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Don’t despise ‘small beginnings’. (Zechariah 4-10)

In December 2013, I attended the funeral of a dear lady, who was 99 years old.  She had served God faithfully in the church (which my brother pastors in France) and for many years, her heart’s desire was to see a revival. In almost every meeting, her voice could be heard, ‘Lord, send yet again, a revival!’

I had the privilege of attending her funeral and it was a truly remarkable occasion, where the presence of God was felt so powerfully.  My brother Daniel said to me, “You need to preach in church on Sunday” and the following weekend, which was the last Sunday of 2013, as I spoke, we began to see and feel the expectation level in the church rising up in an unprecedented way. This led to the beginning of a mighty move of God and over the next few years, this move of God would lead to many people becoming saved and experiencing healing.

Sometimes I look back and wonder if the funeral of our dear 99 year old friend, was actually the spark that lit a flame.  Although she did not live to see it, her faithful prayers over the years, led to a new move of God.

I have been thinking about this recently, as I have been closely watching world events.

All around us, large churches which have seen 1000s of members walk through their doors each week, have had to go ‘back to basics’ and meet in small, sometimes online groups.  Throughout the Covid crisis, we have been forced to look at how we do things smaller, rather than how we make them bigger.

And we are learning how to not despise ‘small beginnings’.

Just like our 99-year-old friend in the church, her prayer life may have seemed ‘small’ to some but I believe her faithfulness (even to the end of her life) led to something very big being ignited.

Please don’t get me wrong.  I love to see churches filled with many members, but I also believe there is Biblical precedent for small gatherings too.

In Mark 5, Jesus goes to the home of Jairus to pray for Jairus’ daughter who was very sick. When Jesus arrived there, the Scripture tells us there were many people present, many of them were crying loudly and wailing and Jesus quickly sent them out of the house, so that there were just a few left.

It was in that very ‘small’ moment that an incredible miracle occurred and the little girl, who by this point was dead, was now brought back to life.   Often times, we can devalue and overlook what is seemingly little.

As Coronavirus has impacted churches all across the world and forced them back to ‘small beginnings’, it would be easy to see this as a setback, but what if this is a divine strategy to usher in a move of God like we have never seen before?

Matthew 18:20 says, ‘where 2 or 3 are gathered in my name, there I will be with them’.

The presence of God is just as powerful and real in a small gathering, as He is present in a large gathering.

Even here at UCB, our wider team (of more than 100 staff and volunteers) is not able to meet together in person, but I am hearing stories of UCB teams meeting together online, sharing Bible studies, praying for each other in new ways.

I firmly believe that for us as an organisation, we will not be ‘returning to normal’.  This pandemic is forcing us to think in new ways and to not ‘despise small beginnings’.

Throughout history, God has used small groups of people, to ignite something big.  From the disciples (just a group of 12 men) to people like my praying friend, small groups of faithful people have been powerfully used by God to usher in great moves of the Spirit.

If you are part of something ‘small’ today, can I encourage you to have a bigger vision for it.  By embracing something small and allowing God to use it, you could be part of ushering in a new move of God.

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Christianity

A Christian response to Coronavirus

The news about coronavirus is all over the media and is heard in almost every conversation. This is a very unusual situation and we can choose to respond in one of two ways; with fear or with faith.

It is very interesting to see how people around the world are reacting differently. Some people are reacting by panic buying (and emptying the shelves) while others seem to be almost indifferent. For me, the question is, how should we, as believers, respond?

First of all, our thoughts and prayers are with everyone affected by this sickness; individuals, families, health services and communities as well as national leaders and governments. How they all need God’s wisdom and guidance as they deal with this situation. And for us as a nation, where do we find healing when every day, the news seems to grow even more serious?

Well, for me personally, my only advice is to stand firmly upon God’s Word, for that is where I find my comfort and strength. God’s Word has been the anchor for my own family in very desperate times and it is the one thing that we can ALWAYS rely on. God’s Word never changes and it contains all we need for hope, comfort, healing, wisdom and guidance.

If you are fearful, grieving or broken today, let the truth of God’s Word sink into your heart.

But you may say, ‘what if we can’t stop this virus?’ What if it becomes widespread in the United Kingdom or wherever I live, as some experts predict?

Well let’s stand firm upon his Word! Psalm 112:6-8 is a great encouraging reminder as to what our response should be. It says, “For the righteous will never be moved, he will be remembered forever, he is not afraid of bad news, his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord, his heart is steady, he will not be afraid”.

We all have to face bad news at some point in our life. If it’s not the virus, it will be something else. Let’s remind ourselves that we live in a fallen and broken world where suffering and even death are inevitable. To deny this truth would be lying to ourselves, but we as Christians do not need to fear bad news. It is important to not be in denial and as a nation, we should take all sensible precautions, but we do not need to be crippled by the fear of what ‘might happen’. The psalmist demonstrates that it is possible to look bad news right in the face and say, “You will NOT rule my heart.” Our emotions may sway, but we will not be blown off course.

You might think that is easy for me to write, but practically, how can we rise above the circumstances when we are surrounded by fear?

Well, here are some practical responses;

Prayer

Pray in FAITH. Remember faith is not denying fear but mastering it. What you fear the most, reveals where you trust God the least. Therefore put your faith in God and watch as He starts to eradicate your fears. “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer… believe that you have received it… and it will be yours.” Mark 11:24

Prepare

Prepare WISELY. Don’t deny the facts but plan wisely and let’s be aware of Paul’s words in Ephesians 6:12, KJV: “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities,against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” And the preceding verse tells us to be well prepared to “Put on the whole armour of God that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.”

Proclaim

Proclaim HOPE. In this world of uncertainty, we can have great confidence as we hold on to the hope that lies before us. This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. And it enables us to ‘Rejoice in hope…be patient in tribulation… continue steadfastly in prayer’ (Romans 12).

I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13