Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him. Genesis 5:24The past year has obviously been challenging on a number of fronts and the challenges haven’t been limited to one country or geographic region. There have been responses and measure to the pandemic that have resulted in widespread isolation. As human beings created in the image of God, we know that we were not created for isolation as God looked upon Adam in the garden and knew that it was not good for man to be alone (Gen. 2:18). As believers, those of us who have trusted in Christ for salvation from sin and the wrath of Almighty God, know that we have been (re)created in the image of Christ and were not created for isolation either, rather we were created for fellowship (koinonia; Acts 2:42). However, there are times or circumstances, such as those we are just now coming out of, that dictate small seasons when we must be willing to walk alone with God as it often is a test of the genuineness of our faith.
In Scripture, as in the case of Noah who was blameless in his generation or with Elijah, who had considered out of all of God’s people he was the only one left, there are occasions when God’s people indeed must be willing to walk alone with God. Sometimes, this isolation with God is due to being surrounded by a wicked and perverse generation, as with Lot. Other times, the isolation is necessary to strengthen our reliance upon God, as perhaps with our Lord’s retreat into the wilderness for forty days. The point is that sometimes we must voluntarily isolate ourselves while other times we find ourselves in a God-ordained situation of isolation, as with so many during the pandemic. In either circumstance, what we do in that isolation is critical, as it reveals the true nature of our faith.
When the externals of Christianity are stripped away, what is or has been our response? When no one is there to see our external performances or when checking the box for Sunday morning attendance is no longer necessary for us or others to observe, where do we find ourselves with respect to God?
Though on numerous occasions we have noted how God has used the past year to reveal deeply engrained idols personally, professionally, and pastorally, we need also to observe how for each of us it should have been a sort of litmus test of our faith. When in our socially distanced isolation, did we find ourselves still hungering for God’s Word, desiring to fellowship with one another – even fellowshipping regardless of consequences? Were we thirsting for righteousness, that God might do a greater work of reformation in our hearts to reveal sin and strip us of our idols? Did we find that on regular occasions we were panting for God as a deer does in the wilderness? Or…or, were we content to be stagnate? Were we satisfied with virtual sermons? Did we consider that the circumstances did more than dictate our isolation, rather they dictated the measure of our faith and determined that we must simply ride out this wave, muddling along in mediocrity until we could return to the externals of our worship?
It is quite clear that the newness of virtual services wore off as time went along and that as restrictions have lifted many, many churches find their pews substantially more empty than prior to the pandemic. The reason is simple enough. When in isolation, the vast majority were simply unwilling, finding it unnecessary even, to walk alone with God. Through the events of this past year, God has most certainly and sovereignly sifted out those who are just interested in externals. One must wonder if the sifting is over, or is simply just beginning (1 Peter 4:17).
Writing in his extremely practical book, The Christian’s Daily Walk, Puritan Henry Scudder highlights the differences between genuine uprightness in which a believer must walk or hypocrisy. He asks
Consider whether you can go on in the strict course of godliness alone, and whether you resolve to do it though you shall have no company, but all or most go in the way of sin, and also persuade you thereunto. When you will walk with God alone, and without other company, this shows that your walking with God is for his sake. Scudder, pg. 164Looking back over the past year, how have you spent the time? Where are you now in your walk with God? Has He gone by the wayside as unnecessary along with the externals? Have you fallen for the lie that fellowshipping with other believers, mutual edification, and the exercise of spiritual gifts was all non-essential? Make no mistake about it, this was a grand opportunity; a grand test for genuineness. Have we found ourselves persevering through the isolation determined to continue walking with God, even walking alone? Or have we found that the isolation – even from God Himself – suits us just fine?