Over the last week we have seen fear run riot across our society. The corona virus, COVID 19, has ruined my potential holiday to Italy, but it has also single handedly plunging Europe, and indeed the world, into a recession.
In my life time I cannot remember hysteria like we have seen in the last few weeks. I’ve lived through 911, and I flew to Europe in September 11th 2001 in defiance of the fear of those around me. Today, in what is a genuine pandemic and global emergency, we have seen unprecedented levels of fear in the media and among governments worldwide.
Major sporting events have been cancelled, with no football in Europe, Asia or America. Concerts and festivals cancelled. In some places like Italy, schools, churches and museums are closed. Fear is everywhere, disrupting and controlling the lives of 7 billion people. But the Bible says,
Psalms 27:1 (ESV Strong’s)
The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?
The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?
Make no mistake, the world is enslaved right now. A few thousand will die of the corona virus, but billions will suffer financially as a result of the fear and hysteria created around it. So today I want to look at a Christian response to the corona virus pandemic…
THE WORLD USES FEAR TO CONTROL
Let’s make it clear we are seeing a worldwide tragedy unfolding.
Fears about the corona virus have wiped out nearly 4 trillion dollars in the US stock market, with the biggest weekly loss since 2008. Many countries are in total lockdown, and cruise ships are floating Petri dishes. Many are afraid to go out of their homes. Life appears to be grinding to a halt! It controls us. But,
2 Timothy 1:7 (ESV Strong’s)
for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.
So let’s exercise a sound mind and look at the facts, so we can shine a light of hope into a world plunging into darkness. In all the mess, the hysteria, the fear mongering, this is our moment to shine!
Matthew 5:16 (ESV Strong’s)
In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
FACTS ABOUT COVID 19
Here are some facts you need to know about COVID 19…
Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is an infectious disease caused by a new virus that had not been previously identified in humans. The virus causes respiratory illness (like the flu) with symptoms such as a cough, fever and in more severe cases, pneumonia. In rare cases, particularly among those who are elderly, have compromised immune systems or severe respiratory conditions, it can be fatal. It’s rare, but if you’re the one, it’s bad.
Spread of the disease can be limited by washing hands, staying home when sick and avoiding infected people.
I understand the role of hand sanitiser in this, but I am still unsure of the role of toilet paper.
The corona virus is a mild flu. It’s not the plague, or a flesh eating microbe. Because it is hard to tell how many are actually infected, the ratio of deaths to infections is high, around 3.4%. But epidemiologists agree this is grossly over estimated due to the lack of testing and confirmed cases. They believe it is under 1%.
Let’s talk numbers. Around 5,000 people have died of the COVID 19 so far. In the last 12 months it is estimated that 650,000 died of the common flu, for which we have a vaccine. 33 times more died of common flu. The largest pandemic in history was the Spanish flu of 1918, which infected 1/3 of the planet’s population and killed between 20-50 million people worldwide, double what world war 1 killed.
But the media, seizing and sensationalising figures like 3.4% death rate have driven this incredible fear within which we now live. While some is healthy, much of it today is destructive.
What does fear actually do?
1. FEAR PARALYSES
Psalms 143:4 (ESV Strong’s)
Therefore my spirit faints within me; my heart within me is appalled.
New Living Translation
I am losing all hope; I am paralyzed with fear.
The devil uses fear to paralyses you. Many people are so fearful they cannot act. Agoraphobics cannot go out of the house, clostrophobics have fear of small spaces, , acrophobics are afraid of heights. Pediophobics are afraid of dolls, decidophobics fear making decisions. Omphalophobia is fear of belly buttons, arachi-butero- phobia is being afraid of peanut button sticking to the roof of your mouth, and one we can all relate to is nomophobia, fear of being without mobile phone coverage. A moment’s silence for those on Vodaphone. My favourite fear of phobia is called Hippo-poto-monstro-ses-quippe-dalio-phobia: People who are afraid of Long Words.
Fear can paralyse you and control and ruin your life.
2. FEAR CONTROLS
People with phobia are controlled by their fear. The enemy wants to control peoples lives, and He uses fear to do it. It stopped me traveling to where I wanted to go, it may stop all travel. It’s stopped sporting and cultural events, and it is controlling how people live. It makes people buy toilet paper.
Romans 8:15 (ESV Strong’s)
For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”
People right now are slaves to fear, because it is controlling their behaviour. It does not set you free, it enslaves you. Right now the whole world is being enslaved by fear.
