the spiritual disciplines of rejoicing, praying, giving thanks, and learning to rely on God and his power – in all circumstances. In this way we can continue not only to grow in God’s grace but to share in his Good News and to continue in his work.

Mark worships with the Canberra Church of Christ with his wife, Kate, and their children: Lily, Eli, and Miles. He enjoys church life, fishing, and camping.    marcusjjj@yahoo.com.au

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