There is something I have observed about God’s ways. He often speaks to us in advance of something that is coming to prepare us for its arrival.
This often happened to me pastorally, especially in the earlier years of ministry when I was in my 20’s. I would find myself thinking of a pastoral situation and then it would arise. The hypothetical became real but because I had thought it through in my “imagination” just before it actually happened, there was at least a beginning of consideration about how to pastor that situation already established within me. I could give you a whole list of situations that I found myself wondering about in the immediate days before they presented themselves to me. How would I cope with helping someone who had experienced a murder in their family? What would I say to someone who asked me if they could be a homosexual and a Christian? How would I pastor in the event of the death of a baby, or the murder of a child etc.? What about a suicide? A drowning?Sometimes they were very specific warnings indeed fulfilled to the letter. How would I pastor a situation where a Father had murdered his children? What about a toddler dying in a fire, and their sibling being left scarred? These, and countless other scenarios are the sorts of situations that many pastors come across. Remember this list, by the way, when you maybe don’t get all the attention you want to for something that in comparison is pretty petty. I began to get afraid if the thought, “I wonder what I would do if…” came to mind. However, I eventually had the faith to look on it as the kindness of God that He often was minded to give me a couple of days warning, without me always perceiving it is as an obvious preparation at the time. By the way, not every wondering fell into that category, I am glad to say!
There is another observation of the same type but different. Sometimes before God moves in a particular way, in a notable way, either in mercy or judgement, there can be prior events that show where we stand in relation to what is coming. Let me give you an example from the past 50 years (almost) of my own spiritual walk. Right now, I am believing for Revival, a sovereign move of the Spirit of God that will affect the lives of untold thousands of people in the UK and in other nations. I have believed for that for decades now. At times over those same years I have seen God send seasons of Renewal, that never became Revival, but they were blessed times. At the same time such seasons often bring to light what is in the hearts of God’s people, to show what He knows about us already. Times of Renewal show perhaps why all that we can be trusted in is the glory of His presence that comes in such moves of the Spirit, compared with the glory that comes in Revival.
Times of Renewal in my lifetime have revealed where God’s people still need to be made more new still, to be entrusted with more. They have revealed where I need to be made more new still. At times of enormous blessing, disunity, pride, competitiveness have often come to light in the most crass terms. I think of one meeting where God moved in incredible power. After it, there was a terrible display of disunity and criticism. At other times, as soon as God moves in a sovereign way ,I have seen the desire to control matters rising up, an attempt to harness God to our own particular spiritual movement, theology, church, location or name. Please hear me. I am not leaving myself out of this. At a time of Renewal, when God was moving in our midst in Thurso, in the late 90’s, I had an experience in my half asleep moment early one morning, where God’s Spirit came rushing towards me with the sound of a hurricane and the speed of an express train. I had to say, “No, Lord. I am not ready for this.” I wasn’t. Have any of us the slightest clue of the terrible and awful side of Revival? Am I ready yet? God alone knows. Are we ready to be blown to bits and reconstructed, never to be the same again, in a more profound way than we have ever experienced?
I am wondering the same at this moment in the midst of the coronavirus. What does it show of the human heart, what does it show in terms of the hearts of believers? What does it show of where I am with God and how much I understand of his ways of righteousness, truth, mercy and judgement, and of how the God of the Bible acts in the affairs of this world? What further events still to come upon the earth may this present moment be a sign of? Are we prepared for that, of which this may only be a herald song and trumpet blast?