Robin J Johnson
Fear, confusion, irrational behaviour and panic are a real and present danger sweeping across the world. I am speaking of the widespread reaction by many to the Coronavirus named COVID-19, recently declared a Pandemic by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
The greater epidemic that we presently face however is probably not so much the virus as serious as it is, but the fear which is now crippling the lives of millions around the world and also triggering a global financial crisis, which may get worse before it turns around. Some are blaming the media for generating fear and irrational behaviour, while the media justify themselves by saying that are merely reporting the news. This maybe true, but disproportionate, attention grabbing sensationalist headlines do not help the situation. Certain world leaders of particular nations are also not helping with their own denials, irrational, fanciful and inaccurate statements. We need facts!
Responsible leaders around the world are putting into place strategic plans and initiatives in an attempt to lessen the impact on their nation’s citizens. These are certainly unique days. We have not walked this path before, but it is not the end of world. Without a doubt life in the short term is going to be different in some significant ways and what the days ahead will actually look like is still unsure. Nevertheless, do not fear! We can and will walk through this together.
Has this virus caught God by surprise? No, not at all! For those who have an ear let us hear what the Spirit says to His Church. To quote the old cliche, “Man’s desperation is God’s opportunity”. We, the people of God, must be part of the answer, not those responsible for generating more fear and turmoil. The Body of Christ must raise a voice of reason and hope in these challenging days.
Anxious fear brings depression, but a life-giving word of encouragement can do wonders to restore joy to the heart.
Proverbs 12:25 (Passion Translation NT)
To begin with
Let me share a prophetic word of encouragement that was presented at our church during last Sunday’s services (8/3/2020).
“You (the church) are the voice. The voice of reason and hope for a world without hope. A voice to declare the glorious majesty of the living God, not to be silent in these days but to speak boldly of mankind’s only hope, the Good News of Jesus Christ ”
This prophetic word is a reminder that in these days of turmoil the church (believers) have a responsibility to speak compassionately, sensibly and boldly into the lives of those who they live among. We are called to be…
- A voice of hope, balance and wisdom. Not one that perpetuates unreasonable fear and irrational behaviour
- A voice that exalts Jesus Christ and proclaims the Good News of the Kingdom of God with an invitation to come and receive the grace, forgiveness, help and hope for this present world and eternity in Jesus name.
- A voice that is heard before the Throne of our God, calling on His name, petitioning heaven on behalf of those who are lost, helpless, desperate and afraid standing in the gap, interceding in Jesus name
So what should our response be as disciples of Jesus Christ?
1. Prayer must be a priority
Not just any prayer, but focused, intentional prayer seeking our God’s intervention in our own lives, for those around us and the broader community and nations. Remember, specific prayers bring about specific answers!
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
- Pray that the spread of the virus will cease and pray for healing and recovery for those have been affected with the virus.
- Pray against the schemes of the enemy, the demonic lies and false information that are mingled with the facts devised to confuse and produce further fear.
- Pray for clarity, competent, wise and timely decisions made by leaders.
- Pray for a breakthrough in the discovery of a medical solution to stop and kill the virus and provide immunisation against it spreading further now and in the future.
Most of all, I’m writing to encourage you to pray with gratitude to God. Pray for all men with all forms of prayers and requests as you intercede with intense passion.
1 Timothy 2:1 (Passion Translation NT)
2. Do not let fear rule over you
Sensible, wise and informed decisions should certainly guide and determine our choices. The irrational fear gripping many in the world is not the master over the life of a believer. This is a time to move closer and go deeper with the Lord.
For many who have been slack or disengaged in their relationship with the Lord, this crisis is going to be a wake-up call and one that hopefully will cause them to run back into the arms of the Father who loves them. He is our refuge, our hope and our help in times of need.
The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous runs into it and is safe.
Pour out all your worries and stress upon him and leave them there, for he always tenderly cares for you.
1 Peter 5:7 (Passion Translation NT)
Jesus, knowing that He was soon to be crucified and that His disciples were also about to face a very traumatic time, told them not to fear but to put their trust in Him. We can do the same with assurance that He is watching over us.
Don’t worry or surrender to your fear. For you’ve believed in God, now trust and believe in me also.
John 14:1 (Passion Translation NT)
Crucially however I do not want to belittle or judge those who are fearful, because for them this threat is very real. Don’t let your concerns become irrational fear. I know what irrational fear is. As a teenager, not yet knowing the Lord, I was often faced with situations that produced debilitating fear in me, which was very traumatic while it gripped me.
Don’t fear a thing! Whether by night or by day, demonic danger will not trouble you, nor will the powers of evil launched against you.
Psalms 91:6 (Passion Translation NT)
Cast your burden upon the Lord and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken.
3. Walk in wisdom
Use godly wisdom. Don’t panic! Proper and normal hygiene practices should be followed just as we would normally whether or not we are infected by a cold or flu or some other transmittable disease. Washing our hands thoroughly and regularly, covering your mouth properly when coughing or sneezing and isolating ourselves so we do not share the germs with others, should always be our standard response to any illness.
So follow the basic, good hygiene practices of washing your hands regularly, eat well and do not get overtired so your immune system is not weakened. Remember, stress and anxiety can weaken our immune system.
Avoid contact with those who are known to have the Coronavirus. If you do come in contact with people who subsequently have the virus, then self isolate and wait to see if you have been infected. Follow the advice current and ask for God’s healing.
