In Romania, during communism and persecution, any event could have been interpreted as a revolt. During the first weeks of the Romanian Revolution of 1989, thousands were in the streets protesting; the communist regime shot many. Braving the possible consequences, a choir of young Seventh-day Adventists sang together in the streets and prayed with people.
Hearing them sing, the police came to arrest them—and then stopped. After listening, the officers proceeded to take them all to the roof of the tallest building in the center of the city. Praying, the young Adventists were expecting the worst: to be thrown off the roof, as others were before.
When they were all on the roof, the chief police officer said, “What you sing and talk about, everyone needs to hear in this time of crisis.” He then had a public announcement system installed right there and told them to sing and pray from the rooftop. The young people were shocked. During communism, no one was allowed to talk about or listen to anything Christian.
As the young Adventists started to sing and pray from the rooftop, people in the streets stopped, knelt down, and praised God in song and prayer. An absolutely unusual event in communist Romania! Residents and police hugged each other and cried. Through His people, God turned a crisis into a blessing, and helplessness into hope.
In the midst of a global pandemic, the world is starving for hope. Crisis counselor Drew Martel declared, “For those of us with a history of mental health struggles (and without), this ‘unprecedented’ crisis has presented unique challenges to our well-being: uncertainty, fear, and a sense of hopelessness. . . . The daily loss of life, the 24-hour news cycle with its constant focus on the pandemic, and a massive economic crisis. . . . Good news is hard to come by.”1
Where is the good news? Why does God allow His children to go through crises? Scripture simply declares, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28).2 All things—including crises, challenges, and trials? How is that good news?
The good news is that Jesus is coming soon. As we approach the end, we know that the final events will be marked by an unprecedented crisis. The book of Daniel says, “ ‘and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was’ ” (Dan. 12:1, NKJV). The book of Matthew tells us that the trials will increase like the birth pains (Matt. 24:8). The book of Luke informs us that during this final crisis, people will faint for fear (Luke 21:26). Ellen White comments, “Something great and decisive is about to take place . . . the world is on the verge of a great crisis.”3 What are our marching orders?
If the coronavirus pandemic is only a taste of what will happen in the near future, how should we conduct ourselves? Jeremiah asked rhetorically, “ ‘If you have raced with men on foot and they have worn you out, how can you compete with horses?’ ” (Jer. 12:5). If we often struggle with regular challenges, how are we to face earth’s greatest challenge?
The Bible says that there is a time for everything (Eccl. 3:1). There is a time to study and a time to implement what we have studied; a time to gather things and a time to use what we have gathered. God allows things for a purpose. He may be trying to get our attention to tell us that now is the time to move in a different direction.
We are so used to the way we do things that we find it difficult to adapt to new forms. We often worship our worship. Soon there will be a time when worship as we know it will not be allowed, neither will we be able to buy or sell (see Rev. 13:15–17). What steps can we take during this crisis that may help us in the next?
There are some vital activities that we can address now that will help us through present and future crises.
1. Intentional prayer. This time is not leisure time but a time to grow spiritually. Be intentional and dedicated to prayer. We are often so busy working for God that we find ourselves serving Him without His presence and power.
“As activity increases and men become successful in doing any work for God, there is danger of trusting to human plans and methods. There is a tendency to pray less, and to have less faith. Like the disciples, we are in danger of losing sight of our dependence on God, and seeking to make a savior of our activity. We need to look constantly to Jesus, realizing that it is His power which does the work. While we are to labor earnestly for the salvation of the lost, we must also take time for meditation, for prayer, and for the study of the word of God. Only the work accomplished with much prayer, and sanctified by the merit of Christ, will in the end prove to have been efficient for good.”4
We often worship our worship. Soon there will be a time when worship as we know it will not be allowed, neither will we be able to buy or sell.
