By: Lindsey Whitmore
I have been having one of those ‘get up just to change into different PJ’s’ kind of days. It has been raining since before the sunrise, and there is nothing that has to be done. Today would be a day of rest, as in the way the world defines rest. I would do nothing, sleep, eat, and sleep some more. The thing is, as much as I had been looking forward to a lazy, low responsibility day, I realized I still had no rest. Even with all the elements aligning for my perspective of ‘the perfect day,’ something was missing.
You see, today is Sunday. I have not physically been in church since COVID-19 touched down, and I have been inconsistent with attending online. This does not seem like a big deal, however, Holy Spirit reminded me how it is. Church is a BIG deal, and I, as part of this body, am a big deal, as are you. On this seemingly perfect day of endless cat naps, I felt no rest. This is because true rest comes from being with the Father and staying engaged in the work of the Son, Jesus Christ.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 NIV
The word used for ‘rest’ here is a verb, anapauo (Greek), meaning “to cause or permit one to cease from any movement or labor in order to recover and collect his strength; to refresh.” Jesus is the only one who can offer us true rest.
Let me be clear, I went to church online and was truly inspired. I read my Bible and had an amazing time connecting some paramount pieces to our Gospel. I established a new school year and devotional time with my kids and had a decent prayer time with them both. Yet, even with these great things in place, I still did not feel rest.
Everything was brought to light for me after I read something that immediately checked my spirit. I read a book that talked about the power of the local church and how the people will look all over the world for something that will restore humanity, bring about change, save us, and offer freedom, yet it is already written – this will all only happen through the Church.
The author went on and wrote the words I really had to take a moment to consider, allow to sink in, and let my heart be gripped by their reality: “That means that in a very real way the future of the world rests in the hands of local congregations like yours and mine. It’s the church or lights out. Without churches so filled with the power of God that they can’t help but spill goodness and peace and love and joy into the world, depravity will win the day; evil will flood the world.”1
Take a moment and read that again slowly. Ask Holy Spirit to grip your heart, like He did mine, and ask yourself, Have I believed this about the Church? Do I believe this about the Church?
Then, ask Holy Spirit to help you believe this:
The Church is:
The Body of Christ (Corpus Christi; the physical, visible evidence of Christ on earth)
A living organism comprised of people
A priesthood of believers
A community of the “called out” (those who leave the “world” to follow Jesus Christ)
The organized entity through which we are established and equipped in our faith to do the ministry of the Kingdom
A fellowship whose mission is to expand the Kingdom of God on the earth
Relationships and interaction with people for their good and the glory of God
United by one Savior, one Spirit, one baptism, one creed, one Bible, one mission
The idea and creation of God (it belongs to Him and is defined by Him)2
The Church is the Body of Christ. My memory verses I have been working on have led me to really accept this truth and be blown away afresh by it. In the Church is life eternal. Colossians 1:15-17 NLT tells us, “Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation, for through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth.He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see—such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through him and for him. He existed before anything else, and he holds all creation together.”
The Church is a living organism comprised of people. We are those people. 1 Corinthians 12:27 NIV states, “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.”
Together we are a priesthood of believers. As it is written in 1 Peter 2:9-11 NIV: “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”
We are meant to be a community of the “called out.” We are called out of this world to live for the earth to come. John 15:19 NLT tells us what we can expect: “The world would love you as one of its own if you belonged to it, but you are no longer part of the world. I chose you to come out of the world, so it hates you.” We live on earth as sojourners passing through, fixing our confidence in not where we belong but to Whom we belong.
After taking time to pause and allow the reality of God's purpose for His Church to pour over me, I was reminded that I am part of His plan for His Church. This made my spirit leap and new conviction form within. I had allowed COVID-19 to become a doorway for the enemy. He brought with him a lethargic weight that I allowed him to place on my heart. He then whispered words that I soon heard myself repeat, that I was “just being careful, and I have to think about my family,” even though I was still going out to the grocery store, plazas, and visiting with a few friends.
When my eyes were opened, I realized I was falling for Satan’s overplayed tactic to isolate and divide in order to weaken God's people. Now more than ever we need to be worshiping, praying, and fasting together. We need to be walking in the power that comes from unity with the Holy Spirit. We need to shake the sleep from our eyes and mobilize for the battle that is already at hand. Jesus is coming back, and the Word tells us He comes to His people, the Church, first. So, will He find us in our churches, standing and battle ready, or will He find us in our homes, in pajamas, with the expectation that tomorrow is guaranteed?
I pray now for those reading this who have been like me and allowed your flesh to say to your spirit, It is ok to sit this one out for now, or if you have never understood the Church’s purpose and why God calls it sacred, that my conviction would become yours as well. I pray our churches would again become full of people with raised hands, ready to help bring each other to victory in this world.
So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit. Ephesians 2:19-22 NASB
1. Bill Hybels, Courageous Leadership: Field-Tested Strategy for the 360° Leader (Zondervan, 2012)
2. Susie Walther, The Well Training Ministry, Inc.