In all my years I have never seen this kind of panic related to the potential spread of an illness. The kind of panic and fear I observe regularly on the faces of the public almost rivals what I observed when I was in Manhattan after the Twin Towers were toppled and the Pentagon attacked on Sept. 11, 2001! As always, I try to ponder how the church should respond during these experiences.
The following are 10 things the church must do during this present global situation:
1/ Discern between political hyperbole and reality.
I am amazed with how opportunistic so many political leaders are during this crisis! Unfortunately, the media usually garners followers by sensationalizing everything that happens so as to drive traffic toward their platform (to acquire more advertising sponsors).
The church has to learn to see beyond groupthink, politics and media, and discern the difference between hype and reality.
2/ Teach public and private health.
The church has an obligation to post relative information related to public health measures that must be practiced to curtail the spread of the virus. Since the body of Christ has consistent, weekly gatherings, it is a matter of stewardship that we cooperate with reasonable guidelines disseminated by public health and city officials.
3/ Pray for the opportunity to share the gospel with people afraid of dying.
This is an amazing opportunity to share the gospel of Jesus! Jesus has already destroyed death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. (See 2 Tim. 1:10.) Times like these confront humanity with their own mortality and force them to think about eternity.
True Christ followers should have no fear of death; consequently, everyone we meet walking in fear should be a candidate to hear the gospel during these days.
4/ Earnestly fast and pray for a global spiritual awakening.
The whole world, with its vast scientific, technological advances and burgeoning affluence, is being confronted with their frailty and fragility. They continually find out that there are many things that are beyond their control! I believe the time is ripe for a global “Great Awakening,” as the pride of humanity is being brought low and masses of people are being unsettled by this virus and other huge challenges.
5/ Pray for our nation’s leaders.
One of the primary things all churches should do when they gather is pray for our political leaders (see 2 Tim. 2:1-4). The potential problems associated with a pandemic are way beyond the scope of their learning and expertise.
The present issues related to public health are negatively affecting global travel, the stock market, numerous businesses and national security. In light of all this, it is very difficult to plan for adequate contingencies. Now, more than ever, the body of Christ needs to intercede for leaders and believe that God will grant them a spirit of humility, cooperation (instead of political competition) and wisdom as they interface with experts in the fields of health, national security, commerce and international relations.
6/ Care for vulnerable church members.
The Bible makes it clear that the church is called to do good to all men—but especially to the household of faith (see Gal. 6:10). We especially need to look out for older and disabled church members who do not have the adequate resources from family members to get by. We also have to make sure they have adequate food and hygienic supplies if panic shopping precludes their ability to purchase these necessities.
7/ Look for ways to love our neighbor.
In every community there are vulnerable people. During a panic, the population goes into survival mode and its default position is “every man is for himself.” We need to look out for ways to behave differently from the world in this present distress. Part of how we can do this is by making sure the elderly, disabled and other groups of vulnerable people have all they need regarding food, toiletries and care.
In the midst of this atmosphere, believers can shine like bright lights to the world (see Phil. 2:15) as they put others before themselves and mimic the attitude of the Lord Jesus (see Phil. 2:4-12).
8/ Proactively learn preventative health, not only divine healing.
I rarely get sick—even if I am around people who have the flu and other contagious ailments. In 36 plus years of overseeing a local church, I have never missed a Sunday service because of a sickness. This is because—as a matter of godly stewardship—I have taken the time to study nutrition, get enough sleep, exercise regularly and practice regular fasting.
Most of the deaths from the coronavirus are among those who already had underlying health issues, whose immune system was already compromised. Consequently, the average person who is constantly eating processed food, snacking in between their (many) meals, as well as eating late at night, will compromise their immune system. This is because much of our body’s energy is going toward digesting food; hence, if your body’s energy is depleted, it doesn’t have enough in the tank to restore itself and focus on fighting off sickness and disease.
Also, if you are consuming a lot of animal-based products and processed food, it takes a huge toll on your body, since these are difficult to digest (which leads to inflammation, which is the root cause of cancer, arthritis and other serious maladies).
