Italy has been struck particularly hard by COVID-19 – it was the first country in Europe to be overwhelmed by the virus and is still battling a particularly severe third wave. Through this, Mark and Jane Oden’s church in Naples have spotted 12 things the Lord has taught them over the past 12 months:
1. It is folly to place our trust in ourselves. It is so important to depend on the Lord for everything.
‘Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.’ (2 Corinthians 1: 9)
2. We are frail and powerless.
‘For, “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever.”’ (1 Peter 1: 24-25)
3. Nothing is wasted by the Lord but every experience is used to mould his people into the image of his Son.
‘And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.’ (Romans 8:28)
4. There is glorious joy even in the midst of trials.
‘As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything.’ (2 Corinthians 6:10)
5. The care and love of our spiritual family for each other is beautiful.
‘Bear one another's burdens and so fulfil the law of Christ.’ (Galatians 6: 2)
6. The work of the Lord is global and often terrifying.
‘Behold, the Lord God comes with might, and his arm rules for him; behold, his reward is with him, and his recompense before him.’ (Isaiah 40:10)
7. There is a profound peace even in times of panic.
‘And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.’ (Philippians 4: 7)
8. An integral part of faith is knowing how to wait for the Lord's timing.
‘I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope.’ (Psalms 130: 5)
9. If we accept God’s plans and timing, we can be free from the mania of control.
‘Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.’ (Proverbs 19:21)
10. It is vanity to seek satisfaction and security in the things of this world.
‘Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity.’ (Ecclesiastes 1: 2)
11. The Lord is always at work – even when we are locked indoors and our churches are empty.
‘Jesus answered, "I tell you, if these are silent, the very stones would cry out."’ (Luke 19:40)
12. It is a privilege and joy to serve our neighbours in their time of need.
‘Love your neighbour as yourself’ (Mark 12:31)
We thank the Lord for these precious lessons and pray that we won’t forget them.
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Mark Oden is a mission partner in Italy. Along with his wife Jane, Mark is establishing a church in central Naples.
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