3. FEAR LIMITS POTENTIAL
Fear stunts your progress and growth. If you are fearful, you are afraid to step out and try something, so you miss opportunities to develop.
Joshua 1:9 (ESV Strong’s)
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”
When you live enslaved to it, your potential is limited. When you come to Christ, why should you be afraid, because your life is in His hands?
2 Corinthians 5:7 (ESV Strong’s)
for we walk by faith, not by sight.
People who let fear control and limit them are walking by sight, but we are called to walk by faith.
4. FEAR CHANGES OUR FOCUS
What you’ll notice right now is that people’s focus is completely absorbed by fear. What is everyone talking about? What is Facebook full of? Being afraid causes us to focus on earthly, immediate, fearful things, not one long term or important stuff. In a year’s time. Will you be afraid to shake hands or walk past toilet paper without buying it?
In this fearful climate, this is your opportunity to
Colossians 3:2 (ESV Strong’s)
Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.
To focus on loving and caring for people, not on your own preservation. Much of what people are currently focussed on is not fact, it’s sensationalised fear.
At the start of his presidency, Franklin D Roosevelt faced the Great Depression. People were starving, unemployed, destitute and without hope. At his inaugural speech he said these words, “We have nothing to fear except fear itself.” I think these words are appropriate for right now, don’t you?
Yes, it is powerful as we are currently seeing. It is terrifying, it is destructive but it is not our master, Christ is! People in this world fear dying, but they also fear living. People fear not having enough money, but they also fear to lose the money they have. They are afraid of the virus, but also are afraid a recession.
A few might be infected with COVID 19, but all of us are infected with fear!
Peter experienced fear when he stood by the fire while Jesus was being tried.
Elijah had a mighty victory against the prophets of Baal at Mt. Carmel, then ran in fear of Jezebel.
Fear respects no one! Anyone can fall victim to fear. Even Timothy, with the Christian upbringing in the home, his training at the feet of Paul, and spiritual his gifts, fell victim to fear. Yet through it all God says,
Deuteronomy 31:8 (ESV Strong’s)
It is the LORD who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.”
The phrase “fear not” is used more than 80 times in the Bible, because God knows the enemy uses fear to decrease our hope and limit our victories.
So I believe that right now God is calling us to stand without fear in a climate of fear! And as Steven Wright once quipped, “What happens if you get scared half to death twice?”
HOW CAN WE OVERCOME FEAR?
This world calls sinful behaviour normal, and attacks Christians without mercy. But this same world is now running scared, and I believe we have a unique opportunity to shine into their darkness…
Philippians 2:14-15 (ESV Strong’s)
Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world,
We can shine and overcome fear when others are victimised by it. How?
1. WE HAVE GOD’S FAITH TO SEE THINGS CLEARLY
Hebrews 11:1 (ESV Strong’s)
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
Faith sees differently. Fear knocked at the door. Faith answered. There was no one there. Without downplaying the seriousness of a pandemic, you do not have to swallow the sensationalised fear mongering that the media is peddling. The eyes of faith can see the long term, eternal and important things. Faith doesn’t lurch from crisis to crisis, it believes for greater things to come, and it offers what the others cannot offer… Hope!
2. WE HAVE GOD’S POWER TO CONFRONT FEAR
An experienced paratrooper was asked how many jumps he had to his credit. He responded, “Twenty‑five.” Then, with his head held low he added, “Actually, it was only one jump.” … “I only jumped once, the other twenty-four times I was pushed.”
Sometimes God will push us in order to help us overcome our fear. He wants us to know that the power to overcome is present not because we are great or better than anyone else, but because He is present in our lives.
Psalms 112:6-8 (ESV Strong’s)
For the righteous will never be moved; he will be remembered forever. He is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the LORD. His heart is steady; he will not be afraid, until he looks in triumph on his adversaries.
Why be fearful? We can face our fears with His faith and trust God. Others have nothing, others can be consumed by fear, but we can have faith!
God is like a father standing in the pool beckoning his child to jump into His arms. The child is reluctant. At last, the child sees the father’s large, strong arms and smiling face, and jumps. There is no way that father is going to let the child drown! That is how God wants us to trust Him in every situation.
God willing, Fiona and I are headed back to Fiji, where I did my scuba diving ticket. I’m going to meet the same people again. In my course, on my 4th dive, the locals had failed to clean a valve and it seized up, causing my air to stop when I was 18m underwater. I nearly died. But an hour later I went back to another dive. I chose to confronted my fear, and I will do so again this week.
