Satan is powerful. He hates you. And there are many strategies that he uses to try destroying Christians, such as deception, oppression, and isolation—many of which are increasingly important to be aware of during COVID-19.
“Be sober-minded, be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8)
The local church is so essential in combatting Satan’s strategies, fighting deception with truth and caring for those who are isolated and oppressed. Members of Christ’s body know this to be true. Each member is insufficient on its own but can powerfully minister to one another so that the church is built up in love. But what happens when God allows Satan to unleash the coronavirus around the world and keep churches from meeting corporately?
If you care about God’s flock, that can be a daunting question. But before ending this article with a word of encouragement, I hope you’ll read a few paragraphs about our need for the local church.
The Danger of Drift
It’s probably fair to say that the main group Satan tries to ostracize individual believers from is the local church—though I could understand why someone would argue that Satan mainly tries to keep believer’s stuck in a local church. Either way, we agree that drift is dangerous. Sometimes we drift because of distractions, as other responsibilities, values, or temptations pull us farther and farther away from the church. Or it can happen quickly, like when a pandemic hits and quarantine limits believers’ connections with each other.
We’re all susceptible to it. I’m studying for ministry and yet still need to be aware my tendency to drift. If you think in terms of buckets, it can make sense to push off church involvement until education is finished or a family is established. Just take it one thing at a time. Especially if you’re stuck in quarantine, what’s the big deal about focusing on other things for a while?
A quick word to my fellow bucket-minded believers who may be thinking this way. First, other responsibilities will always be “in the way.” I’ll never get to a place where I can cleanly schedule in ministry opportunities without having to face obstacles and distractions. But another thing, and probably more importantly, pushing that relationship with a local church down the road overlooks our need for the Body now. We can’t be thinking about church involvement in terms of what is beneficial, but what is essential. And I don’t just mean attending church.
There But Not There
Isolation doesn’t just happen through a lack of attendance; it can actually happen to someone who is sitting in the pews, consistently “gathering” with a local assembly of believers.
Think about the man Paul mentions in 2 Corinthians 2. The man’s discipline was harsh but justified. And now that it was in the past, Paul knew what was most needed for this man—and that was for the church to reaffirm their love for him so that he wouldn’t be overwhelmed with excessive sorrow (2 Cor. 2:7). Paul was aware of Satan’s schemes (2 Cor. 2:11). He knew that if Satan can’t get believers out of the church, he’ll try making them feel distant inside of it.
This is where the church needs to remember that without tangible, affirming acts of love for each other, it’s easy for a family to grow apart even while under the same roof. There is a constant need to come alongside each other to avoid being overwhelmed with discouragement or a sense of being detached and driven out. The strength of a body of believer’s isn’t found as much in attendance as it is in their level of acceptance and support for each other. This is good news during COVID-19. Even though we are physically more distant from each other than ever, Satan can’t keep us from growing closer in love.
- To individual Christians: don’t neglect assembling with a local body of believers. Be especially cautious as you make decisions to lessen your involvement in the church. Satan is a greater threat to those on the fringe. Hopefully this quarantine can be used as a time to grab your attention about the need—your need—for the local church and will lead you to a greater level of commitment and involvement in the future. (But not too far in the future.)
- To corporate bodies of believers: don’t just assemble but also bear each other’s burdens and build each other up in love. Our routine of corporate worship has been broken, but sometimes when a routine is broken, we discover what was so special and needed about it in the first place. And I pray that when we gather in churches again, we won’t just say, “It’s good to see you again,” but rather would be enabled through our quarantine experience to say, “Here’s why it’s good to see you.”
Satan Can’t Steal from the Father’s Fold
Here’s the word of encouragement that I promised you at the beginning. Satan’s schemes and power continue in the world, but this truth is ever present: nothing can separate us from the love of Christ. We have the Spirit living inside of us as a testimony to this fact. Satan may be aiming for wandering sheep, but no one can pluck a sheep from the Father’s fold. The church will continue to advance, and nothing—not COVID-19 nor the gates of hell—will prevail against it.
I have a firm belief that the church will come out stronger on the other end, not because we learned how to manage ourselves in isolation but because God is faithful. If he won’t abandon my soul to hell, he won’t abandon my soul in my home. Praise God—he is sovereign over all and sufficient in all.
“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” (John 10:27-29)
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? … I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:35, 38-39)