Editor’s note: Because of government lockdowns and self-imposed isolation, there may be periods when we are unable to gather at church to worship, to fellowship with brethren, and conduct our ministry to God in the usual ways. Not only this, our livelihoods, education, family dynamics, and mental health could have been impacted by the confluence of these circumstances. So, as we adapt to life in the COVID era, we could be forgiven for letting our routines and Christian living standards slip. However, God’s expectations of us never change, even in the day of trouble. The following sharings reveal how God continues to guide, teach, rebuke, and encourage our members worldwide to remain faithful during this unprecedented time.
HONOR THE SABBATH
Mei Rong Lin—Port Elizabeth, South Africa
In the name of Jesus, I share a testimony.
During the evening of Friday, March 27, 2020, I was at home participating in a family Sabbath service, watching a pre-recorded online sermon. However, I was not reverent—I was doing other things as I listened, and not paying full attention to the sermon. I was also sitting very casually, with my right leg resting on another chair. I did not settle myself to observe the Sabbath day and receive the word of God. I felt that my actions were acceptable because the only other people in the house were my family. I did not realize that God was next to me.
The sermon ended, and we were about to kneel to pray when, suddenly, I started to feel a sharp pain in my right foot. I had to steady myself with one hand on the chair and the other on the wall. My family saw what happened and rushed over, supporting me as I knelt.
After the prayer ended, the pain got progressively worse. At that time, I carefully examined myself. I had fallen short of God’s requirements that evening, and God disciplined me to remind me. Even when my family tried to treat the pain by applying ointments, none of them helped. My foot hurt even more!
I knew I owed the Lord a debt for my misbehavior. My family said that if the pain was caused by my conduct failing to meet God’s standard, we should pray to the Lord for His mercy.
During the prayer, I asked God: “If what happened was because I had fallen short of Your expectations of me during the evening Sabbath service, then please manifest a miracle to help me understand this. Let the pain in my foot be healed before daybreak.”
When the prayer concluded, my family had to help me up. I was sure that I would not be able to sleep because of the pain. I felt so cold that I was shivering the whole night; I could not find a comfortable position for my foot.
Gradually, I fell asleep, and when I woke up, I realized that dawn had broken. My family came to check on how I was feeling. Thanks be to our wonderful Savior! The surface of my foot was no longer painful, and I felt much more comfortable. I could walk by myself, and my foot only hurt if I pressed on it with my hand. As the day passed, it got better, and by afternoon, the pain had gone.
From this experience, I understood that God was warning me. When we have to keep the Sabbath in our own homes in these unusual times, we still need to worship with a reverent heart and listen to God’s word wholeheartedly.
May all glory be unto our wonderful Savior!
Justin Leung—Sunderland, UK
At the start of 2020, I was not worried about the news of a novel coronavirus detected in China, halfway across the world from the United Kingdom (UK). It seemed so far away and had minimal impact on my life. I figured that it would soon fizzle out. However, the coronavirus soon became a global pandemic, reaching the UK's shores in February 2020. Within a short period, it wreaked havoc on the way we live our lives.
By then, it had become apparent that this pandemic was one of the signs of the end of the age (Mt 24:7). Many sermons and discussions centered on this topic, helping us recognize the spiritual significance of the pandemic.
Like many countries, the UK responded to this threat to human life by restricting social interactions and imposing a national lockdown on March 23, 2020. At the start of the lockdown, I was resolved to take active steps to get my spiritual life in order. I planned to invest more time in prayer and Bible reading, and deepen my knowledge of our Ten Articles of Faith.
However, as time went on and the government extended the lockdown, my focus started to shift to secular matters. Hobbies and housework, which I usually did not have time for, became my main focus. I repainted the rooms that had previously been painted in awful colors, tidied the messiest areas in the house, and started some garden projects. Working on these things brought me happiness and distraction from the outside world and its chaos.
But this focus shift started to numb the firm spiritual conviction I had at the start of the lockdown. This is the danger of worldly trends and pastimes. Even housework and gardening, which seem so innocent, can distract us and take up our time. Thank God, through an online sermon, I was reminded not to forget God, especially when our physical circumstances are blessed, and our lives are comfortable (Deut 8:11–14). I came to realize that my schedule was so packed with pursuing my own comfort that I had very little time for God. I had to change my focus.
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Mt 6:19–21)
Our actions are outward expressions of the contents of our hearts (Prov 4:23; Mt 12:35), whether they are for God or the world. So, my question for reflection is, have we spent our time in lockdown wisely? Sometimes our hearts deceive us, and we think that the second coming of the Lord is far away. As a result, we are not vigilant and muddle-headedly journey through our life of faith. But the 2020-22 theme for the True Jesus Church in the UK, set by our general assembly (UKGA), is very apt: Discern the Time and Be Watchful (Lk 12:35–56; Mt 24:42). Through COVID-19, God reminds us that the end is near, and our merciful Father is giving us time to prepare for this eventuality. Therefore, let us use our time wisely, putting spiritual well-being before material comfort, and show our Lord where our priorities and heart lie (Mt 6:33).
GIVE WHAT IS OWED TO THE MASTER
Tarintim Durasip—Guong, Sabah, Malaysia
In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, I testify. My name is Tarintim Durasip, and I live in Guong, Sabah. I am sixty-five years old. I would like to share a vision I received during the current COVID-19 pandemic—a dream that engraved a message into my heart.
On March 16, 2020, the Malaysian government announced a nationwide movement control order (MCO) to contain the coronavirus spread.
A student spiritual convocation was originally scheduled to take place in the church at Guong, from March 14 to 17. When the danger of spreading COVID-19 became serious, the Sabah General Assembly advised us to postpone this convocation. However, the church had already made all the necessary preparations for this event, including purchasing meat for catering. After some discussion, Guong church members and church board decided that the meat would be sold to the church members to avoid waste. After this was done, there was still a surplus of meat remaining. The church board evaluated the price of this meat and entrusted it to Brother Sijan, my son-in-law. Since he and my daughter, Sulinda, live with me, we stored the meat in our freezer at home so that any church member who wanted to purchase more could come directly to us.
The Vision of an Angel
On the night of April 15, I dreamed that someone—presumably, an angel—came into our house. He said to me, “You have a debt, and you must pay what you owe.”
I asked him, “What do I owe?”
He answered, “The price is all that you have in the freezer.” He pointed the freezer containing the meat from the church.
I became extremely afraid. I asked him, “How much should we pay?” He told me the amount in Ringgit (Malaysian currency). I became anxious because it was not a small amount. At this point, I woke up.
First thing in the morning, I asked Sulinda the cost of the meat in our freezer. After telling her about my dream, we discovered that the meat's price matched exactly the amount of tithe she owed the Lord since the start of MCO—and she had not yet offered it.
I told my family that we need to continue to give our tithes and Sabbath offerings as usual. I also shared the vision and message with my son, Deacon Maleakhi, who passed this on to the church members. Many members were moved and committed themselves to continue offering and tithing, as best they could, during this difficult period.
Since the MCO came into effect, many people have found themselves in financial straits. This includes some of our church members whose livelihoods and incomes have been affected by the restrictions. However, God oversees all aspects of our lives. During hard times, such as this MCO period, we should not neglect or delay our offerings to God. I hope that everybody will endeavor to collect their offerings and place them into the hands of God soon. May all glory, praise, and honor be to our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.