In a year defined by racial tension and pandemic hysteria, Pastor Levi Lusko believes God is calling His people to abandon their idols and experience true joy.
Lusko, lead pastor of Fresh Life Church, a multi-site church in Montana and Utah, told The Christian Post that he, like millions of other Americans, has found 2020 to be an “incredibly difficult” year.
But amid the pain, anxiety, and uncertainty, Lusko, who recently released his latest book, Take Back Your Life: A 40 Day Interactive Journey to Thinking Right So You Can Live Right, believes God is calling His people to “true joy.”
“God is calling us to try joy. I believe that’s the predominant thing He's trying to stir in our hearts this year,” he said. “In the very early days of March, April, and May, I felt God really calling me to true joy. Sometimes, we have to have those counterfeit sources of joy stripped away from us to experience true joy.”
Lusko admitted that his “biggest go-to idol” is control.
“But I'm out of control,” he said. “None of us can control this pandemic. By having that idol torn from my heart I feel like God has been calling me to true joy in Him, and in seeking His face.”
The pastor pointed to the example of the Old Testament prophet Elijah, who learned to trust God in obscurity and isolation.
“Elijah had to remove himself from the busyness to hear the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit,” he said. “It took him getting away to work through depression and issues that were clearly in his heart. He thought he was the only one struggling; he had kind of a ‘victim mentality.’ He needed God to work on him. But when he heard the voice of the Lord speaking to him in the cave, he knew what he needed to do.”
Lusko argued that in today’s “oversaturated, in-debt, overwhelmed society,” it's easy to “miss that still, small voice calling us to true joy.”
"We need to practice self-control, and that begins with the renewing of our minds," he stressed.
The pandemic has given many people the time and space to grapple with “issues below the surface” the pastor said, such as racism and inequality.
“Maybe we never would have had space and bandwidth to listen had it not been for the pandemic,” he posited. “We’ve had the opportunity to hear the voices rising up, saying, ‘There’s inequality, there’s injustice.’ Scripture just overwhelmingly, from beginning to end, shows that God detests any religion that does not involve justice. We in the Church need to raise our voices for the oppressed. It’s just part of following Christ.”
While Fresh Life Church continues to broadcast sermons and hold small groups online, they’re remaining on the “slow side” of physically reopening in the wake of the pandemic.
“We're not open in the sense that we're having our normal, traditional gathering worship experiences,” Lusko said. “We just have tried to kind of be on the safe side of that.”
“We're trying to serve our cities. One of our big things at Fresh Life is, we want to serve the peace of the city. Businesses, restaurants, car dealerships have to open because if they don’t, they’ll go bankrupt. But the church can't be broken. If we can lay aside our preference, which would be to gather, to serve the peace of the city, then we know we’ll benefit from the flourishing of the whole city.
“We’ll let those that need to make money reopen. In the meantime, we'll just gather online and be on the back burner. When the time's right, when it’s safe and healthy, we’ll reopen.’”
According to Lusko, waiting to reopen is an “act toward evangelism.” He pointed out that the “only people clamoring for us to reopen our church are Christians.”
“I've not had one non-Christian go, ‘Why aren’t you open?’ when I say, ‘We’re trying to serve the city by being on the slow side,’” he said. “I've never had one non-Christian be like, ‘That's terrible.’ They say, ‘Wow, I really respect that.’ I feel like it's an act towards evangelism and that is driving our desire to be on the slow side.”
Still, the bestselling author admitted that deciding to remain closed has been “tough.” “I seesaw back and forth. I’ve had a tornado of emotions, but the biggest thing I've heard from the Holy Spirit is that it’s an act of evangelism to take this approach.”