When the lovers of God teach you truth, a fountain of life opens up within you, and their wise instruction will deliver you from the ways of death.
Proverbs 13:14 (Passion Translation NT)
No doubt there will continue to be silliness, irrational behaviour, anxiety and panic within the community. For us who believe, we must simply not allow fear to dictate to us, but through faith and wisdom I believe we can maintain our integrity by continuing to do what we know is the right thing to do.
But the wisdom from above is always pure, filled with peace, considerate and teachable. It is filled with love and never displays prejudice or hypocrisy in any form 18 and it always bears the beautiful harvest of righteousness! Good seeds of wisdom’s fruit will be planted with peaceful acts by those who cherish making peace.
James 3:17-18 (Passion Translation NT)
4. Speak boldly and compassionately
As mentioned above believers must be prepared to speak out, to be a voice. We can bring a voice of reason and hope in dark and challenging times. Faith, hope, love, the three fundamental and eternal words and the actions they prompt, must be interwoven in every sermon preached and in every conversation that a disciple of Jesus Christ has with another believer or non-believer alike.
The only real hope for us all is the Good News of the Kingdom of God; the proclamation of Jesus Christ our Saviour, Lord, Healer and soon coming King. Fellow saints and believers in Jesus, we are the voice, the only voice that can bring real hope and healing to a dark and desperate world.
Dearly loved friend, I was fully intending to write to you about our amazing salvation we all participate in, but felt the need instead to challenge you to vigorously defend and contend for the beliefs that we cherish….
Jude 1:3 (Passion Translation NT)
What a tragedy it would be if we, the Church of God, remains silent now when the world is in such real turmoil. In good times and in bad times we remain the custodians of the truth that must be proclaimed.
Walk in the wisdom of God as you live before the unbelievers, and make it your duty to make him known. 6 Let every word you speak be drenched with grace and tempered with truth and clarity. For then you will be prepared to give a respectful answer to anyone who asks about your faith.
Colossians 4:5-6 (Passion Translation NT)
5. Our God is our refuge
He is our hiding place and in all and each time of crisis the Lord is our help. He is the one to whom we turn.
He’s the hope that holds me and the Stronghold to shelter me, the only God for me, and my great confidence.
Psalms 91:2 (Passion Translation NT)
Whether we are well or sick, the Lord is our Sustainer and Healer. The Bible makes precise declarations and promises which are ours in Christ.
For all of God’s promises find their “yes” of fulfillment in him. And as his “yes” and our “amen” ascend to God, we bring him glory!
2 Corinthians 1:20 (Passion Translation NT)
Because we have put our trust in Him our position is ‘faith not fear’. It has been said of some that they are so heavenly minded that they are of no earthly use. Maybe that is true in some cases. However, let me say this; If we are not heavenly minded, then we will be of little earthly use. We must be strong and courageous in the day of trouble. We must not be ashamed of our confident hope and trust in the God who is our refuge, our hope.
If you are slack in the day of distress, your strength is limited.
6. Be responsible citizens
Recently I returned home early from a trip to SE Asia as I was heading for a nation where the virus was spreading and announcements had been made by that nation’s Prime Minister that were unrealistic and dangerous. I was not so much worried about contracting the virus, as I have experienced a number of illnesses, some serious, over the last 25 years of travelling Asia, but not brought any home. However, I chose to come home early considering those I would be in contact with on my return and the potential problem of being in such a nation.
Numerous world governments are now putting in place, wise and drastic measures to try to slow the spread of the virus. We also must be seen to be doing the right thing without capitulating to fear. We thank God for responsible leaders whether they are men of faith or not. Nevertheless, our faith is not in men, but in the true and living God and His Son Jesus Christ.
Our God reigns, He has not given up on His creation and He has no intention of forsaking those who call on Him, in Jesus name.
When we live our lives within the shadow of God Most High, our secret hiding place, we will always be shielded from harm. How then could evil prevail against us or disease infect us?
Psalms 91:9 (Passion Translation NT)
Finally – There is a harvest on each our of doorsteps
The whole earth is being shaken, something not seen or experienced since the great wars of the last century. In this time of uncertainty there is one thing that is certain. We are citizens of a Kingdom that cannot be shaken.
Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe.
Our faith and godly response to this crisis, and in fact any crisis, should be a sign for the non-believer to see that there is a better way to live and that hope is not dead. We must be a voice of reason and hope. The world needs us.
But sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence;
1 Peter 3:15
The harvest is ripe!
The billion soul harvest, which many have spoken of and are praying for, is being prepared. In 2013 Million Praying Men was launched with this harvest in mind. In a world where multitudes are lost and hope has disappeared, there remains in every human being the seed of eternity. It reminds everyone, even the hardest hearts, there is something better to reach for. The better has come. It is in the Kingdom of God; the place where grace, love and peace abound, a place of real hope and life.
When he (Jesus) saw the vast crowds of people, Jesus’ heart was deeply moved with compassion, because they seemed weary and helpless, like wandering sheep without a shepherd. 37 He turned to his disciples and said, “The harvest is huge and ripe! But there are not enough harvesters to bring it all in. 38 As you go, plead with the Owner of the Harvest to thrust out many more reapers to harvest his grain!”
Matthew 9:36-38 (Passion Translation NT)
As I said before, let us not miss our day of opportunity to be the voice; to show love, compassion and concern and bring the message of the Good News in our words and actions to all around us, in Jesus name.
Scripture references are taken from the New American Standard Bible unless otherwise stated.