There is so much rhetoric, media, and opinion about the Corona Virus. Therefore, let me avoid further commentary on a plethora of articles, podcasts, news briefs, prophesies, etc., and instead let’s focus on a few practical and helpful principles.
We just returned yesterday from Israel with a group of 28 people from four states. In the words of one member of the group, “we have had so much fun, laughed so hard, learned so much.” It was truly an amazing trip in a hundred different ways.
The Corona Virus was in view and under discussion as we left for the Holy Land, yet we left in faith and with great anticipation. The virus was at peak-concern for the group when we were leaving however it did not deter the focus. Israel was making good proactive decisions while we were there, but one thing was absent - panic. As our tour guide said, “we have the virus, we don’t have the panic”. And that was true for our group as well. They remained focused, fun, and forward-looking with each day that passed. Even when we returned to the O’Hara airport in Chicago, with an underlying current of uncertainty, the group remained a microcosm of faith and strength. Such faith and strength can be the antidote to overcome the fear of the virus that spans the globe. The principles that follow were a part of our discussion and experience. May I also suggest them for you to consider at this pivotal time?
First, quarantine and social distancing may provide you with discretionary time. This leads us to a fork in the road. We can choose hours of TV (constant news or entertainment) and movies, or we can choose to be selective in what we watch – perhaps something that will be helpful. Be curious. Be a learner. The idea is “investing” our time instead of “spending” our time. One of the best options is to READ-TO-LEARN. This can be an incredible opportunity to prepare for the future, whatever it may hold. Paying dividends in the months to come!
Second, STAY POSITIVE. This will mediate all the negative, the doomsday rhetoric, and media panic. Staying positive will enable us to create positive movement instead of complaining that engenders fear and discouragement.
Third, BEGENEROUSinstead of hoarding. Look for ways to give instead of taking. This will bring personal growth, as well as contributing to the welfare of others and thus being a part of the frontline battle to overcome this threat. It’s a matter of privilege and personal responsibility.
Fourth, WORSHIP. Under present CDC guidelines, it is recommended that social gatherings be 10 or less in number. So be it. Does your church have a small-group ministry? Then have each group meet for worship. Additionally, livestream and other media options allow for both small-group and worship experience. The main thing is to worship and gather with fellow believers. Pastors have the leadership responsibility to create ways for worship and ministry. This is an opportunity for the church to be on mission and not in recluse. As leaders we are to engage not excuse. We naturally default to self-protection and personal preferences. We hide behind political ideologies and fear. This is not the way of Christ and Christian love. We have a mission and a commission. No threat changes this scriptural mandate. Threats only give us opportunity to be creative and courageous. Let this be a time of honest evaluation about our focus, our love and our courage and how it is expressed in ministry. We can learn from this and become stronger.
At some point, hopefully sooner than later, we will be gathering again in our churches. Not only can we be engaged in ministry and mission now, we can plan to come back strong – perhaps even stronger. Now is the time for the church to really matter, not disappear in irrelevance.
Our response to any challenge or crisis reveals our CHARACTER. It’s character that will express strength, courage, and contribution. Or a character that reflects fear, blame, and a victim-mentality. This is true for us as individuals, organizations, and as a nation. This will be a time of self-revelation and potential growth. An opportunity to become someone we are not, yet, and to do what we have never done before.
Fifth, PRAY. We can pray anywhere, anytime, and with anyone. As scripture teaches, “Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.” (Philippians 4:6-7 MSG)
We can pray together by phone, FaceTime or Zoom, with family, friends and fellow believers. In doing so, we will find strength and release the power of Christ.
Finally, we can take RESPONSIBILITYfor our inside-story. The Apostle John says, “Peace I leave with you; My [own] peace I now give and bequeath to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. [Stop allowing yourselves to be agitated and disturbed; and do not permit yourselves to be fearful and intimidated and cowardly and unsettled.]”
(John 14:27 AMPC). Christ gives us peace. But we must access His peace through a disciplined focus - a decision. As the Apostle Paul says, “And let the peace (soul harmony which comes) from Christ rule (act as umpire continually) in your hearts [deciding and settling with finality all questions that arise in your minds, in that peaceful state] to which as [members of Christ's] one body you were also called [to live]. And be thankful (appreciative), [giving praise to God always].”
(Colossians 3:15 AMPC)
One other thing. This is a time to be reminded of the SOVEREIGNTYof God. I am speaking of God Jehovah, the Father of Jesus Christ. The one who said, “I am who I am” (Exodus 3:14 NIV). We have control over so little other than our own choices. Perhaps this will be a time when as individuals, families, and as a nation we come back to His Word, and His guidance that gave birth to our nation and is the source of all the blessings we enjoy. Let’s pray to see it so!
In summary, this is an opportunity to learn, to be positive in the face of uncertainty, to grow in generosity (even in the environment of hoarding), worship in ways that keep us focused on Him and encouraged by one another, pray fervently, and choose to experience His peace. We can do our part for this attitude, passion, and faith to go viral and global. Then we will experience this crisis in a different way and be stronger and better when the virus has been defeated. That’s a win-win!