April 19, 2020
I am not a worrier by nature. It is not that I am particularly brave, nor am I naïve, it’s just that I am a fairly rational minded person, who tends to look at a situation from a calculated perspective. For example, I really have no fear of flying. Not because flying today requires one to be brave, but because rationally, like millions of other people, I understand that despite the occasional plane crash where few survive, the number of crashes compared to the number of planes in the air, is incredibly small. It is safer to fly, than to travel by car. I apply that same kind of rational thinking to a lot of things, some riskier than flying. I have been zip lining in the jungles of Nicaragua, I have jumped out of an airplane at 12,000 feet, and got to enjoy the exhilarating experience of flying like a bird (although this bird had an instructor, who had jumped over 7000 times, strapped to his back).
Worry is a manifestation, a symptom of fear.
When someone is worrying about a situation it is because they fear some or many, of the potential outcomes, that situation could produce. They are focused on the potential negative results of the crisis, rather than the potential positive ending of the situation.
The current pandemic is, for me, the same. I am not worried, I am not fearful. It is not that I am naïve of the potential danger of the virus, or the economic outcome it may produce, it is just that my approach, is to look at the current pandemic and its current impact, in the light of its size compared to the overall population of the country and how it compares to other crisis in history.
The last global pandemic, which carried this kind of world-wide impact, was the Spanish flu of 1918-1919. It was a devastating virus, infecting 500,000,000 people globally, and taking the lives of over 55,000,000 of them. Taken in context, the Spanish flu was, however, one devastating episode, in a string of horrific events. The Spanish flu came on the heels of the Great War, now known as WWI, which claimed the lives of over 20,000,000. The pandemic was then followed by the great stock market crash in the fall of 1929. That was followed by a drought; so devastating, and so protracted, that it was called the “Dirty Thirties.” The drought the contributed to the Great Depression. Which, was then followed by WWII. That war claimed the lives of another 75,000,000.
Since then, we have witnessed numerous conflicts and wars, which have left a scar on humanity, but for the most part, although devastating, none have had a global impact.
For those alive today, born after WWII, which is most of the world’s population, we have never seen a global event. We have lived, especially here in Canada, in a blessed environment. Today, our world is being shaken, in some ways, for the first time.
Much of what we are being asked to do to combat the pandemic, is not primarily for our own personal safety. Rather, it is an act of kindness, a willingness to be inconvenienced in order to stop the spread of the virus which, although perhaps not particularly dangerous to most, is lethal to a very vulnerable portion of our population, namely, the elderly and those already afflicted by health issues.
Pastor Greg Laurie, from Harvest Church in Riverside, California, recently took to the airwaves with a simple request to some churches in the US, who are still holding public services: “Please stop.” He continues, “You are endangering your people and the rest of us. You may think that what you are doing is an act of great faith, but in fact it is an act of selfishness. You are not “trusting the Lord” but rather testing Him, and He does not want us to do that.” (Matthew 4:7)
I say “Amen!” To Greg’s admonition. Don’t get me wrong, the first week officials declare it is safe, and the public gathering ban is lifted, DS will be there, worshipping our loving God together – in person! But in the meantime, we as people of God, will put the needs of others, ahead of ourselves. Just as the scripture encourages.
Let no one seek his own, but each one the other’s well-being. 1Cor. 10:24
Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind, let each esteem others better than himself. 4 Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Phil. 2:3
Although the doors of the church building are closed for the near, foreseeable future, the door of opportunity for the church has been flung wide open!
For example, we had no online version of our church service, before the current public gathering ban. Before the COVID-19 crisis, around 250 people attended our service each week. The first week we went online, the number worshiping with us skyrocketed by ten times with over 2500 views. This has continued every week since. We are reaching more today, than ever before. Another bi-product of the current quarantine, is that families are spending more time together. The kitchen table is being restored, as families once again gather for dinner and conversation flows. In addition, people are turning to God in great number. Google searches for words like, “prayer” and “God” are doubling every week the pandemic continues.
The longer the current crisis ensues, the more contrast there will be between people of faith and those whose only hope is in this world, whose foundations are being shaken. God is providing His church an opportunity to impact our communities like never before, in most of our lifetimes.
As believers in Jesus Christ, we have hope, we have peace, we have joy in the midst of uncertainty and a climate of fear. We declare that we will not worry, but rather we will act with compassion. We will encourage, we will give, we will speak hope to every life that we have the privilege of connecting with, whether by phone, over the fence, or online. We will not fear, we will walk by faith.
And if fear does raise its head, and tries to take hold of your heart, take a que from the “Duke” John Wayne, who famously said, “Courage is being scared to death, but saddling up anyway.” Good advice for the church… even if you have a weak moment and fear begins to grip your heart, step out and saddle up anyway, and know God is with you, and wants to partner with you in this season.
God has declared that you are loved, you are powerful, you are bold. He has provided us with an opportunity to let our light shine in this season like never before. But in order to make an impact we will have shed worry and draw confidence from who God says we are.
Remember, you cannot do, what God said you can do, until you believe you are, who God says that you are.