by Jill St. John
At 5’2”, I frequently find myself on my toes--or “tippy toes”--stretching to reach a glass from the kitchen cabinet, turn on the lamp on top of the armoire, or kiss my husband. In this Coronavirus season, nothing is within easy reach. I feel like I am on my tippy toes for nearly every part of life and ministry right now. . .stretching to reach, accomplish, and connect. Figuring out how to connect with people and not get closer than 6-feet is stretching me! Leading meetings, strategizing responsibilities, and presenting content--only through a screen--is stretching me! Working, living, and being in the same space continually with my precious husband and kids is stretching me!
Something that keeps us on our toes demands that we focus all our attention and energy on what we are doing until we reach it. We must keep our eyes on it and stretch to attain it. This season is requiring us to stretch, reach, and strain what we previously had no trouble grasping.
Acts 20:28 talks about being on our toes: Be on your toes—both for yourselves and your congregation of sheep. The Holy Spirit has put you in charge of these people—God’s people they are—to guard and protect them. God Himself thought they were worth dying for. (The Message) A different version puts it like this: So guard yourselves and God’s people. Feed and shepherd God’s flock—His church, purchased with His own blood—over which the Holy Spirit has appointed you as leaders. (NLT)
In this season of Coronavirus and stay-at-home orders, this Acts 20:28 exhortation resonates deeply with me. Am I on my toes—guarding--myself and God’s people? What does it mean to guard myself and God’s people in this time? For me, guarding myself is all about self-leadership. In spite of not having my usual schedule, I must be engaged in daily disciplines: setting my alarm to spend early morning moments with Jesus and His Word, prioritizing exercise, and making time for personal care. Even though I am meeting with people through a screen, only seen from the waist up--and I could wear a ballcap and no one would care--I do my hair and make-up and get fully dressed. (Well, I get ready and fully dressed most days--there’s a balance as we enjoy some of the perks of stay-at-home!) Keeping my mind refreshed in God’s Word, and taking care of my physical self, helps my mind stay sharp and focused. This makes me more productive and purposeful throughout the day.
Guarding God’s people means praying for them--engaging in spiritual warfare in this time of attack, illness, and hardship. As a we minister to God’s church while not being able to go to church, it means connecting with God’s people in all kinds of ways. Social media, texts, and old-fashioned phone calls allow us to encourage people to guard themselves through being in God’s Word and prayer, as well as praying with them. This helps guard them from hopelessness, despair, and negativity. Staying in God’s Word and encouraging one another will help us get through this together. . .stronger!
I have been praying Acts 20:28 over my husband, our family, our church staff and leaders, and I would like to pray it over you and me:
Lord, please anoint and empower us to guard ourselves and Your people. Help us to be faithful to feed Your flock by imparting Your Word to them, encouraging them, and teaching them to dive into Your Word for themselves. Anoint us to shepherd Your flock with compassion and tender care as some of them are hurting, wounded, and afraid. Prompt us to continually be yielded to the Holy Spirit so Your power may flow through us to those who need Your touch. Thank You, God, for the privilege of being appointed as leaders and pastors in this historic time. May we daily remember that You thought we were all worth dying for. How glorious and awesome is Your love and Your plan. Please use us for Your glorious purposes. In Jesus’ Name—Amen!
Jill St. John, once a high school English teacher, is an ordained minister in the Assemblies of God. She serves as Co-Pastor alongside her husband, Jason. For the last 23 years, they have served at Evangel Church in Kansas City: 6 years as youth pastors, 17 years as lead pastors. Jill has a passion for Jesus and a zeal for teaching God’s Word – helping others walk in God’s love and purpose. As a 4-time cancer survivor, she knows the goodness of God through the highs and lows of life and ministry. Jill is an authentic, enthusiastic messenger of God’s joy and hope. Teaching, cooking, laughing and hanging out with her husband and two children are the delights of her life!