Just a few weeks ago, everyone’s normal schedule was interrupted with new normals called social distancing which was followed by stay at home executive orders from numerous state Governors. There are two conflicting statements that have been a part of the conversation over the past several weeks. First, “when things get back to normal.” Second, “there will be a new normal.” The first envisions, and even longs, for a return to the way things were pre-COVID-19. The second embraces the reality that life, as we knew it, will likely never be the same. And that is not a bad thing. Why should God’s people be excited about a new normal? “Sometimes normal can be the enemy of God’s best for us” – Louie Giglio.
The apostle James wrote, “Consider it a great joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you experience various trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing” (James 1:2-4, CSB). Our human nature tends to want to move toward the perceived easiest path. However, that is not necessarily the best path.
Hardships propel the gospel story forward because they include the ingredients necessary to develop spiritual maturity in us. God allows the seasons of hardships in our lives not to crush us but to refine and grow us in our faith. Exercising faith strengthens our faith for future hardships.
James wrote, “And let endurance have it’s full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.” We should not pull out of the hardship too fast. God allows seasons of hardship in our lives for a purpose. We do not want to short-circuit God’s plan or purpose by missing the process. Remember, spiritual growth is a process not a destination.
When we reach the new normal post-virus, we must be better, especially spiritually. Otherwise, we will have missed the opportunity to grow. Seasons of refining are sometimes like a manicure or pedicure. Other times they are like a chisel, hammer, saw and sandpaper.
We cannot go back. We should not want to go back. Yes, there are parts of our previous norm that we may miss, but we are to forget what lies behind and press forward to what lies ahead (Philippians 3:13). Desiring to go back means we have had no forward growth, no productive change.
A new norm is a page-turning moment. Fresh opportunities. The proverbial box is gone. There is the opportunity to re-dream our lives, re-dream our church and ministries, and chart a new course in the new reality. For God’s people, a new norm means a renewed passion for glorifying God. A new norm is about seeing life with a new vision for living. Remember, the life we now live in the body, we live by faith in the Son of God, who loves us and gave His life for us (Galatians 2:20). This means a new norm for living is a spiritual issue. A new norm for living is a gospel issue. Following Jesus means the new norm does not change the purpose of life; only the context in which we live.
As I think through the gospel thread in Scripture, here are a few reminders that new norms are necessary in the lives of God’s people:
- Salvation brings a new norm. When we repent of our sins and surrender our lives to Jesus as Savior and Lord, everything changes. The process of sanctification begins and we will start having a new way of thinking, speaking, making decisions, relating to people, approaching work, participating in our family, serving others and leveraging our lives to honor and glorify God.
- The Israelites … God led them to Egypt during a famine to provide for them. They became slaves of the Egyptians. They were led out of Egypt under the cover of night while being pursued by the Egyptians. They crossed the Red Sea. They wondered in the wilderness for 40 years. Eventually, a new generation of Israelites entered the Promised Land. That is a bunch of new norms. Why would God allow all of this to happen? Why all the new norms? Psalm 23:3, “for His name’s sake.”
- Jesus called his first disciples to leave their families, jobs and way of life to follow him.
- The apostle Paul found himself in all sorts of new norms. He was converted from a religious man to a surrendered follower of Jesus. He was chased out of towns where he was previously welcomed. He was imprisoned and beaten. The book of Philippians is all about Paul’s reminder that new norms are platforms for greater advancement of the gospel.
- New norms help us answer questions such as “What is God doing in my life? Where is God leading me?”
Louie Giglio gave the following questions for God’s people to ask as we find ourselves in new norms:
- What does the pressure of the current hardship need to break in my life? What habit, pattern of behavior or attitude in my life needs to be eliminated or changed?
- How is this situation and circumstance trying to push me out of my comfort zone?
- How is God trying to change me?
- In what ways do I see that I can impact the world in a greater way?
- What area of my life is God testing right now to make it stronger?
- How can I reach more people with the gospel and love of Jesus because of the new norm I am facing right now?
- What idol is God wanting to expose and get rid of in my life?
God is in complete control. He is working everything toward His intended purpose. He is working everything out for my good and His glory. So, whatever brings Him the most glory is my greatest good.