What We Learned in 2020

It has been one crazy year.

Looking back, it’s hard to believe all that has taken place in just the last twelve months. We’ve had volatile elections, riots, murder hornets, celebrity scandals, big-tech censorship, and of course the Coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent challenges it has brought: lockdowns, mass distrust of media, government ineptitude, recession, and controversial vaccines.

One can’t help but wonder, what in the world is God doing?

In some ways, 2020 has been like every other year before it, only this time it was hooked up to a globe-sized bullhorn. The same dangers that mankind faced in 2020 were present in 2019 and the year before, and the year before, stretching back to the book of Genesis. As Scripture reminds us, there is nothing new under the sun. Humanity has always been stricken with illness, both of our body and our soul. We teeter on the fine line between life and death every moment of every day, long before COVID was even heard of. We are crushed under the weight of government corruption, burdened by racial unrest, and generally struggle to get along in a fallen world that is full of selfish sinners. In that sense, it is business as usual.

If I were to sum up what God has impressed upon me this year in one sentence, I would simply let Jesus speak for me:

“My kingdom is not of this world” – John 18:36

The challenges of this year have been a painful but helpful reminder that God’s kingdom is not yet arrived. Earth is not heaven, and never will be, until it’s triumphant King returns. Until then, we struggle on amidst worldly kingdoms with evil rulers, broken systems, and dreams that will never be realized on this side of eternity. Though I yearn for more, for a world at peace, well-organized, and united, it will never happen, because these yearnings find their origin in the kingdom of God. It is currently a heavenly reality, and a spiritual one, but not yet an earthly one. One day that will change.

Perhaps one of the great lessons we are to learn this year is the futility of placing our hope in the things of this world. We place our hope in rulers, in medicine, in policy, in money, in safety, in each other and in ourselves. None of these things can deliver on the expectations we place upon them. Yet we try nonetheless, only to be frustrated and angered when things don’t work out the way we demanded. Such is the reality of false hope: it is sure to disappoint.

As Christians, we know that our hope is in the Lord. But that does not mean we are immune to falling prey to worldly thinking. Often what we know to be true theologically is not realized in our own hearts. We know that God is our hope, but we like to keep a little spare bedroom in our hearts where other idols remain as invited guests. It is certain that one thing God is doing in 2020 is attempting to smash the idols we still cling to so that our hope lies fully in him. We would do well to stop resisting this important work of sanctification.

Fellow believers, we are not of this world. Our King is not of this world. Earth is not our home. We are strangers and aliens, exiles who are simply passing through. We live not for this life but for the life to come. Let the world crumble and fall as its foundation is being shaken. But may we, the Church, stand firm. We have nothing to lose, and everything to gain. God desires for that reality to take hold of you in a new way this year. Let it be so!

As we head into the new year, we know not how long our Lord will tarry. It seems apparent to me that human history is quickly marching towards the appointed end. Things will not remain as they are forever. The kingdoms of this world will be stripped away and the kingdom of heaven ushered in. If you find the circumstances of your life leading you to think “it shouldn’t be this way”, let that move you to saying with all your heart, “Come Lord Jesus!”

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