By Jim Day
I would like to share some thoughts on COVID-19. I know that most of us are sick of hearing about it and just want something done to ensure our safety, but bear with me. My dear friend, Caleb Paull, posted the following on the Facebook page of our church, and I wanted to share it with you.
“COVID-19 death rates increase” … I don’t write that to spark fear. I just know that in the moment I read that headline recently, the Lord was trying to speak to me. I grabbed my Bible next to me and saw it was bookmarked to 2 Corinthians. I looked at the headline again and this is how it jumped out at me: CO VID 19.
I thought, “Well, maybe the CO is talking about the book of Corinthians.” So I opened up my Bible to 2 Corinthians. I looked up the verse 1:9. And when I saw it, I couldn’t believe it. This is what it says: “Indeed we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.”
Did you get that?
How many of you have been relying on yourselves? Have you been relying on your ability to stock up on food? On your ability to provide for your family? How many of you have started to leave God out of the equation, out of fear and worry?
God is using this to show us not to rely on ourselves but to rely on Him: His power, His provision, His promises. God is using this to break us of our pride and fear and to instill complete trust in Him.
But there is more.
The word “vid” is in the very middle. I decided to look up the meaning of it. Guess what it means? It means “to see.” What if God is asking us to SEE that He is still in the midst of this? He hasn’t forsaken us. His promises are still yes and amen. As scary as the world may appear to look right now, I encourage all of you to release your fears to Him. Don’t rely on your power and your ability to get by. Seek Him wholeheartedly.
The word “corona” is defined as “a crown.” But it also has another meaning: “what surrounds you.” If you look at what surrounds us today, it may look like it is not pretty. Lack of supplies, long lines, scared people, closed buildings, etc. But let’s not lose focus of the fact that in the midst of this, God is here and He will never leave us. He surrounds us like a shield. He surrounds us with His glory. “And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the glory that will never fade away.” (1 Peter 5:4)
This struck me as a powerful word from Caleb, but please read on. I saw another post from an anonymous source that spoke about what your pastors are facing now:
“You see, your pastor needs you more than ever right now. Your pastor has never pastored a church through a pandemic before. When he opens the church, people will say he should have stayed closed; and when he closes, people will say he should have stayed open. When he does not shake hands, people will say he needs faith. If he does shakes hands, people will say that he’s foolish.
“He is going to have to make some difficult decisions to protect the flock, considering everything from your spiritual growth to legal liabilities that you are not even thinking about.
“Every pastor believes that he pastors the most amazing group of people. Please remember that nobody wants things to go well at your church more than your pastor. He needs your prayers, now more than ever.”
Now here are my thoughts about all this:
As a pastor, the struggle to make the right decisions is more than difficult. Our church is small and the average age is well above 65. I have spent hours in prayer — days, even weeks, over some of these decisions.
The church will stay open.
Before anybody gets too excited here, I want to point out that the church is not a building. The church is us, believers in Jesus. So whether your church building is open or not, your church is alive and well as long as we continue in prayer and worship — even if we aren’t gathered together in the same structure.
God has called me to preach and teach and feed the flock that He has given me to be shepherd over. With some creative thinking, that is being done all across our nation. Online services, hand-delivered sermons, common prayer times, email and ‘snail mail’ can all be used to continue to do what God has called us to do.
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. (Hebrews 10:23-25)
You see, beloved, faith cannot be stagnant. It either grows or it goes. If your faith is not growing, then it is fading. That is the “why” behind this piece of Scripture. Fear is the enemy of faith. When our level of fear rises, our level of faith falls. When our level of faith rises, our level of fear falls. If you are afraid, go to God and His Word. Psalm 23 and Psalm 91 are great places to start.
Please do not misinterpret what I am saying. I am not judging anybody; that is not my job and is way above my pay grade. I don’t want to influence people one way or another concerning whether or not they attend church in a building, but we have to look at God’s Word as a whole.
Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. (Romans 13:1, NKJV)
Our leaders have asked us not to gather together. The Bible tells us to submit to that authority, and if possible, we should. Unless, of course, it conflicts with God’s Word, which is the ultimate authority.
I will leave you with this. Everything happens for a reason. We might not like it, but there is a reason. It might not be our choice, but it’s truly not about us; it is about Him. Yes, God loves us. More than we can imagine. And sometimes it can seem like God is “out to get us.” He is, but not in that way. God is out to get us to return to Him. Right now, to me anyway, it seems like He is trying to get our attention and our focus back on Him.
Are you tired of being afraid? Do you long for peace and comfort? But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. (Matthew 6:33, NKJV)
Through this trying time, do your utmost, your very best, to be obedient to God. This is an opportunity to share our faith in a new way. May the world see Jesus in us, through any and all circumstances. Let us all trust in the Lord, for He is trustworthy.
May the Lord protect and keep you and bless you in abundance. In the name of Jesus, amen!
Jim Day is the pastor of Valley Presbyterian Church (EPC) in Hazelton, Idaho. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.