It was a line said in passing by a brother praying during an online prayer meeting, but it became a seed that fell on the soil of my soul, bringing forth this article.
Please do not think that either the speaker or I mean that the fear of coronavirus is of no value. Fear is often useful for gospel purposes and the fear generated by this coronavirus pandemic is already bearing fruit for the kingdom of God. First, many pastors and church leaders are testifying that their people have never been so interested in spiritual matters, they see a hunger for the means of grace like never before, and 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. 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 realize that fear itself does not save. Rather, what saves a soul is the balm of the gospel applied to the fearful heart. Let us consider a few examples from this current pandemic to see how people are dealing with their fears.
Queen Okafor is a well-educated professional who frequently travels. The pandemic is extremely disruptive to her lifestyle and she is quite worried about the future and how long this crisis would last. So, she copes by reading up on the latest tips on washing hands, the efficacy of different facial masks, and the latest results from WHO vaccine trials. She is now planning to resume her lifestyle in 2021 at the latest.
Michael Oyewusi is a retired government employee. His children are all grown up and he lives a comfortable life in a nice suburb of Lagos. He is diabetic and manages it well, and his lovely wife Kemi has high blood pressure for which she is being medicated. They both know these pre-existing conditions and their age makes them extremely vulnerable to COVID-19. So, they lock themselves in their comfortable home and only talk to their staff through the gate grill when necessary. They spend their days watching CNN and forwarding messages to their children on WhatsApp about how garlic has been found to cure COVID-19 miraculously.
James Abutu grew up in a religious home in Kaduna, but ever since he came to Lagos, he hasn’t really been attending church. Now with COVID-19, he realizes 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 estate and sends the backlog of his 2019 tithe to the bank account of his father’s church. He finally removes the nylon cover of the ‘Open Heavens’ devotional his mother put in his traveling bag during Christmas.
What do all these people have in common? They are all afraid and all frantically seeking solutions, but they are all looking for the solution in 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 righteousness will get him right with God and protect him until the pandemic is over. They are all sincerely searching, but they are all 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 and the Oyewusis may buy themselves a few more months or years, but their death, sooner or later, is certain. Giving to God is good and biblical, as is abstaining from fornication, but James needs to be told that God sees his heart and searches his motives.
In summary, only the gospel can save. Only Christ has risen from the dead and faith in him is the only way to eternal life. Only the propitiation of his blood can save anyone from the wrath of God. Only the merits of Christ can buy any of us the favor of God. Only those who despair of this life and trust in the life to come will be counted worthy of that Kingdom.
Beloved, let us press our friends and family during this period. Let us reason with them about righteousness and self-control and the coming judgment which no man shall 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; no mediator to intercede for them on that Day; and no blessed assurance of the pleasure of the Father.
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