The plant-based diet of Genesis 1:29 is actually the “species specific” diet God granted to human beings. Thankfully, more and more scientific studies are confirming the amazing health benefits of this diet. (Out of the numerous studies there are now some compelling documentaries, such as The Game Changers on Netflix, Fork Over Knives, as well as countless others (Dr. Jason Fung is known as a health expert on the benefits of water fasting and there are numerous videos of his teaching on YouTube).
Consequently, I only eat two to three meals per day, with no eating in between meals, and I fast about 15-20 hours most days. I have enough energy to keep a demanding schedule while participating in rigorous physical training. This discipline related to my biological health enables me to frequently travel, write, preach, pray and spend quality time with my family in spite of the fact that I am over 60 years old. Also, if a person wants to take further precaution before traveling and going into a public space, taking strong probiotics first thing in the morning and having adequate doses of Vitamin C may aid in immunity enhancement.
Unfortunately, many believers think they can violate natural law and live recklessly because they can pray for divine healing. However, the same God who said “I am the Lord who heals you” (Ex. 15:26) is the same God who gave us species specific guidelines related to diet (Gen. 1:29). Although I am a huge proponent of divine healing, I also believe it is a matter of stewardship to do our part in caring for our physical health.
9/ Stay on top of current events.
The church is called to function on the leading edge of proactive prophetic action as well as rapid response. In order to function this way, we need to operate similar to the “sons of Issachar,” who were men who understood the times and knew what Israel should do (see 1 Chr. 12:32). Consequently, every believer has to be regularly informed regarding current events and be mobilized to serve in the workplace, not just within church buildings.
10/ Fear not!
With the nonstop panic being generated by incessant media hype related to the spread of the coronavirus, the general populace is engulfed with a spirit of fear. This is an opportune time for Christ followers to arise and be the exemplars who operate in faith and wisdom instead of fear.
How can we do this? Is it because believers embrace a form of fideism or mysticism, or is our faith rooted in reality?
Scripture makes it clear that we are to “fear not” and that God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, of love and of a sound mind (see Isa. 41:10 and 2 Tim. 1:7). This is because believers are rooted and grounded in the God of creation who alone should be their trust, fortress and foundation of faith. Hence, since we are grounded in the One who created the cosmos, we are commanded to fear not, even when the earth is quaking and unstable (see Ps. 46). Moreover, because Jesus conquered death through His resurrection and has the keys of hell and death, He also tells His followers to “fear not”! (See Revelation 1:17-18).
In conclusion, Christ followers are not to fear what the world fears (see Jer. 10:2) and are not to be conformed to this world system (Rom. 12:1-2). Whenever a global crisis breaks out, the church is called to discern the times, know what to do, and function as the salt of the earth and light of the world.
This article originally appeared here –
Fear is all around us these days. Fear of illness, fear of death, fear of the unknown, fear of the future, fear of the coronavirus. Fear can be a very powerful force and be utterly debilitating if we don’t deal with it and get it under control.
We also face daily fears that are more personal and individualised to us, that can leave us in states of worry and anxiety. Fear in broken relationships, fear of financial failure, fear of trusting, fear of failing, fear of rejection, fear of not being good enough, attractive enough, clever enough etc. As Christians we may also fear change, fear loss, fear church situations maybe even fear eternity. The list of fears in life is endless.
The good news is that the Bible has a clear and powerful antidote to fear - There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear. (1 John 4v18)
As children of God, what a joy that He is faithful to all His promises towards us in His word. We get to walk in peace and assurance that we do not need to fearful of anything. God is utterly in control and promises to be our unchanging confidence and strength. Added to this wonder is how He invites us to hand ALL our fears, worries and anxieties over to Him, and leave them there! Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. (1 Peter 5v7) ‘Laying our burdens down’ aren’t just words of scripture or worship songs, but should be part of a heathy rhythm of our daily walk with God.
The Bible is packed full of wonderful promises and assurances. Perhaps we need to find a quiet space in these next few days and search out some of these precious truths for ourselves. Underline them, memorize them and most of all pray them into and over your own life and situations.
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” – Isaiah 41:10
“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 I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you. Do not be afraid, for I myself will help you,’ declares the Lord, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel.” – Isaiah 41:13-14
Let’s intentionally arrest any fears we are carrying today and exchange them for faith in God’s promises and supernatural peace. In a life of uncertainties He remains unchanging. We aren’t to be swamped by fears in this life but instead find our refuge and our strength in Jesus.
