We are living in unprecedented days. At such a time as this, I have found myself asking, “Lord, in the middle of this global panic, what are You saying to Your people?” There’s only one place to go to find an answer, and that is the infallible Word of God.
The prophet Joel spoke to God’s people, Israel, during a time of economic crisis. A tiny army of locusts was devouring the land, destroying everything in their path. Today, we are living during the modern-day equivalent of this crisis. COVID-19 is a tiny virus. You can’t see it with your eyes, yet it is sweeping across the globe and destroying everything in its path. In this context, the words of the prophet Joel serve as a warning: The crisis we are facing pales in comparison to the coming Day of Judgment.
I believe that this crisis is God’s loving wake-up call to our nation and world. It is God’s loving warning. It is God’s gracious invitation. For if we are not prepared to deal with a virus, what will we do when we face the Day of Judgment?
Read how God pleads with His people in Joel 2:12-13 — how He pleads with us today:
"Even now,” declares the Lord,“return to me with all your heart,
with fasting and weeping and mourning.”Rend your heart and not your garments.Return to the Lord your God,for he is gracious and compassionate,slow to anger and abounding in love.”
Praise God, Joel’s prophetic words tell us what to do during times like these. Through this passage, Joel is saying to us, “Don’t waste this crisis. Don’t waste this dress rehearsal. Let this be a reminder of the coming Day of Judgment when God will shake everything that can be shaken.”
Through this crisis, God is calling us to do things:
1. Tear away the idols from our hearts
Ultimately, it is our hearts that need radical change, not our circumstances. It is our hearts that need transformation, not the economy. Have we placed our hope in money, possessions, or safety rather than in God? Is prayer something we only do when we are in trouble? Is worship something we only do when it is convenient? Our greatest need today is to “rend our hearts” — to confess the idols we are clinging to instead of Christ.
God wants us to be serious about acknowledging our personal idols and tearing them out of our hearts through repentance. Doing so will allow us to face any crisis, whether COVID-19 or the Day of Judgment, with confidence. Why? Because we are ready. We are prepared. This crisis is an opportunity for us all to turn to God and prepare our hearts to stand before Him — before it’s too late.
2. Lead others to worship and bow down to the living God
Now is the time to sound the alarm to every person who will listen. We must remind both the lukewarm and the lost about the shortness of our earthly lives and the endlessness of eternity. Smooth-talking or positive thinking will never adequately prepare people for the day when they will stand before God and “give an account . . . for every empty word they have spoken” (Matthew 12:36).
I encourage believers everywhere to take this time to call your family around you for a time of prayer and repentance. Rededicate yourselves as a family to serving God. I know that as we so humble ourselves before Him, our Lord will respond and bring revival to our land. He longs to show mercy, and He responds to the genuine cries of His children. Let us never forget that.
May God bless us, keep us, and draw us closer to Himself during this time of great shaking in our nation and world.
Michael Youssef is the founder and president of Leading The Way with Dr. Michael Youssef, a worldwide ministry that leads the way for people living in spiritual darkness to discover the light of Christ through the creative use of media and on-the-ground ministry teams (LTW.org). His weekly television programs and daily radio programs are broadcast in 26 languages and seen worldwide, airing more than 14,000 times per week. He is also the founding pastor of The Church of The Apostles in Atlanta, Georgia.
Dr. Youssef was born in Egypt, but in 1984, he fulfilled a childhood dream of becoming an American citizen. He is the founding and senior pastor of Church of the Apostles in Atlanta, Georgia. Youssef holds degrees from Moore College in Sydney, Australia and Fuller Theological Seminary in California, with a Ph.D. in social anthropology from Emory University. He is the author of 40 books. His latest book, Saving Christianity?: The Danger in Undermining Our Faith — and What You Can Do about It is available in bookstores everywhere.