The Proverbial Pandemic

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If there has ever been a time that pastors could legitimately say, “They didn’t teach me this in seminary,” it would certainly be now during this COVID-19 global pandemic. We’re all having to navigate new territory and uncharted waters, whether it be learning how to use unfamiliar technology or just finding an ample supply of toilet paper. Of course, there are people on the planet who are in much more dire straits. Nonetheless, it’s definitely a season in which all of us are having to learn stuff that we haven’t been taught.

During this journey of trying to know the unknown, I’ve been greatly helped by God’s timeless wisdom and knowledge communicated through the Proverbs in the Bible. In God’s providence, I found myself working through Proverbs over the past 3-4 weeks in prayerful meditation as part of my daily reading plan. It’s been especially interesting, encouraging, and challenging for me to see some of the close connections in this wealth of wisdom that speak directly to our journeys into the unknown. Allow me to pass along a few examples of the treasures that have risen to the surface in my own life.

Refuse Isolation

Proverbs 18:1 says, “Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgement.” Personally, I believe Christians ought to lead the way in abiding by the counsel and laws levied by our officials. Social distancing and shelter-at-home orders are inconvenient but wise practices. However, they give believers a pass on pursuing what Scripture says we need, and we need the comradery and counsel of other believers, lest we find ourselves straying down the path of our own whims and wants.

Go the extra mile and take advantage of every means you can to stay connected to regular conversation with Christian friends. Interact with others through email, videoconferences, and social media, or even physical presence within appropriate guidelines. Take great pangs to keep the flow of wise counsel coming into your life.

Resist Laziness

Proverbs 22:13 is only one of a myriad of verses in the book that compel us to diligence instead of slothfulness: “The sluggard says, ‘There is a lion outside! I shall be killed in the streets!” For us, it’s not a lion, but a virus that’s roaming the planet. And the beast is tempting us to use it as an excuse to jettison diligence and hard work.

I don’t know about you, but I haven’t exactly found this season of interrupted routines to be one in which I have more time on my hands. In fact, I find myself with more stuff on my to-do list by way of navigating online classes, interacting with pastors in Zoom meetings, recording sermons and lectures, participating in group videoconferences, and responding to more emails than I did in my pre-Coronavirus day-to-day regiment.

But what I have discovered is that–while I don’t have more time on my hands–I do have more control over my time. And more control combined with my flesh is a train wreck waiting to happen. It’s a seedbed for laziness. Militantly guard against the lure of idleness by developing daily routines, creating some element of structure to your day, and enlisting some accountability to help keep you on track.

Relish The Moment

If there’s anything this pandemic has done, it’s made us all keenly aware of our fragility, vulnerability, and lack of control. The author of Proverbs warns, “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring” (Pr. 27:1).

Almost overnight, so many people were transported by the COVID-19 scare from a place of freedom, self-sufficiency, self-confidence, and indulgence to a state of imprisonment, dependence, fear, and rations. I, for one, have been reminded about how easily it is for me to take for granted all that God has done for me and given to me. While I realize that, as a believer, I must live every day in view of the world to come, I can’t afford to presume upon tomorrow.

God doesn’t promise me another day on this planet, so I need to seize today with gratitude and appreciation, and I need to leverage every moment. So, take a walk and enjoy God’s creation. Hug your wife and kids, and tell them how thankful you are for them. Read the Bible and pray more. Tell someone about Jesus, because they–like you–aren’t promised another day. Carpe diem.


“My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights” (Pr. 3:11-12). I don’t know whether or not the coronavirus is a manifestation of God’s discipline on an impotent church or judgement on a hard-hearted culture, but I at least have to consider the possibility.

This journey has caused me to look inward and do a lot of soul-searching, asking God to show me my own sin and to look to Him in repentance and faith. While human nature is most inclined to lash out against God with anger and questioning, the Spirit of Christ within us compels us to use our discomfort as an occasion for repentance, renewal, and crying out for revival.

Obviously, the above are merely representative of a whole host of connections that Proverbs gives to our current plight. Prayerfully mine its depths and see how many more you can uncover. Allow the book’s wisdom to help you know the unknown.

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Jim Shaddix

Senior Preaching Fellow

Jim Shaddix (BS, Jacksonville State University; M.Div., D.Min., Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary; Ph.D., New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary) serves as Professor of Preaching at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, NC, occupying the W. A. Criswell Chair of Expository Preaching. He also serves as a Senior Fellow for the Center for Preaching and Pastoral Leadership, which exists to resource pastors in local churches. Jim has pastored churches in Texas, Mississippi, Louisiana and Colorado, and also served as Dean of the Chapel and Professor of Preaching at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary in New Orleans, LA. He is the author of The Passion Driven Sermon (Broadman & Holman, 2003), Decisional Preaching (Rainer, 2019), and co-author of Power in the Pulpit (Moody, 1999, 2017) and Progress in the Pulpit (Moody, 2017), both with Jerry Vines, 2 Peter and Jude (Broadman & Holman, 2018) with Danny Akin, Psalms 51-100 (Broadman & Holman, 2020) with David Platt and Matt Mason, both in the Christ-Centered Exposition commentary series, and Expositional Leadership (Crossway, 2024 release). Jim and his wife, Debra, focus much of their attention on discipling and mentoring young leaders and spouses. They have three grown children and eleven grandchildren.

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