As the COVID-19 pandemic plods on, people are anxiously looking forward to when we can go back to normal — back to our church programs and grocery shopping and regular schooling and everyday jobs. But does God really want us to “go back to normal?” Ron Hutchcraft with Ron Hutchcraft Ministries says, “If God really liked our normal, why did He shake it up so much? Is it just to tweak it? Or is He wanting to transform some things actually by throwing on the brakes pretty hard?
“I think God is saying, ‘I have your attention because I want you to ask some questions you wouldn’t have asked otherwise. I want you to consider some changes that you otherwise would not have considered.’”
Hutchcraft’s theme verse for 2020 is Proverbs 19:21. He says, “‘Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.’ Well apparently, God’s purpose — which is right on schedule — doesn’t need our plans right now [and] hasn’t needed our plans because His purpose is prevailing even though our plans are not.” If we are to abandon “normal life” as we know it in favor of a life surrendered to God’s purposes, Hutchcraft outlines four imperatives that we as believers can embrace for the future.
- Look Up
(Photo courtesy of Markus Winkler via Unsplash.)
It’s easy to get settled in the dependability of routines and schedules and generally knowing what’s coming. But when everything in our world is turned upside down, that’s especially when we need to look right-side up. Hutchcraft says, “A good question to ask if you’re in Christian leadership is, ‘Have I been depending maybe more than I realized on events, programs, the church schedule, systems, people, [and] donors? Has my dependency been God plus something else?’ God wants to take that ‘plus’ away. One way He has done it is to make it impossible for us to depend on some of the things we normally put some of our trust in. “The way you do that is to daily ask the Lord for His message for that day from His Word; not to go there for an emergency. It’s a little late then. These kinds of things are like final exams, and you can’t cram for them. You have to be with Him on a daily basis and depending on Him regularly.”
- Look In
Next, Hutchcraft says believers should take this opportunity to look inward. “A lot of us with more time at home, more time with family, less of our escapes, less of our coping things have found maybe we’ve got some relationship damage to work on. Maybe we’ve got some anger to work on, some fear, some panic, some anxiety, some unbelief. It’s a good time to find out you’re a control freak because when you can’t control, how are you?” As we observe our own responses to pandemic uncertainty and fear, it opens the door to let the Holy Spirit convict our hearts. “Look in and say, ‘Lord, see if there be any offensive way in me.’ Don’t carry what’s broken inside you into a new normal. Deal with that. It’s really a time to repent.”
- Look Out
“Then the third one is to look out…and I mean, look outward,” Hutchcraft explains. “In John 4:35, as the Samaritans were coming out of the village because the woman at the well had gone and told them about Jesus, he said, ‘Would you lift up your eyes and look? The harvest is coming right in our direction.’
As the Church body is being pushed beyond the boundaries of our church buildings, our eyes should be opening to the needs outside — both physical and spiritual. “If you’ve studied what’s going on, suicides have been on the rapid increase, addiction, drug usage, drug overdoses. [They are] indicative of the fact that the people around us are lost and that our mission is not inside the walls. It’s outside the walls. We go inside the walls to grow and be discipled and to disciple, but we have had a reminder that there is a world that needs us involved with it. Long after COVID-19 is no longer headline news, Hutchcraft encourages, “Let’s not crawl back inside again when we’ve had our eyes opened to what’s outside the walls.”
- Look Ahead
Finally, he says, “Look ahead to the future where God is going to do some new things. He’s forced us to do some new things already.” For On Eagles’ Wings, a Native American youth outreach of Ron Hutchcraft Ministries, they are seeing how God is shaking up their plans for His glory. Their annual Warrior Leadership Summit for Native youth from June 29-July 3 went completely online. While the change of plans was frustrating at first, Hutchcraft says they more than doubled the number of Native young people they reached through the remote event! It’s an important lesson for our time. “Let’s not lose this innovative, new perspective God is giving us on how to carry out our mission. Look ahead to a future that God has said, ‘Don’t lose the new thing that I’ve shown you during this…. I used the pandemic to show you the new thing to get you to try it. But go big into the future.’” Jeremiah 29:11 is an oft-referenced verse related to God’s promises for the future.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”
Hutchcraft explains, “This [verse] was said in the middle of God’s people having been ripped out of their land — God’s judgment on their sin and rebellion and idolatry. Now they are in a different land. They don’t speak the language. It’s not a nice place for them. “As we have been ripped out of our normal and placed in a less enjoyable environment right now, that’s where God says, ‘I know the plans I have for you, for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.’ “Let’s go boldly into that future and not just try to rekindle the past.”