“Peace is what I leave with you; it is my own peace that I give you. I do not give it as the world does. Do not be worried and upset; do not be afraid.” – John 14:27
We know the hope of the nations – it is Jesus! What a harvest of opportunities to walk in the opposite way of the age modelling and testifying to others where our help and our peace comes from. It is Jesus.
Our antidote to fear- IS Jesus. Jesus and His prefect love.
This is just a simple reminder today, to pause and spiritually self-care. There’s a danger we can operate on autopilot in a bid to help others when we would be the better of confronting and dealing with our own fears first.
May each of us trade in our worries and fears today and be renewed and refreshed in our hearts and souls to trust God implicitly with every situation that is causing us any fear in our personal life, church/ministry life or what is going on in the world around us.
May David’s testimony be your testimony today.
“I prayed to the Lord, and he answered me. He freed me from all my fears.” – Psalm 34:4
I think when I was a younger Christian and then when I became a young rookie minister, I somehow picked up the idea that faithfulness in a calling meant doing the same thing forever.
That was not the case for Ezekiel. The whole of his life as a child, a teenager and a young adult was dominated by the call to be a priest, serving in the temple in Jerusalem. However in the year of his 30th birthday, the appointed time for him to begin his priestly duties, he found himself in exile in Babylon. There, the man living for so long under a call to be a priest had fresh visions of God and was called to be a Prophet. His ministry as a Prophet still continues today in the form of his rather wonderful but definitely weird book.
Continuing faithfulness in the one direction is a good thing, but the experience of Ezekiel reminds us that God may call us to make a switch in direction and accept a new commission, a new call from Him.
Are you open to being surprised by God? Open to doing something radically different? Perhaps He is beckoning to you right now, but you are refusing his invitation mistaking it as a temptation into unfaithfulness or disobedience?
Let me earth this in less lofty terms as to what that can look like. In Shotts Prison at the Church service this week I was talking to one of the remarkable volunteer church visitors. She is retired and simply made this comment: “I never intended to do this when I retired. I just somehow found myself doing it and giving more and more time to it, and don’t quite know how, but I love it.” Her eyes were full of light, love, emotion and excitement as she spoke. It was a bit like Ezekiel is very humble guise. At a time of her life, in her case Retirement, which she had maybe pondered and imagined in the years leading up to it, all of a sudden things were other than she had imagined.
Has something come to an end for you? Has a door shut that you had hoped would open. That may be where a fresh adventure in God awaits you!
What it means to be a disciple can best be understood around the unfathomable mystery of the incarnation. God took on human flesh. God invaded our planet and forever changes it. God became incarnate. He took on human flesh in a way that is shocking, raw and physically tangible. God knew there was no better way to show human beings than by fully entering their world- physically and emotionally. God took on skin and flesh for us.
Ronald Rolheiser powerfully illustrates why:-
There is a marvellous story about a 4yr old girl who awoke one night frightened- convinced that in the darkness around her were all kinds of spooks and monsters. Alone, she ran to her parents’ bedroom. Her mother calmed her down, and taking her hand, led her back to her own room, where she put on a light and reassured the child with these words ”You needn’t be afraid, you are not alone here. God is in the room with you.” The child replied, “ I know that God is here, but I need someone in the room who has skin!”
God knows we needed His skin, not simply the knowledge that He is everywhere. People today are desperate for ‘skin’ – to be loved, for someone to be incarnate with them. For this reason they will pay $100 to $150 an hour to a therapist as someone to love them, to enter and to care about their world.
Today, God still has physical skin that can be seen, touched, heard and tasted. How? Through his body, the church in whom He dwells. We are called, in the name of Jesus and by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit to be skin for people all around us.
Peter Scazzerro – from his book “The Emotionally Healthy Church.
We’ve all had those days. You know, the ones where you crawl into bed, makeup still on, wondering if it’s okay not to brush your teeth just this once. All the while, you wonder what actually happened to the minutes that evaporated into history.
There have been plenty of days like that for me, particularly as a young mom. But even now, when “new season” after “new season” seems to steamroll over me, I ask: Where is the time going? When do I get to catch my breath? I don’t have anything left to pour out or give to all the needs and cries for help around me. God, what does faithfulness look like when I feel so empty?
