Crises are unsettling. Many Christians, however, agree that the most God honouring way to respond to the fear induced by the COVID-19 crisis is faith. Faith in God is a sure antidote for fear. Fear incapacitates but faith invigorates. John Piper writes that ‘the presence of hope in the invincible sovereignty of God drives out fear.’ And as our Lord Jesus addressed the panic-stricken Jairus together with those watching on, he told them, “do not fear, only believe” (Mark 5:36). Clearly fear and faith are opposite poles. So while faith addresses our fears, fear can attack our faith.
What Shape Should My Faith Take?
But these are unique times. Circumstances have changed dramatically – we have reached historic extremes in many ways. Yet Christians still desire to honour God, walking by faith and not in fear. Many have experienced a crisis of faith wondering how best to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. A string of questions lurk in the minds of many is: What is the best expression of faith now? What shape should our faith take, practically? If we take precautions against the virus, are we annulling the reality of our faith?
While faith addresses our fears, fear can attack our faith
Below are three sketches of what Christ-exalting faith looks like in the pandemic. In fact, the impact of this crisis could mean a positive reshaping of our faith.
1. Faith is Reasonable, Not Reckless
Our governments and other agencies have been unceasing in their calls for caution. Many countries are still in some kind of lockdown. Others are entering a second lockdown. Gatherings are restricted. The wisest and most stringent preventative measures have been put in place to contain the spread of COVID-19. Hand-washing, social-distancing, self-quarantine and all the rest are efforts to curb this global menace.
Carelessness is not the best expression of our faith. Cautiousness is not faithlessness
Should Christians, who love the Lord and the fellowship of other saints, defy these directives against gathering? Would it not be better to obey the command to continue meeting together (Hebrews 10:24)? Should we throw caution to the wind and still greet each affectionately (2 Corinthians 13:12)? While many may be conflicted about these questions, carelessness is not the best expression of our faith. Cautiousness is not faithlessness.
Love One Another
We should be known for our reasonableness (Philippians 4:7). Our leaders are God’s servants for our good (Romans 13:4). Compliance is not weakness. Rather, it is faith that God is using these efforts to facilitate our well-being. The execution of his will on earth does not exclude human means. Maybe the best demonstration of faith is for us to love one another by doing what is best for those around us. We must not conflate recklessness with faith.
2. Faith is Worshipful, Not Worrisome
Now, more than ever before, many Christians have been tempted to stew in anxiety. Anxiety certainly feels unavoidable at present (Philippians 4:6). Added to this, uncertainty hangs over the future. Our hearts fail and our eyes are weak. Yet our faith is not seen in heightened worry. It is demonstrated in defiant worship of God, even in the midst of a mounting crisis.
God is glorified when faith in his promises emboldens us to scoff at terror
This is not uncommon. When Job had been stripped of all his possessions and children, “he tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped” (Job 2:20). Worry asks: “Is the Lord among us or not?” (Exodus 17:7). But worship rejoins: “I have set the LORD always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken” (Psalm 16:8). God is glorified when faith in his promises emboldens us to scoff at terror.
God is Here
Worship dissolves worry. Worry worships the problem. But worship turns that worry to God and focuses on him. In this season, our faith will be shown as we rest in Christ rather than in growing restless. May the Lord help us to banish anxiety from our hearts (Ecclesiastes 10:11). Instead, let us worship God for he has promised that he will “be with us, strengthen us, and uphold us by his mighty arm” (Isaiah 41:10).
Worship dissolves worry. Worry worships the problem
3. Faith is Prayerful, Not Playful
Social media provides us with endless opportunities to pontificate. Alternatively, we can simply poke fun at others. To be sure, I do not think that the marks of true faith are stoicism or sombreness. But I do not think that light-hearted deference is the best illustration of unshaken faith either. Faith is earnest, not jocular. We are called to pray for all people (1 Timothy 2:1). To continue in prayer without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17). We are called to make intercession, not to make and consume funny memes.
Grab upon the sovereign hand in faith filled prayer, and wait for him to act
In times like these, we should be reaching out, not rib-tickling. Laughter may be medicine for the soul, but to laugh at another’s calamity lacks love. People are dying. Families are grieving. COVID-19 may be far from our neighbourhoods, but it’s in other people’s living rooms. Because this really hurts, escapist laughter and comic clips won’t quell our souls. We are to channel our energies rightly.
Prayer is Meaningful
Now is the time to pray more than we play. We are not fatalists who think, ‘what will be will be’. We believe prayer is meaningful. In the words of Martin Luther, “prayer is not overcoming God’s reluctance, it is laying hold of his willingness.” What if we believed that God is actually able to avert this crisis? What if we were convinced that God can use this for his glory? Our asking is not presumptuous. For even our best asking fails immeasurably short of God’s ability to give. We should therefore grab upon the sovereign hand in faith filled prayer, and wait for him to act. “For he is able to do far much more abundantly, exceedingly, beyond what we think or imagine according to the power that works within us (Ephesians 3:20).
All To the Glory of God
Dear saints, let us therefore shine the light of Christ in these gloomy times by putting Christian reasonableness on display, engaging in bold worship of our God and continuing in fervent prayer. And may God be glorified as we do these things.