What is the difference between a sprint and a marathon? A sprint is a short race; one in which the runners can easily see the end-line. A marathon is a long race; in a marathon, until the very end, the participants cannot see the end line. They are two very different races and involve different strategies. A sprint requires a burst of energy for a very short period of time. A marathon requires a management of energy and can go on for several hours. So with the COVID-19 virus crisis, it is helpful for us to realize that we are "running a marathon," not a sprint; and we will need a sound strategy if we are going to cross the finish line...
Peter gives us some sound advice as to how to face a period of stress and trial. In (1 Peter 5:6-10) he tells us that we should...
1. Turn to God. (vs. 6): "Humble yourselves, therefore under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time." He promises that the time will come when the trial will pass and we will be "lifted up." But in the mean time we should "humble ourselves under God's mighty hand." I think the first question we should ask ourselves is: "How are we spending our time during this period when our activity has been greatly restricted? Are we spending all of our time watching TV and playing on our computers? Or, are we giving more time to meditation, study, reading, and prayer. In a strange way, the situation we face can be an opportunity for us to draw closer to God and seek a deeper relationship with Him. It begins as we "humble ourselves" and turn our attention to God.
2. Cast Your Anxiety on God. (vs. 6): "Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you." The fact is, many people are scared. Many are worried. Many are stressed. These concerns are not totally unwarranted; many have lost their jobs, many have family members who are ill; many are not sure how they are going to continue to pay their bills. Anxiety is running high. But Peter encourages us to "cast our anxiety on God." This period of corona virus crisis is not a surprise to God, nor is it one that is beyond God's power and help. In our own power we will always fall short of our goal. But, by "casting our anxiety on him" our burden can be lifted and we can run the race with effectiveness and grace.
3. Be Alert and Resist Temptation. (vs. 8): "Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour." In short, this is a time in which we need to be very careful to guard our thoughts. The Evil One delights in getting us caught up in cycles of negative thinking and inappropriate behavior. When we give into to doubt, despair, anxiety, temptation, and fear, the Evil One truly devours our confidence and joy.
4. Be Faithful in Fellowship. (vs 9): "Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your fellow believers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings." We are not the only ones who have been affected by the corona virus crisis. Believers and non-believers alike, throughout the world, are having to deal with the havoc that this virus has brought upon us. We need to realize that we are not in this boat alone, and we need to realize the importance of staying in touch with one another and encouraging one another. We may not be able to meet with our family and friends as we desire; but we can reach out to them and we can be in fellowship with them.
5. Trust in God's Sovereignty and Power. (vs. 10): "And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast." God tells us that our suffering won't go on for ever. It will no doubt go on longer than we wish; but it will not go on forever. In fact, the day is going to come when, by God's power, we will be restored, strengthened, made firm and steadfast. In other words, God will make something good come from all of this if we can only humble ourselves and turn to Him.
The covid-19 race is a marathon, not a sprint. But I am confident that, by God's grace, we can all cross the finish line in victory with Him!
Dr. Allen Schneider is a United Methodist pastor and a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist presently serving the Sapulpa and greater Tulsa communities.