the shape of leadership

Three Ways to Make the Most of This Solitary Season

What the Bible teaches about difficult times

Alan Pastian on April 27, 2020

In Philippians 1:12, the apostle Paul wrote, “I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel.”

Paul penned these words while imprisoned in Rome. Though he was confined to a cell, Paul knew the message Jesus had called him to preach could not be contained.

Perhaps you feel like you are experiencing your own personal confinement during the COVID-19 pandemic. Here are three ways to make the most of this time:

1. Turn your “prison sentence” into a praise session. Praise is powerful. God didn’t call you to give up, but to lift up your hands, your voice, and your head to the One who is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8).

During Paul’s second missionary journey, he and Silas were cruelly beaten and thrown in prison for preaching the gospel (Acts 16:22-24). Roman prisons were miserable places. Most prisoners wore chains. Their feet and hands were often shackled, and some were kept in wooden stocks. Inmates were packed closely together in dirty, dimly lit, rodent-infested quarters.

Despite these grim circumstances, Paul and Silas chose to worship. “About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose” (verses 25-26).

This time of sheltering in place feels like a prison sentence for many. But as we wait for the doors of our local churches, businesses and schools to open, we can follow the example of Paul and Silas and worship the One who is worthy of honor.

Paul knew the message Jesus had called him to preach could not be contained.

2. Turn stay-at-home orders into pray-at-home opportunities. It’s easy to focus on what we can’t do right now. But the prophet Daniel didn’t let tough times keep him from pursuing God’s best.

As a captive in a foreign land, Daniel faithfully prayed — and God answered (Daniel 6:10-12, 9:21,23). Daniel understood human circumstances don’t limit God’s power. Whether he was in the king’s palace or a den of lions, this man of prayer remained dependent on God at all times.

In you feel like you’re in a place of captivity, determine to make it a place of prayer instead.

3. Turn your time of social distancing into a time of spiritual discovery. God’s calling on your life hasn’t changed. Ask Him to give you fresh vision for the ministry you lead. What may seem like an interruption can be a time of inspiration and innovation.

Consider the story of a university student in London who found himself in the middle of a pandemic. As social distancing was the expected response by many of the institutions, the young mathematics student headed home to his family’s farm, where he read and studied alone.

He would later describe this season as the most intellectually productive period of his life. In fact, it was during this time he invented an entirely new mathematical discipline: calculus. Isaac Newton discovered his purpose, and made some of his greatest discoveries, during this two-year quarantine.

Similarly, God often uses isolation to prepare leaders for greater assignment. God used Joseph’s years in prison to prepare him to become a ruler in Egypt. David’s experiences leading sheep in the wilderness helped prepare him to lead Israel as king. According to tradition, it was during John’s confinement on Patmos when he received a vision from God that became the Book of Revelation.

Rather than viewing what you’re going through as an uncomfortable limitation, ask God to help you see it as an opportunity for spiritual innovation. Spend time in God’s presence, and invite Him to do greater things in and through you.

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