It was a simple line said in passing by a brother praying during an online prayer meeting. “The fear of the Coronavirus does not save.” But it became the seed that fell on the soil of my soul, ultimately growing this article. The brother was acknowledging the strangeness of the current reality that the entire world is living in, with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Freedoms and lifestyles, once taken for granted, are now under siege. Understandably, many people are reacting to these changes with fear and anxiety, including Christians. Hence, my brother’s concern that God will help us see the futility of our fears and manmade solutions.
Sometimes Fear Bears Gospel Fruit
Please do not think that I mean fear during the COVID-19 pandemic has no value. Fear is often useful for gospel purposes and the fear resulting from the current pandemic is already bearing Gospel fruit. First, many pastors and church leaders are testifying that their people have never been so interested in spiritual matters. People hunger for the means of grace like never before. Even previously neglected activities, like prayer meetings, are now well attended. Secondly, many Christians are finding their friends and family more receptive to gospel applications and are no longer so quick to scoff at spiritual matters as they once did.
If there ever be a time when the mind is sensitive, it is when death is abroad
Indeed, as Spurgeon commented on the cholera outbreak in London in 1854: “If there ever be a time when the mind is sensitive, it is when death is abroad. I recollect, when first I came to London, how anxiously people listened to the gospel, for the cholera was raging terribly. There was little scoffing then.” However, it is important to realise that fear does not go far enough. It cannot save. Rather, what saves the soul is the balm of the Gospel, applied to the fearful heart.
4 Manmade Solutions to Fear of COVID-19
Let me offer a few hypothetical examples to demonstrate the various solutions people are turning to in order to deal with fear amid the pandemic.
1. Human Ingenuity
Queen Okafor is a well-educated professional. She travels frequently. Therefore, the pandemic is extremely disruptive to her lifestyle. Without knowing how long the crisis will last, she worries increasingly about her future plans. So she copes by reading up on the latest tips on washing hands; the efficacy of different face masks and the latest results from WHO vaccine trials. These convince her that it is merely a matter of time and humanitarian effort before she can start planning her next business trip.
Michael Oyewusi is a retired government employee. His children are grown up and he lives a comfortable life in a nice suburb of Lagos. He is diabetic and manages it well. His wife, Kemi, has high blood pressure which she carefully medicates. They know that these pre-existing conditions and their age combined make them extremely vulnerable to COVID-19. So they lock themselves in their home, only talking to their staff through the gate grill when necessary. They spend their days watching CNN and forwarding WhatsApp messages to their children about how garlic is a miraculous cure to COVID-19.
What do all these people have in common? They are all afraid and all frantically seeking solutions
James Abutu grew up in a religious home in Northern Nigeria. But ever since he came to Lagos, he hasn’t attended church. Now he realises that he needs to get right with God. He asks his girlfriend to stop sleeping over, at least until this pandemic is over. He donates all the beer in his fridge to the security guard of his gated estate and pays the backlog of his 2019 tithe to his father’s church. James even removes the nylon cover of the Open Heavens devotional his mother gave him for Christmas in 2019.
4. Conspiracy Theories
Peter Magu is a petty trader in downtown Lagos. All his life he has seen the “big people” take advantage of him. He is now hearing them on the radio say that they are planning to close businesses because there is a new disease in town. He doesn’t believe any of it. After all, who is going to build the new hospitals they are talking about? Is it not their friends? His pastor says the government is doing this so that they can install something called 5G around Lagos. Some are labelling all of this a ‘plandemic‘, while Christians are calling it the anti-Christ’s first big move.
All the Wrong Places
What do all these people have in common? They are all afraid and all frantically seeking solutions. But they are all looking for solutions in all the wrong places. Queen is trusting in science and human ingenuity to get her through this period. The Oyewusis are trusting in self-isolation and folk medicine. James is sure that works and righteousness will get him right with God. He believes that morality will protect him during the pandemic. Peter is trafficking in conspiracy theories. All of them are sincerely searching for solutions. All of them are sincerely lost.
All of them are sincerely searching for solutions. All of them are sincerely lost.
Yes, God has given humans ingenuity. But as ingenious as we are, nobody has yet found a cure for the pandemic of sin and the curse of death. It is good to wash hands and self-isolate. By doing this the Oyewusis might buy themselves a few more months, perhaps even years. But their deaths are certain. Giving to God is good and biblical, as is abstaining from sexual sin. But James needs to understand that God sees his heart and searches his motives. A thin veneer of morality does not deceive him. Peter may have reasons to distrust authority, but he should understand that God rules in the affairs of man and the anti-Christ will only appear at the time set by the Father.
The One and Only Solution
Only the Gospel can save (Romans 1:16). Only Christ has risen from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:20). Therefore, faith in him is the only way to eternal life (John 14:6). Only the propitiation of his blood can save us from God’s wrath (Romans 3:23-26). Christ’s merits alone can purchase favour with God (Hebrews 10:12). Only those who despair of this life and trust in the life to come will be counted worthy of that kingdom (Matthew 16:26).
As ingenious as we are, nobody has yet found a cure for the pandemic of sin and the curse of death.
Beloved, let us press our friends and family during this period. Let us reason with them about the coming judgment which no one will escape. Let us allow them to fear and then point them to what their fear is exposing: that they have no assurance of eternal life. They have no mediator to intercede for them on that day and no blessed assurance of the pleasure of the Father. As Jesus said, “I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him” (Luke 12:4-5).