Essential Work


A few days ago, my wife and I were video chatting with my sister-in-law in Washington who is going through much of the same things we here in Guam are facing: her place of employment is closed; her kids are at home; they’re only supposed to leave the house for essential purposes; and they are relatively uncertain as to when this period of confinement will come to an end. She said jokingly that they aren’t calling their stay-at-home “quarantine” anymore since nobody around them is sick, but rather they’ve begun to call it “house arrest.”

Her situation reminded me of a time the Apostle Paul was stuck at home, his mobility was restricted, and he couldn’t be with many of the people he really wanted to see. This is where we find him at the end of the book of Acts, literally under “house arrest.”

Like us, Paul could have viewed his circumstances through a few different lenses. He might have become discouraged by his inability to minister the way he had before. On the other hand, he could have seen his house arrest as a much need break from the vigorous ministry he was used to and decided it was time to take it easy. What Paul actually did reveals his confidence in God’s sovereignty, his unwavering commitment to God’s calling on his life, and his flexibility in how he ministered.

Since he could not visit the churches he longed to see, he wrote to them. Had Paul not recognized the opportunities that were still present in his confined circumstances, the world would be at a great loss without the books of Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon.

One thing Paul wrote to the Ephesians during his house arrest might help us to maintain a right perspective. He said, “Walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (Eph. 5:15-16). Although it can be easy to view our stay-at-home time as time to kill, we must not be careless with it but instead utilize the opportunities God has placed before us. Like Paul’s experience, God has a plan for us during this time.

Join us as Aaron Engelhardt teaches on leading your family during the Coronavirus.

In fact, God may want to use these Coronavirus restrictions as something like a reset button for your family’s schedule. Many of the activities that usually fill your schedule are likely absent now, giving you an opportunity to establish family habits that were difficult to insert when things were so busy. Who knows? In a few years from now, you may even be able to point back to this time as the beginning of some of the best things your family does together.

Family Bible Time

If you are married, making Bible reading and discussion a priority with your spouse is a great way to build a strong spiritual foundation in your relationship. It will allow you to connect with each other on a much more intimate level and help you establish a mutual understanding of the purpose, roles, and goals God has for your marriage.

If you have children, a great way to keep Christ at the center of your home is to plan for a time for the whole family to meet together around God’s Word. The time that works best for our family is around the breakfast table, but for others it may be better at another time like right before bed. Whatever time works best for your family, endeavor to guard this time from the many other events that will attempt to contend for its place. If this is a new practice for your family, let me encourage you with a few things I’ve learned from my experience:

  • Be mindful of your time. The time you spend reading and discussing doesn’t need to be long, perhaps 5-15 minutes depending on the age of your kids. Children have short attention spans, and you want to make this a time they enjoy, not something they must endure.
  • Try to facilitate dialogue. Again, this will look different in different families depending on the age of your children. What you want to avoid is turning your family devotions into a mini sermon from Pastor Dad. Rather than preaching to them, ask questions to get them thinking and talking.
  • Keep it simple. You want your children to develop a sense that God’s Word is meant for them personally. If you have to spend all of your family devotion time defining words, then they are going to conclude that the Bible may be suitable for adults but it’s not for them. As such, for family devotions I personally prefer to use a Bible version that my kids can understand.
  • Follow a plan. Whether reading through a book or studying a topic, maintain a set course. Our family spent some time looking at Proverbs a few months ago identifying the different characteristics that described either the wise or the foolish person. A few minutes before we started each morning, I did an internet search of a particular topic I knew was mentioned in Proverbs to find some key verses; then, we looked up those verses together in our Bibles, read them aloud, and asked some questions. By doing this, we were able to have some great conversations about topics such as the influence of friends, helpful and harmful speech, work ethic, dangers of alcohol, wise use of money, romance, and honoring people in positions of authority.  Currently, we are going through the Gospel of Mark. Most of this book is already broken up into small sections containing just a few verses each. A week’s reading might look something like this:
    • MondayMark 1:1-8 – John the Baptist
    • Tuesday Mark 1:9-11 – Jesus is Baptized
    • WednesdayMark 1:12-13 – Jesus is Tempted
    • ThursdayMark 1:14-15 – Jesus’ Message
    • FridayMark 1:16-20 – Jesus Calls the First Disciples

Notice, we only made it through 20 verses this week. That’s okay . . . quantity is not the goal! It is better to stay simple and focus on a single idea that we can think about throughout the day than to try to cover too much ground and forget it all as soon as we move on to the next thing in our schedule.

  • Be humble. If your children are engaging in discussion and they ask a difficult question, it’s okay to say, “I don’t know; let’s find out.” This lets your children see that you are human, and still growing, too. And, like it or not, this also puts you in a position where you are pushed to search God’s Word in order to gain a better understanding of the answers He provides. One of the greatest methods God uses to help us grow spiritually is to place us in a position where we are striving to help others grow.

May God grant you His grace as you endeavor to redeem the time He has given you with your family. May His essential work continue to be accomplished as you prioritize His Word in your home.

Aaron Engelhardt

[1] Longman, T., & Garland, D. The Expositor's Bible Commentary (p. 166). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

[2] MacArthur, J. (1996). New Testament Commentary (p. 105). Chicago: Moody.

[3] Wiersbe, W., 1989. The Bible Exposition Commentary (p. 601). Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books.

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