Sometimes, the old adage “The days are long but the years are short” begins to feel more like “The days are long and the years are long.”
What do we do as pastor’s wives when the never-ending demands pummel us? In many ways our calling is the same as every Christian’s—we’re to take up our cross daily, and follow him (Luke 9:23). And often the cross we bear is a call to give out of poverty, not abundance.
Filled While Empty
While teaching his disciples one day in the temple, Jesus used a curious example of godly giving:
Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny. Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.” (Mark 12:41–44)
This widow—likely lonely and rejected by her society—gave everything she had. She held nothing back, entrusting herself to the Lord.
Do you live like that with your time and energy? Do you pour yourself out like a drink offering for him, striving after eternal things, like people’s souls? Do you surrender precious extra time with your husband to free him up to minister to others?
I don’t intend to encourage a reckless kind of sacrifice that leads to utter burnout, bitterness, and exhaustion, which is a genuine possibility for those in full-time, vocational ministry. I’m simply asking us to look deep into our hearts and examine our own expectations and perceived limitations.
There’s nothing quite like watching God work through your life when you bring absolutely nothing to the table. Those times strengthen our faith as we watch his strength supernaturally infuse us.
So often I’ve dreaded some commitment we made only to find that we received more than we gave. I can’t begin to count the times I’ve watched God bless others through me when I felt absolutely incapable of loving or caring for a sister in need. In fact, it’s often been my tears of exhaustion and discouragement, more than wise words, that encouraged someone on a good day.
How many times has the Lord encouraged me as I sat and listened to a friend when I selfishly wanted someone to listen to my hurts? Every time, I walk away reminded that God is good and everything he has for me is good (Ps. 119:68). Our desperation and lack highlights God’s power and strength. As Paul explained:
We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. (2 Cor. 1:8–9)
God uses our weakness as an opportunity to showcase his power.
God’s Word for Empty Souls
But what should we do when our own hearts have turned cold? Where should we turn when we have nothing left to give?
Gratefully, God tells us in his Word. He says, “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost (Isa. 55:1).
Jesus offers us rest in himself through the comfort we find in his Word.
Too often, we toil in our own strength and then wonder why we’re so exhausted. Like oxygen masks on an airplane, we must attach ourselves to the oxygen of God’s Word before we’re any use to others suffocating on the fumes of this world.
Sisters, it’s okay to say no to some things in order to be alone with the Lord. We must never neglect our first love for what we perceive to be more important work. To re-energize, take some time in solitude to feast on Scripture, listen to expository sermons, journal about the ways God has provided, or pray through the rumblings of your soul. Striving for balance requires wisdom from the Holy Spirit.
Crawling to Glory
If you feel you can’t walk today, are you crawling toward heaven? Are you reaching your hands upward while grabbing a church member along the way, trusting God’s grasp will pull them along too?
He’s strong enough, you know. In times of discouragement and exhaustion, we’re so prone to forget his past faithfulness. As the hymn says, we’re “prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love.” But the next line is an invitation to trust him: “Here’s my heart, Lord, take and seal it. Seal it for thy courts above.”
But what if you’re so depleted you can’t even crawl? Burnout and depression are real problems that demand attention and often outside help. But as best you can, make sure not to confuse this feeling with the day-to-day struggles of the Christian life. Our exhaustion and poverty of spirit can be met with the best kind of exchange: our burdens for his yoke. There, we’ll rediscover his yoke is easy and light, and we’ll find rest for our souls (Matt. 11:28–30).
So, the next time you crawl into bed, fully clothed with makeup still on, wondering what happened to your day, remember the widow. I’ve often wondered how many times she gave all she had and trusted God to meet her needs. Pray for opportunities to walk by faith, knowing he will provide. But don’t stop there. Remember the Lord’s faithfulness in your own life. What he calls you to, he’ll equip you to handle in his strength.
And sister, you know from the track record of your own life that he’ll certainly provide.
Erin Wheeler lives in Fayetteville, Arkansas, with her husband, Brad, and their four children. She attends University Baptist Church, where Brad serves as senior pastor.
This article originally appeared here.