3. WE HAVE GOD’S LOVE TO CAST OUT FEAR
1 John 4:18-19 (ESV Strong’s)
There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us.
We have love to cast our fear. But this is not our love for God – it is His love for us. You need not fear; He loves you!
You see, it is not just God’s strength that causes us to trust Him, it is His love! He loves us and even if we are going through hardships, He is working behind the scenes to bring about a good purpose.
Romans 8:28 (ESV Strong’s)
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
All things, even the tough ones, even the scary ones! When you truly know the God of all creation loves you, and cares for you, and will never let your foot slip, then you can face anything, any virus, any persecution, any fear!
Psalms 121:1-4 (ESV Strong’s)
I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come?
My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.
If you can trust Him to save your soul, you ought to be able to trust Him to take care of you. You are His beloved child.
4. WE HAVE GOD’S SOUND MIND TO CONTAIN FEAR
Sometimes we know God, we eve trust God but our mind runs riot. As I plunge into the Emerald water and dive lower and lower, my mind imagines death and destruction, sharks coming out of the gloom, all kinds of fears! They’re not real, they are my imagination.
A large, old Bible, frequently used by Abraham Lincoln during the critical years of the Civil War, falls open easily to Psalm 34. One page of that Bible has a smudge where the President placed his finger often. It’s this verse…
Psalms 34:4 (ESV Strong’s)
I sought the LORD, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.
We face fear, just like the rest of the world, but let not your mind be troubled.
2 Timothy 1:7 (ESV Strong’s)
for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.
Let me finish by examining this verse in the Greek, because we can gain valuable insight into how we should behave right now.
God gave us a spirit not of fear. The Greek word for fear used here is not the usual PHOBE, but it is DEILIA, which means timidity or cowardice. It is a call to, when faced with a fearful situation, choose courage over cowardice. To confront, stand firm and defeat the enemy, and not cower back in this climate of fear.
But what of the three descriptions of the Spirit we do have?
Power. The Greek for power is DYNAMIS, which is strength and power due to an inherent ability. It is used to describe powerful influence by wealthy people, the power of having and army or huge resources behind you and the power to perform miracles. It’s the word from which we get the English DYNAMITE. Explosive power. The power is not of your own doing, but you channel the power.
LOVE. The Greek here is AGAPE, unconditional, unrelenting, all triumphing love that knows not limits and no bounds. Perfect love comes from God and casts our fear.
Sound mind. In Greek SOPHRONISMOS, meaning self control or control of one’s behaviour and thoughts. It means being sensible, not foolish, being balanced not alarmist and being Christ centred not crisis centred.
IT’S TIME TO STAND
When the world is running in fear, we can stand against the fear with power, love and a sound mind.
So, we must be sensible. Ease up on handshakes, hugs and missing, but let’s not fall into line and fall victim to the fear tactics of the enemy. The corona virus is big, but my God is bigger, and we can show the world how to live by faith when they are cowering in fear.
Now, there is one type of person here in this service, or out in the world, that has a right to be afraid. If you have never trusted Christ, you are one heartbeat from meeting God.
Hebrews 9:27 (ESV Strong’s)
And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment,
Without Christ fear has free reign, you are it’s slave and it is your master, but when you come to Jesus, His love and power creates a sound mind that does not live in fear.
1 John 4:4 (ESV Strong’s)
Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.
If you don’t know Jesus, I want to give you the chance to come to Him right now and begin to conquer your fears whatever they may be.
Sometimes, even when you love God, you need reminding that He is greater, He is in you and He will protect and lead you. Whether you are fearful of the coronavirus, or struggling with fear of loss, loneliness, failure or any other fear, this is for you. Some of you in business look ahead with fear.
I have asked God for a special Anointing to conquer fear today. If you are fearful, come and let’s triumph over fear together. Let’s lay our fears aside and trust God completely.
So let’s finish with a promise from God, for you and I today as we face the threat of the corona virus…
Psalms 91:1-11 (ESV Strong’s)
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say to the LORD, “My refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”
For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler
and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his pinions,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.
You will not fear the terror of the night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness,
nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.
A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand,
but it will not come near you.
You will only look with your eyes
and see the recompense of the wicked.
Because you have made the LORD your dwelling place—
the Most High, who is my refuge—
no evil shall be allowed to befall you,
no plague come near your tent.
For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways.