We are in a time of crisis, and like any time of crisis, it tests us. It causes a change in behavior. We do things differently because of a crisis. It also causes a change of focus. We turn attention away from the trivial to what really matters. Life changes, but we quickly establish a new normal.
Do you remember September 11, 2001? We were shaken out of our complacency toward world affairs and turned toward heightened security measures, measures that seemed unthinkable just days before 9/11. We gave our government increased powers of surveillance for gathering intelligence. We had previously said we believed so strongly in individual freedom we wanted these limits on the power of our government. Suddenly, we did want those limits anymore.
The crisis of 9/11 created a crisis of belief.
The crisis of COVID-19 is no different. We are accepting limits on individual freedom that were unthinkable just a few months ago. We are allowing mayors and governors, and the President of the United States to tell us what we can and cannot do. Have we changed what we believe about individual freedom?
The facts of this crisis are pretty straight forward. The first believed case of COVID-19 was in Wuhan, China, on Nov. 17, 2019. From that one case there are, as of March 31, 2020, 754,948 cases world-wide, with 163,539 cases in the United States. In a little more than four months, it has spread around the world. In my home state, we went from zero cases to 947 in just over a month.
This rapid spread is only part of the crisis. The really dangerous part of this pandemic is the mortality rate – the number of deaths. The World Health Organization reports over 36,000 deaths worldwide, which is a mortality rate of over 3%. For comparison, the flu historically has a mortality rate of .1%.
This is, indeed, a crisis, and like any crisis, it tests us. It causes us to change. It challenges what we believe.
Do you still believe, in the face of this pandemic, what you said you believed? Do you still believe what you said about God? Do you still believe what you said about prayer?
I had a conversation with a pastor friend of mine about whether or not to cancel services. In his view, if you believed in the sovereign power of God and in the power of prayer, you would have church as normal, with only a few precautions. The Coronavirus was not going to change what he believed. He wanted to know what we were going to do.
It was a good question. Why not pray and trust God to keep us safe and gather for worship as normal?
Because I believe in the Bible, and nowhere does it say that faith and prayer will alter biological realities. The Bible does say, in Matt. 5:41, “He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”
In other words, life happens to us all, regardless of race, nationality, or faith. God doesn’t promise to shield us from the ugly realities of life, but he does promise to be with us, and to bring GOOD from all things. “For we know, God causes all things to work together for good, for them that love him, for them who are called according to His purposes.” (Rom 8:28)
This is what God promises. I believed this before COVID-19, and I will still believe after this has passed. Thus, if a crisis falls on me alone or on the whole of us, it does not change my belief in God. He is the same, yesterday, today and tomorrow. He has not changed. I shall not change my faith in Him. But I will change what I do. Why? Because I am commanded by Him to love my neighbor as myself.
Thus, for the good of my health, my family’s health, and my neighbors’ health, I will take the recommended precautions, including not having church as usual.
God is still sovereign. He is still in control. I can still trust Him. I believe there are several good things coming out of this crisis for us.
- As the Church, we are reminded that the church is not a building, but a people. Having the building is nice, but it is not required.
- Worship does not have to happen on a particular piece of property or at a particular time. You can be anywhere, and as long as you are connected to other believers you can worship Him. He will be in your midst.
- Some people are gaining a period of unexpected rest.
- Families are having more together time.
- And we are confronted with the question – do you really believe what you say you believe?
A crisis does not cause faulty faith, but it does reveal it. Just as a crisis does not cause financial problems, or relationship problems; but it does reveal them.
What does this crisis reveal in you? Do you believe that God can and will use “all things” – even a pandemic – to bring about something good in your life? Can He, will He, use this crisis to bring about something good for your family, for you?
DO YOU BELIEVE?