“I love to say that not only is the throne room of God a place of reverence, it’s always a place of refuge. So, when everything else in life seems to be shifting, or breaking and shaking apart, there’s a place that is always stable, safe, and constant. When we draw near to God in worship, and approach His throne, we tap into that. It’s a very re-assuring place, where we’re reminded that there’s a God on His throne, and even when we don’t understand everything, we can trust it to Him.”
– Matt Redman
FEAR! Thousands, even millions of people are gripped with it every day. With all that’s going on with the Coronavirus pandemic, fear has become a very real and raw emotion for the masses. How are we as Christians to think responsibly about what’s happening in our world right now? Is becoming a recluse during this outbreak really a bad thing? I mean, we want to be safe right?!?!
There will always be extremes in these cases; a “Who Cares, I’m gonna do what I want” attitude or hysteria on the other side building bomb shelters that could sustain for 30+ years. But I believe there needs to be a modicum of wisdom and discernment during these times of fear, trepidation, and uncertainty.
We have missionaries stationed all across Europe where the Coronavirus is devastating country after country. How do we help them through such an immense and trying time? The number of cases each day is staggering in these different locations. Some of the churches of course can’t meet together now. When a small church plant has been gaining momentum and getting some non-believers to come in and their doors suddenly have to close, it disrupts the very nature of mission work. Some missionaries are banned from leaving the country; some are banned from coming back into their country.
Others, who don’t live in a high infection area, are using this time to rest and rejuvenate their soul. But for others it’s the exact opposite. What happens when you live in a small village with one market/grocery store and food runs out? Could there be looting, violence, or rioting?
And, of course, it’s not just Europe that’s being affected, but our whole world. Europe, the USA, and many other places in the world have shut down businesses, schools, restaurants…etc. Quarantining is a real issue now, all over the world, that can certainly cause even the strongest to be shaken. The media coverage is astounding with thousands upon thousands of discouraging and seemingly unrelenting bad news. What are we supposed to do with all of this?
We need to understand what’s at the heart of fear, worry, and anxiety? Is it the need for safety and good health? Fear of getting sick? Fear of dying? Is it distrust? Lack of being in control? Being overly dependent on material or temporal THINGS? Is it rejection? Is it a fear of failure? Or maybe it’s of being found out and people being exposed to the real you?
Are Christians immune to fear and anxiety? If we do struggle with fear, what does that say about who we believe God to be in our lives? Are there legitimate times to be afraid? If so, can we experience fear, all the while still trusting God and His sovereign purposes?
These are very real and raw fears and emotions. And I’ve just asked a host of questions and given no answers to any of them! So, let’s get some of the best answers to these looming questions.
We are self-sovereigns and when that is stripped from us, when we no longer get to control our kingdom or queendom, we panic. Why? Because we find out really quickly that we’re not as in charge of our lives as we thought we were. And now being faced with something out of our control means we either collapse in fear or trust God…fully, completely, unabashedly, with every fiber of our being!
Read what the Apostle Paul said to the church in Philippi in Philippians 4:4
“Rejoice in the Lord ALWAYS; again I will say, rejoice.”
It’s always been interesting to me that this verse isn’t a recommendation. It’s not a, “Hey, if you want to rejoice go ahead and have at it.” This verse is a beautiful command, Holy Spirit inspired, word of encouragement to rejoice in the Lord every single moment of the day…whether you’re having the best day of your life or the worst day of your life.
And then he says this in verses 6 and 7, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by PRAYER and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the PEACE of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Many times, people focus on the first portion of these verses in Philippians 4:6-7,”Do not be anxious about anything…” But I’d like us to look at the second half because I think it’s paramount to how we are to live our lives.
So, “Do not be anxious about anything. But in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” You see, it’s prayer that causes our faith to be bolstered. Through prayer we develop intimacy with God. Through prayer we can grasp how much God takes care of our needs. Through prayer we develop a theology of thankfulness. Through prayer even when we’re afraid and worried with our circumstances we bring those REAL, raw emotions to a heavenly Father that loves us, cares for us, and will never let us go…even in the darkest of times.
