10 THINGS I LEARNED
PASTOR JARED NIEMAN
MARCH 16, 2021
Around this time last year, none of us knew that life as we used to know it would change as drastically as it did. Some changes were temporary, some more permanent. Entire countries went into lockdown, cities shut down, and communities were faced with the uncertainty of what tomorrow would bring. Personally, I had no idea of the many changes or trials this pandemic would bring to our church – Abundant, to our community, or even to myself. We all had to endure some very tough moments. We all had to adjust our routines and adapt to do many things differently, but nevertheless, here we stand. Ready to build up again.
As difficult as this time was, I truly believe we all can benefit from the many lessons this season has taught us. I decided to look back at this past year and evaluate what those lessons look like for me. I’d like to share these lessons with you today, as I believe these thoughts will uplift you and bring encouragement to your life.
HERE ARE 10 THINGS I LEARNED DURING THE PANDEMIC
FIND THE SILVER LINING
Surrounded by tragedy, economic hardships, and many, many uncertainties – so much about the last year felt like a loss. Businesses were closing, our kids were trying to learn through Zoom, and church attendance plummeted. As things only got harder, I was forced to make a decision. View these things as a loss or make the most out of the cards I was given. I began to realize I was spending more time with my family than before. I was working on improving areas of the church that sorely needed TLC, and I was pushing to give back to my community in the midst – resulting in us helping feed over 100,000 families in need. Staying home gave me the time to redirect my focus and even allowed me to write a book! The lesson here is that the WIN you get may not be the one you imagined or expected, but it doesn’t mean it’s not there.
DON’T STRESS OVER WHAT YOU CAN’T CONTROL
I can’t tell you exactly how many sleepless nights I had throughout the beginning of the pandemic. I laid in bed, anxiety building as I stressed over the church, government rulings, shutdowns, face masks, the stock market, and just about any other worry you could think of. There was something all of these stresses had in common – I really had no say in any of them. It’s easy to give in to fear and worry, but there’s a huge reason why Jesus says to trust in Him, instead of worrying. I can say I definitely learned to trust in God at a level I never had before, to lean not on my own understanding, and chose to do the best job I could with what was placed right in front of me. I encourage you today, focus on what you can control, and do the best you can with what you’re given.
THE NEED FOR EXCELLENCE NEVER QUARANTINES
Excellence is doing the best you can with what you have, in the moment you have it. What are you doing to live with excellence? Whether you’re sitting at the kitchen table, home office, on a Zoom call, or just sitting in quarantine – doing it with excellence should be your priority. You cannot control everything in your life, but you can control your attitude, diligence, your time and your focus. Your one life deserves your best effort. It deserves excellence. Now that we are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel, I encourage you to pursue excellence in everything you do.
NEVER UNDERESTIMATE THE IMPORTANCE OF HEALTH
WOW! During the past year, our bodies, hearts, minds, and even our finances have been under assault. Jobs were lost as businesses were forced to shut down. Schools were closed and households had to accommodate all kinds of additional pressures. Anxiety, depression, and suicides across the world skyrocketed. But one thing I noticed we were starting to take more care of, was our health. If there’s one thing to walk away with from this season, it’s the importance of prioritizing our physical, emotional, mental, and financial wellbeing as much as we can. Don’t wait any longer to put your health first. Get healthy and start making beneficial choices for your life today.
PURSUE OPPORTUNITY IN THE FACE OF ANY CHALLENGE
The reality of life is that it can and will get very difficult. Everyone faces resistance, failure, and disappointment. Challenges await you and I, around every corner! Typically though, the challenge is simply the obstacle between you and something great. Here’s the question – are you going to focus on the challenge or the opportunity? When you focus on the difficulties along the way, you will be overcome by them. When you see the reward beyond the obstacle, you will do whatever it takes to overcome it. So envision it. Believe in it. Pursue it. Yes, challenge awaits us around every corner, but so does opportunity.
BE FLEXIBLE. BE RIGID. BE FLEXIBLY RIGID.
There is a time and season for everything. Some of the companies that handled the pandemic the best were simply the ones who adjusted the quickest. These companies saw the changing climate and readjusted how they served their clientele. Overnight, the church had to change exactly how we reached our membership. We were completely flexible in how we did things, but were also completely rigid where it mattered. We never compromised our vision. We never lost sight of our mission and purpose. Life is changing constantly, and our only real option is to adapt or get left behind in what was. Change is inevitable, growth is optional. You can have change or you can have excuses, but you cannot have both. We have a saying at our church, “The message is sacred, the method is not”.
EXTREME PRESSURE PRODUCES EXTREME RESULTS
One of the most challenging parts of the pandemic was the initial confusion and induced pressure that came along with the uncertainty of what exactly was about to happen. To say the least, it was a hard year. I sat on phone calls with widows only an hour after their spouse had passed away. I wept with families experiencing extreme loss and pain. There was one family in particular, who I ministered at 3 funerals for. I spent countless hours counseling our church members through their pain. Our church attendance even dropped over 75% at one point. That may have brought us down, but do you want to know just how we responded? Our church delivered 3000+ meals to high risk families and fed over 100,000 families in need in our community.
In the face of these major pressures, I can truly say I’ve never encountered the extreme nature of the grace of God like I did this year. Some of the greatest messages our family has ever preached came during the pandemic. I have never felt more compassion, empathy and care for hurting people than I do now. After these hardships, I feel closer to my church and our church staff than ever because we rallied together to get through it all, and managed to do our best to help those lost and hurting. Extreme pressure can produce extreme results!
Leaders lead, they do not follow. The real test of a true leader comes during hard times. It’s not always fun or glamorous, and it’s rarely easy. Quite often it can be lonely and isolating, but a true leader following their purpose, experiences rewards beyond measures after overcoming hardships. Our world needs strong, Christian men and women who are going to step up and lead with godliness, service, compassion, honesty, and care. We need leaders, and if you are one, now is your time to STEP UP! When hard times arise a true leader shows exactly what they’re made of.
PEOPLE ARE WHAT MATTERS THE MOST
In a world where everything changed overnight, we learned that our cars, clothing, offices, and just about everything else, were small things we placed too much importance on. It took social distancing and lockdowns to make us realize that the only thing that really matters is people! Jesus died on the cross for people. He gave His only Son for people. God loves people and we are commanded to love one another! Let’s determine through and after this pandemic is over, to treat everyone with equality, kindness, and compassion. Nothing else matters more!
JESUS IS THE ANSWER
This past year it felt like all I had was questions and there never seemed to be any real answers. I bet I’m not the only one who felt that way. Even when we thought we had an answer, the situation would change and leave us with even more questions than what we began with. All those lingering questions created a sense of confusion all around us. Leaving us with nowhere to go, no clue what to do or believe. I was raised a Christian and have quoted John 14:6 thousands of times where Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” And you know what, yes! HE is! As I look back at the last 12 months, I can see the fingerprints of God all over it. In a world full of questions, there is still only one answer, and the answer is Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior!
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