The Civil War ended 155 years ago next month. World War II ended 75 years ago this fall.
In the midst of both horrific conflicts, a spiritual war was being waged as well.
During the Civil War, revival services were common on both sides. Nightly prayer meetings were held in many regiments; tent meetings were filled to overflowing. A Confederate chaplain noted that “scores of men are converted immediately after great battles.” A Pennsylvania soldier wrote, “The fact that I must die became to me living and real.”
A Wall Street Journal article notes that after World War II, “Americans, chastened by the horrors of war, turned to faith in search of truth and meaning. In the late 1940s, Gallup surveys showed more than three-quarters of Americans were members of a house of worship, compared with about half today. Congress added the words ‘under God’ to the Pledge of Allegiance in 1954. Some would later call this a Third Great Awakening.”
“Virtual cell phone choir” sings “It Is Well with My Soul”
We are fighting a war today that is just as real as those deadly conflicts.
At a news briefing yesterday, President Trump stated that “the peak in death rate” in the pandemic “is likely to hit in two weeks” and announced that the federal government is extending its social-distancing guidelines through April 30.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the US government’s foremost infectious disease expert, said yesterday that the US could experience “millions of cases” of COVID-19 and “between one hundred thousand and two hundred thousand” deaths in the US based on what “we’re seeing now.”
Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, also said Sunday that the administration is “asking every single governor and every single mayor to prepare like New York is preparing now.” She added, “No state, no metro area will be spared.”
In the face of this crisis, Americans are responding to the coronavirus pandemic in remarkably creative ways.
Some are holding virtual dinner parties. In one, eight households from Nashville to Chicago participated; everyone made pasta with red sauce. A Maryland woman is giving a daily thirty-minute cello concert on her front porch to reconnect with her neighbors.
Teachers are staging car parades where their students live; one in Dallas made national headlines. A couple forced to downsize their wedding was greeted after the ceremony by a parade of guests who were unable to attend.
Members of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra gave a socially distanced performance of Aaron Copland’s “Appalachian Spring” that I encourage you to hear. And the Nashville Studio Singer Community created a “virtual cell phone choir” to deliver one of the most stirring performances of “It Is Well with My Soul” that I have ever heard.
An unprecedented opportunity for spiritual awakening
What can Christians uniquely do to serve our world and our Lord in these critical days?
I believe that this unprecedented crisis presents the most unprecedented opportunity for spiritual awakening in my lifetime. As with the Civil War and World War II, the fact of mortality is more obvious for more of us than ever before. A deadly disease that anyone can get is a deadly disease everyone can get.
Could it be that God would redeem this global medical outbreak by using it to spark a global spiritual outbreak? Could he be calling his people to the front lines of this spiritual battle?
2 Chronicles 7:14 is a familiar text to most of us. It ends with God’s promise to “heal their land,” the miracle we need today. What precedes this blessing?
The text states: “If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and heal their land.” We must humble ourselves, admitting that we need what only God can give us. Then we pray—the Hebrew word describes collective prayer for divine favor. To “seek my face” points to a personal, passionate engagement with the Lord. To “turn from their wicked ways” is to repent of sins that the first three acts have revealed.
The Lord willing, I will explore each of these steps with you across my morning Daily Articles this week. For today, let’s begin by making a covenant together that we will earnestly seek the spiritual awakening we urgently need.
“People are coming to us saying, ‘I need hope.’”
To that end, we’ll close today with some good news: the global pandemic is sparking global interest in the good news of God’s love.
Global Media Outreach (GMO) was founded in 2004 by my longtime friend, Walt Wilson. This year, they will reach the milestone moment of sharing the gospel with 2 billion people. They have seen more than 223 million people respond positively to the message of faith and hope in Christ. Their 3,500 online missionaries disciple people with spiritual needs in 50 languages.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, GMO has gone from reaching 350,000 people per day to upwards of 500,000 globally. A GMO leader told the Christian Post, “People are coming to us saying, ‘I need hope. Where can I find hope in the face of tragedy, anxiety, bankruptcy?’” He added, “When people are in pain, we offer encouragement and hope. They’re coming to us looking for answers.”
I’m praying for God to redeem this pandemic by advancing a spiritual awakening that will bring millions to the hope and answers found in Christ. Will you join me?