Prayer lies at the heart of completely trusting God. Praying to the Lord says that we don’t have our life all figured out, but He does. Prayer focuses us to draw near and connect with our holy God; to trust Him, love Him, obey Him, tell Him our deepest sorrows and fears. Prayer means we are dependent on Another rather than completely self-reliant and autonomous. When we pray, we acknowledge God’s supreme sovereignty and control.
This isn’t about the answer to a prayer. It’s about obedience and stepping out in faith amidst the uncertainty and trusting God anyway.
When we commune with God through prayer, we reach the very heart of God Himself and it changes us. It changes our perspective on life, it changes everything we thought was so important. Prayer allows us to focus our hearts and minds on the One who owns the cattle on a thousand hills (Ps. 50:10). Prayer is so powerful that it makes the Enemy himself tremble,
“The one concern of the devil is to keep the saints from praying. He fears nothing from prayerless studies, prayerless work, and prayerless religion. He laughs at our toil, mocks at our wisdom, but trembles when we pray (Samuel Chadwick).”
And the other thing I think is really important for us to see in these verses is what Paul says about peace. When we bring our requests to Him, when we bring our fears, worries, sorrows, trials to Him, He promises to give us peace. Maybe not the “peace” you think you should have, desire, or even deserve. But peace that surpasses even our understanding in all our situations and circumstances. He is able to “keep in perfect PEACE those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in You (Is. 26:3).”
“…the mind-set of the Spirit is life and PEACE (Rom. 8:6).
Here’s what I know, our missionaries have perseverance, determination, love for the people they minister to, and love the Lord Jesus. And because of that they love the gospel and know without a shadow of a doubt that the gospel changes people’s hearts and minds to the glory of God. When we have peace in Christ, whatever the circumstance, we have been given the ability to obey and step out in faith even amidst uncertainty, trusting God anyway. And the PEACE that transcends all understanding will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus!
The Coronavirus wasn’t a surprise to God. It didn’t catch Him off guard. We live in a broken, fallen world, with disease, illness, cancer, superviruses. And yet God’s Word is very clear for those who are in Christ Jesus, He says, “take heart, for I have overcome the world (Jn. 16:33)!” So, who will you trust today? In fact, let me ask that question a different way? Who will you fear today? Because, “The fear of the LORD (not anything on this earth including COVID 19) is the beginning of knowledge.”
The more we live eternity-focused lives the less daunting the Coronavirus will be. Because we know that it’s not about our present circumstances, but about the hope and peace we’ve found in Christ Jesus. God is still the same yesterday, today, and forever and we have no need to fear!
Prayer: Father thank You that You made a way for us not to fear. You sacrificed Your Son so we could have direct access to You during our time here on earth. I ask now that You would stifle any fear in me, whether it’s about the Coronavirus or something else. Please Lord, in the times when fear takes ahold of me, I pray that my first instinct is to come to You in prayer and lay them at the foot of the cross. Thank You that You, “haven’t given me a spirit of fearfulness, but one of power, love, and sound judgment (2 Tim. 1:7).” In the mighty name of Jesus Christ, Amen!
For Further study and reflection:
Pray with us:
1. Pray for so many of our missionaries and the millions of people in Europe, the USA, and around the world affected by the Coronavirus. Pray for healing, for safety, for real gospel evangelistic conversations to come from these uncertain times.
2. Pray for the spiritual fervor of our missionaries. It’s very easy in these trying times to think negative. But we’ve been given the very Words of Eternal Life and can rejoice. Pray that our missionaries bring hope and peace to the people they come in contact with (as little right now as that may be).
Clayton J. Elliott, Kontaktmission USA
Director of Pastoral Ministries and Prayer