Since the outbreak of the coronavirus global pandemic, individuals, societies, institutions, organizations and systems have had to necessarily adjust themselves to embrace another way of life. This is as a result of of the rates and spikes of infection and re-infection in different waves and variants across the globe with its associated fatalities and devastation to humanity in general. As of February 2021, over 111million people had contracted the virus with over 2.4million deaths. My heartfelt condolences to all who have lost loved ones not to talk of the untold hardships it has brought to our world today.
UK Nightingale Medical Director Dr. Vin Diwakar said, “I can tell you Covid-19 is a horrible, horrible disease that leaves so many including young people, breathless and gasping for life.” Dr. Stefan Nava at Sant’Orsola-Malpighi Hospital in Bologna, Italy after testing positive also said, “The disease taught us one important thing: Medicine is a probabilistic science, 1+1 may give you 3 because something unpredictable can really screw things up. It changed my life because I got the sense of being mortal.” My prayer! Oh Lord God of all creation, the universe, the Nations and humankind, please have mercy on us, forgive our sins and lift your hands against this plague that is still sweeping across the Nations and heal the Land for us in the mighty name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
Today, some major cities in the world are still in some sort of total or partial lockdown with many more having to live with certain statutory restrictions for only God knows when. We have all been, thus, compelled to adjust, adapt or completely change our way of life and replace it with one termed as the “new normal”.
This lifestyle has, today, succeeded in transforming the socio-cultural settings of our daily lives. It is characterised by no or minimal physical contacts among persons and, when it becomes necessary, the duration and time allotted have been cut substantially. Regular washing of hands, the keeping, and maintenance of best hygienic practices at the shopping malls, markets, schools, religious, and all other social gatherings have been the order of the day. Major church programs and activities are successfully being hoisted on virtual platforms. Financially prudent and efficient measures have also been embraced by individuals and corporate organisations to meet the difficulties of the times. The “new normal”, although challenging to keep, has brought entirely new perspectives to life which can be harnessed for one’s benefit. Revival is basically bringing back to life or a renewal of a system which is threatening to die off or lose its fervency, power and relevance. Instead of focusing on the discomfort the Covid restrictions, individuals, institutions and para-church organizations should rather fish out the revival opportunities it offers.
God in times past, locked down one of His messengers with unprecedented restrictions in the belly of a fish for three agonising days and nights when He insisted on saving the people of Nineveh, which is present-day Mosul in Iraq (Jonah 1:1-17). Out of sheer disobedience, Jonah embarked upon a route and towed a particular line of action that was not going to inure to the benefit of the Lord’s vineyard business. God’s “new normal” was for the people of this great city who were perishing-bound to turn from their wicked ways and turn to Him through Jonah’s message. When Jonah attempted to resist this, God visited the shipping vessel with a violent wind until he was thrown into the sea. It was in this period of self-isolation and traumatic experience that he reconnected with God and accepted His “new normal” plan.
Jonah then called upon God for help and as part of his cry, said, “…I will look again toward your holy Temple.” (Jonah 2:4). He continued, “… what I have vowed I will make good….” (Jonah 2:9). After the prayer, the Bible says, “And the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah unto dry Land.” (Jonah 2:10). God released him this time around to great Nineveh and not Tarshish, his familiar and comfort zone. At Nineveh, Jonah saved 120,000 souls who were bound to perish. According to Jonah 3:3, this city was so large that it took 3-days to go through it. It was, therefore, never a coincidence that Jonah had to be locked down for 3-days in the belly of the fish waiting on God for the Herculean task ahead of him and achievable in not less than 3-days. Though uncomfortable, it was a necessary evil for Jonah to stay in the belly of the fish for 3-days and 3-nights.
Even though the “new normal” the world and its socio-cultural settings are being forced to accept comes with many challenges, there are also an avalanche of opportunities God will use to His glory if only believers embrace them. Like Jonah’s case, is it not possible that the assignment ahead of us requires a total re-examination and re-alignments to God’s “new normal” according to His calendar of events? And which may not necessarily be the usual expectation? The more Jonah hid under the deck in the ship, the rougher and rougher the sea became (Jonah 1:11). Fighting the “new normal” will only result in more difficulties and frustrations. God had prioritised the salvation of the entire people of the city over Jonah’s prejudices regarding sinners.
