“Eyes that look are common; eyes that see are rare,” observed J. Oswald Sanders.
However, regarding COVID-19, an oft-repeated phrase by our politicians, pundits, and health care experts has been “No one could have seen this coming.”
And neither could us preachers and the churches we serve. Many of us planned as a theme for the year some variation of “20/20 Vision.” How ironic! The purpose, plans, and programs surrounding what we thought was a clever and timely topic have largely been scrapped due to services being shut down and/or scaled back. Classes canceled. Fellowship altered. And miniseries modified.
However, the real thrust of the 20/20 theme wasn’t really about the year 2020. A specific sermon series. Material plans. Or even overt, seeable objectives realized. 20/20 vision, spiritually speaking, has to do with seeing the unseen.
The vision we’re viewing is expressed by Paul in these words.
“Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal. 2 Cor. 4:16-18)
As we soon turn the page on 2020 and set our sights on 2021, we may profit by looking closely at what we may not have seen as clearly as we should have. In other words, let’s allow the COVID-19 crisis to open our eyes with 20/20 vision in 2021.
Here are 7 priorities we need to see with greater clarity as the new year dawns.
#1 See God’s supremacy
We’ve been reminded that we’re not in control of our lives as much as we think we are. We see ourselves as self-sufficient, independent, and in command. Like William Earnest Henley penned in Invictus, we may feel “I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.”
Yet, there are many situations and circumstances beyond our control. Ultimately the One in whose hands all things are controlled is the Lord. “In Him we live, move and sustain our being” (Ax 17:28). “He upholds all things by the word of His power” (Heb. 1:1-2). Yes, “the kingdom is the Lord’s and He rules over the nations” (Ps. 22:28).
COVID-19 should remind us of this reality. That ought not to shake us. But strengthen our reliance on the Lord in 2021.
#2 See your plans in the proper perspective.
Think about everything we planned to do in 2020 that were postponed or canceled. Sporting events. Gospel meetings. Vacations. Evangelistic trips. Concerts. Family reunions. Bible classes.
We’ve been reminded that all our plans need an asterisk. “If the Lord wills,” James warns, we will do this or that. (Jas 4:13-16)
Seeing that our human plans are not set in concrete, ought not to scare us or keep us from planning in 2021. But it helps us see our vulnerability And to plan with the caveat, “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails” (Prov. 19:21).
#3 See the value of your faith.
2020 has challenged us to exercise our faith instead of fertilizing our fears. While COVID-19 is a deadly virus, more disastrous to our spiritual health is doubt, and more fatal is fear.
Hopefully, we’ve realized that fear is a debilitating emotion. Fear makes us skeptical. Suspicious. Selfish. Stubborn. Short-sighted. Fear paralyzes us.
Let’s enter into 202l with greater faith. Less fear. Deeper resolve. Clearer vision. And boldly echo the Hebrew writer’s, affirmation, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?”
#4 See the priority of your relationships.
Maybe one blessing of COVID-19 is that we’ve been reminded how much we need each other. In some cases, the virus has forced families to spend time together. For some, there’s more time reading. Talking. Sharing. And developing a greater depth of relationships.
The time we were unable to assemble, and then the social distancing, when we returned, has increased our appreciation for fellowship. The “one another” passages of the New Testament remind us that God created us for community. Formed us for His Family. And fashioned us for spiritual fellowship.
May 2021 give us a new vision and a greater value placed on our spiritual fellowship.
#5 See opportunities to do good.
During the past several months we’ve been encouraged by the goodness of others. As often seen during a crisis, it can bring out the best in people. From people of high worth donating millions of dollars, to those checking on their elderly neighbors, and to volunteers to sent into hot spots to help health care workers, COVID-19 has provided an “opportunity to do good to all people and especially to those who belong the family of believers” (Gal. 6:10). This has been true, not only in our local communities but nationwide and even worldwide.
Let’s keep our eyes open in 2021 to new ways of serving. Of improved methods of ministering. Of a greater awareness for the needs of the “least of these” among us. (Matt 25:37-40).
#6 See the importance of patiently waiting.
Typically, we don’t put a priority on waiting. We see it as a negative. Not a positive. Waiting is difficult. Most of us don’t like to wait. Possibly, we’ve learned some benefit to waiting.
The Psalmist admonished, “Wait on the Lord; Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the Lord!” (Ps 27:14).
Maybe our 20/20 vision of waiting will carry over to 2021. Waiting humbly. Patiently. Persistently. Actively. And prayerfully.
#7 See the priority of our hope.
If we’ve seen anything good come out of 2020, it’s that our hope transcends this fallen, broken world.
At this writing, the world is hoping for the containment of COVID-19. The end of its spread. A vaccine. And even a cure.
However, as we flip the page on the calendar, we know nothing in this life is certain. Our ultimate hope lies beyond the disciplines of science or medicine. Beyond political directives. Or economic incentives.
We march into a new year, regardless of what viruses or vicissitudes of life we may face with hope, having faith as its foundation. Hope allows us to see the unseen. To press on through problems. And keep our sights focused on that eternal inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading.
Like Paul, I pray that “the eyes of your understanding will be enlightened” with a 20/20 spiritual vision that will carry through 2021. And beyond.
To paraphrase Peter Block, “Your spiritual vision is not only a roadmap but also a compass.” So, look to God’s Word for guidance. And stay focused on Jesus for direction.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman
Note: This post originally appeared as an article in Pressing On, the e-magazine for growing Christians, edited by Mark Roberts. If you would like to subscribe, click here. For only $10 a year, it would be a wonderful present for someone, or for yourself.