Pray for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit through revival (“a resurrection from spiritual death”) and reformation (“a change in ideas and theories, habits and practices”), which is essential for finishing the work.5
2. Intense study. Take special time to study the Word and the Spirit of Prophecy more than usual. “None but those who have fortified the mind with the truths of the Bible will stand through the last great conflict.”6
In Matthew 24, Jesus enumerates events that will occur during the final crisis. He talks about catastrophes, wars, pestilence, and so on. Among them, He also mentions spiritual apostasy, false teachings, false doctrines, false miracles, and false prophets (see Matt. 24:24). “Christians should be preparing for what is soon to break upon the world as an overwhelming surprise, and this preparation they should make by diligently studying the word of God, and striving to conform their lives to its precepts.”7
3. Pertinent preaching. Use this time to assemble material for messages containing present truth that will prepare people for the final events. You are their shepherd. Be the best shepherd you can be by emulating the Great Shepherd. Jesus, in His actions and His words to the disciples, was preparing them for what was about to happen. “By the circumstances of the daily life He is preparing them to act their part upon that wider stage to which His providence has appointed them. It is the issue of the daily test that determines their victory or defeat in life’s great crisis.”8
Will your sheep be like the five wise virgins or the five foolish virgins? Will they have enough oil to see their Bridegroom come?
4. Renewed relationships. Often we may be so busy serving the church that we may neglect our families. “If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?” (1 Tim. 3:5). Take time to be with your spouse and children. Do not feel guilty in doing that; feel guilty when you do not. You are responsible for them. They need to be prepared for the end time like all of your other parishioners.
5. Wholesome health. As we serve God, we often find ourselves ignoring our health: sleeping less, eating sporadically, ignoring exercise, and committing other acts of intemperance. “Christ’s words of compassion are spoken to His workers today just as surely as they were spoken to His disciples. ‘Come ye yourselves apart, . . . and rest awhile,’ He says to those who are worn and weary. It is not wise to be always under the strain of work and excitement, even in ministering to men’s spiritual needs; for in this way personal piety is neglected, and the powers of mind and soul and body are overtaxed. Self-denial is required of the disciples of Christ, and sacrifices must be made; but care must also be exercised lest through their overzeal Satan take advantage of the weakness of humanity, and the work of God be marred.”9
6. Gainful gardening. Maintain a garden, if possible. Scripture tells us that the time is coming when people cannot buy or sell (Rev. 13:17). It may be difficult to find food. If possible, with prayer and openness to God’s timing and leading, have a garden with fruits and vegetables. My wife and I have had the opportunity to minister to hundreds by keeping a garden. Meeting someone’s physical needs opens the door to being able to help them with their spiritual needs.
It even brought our congregation together when, one year, we had so many tomatoes that our church had a good old tomato-throwing fight. Great fun was had by all! “The Lord desires His people to move into the country, where they can settle on the land, and raise their own fruit and vegetables, and where their children can be brought in direct contact with the works of God in nature.”10
7. Unshakable trust. God does not alter His marching orders because of a crisis. While we continue to pay attention to all details related to God’s work, our vital calling is love to God and humanity. Solomon said, “Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind” (Eccl. 12:13).
God’s requirements of us are the same as they have been through the generations of earth’s history: trust and obey. “God will do great things for those who trust in Him. The reason why His professed people have no greater strength is that they trust so much to their own wisdom, and do not give the Lord an opportunity to reveal His power in their behalf. He will help His believing children in every emergency if they will place their entire confidence in Him and faithfully obey Him.”11
Intended for good
In a time of crisis, God worked through a church choir that was humble. He has done it before. He will do it again. “God has a purpose in sending trial to His children. He never leads them otherwise than they would choose to be led if they could see the end from the beginning, and discern the glory of the purpose that they are fulfilling. All that He brings upon them in test and trial comes that they may be strong to do and to suffer for Him.”12
If we are faced with death or betrayal, may we declare with Joseph, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (Gen. 50:20).
- Drew Martel, "Anxious Times and Anxious Behaviors," Meadowlark Psychiatric Services, accessed May 19, 2020, https://meadowlarkpsych.com/resources-and-articles/.
- Scripture is from the New International Version.
- Ellen G. White, Last Day Events (Boise, ID: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1992), 11.
- Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1898), 362.
- Ellen G. White, Christian Service, (Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1925), 42.
- Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1911), 593, 594.
- White, Christian Service, 41.
- White, Desire of Ages, 382.
- White, Desire of Ages, 362.
- Ellen G. White, Letter 182, September 20, 1902.
- Ellen G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets (Washington, DC: Review and Herald, Pub. Assn., 1890), 493.
- Ellen G. White, Prophets and Kings (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1917), 578.