Last weekend Greg Laurie, pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship, told his congregation, “In some ways, I think the viral fear about the Corona Virus may be worse than the virus itself.” I agree with Pastor Laurie.
There are three possible responses to the Corona virus outbreak: fear, faith, or ambivalence. I haven’t run into anyone who is ambivalent toward it, so I’m going to focus my remarks on the fear-or-faith responses. But you might be wondering, “Why those two responses?” Check out this account from Mark 4:35-40:
As evening came, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let’s cross to the other side of the lake.” So they took Jesus in the boat and started out, leaving the crowds behind (although other boats followed). But soon a fierce storm came up. High waves were breaking into the boat, and it began to fill with water. Jesus was sleeping at the back of the boat with his head on a cushion. The disciples woke him up, shouting, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to drown?” When Jesus woke up, he rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Silence! Be still!” Suddenly the wind stopped, and there was a great calm. Then he asked them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?” (NLT)
Try to imagine yourself in that situation. It was evening, so night was coming on and they found themselves in the middle of the lake in a fierce storm. “High waves were breaking into the boat, and it began to fill with water.” Several of Jesus’ disciples made their living fishing on this lake—they weren’t novices—so their concern was not exaggerated.
My point is, that although the circumstances and their experience told them they were in mortal danger, Jesus rebuked them for their fear and challenged them about their lack of faith. Jesus contrasts fear with faith.
Why that contrast? Because both fear and faith require focus on an object. Neither fear nor faith exist without an object that prompts them. The disciples were focusing on the storm, the wind, the waves, the water rising in the boat, and on the prospect of perishing. Their fear led them to believe they were going to drown. They acted in panic and what they yelled at Jesus rings with anger, blame, and disbelief that He seemed not to care about their fate.
Jesus calmed their fears by calming the storm. Then, He rebuked them for their lack of faith. But lack of faith in who or what? As I stated above, faith does not exist without an object on which it is focused. The obvious answer to this is faith in Jesus; faith in their heavenly Father. If Jesus, the Son of God was content to sleep through this storm, then the disciples needed to trust Him and God in the same way.
The real issue in the boat that night was: Who is ultimately in control of their fate? The storm or God? The account above was apparently a life-and-death situation, so the intensity or likelihood of impending doom should not dictate whether we respond in fear or with faith.
The Corona virus presents us with a similar situation and question: Will we respond in fear or with faith? Who is in control? The virus or God? The media has fomented mass hysteria driving people to do foolish and irrational things. But that’s always the way of fear. It supplants God. Fear dethrones God. It either ignores God altogether or makes Him to be someone He is not.
Here is the faith response toward the Corona virus that I want to follow:
- Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” – John 14:27
- “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:6-7
- “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” – 2 Timothy 1:7 (NLT)
As one who grew up in the 50s and 60s, I remember a similar very fearful situation back then. At the time, Russia was a superpower that was greedy for world domination and she had the nuclear weapons to bring that about. The fear was palpable. I remember the weekly drills in elementary school and how we were to respond in the event of a nuclear attack. And many people were driven by their fear to do some foolish and irrational things. More recently, the whole Y2K hysteria comes to mind.
But during the Cold War days, C.S. Lewis wrote the following that I think aptly applies to us now:
“The first action to be taken is to pull ourselves together. If we are going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb, when it comes, find us doing sensible and human things–praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts–not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs.”
We see by his advice, that a faith response is not inactive. Faith in Christ is not ambivalent. Take the necessary precautions, pray for protection and pray for healing for the infected, and demonstrate your trust in Christ to others by continuing to live by faith in Him.
Finally, I don’t think Jesus was harsh with His disciples when He challenged their lack of faith. Similarly, we need to encourage those who are fearful. We’re all at different stages of our walk with Christ. We need to be compassionate and understanding with each other, not judgmental. So, let’s walk in faith together.