As we near the end of 2020, we can certainly say that it has been one difficult twelve months. Just when the political race for the President of the United States was heating up for the November election, COVID-19 was introduced to the world. Within weeks it spread from China to the entire world.
Just last week, my son was diagnosed with COVID-19. Over the course of a week, 4 out of 6 of our family members had contracted it—including me and my wife. The kiddos bounced back quickly, but it has taken a while for Kari and I to recover. Even this morning, my body is still experiencing fatigue and I have yet to regain my senses of smell and taste. My wife’s case was much worse than any of us, and just yesterday her fever lifted and she was able to get out of the bed for the first time in several days.
Throughout this entire year, we have watched COVID-19 impact our country in many different forms. There has been government overreach and abuse of power, the loss of jobs, the decline in mental health, and great fear and panic as people have witnessed friends, co-workers, family members, and neighbors die.
As we watch the world respond to COVID-19 out of fear—how should the church of Jesus Christ respond?
Remember We Live in a World Where People Die
There is much debate about the how and the why of COVID-19, but let’s be certain about one thing—whatever it is and however it came to us—it’s a real sickness that kills people. However, we must look at life through a proper biblical lens. According to Romans 5:12, when Adam and Eve sinned—death entered the world. We live in a world that is sick and it’s filled with various kinds of sicknesses that lead to death.
According to the World Health Organization, the top ten causes of death include the following:
- Heart Disease
- Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
- Lower Respiratory Infections
- Neonatal Conditions
- Trachea, Bronchus, Lung Cancers
- Alzheimer’s Disease and other Dementias
- Diarrhoeal Diseases
- Diabetes Mellitus
- Kidney Diseases
The fact is, we are all going to die. There are many different illnesses and sicknesses that can cause death—including the common flu which is quite deadly. In the winter of 2017-2018, some 80,000 people died of the flu. Now, with COVID-19 and the politicizing of the pandemic by politicians—fear has gripped many.
According to 2 Timothy 1:7, the Christian is not to be given over to a “spirit of fear.” Paul was admonishing his young disciple who was often timid and afraid to lead through difficulty. In our case, we must recognize the same thing regarding the Christian life. God has not called us to be gripped by fear and to develop an unbalanced outlook on life as a result of COVID-19.
Remember We Serve a Sovereign God
As the whole world watched the first vaccine administered yesterday in America—many people are hopeful that this vaccine will bring this season of darkness to a close. Regardless of what your positions are on vaccines, as Christians we put our trust in our sovereign God who rules over life, death, sickness, vaccines, and everything seen and unseen lurking in our world.
- God has appointed the day on which we will die (Hebrews 9:27).
- God has determined the length of our days (Job 14:1-6).
- God desires for us to number our days (Psalm 90:12).
We must avoid being swallowed up by fear. Why does the book of Job have so many references to fear? Consider how the book begins. Job is stripped of everything that had value in his life—including his own children. The only thing that remained was his own life. Yet, he chose to fear God rather than death and the uncertain circumstances of this life. We never know what a day may bring, but we must not live in retreat mode in this world of darkness. We must press onward as lights in a dark world—people who choose faith over fear and those whose confidence is their fear of God (Job 4:6).
Faith in God does not mean that we ignore wisdom. When we place our faith and trust in the Lord, we do so with complete confidence that he rules over the rising and setting of the sun. We can wash our hands, exercise wisdom, and live life with the trust that our Lord reigns.
Remember to Serve and Worship God
We are watching the massive impact that COVID-19 has had on our world. The government has stepped in and shut down businesses, schools, and even tried to shut down local churches as a result of COVID-19.
We have seen new guidelines develop that divide essential from non-essential business. As our world continues to sort out when it’s safe to go to a theater or sit in the stands for a football game—Christians must remain steadfast regarding the essential nature of the local church. There is a liberal twist to the news which seeks to consistently label church as unsafe. Some Christians have returned to work and other normal functions in life, but they refuse to gather for church.
I have had three neighbors contract COVID-19, one of which has died and another is currently in critical condition fighting for his life. One neighbor is in his 90s and he survived. His son-in-law is another one of our neighbors, and although he is much younger he died. I have another neighbor named Lewis who is my immediate next-door neighbor and he is currently in critical condition as a result of COVID-19. Yet, none of my neighbors contracted COVID-19 from church.
During this calendar year, I’ve traveled extensively. Far more than I thought I would. I preached in Los Angeles at The Master’s University, in a conference in Recife, Brazil, in a conference in Florida, and my family also took a vacation where we traveled out of state. In all of those circumstances I was far more likely to contract COVID-19 than by attending church.
As people pull away from church and treat it as non-essential, it can have a dramatic impact upon their spiritual condition. While friendships will be hindered—the normal life of the local church and how we function as a together people for both service and worship is hindered. Consider what happens when Christians pull back from their local church:
- Spiritual gifts are not exercised.
- The ordinary means of grace are not received (ie – the Lord’s Supper).
- Friendships are hindered.
- Worship is affected.
- Sin is always crouching at the door.
- Open door for depression and fear.
According to one article in USA Today which cites a mental health study, “Coronavirus lockdowns were meant to protect our physical health. New research shows they may be quite damaging to our mental health.” According to the recent Gallup Poll, as the state of mental health for Americans is at the lowest point in two decades, frequent church attendees have proven to be more stable than others.
Why cite such research studies? It merely confirms what we as Christians already know. The church is not an optional additive to our lives. We need the church and we need to worship God as a together people.
As we press onward through this season of darkness, I want to urge my fellow Christians to keep focused on the Lord and allow him to be your strength. My mind consistently goes back to the example of Martin Luther who refused to run for his life when the Black Death reappeared in Europe. Instead, he stayed and opened his home as a hospital for his friends, students, and church members. He would write these words that we sing to this very day:
And though this world with devils filled should threaten to undo us
We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us
The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him
His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure
One little word shall fell him
Dear Christian—be strong in the Lord!