Out of Jonah’s imposed restrictions in the belly of the fish sprout out the needed revival to possess the great city of Nineveh and its surroundings for God. As the greatest stakeholder of the vineyard business, the Lord Jesus would not allow any old-fashioned mentality, systems, and traditions that do not lend themselves to Spirit-directed improvements to stay in the way of the great awakening and revival in these last days. All humanly cast-in-stone practices that appear allergic to the Spirit’s move will have to give way to His “new normal”.
Similarly, when the Holy Spirit began taking over the territories of the Middle East region in the early days of AD 33, some of the religious zealots of the Mosaic laws determined to fight God’s “new normal” on many fronts. Led by the scribes, Pharisees, the high priest, and teachers of the law, a serious campaign was waged against the early church. As a result, many adherents to the “new normal” in Christ Jesus suffered diverse ordeals until the Lord placed Saul under a lockdown. As he was nearing Damascus to arrest the disciples, the Lord flashed a light from heaven around him, which caused him to fall on the ground. Like Jonah, for three days, Saul was blind and did not eat or drink anything. Saul began praying during this period, and he started seeing visions (Acts 9:1-12).
His lockdown restrictions turned him from a murderer to a Paul who shook the Greco-Roman jurisdiction to its foundations for Christ. Paul eventually became the apostle of the highest number of books that contributed to the canon of scriptures. Jonah’s “new normal” in the belly of the fish for three agonising days is what made him a hundred and twenty thousand souls winner. Israel’s “new normal” as a result of their 40-day lockdown in the valley of Elah and under siege by Goliath, the Philistine champion is what unleashed David who was to become Israel’s greatest king and warrior of all time. Joseph’s “new normal” when he was locked down in prison is what enabled him to become the prime minister of Egypt. What have you been seeing in this “new normal” way of doing things concerning the fallout of COVID-19? Are you concentrating on only the discomfort relative to the old manner of ways? Or you are still at a loss and sitting idle awaiting your usual way of life? As a believer, can you not see new and golden opportunities all around you? And for you to discern the times to be unleashed to your God-given potential?
Why not embrace it, be at rest with the new normal, and allow the best God wants to make out of you for your household, society, and the world at large? In any case, the more you fight this “new normal”, the more stressful it will impact your life. My deepest concerns and sympathies go out to all who have lost their jobs as a result. May the Lord make a way out to soothe the pain many are experiencing in these times. There are, however, many blessings that life in the “new normal” has brought to many individuals, households, organisations, and society.
Human and all material resources are under serious scrutiny. Procedures and processes are also being audited to eliminate all double handling for optimal operational levels across all sectors. Let us accept the “new normal” by seeking the face of God to discern the times, so we don’t fruitlessly wrestle it. By taking a sober Spirit-led reflection of your activities at the home, office, church, and your workplace, God can help improve your lot and bring the best in you. Let us also educate our households and constituents and calm their nerves, inspire hope and confidence in them to make every opportunity out of the times.
Embracing this “new normal” is what will enable us to employ all the tools in reaching out to the lost most cost-effectively as well as discipling the nations. On the third day, Jonah was vomited unto dry ground for his discomfort to cease. Paul equally received back his sight after the third day. Joseph became the prime minister in Egypt after his two years’ incarceration and Israel after forty days in the valley of Elah, saw their God-given and anointed king. The discomfort, pain, and anguish we are all experiencing today, courtesy COVID-19, will, therefore, be over sooner than later. Care must be taken not to allow it to pass by without catching every blessing, revival or renewal God has for us in the period. The church will come out more refined, purer, well-focused, efficient, and more effective than the pre-covid era. Christ insists, “I will build my church, and the gates of hades will not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18).
By Pastor James Agyin Orhin