Christianity

A Christian response to Coronavirus

The news about coronavirus is all over the media and is heard in almost every conversation. This is a very unusual situation and we can choose to respond in one of two ways; with fear or with faith.

It is very interesting to see how people around the world are reacting differently. Some people are reacting by panic buying (and emptying the shelves) while others seem to be almost indifferent. For me, the question is, how should we, as believers, respond?

First of all, our thoughts and prayers are with everyone affected by this sickness; individuals, families, health services and communities as well as national leaders and governments. How they all need God’s wisdom and guidance as they deal with this situation. And for us as a nation, where do we find healing when every day, the news seems to grow even more serious?

Well, for me personally, my only advice is to stand firmly upon God’s Word, for that is where I find my comfort and strength. God’s Word has been the anchor for my own family in very desperate times and it is the one thing that we can ALWAYS rely on. God’s Word never changes and it contains all we need for hope, comfort, healing, wisdom and guidance.

If you are fearful, grieving or broken today, let the truth of God’s Word sink into your heart.

But you may say, ‘what if we can’t stop this virus?’ What if it becomes widespread in the United Kingdom or wherever I live, as some experts predict?

Well let’s stand firm upon his Word! Psalm 112:6-8 is a great encouraging reminder as to what our response should be. It says, “For the righteous will never be moved, he will be remembered forever, he is not afraid of bad news, his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord, his heart is steady, he will not be afraid”.

We all have to face bad news at some point in our life. If it’s not the virus, it will be something else. Let’s remind ourselves that we live in a fallen and broken world where suffering and even death are inevitable. To deny this truth would be lying to ourselves, but we as Christians do not need to fear bad news. It is important to not be in denial and as a nation, we should take all sensible precautions, but we do not need to be crippled by the fear of what ‘might happen’. The psalmist demonstrates that it is possible to look bad news right in the face and say, “You will NOT rule my heart.” Our emotions may sway, but we will not be blown off course.

You might think that is easy for me to write, but practically, how can we rise above the circumstances when we are surrounded by fear?

Well, here are some practical responses;

Prayer

Pray in FAITH. Remember faith is not denying fear but mastering it. What you fear the most, reveals where you trust God the least. Therefore put your faith in God and watch as He starts to eradicate your fears. “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer… believe that you have received it… and it will be yours.” Mark 11:24

Prepare

Prepare WISELY. Don’t deny the facts but plan wisely and let’s be aware of Paul’s words in Ephesians 6:12, KJV: “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities,against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” And the preceding verse tells us to be well prepared to “Put on the whole armour of God that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.”

Proclaim

Proclaim HOPE. In this world of uncertainty, we can have great confidence as we hold on to the hope that lies before us. This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. And it enables us to ‘Rejoice in hope…be patient in tribulation… continue steadfastly in prayer’ (Romans 12).

I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13

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Don’t trust your feelings. Ignite your faith.

I was recently reading 1 Kings 19, which tells the story of Elijah and the enormous personal battle he fought, after winning a great victory against the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel.

Elijah had called on the name of the Lord and saw fire fall from heaven.  The disbelievers in the crowd fell on their faces and worshipped the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  The one true God had been glorified and the Godless prophets of Baal had all been killed.   This extraordinary day of miracles shook the country and without a doubt, Elijah was operating out of the anointing of his calling. He was serving God and was at his very best.

But then Elijah received news that Jezebel was after him.   She was enraged by Elijah’s ‘rebellion’ and sent a messenger to say;  “May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life, like that of one of them.” (1 Kings 19:2).   Elijah had been full of faith, sure of his identity and yet, those few words plunged him into fear and into an identity crisis.

At this point, a few things happened:

He became deeply emotional and fearful – his mind was affected.

He became physically tired and exhausted – his body was impacted.

He could not hear God’s voice – his spirit was drained.

A few days before, he would have sought God for the answer, but now he was depressed, despondent and Scripture says he’d had enough and wanted God to take his life.  He was being attacked by an unseen enemy which wanted to steal the victory, kill him and ultimately destroy all of God’s work.

As I look around me, I see this so often in our churches.  I believe that one of the biggest attacks of the enemy on the church today, is the attack of depression and despondency.   The Word tells us that the enemy’s weapon is to steal and there is no greater way to make an army ineffective, than to steal their joy, their confidence, their identity and replace it with fear and exhaustion.  This often happens too, just after a big victory.

The story of Elijah shows that the enemy often works through our feelings,  The enemy tries to mentally suck us dry and create a battle ‘between our ears’ of being overwhelmed.  I believe if the enemy can win the battle ground in our mind, he knows he will successfully distract us from God’s plans and get us to focus on the problem and how we feel about it.

If you are in that place, of feeling despondent, depressed, overwhelmed or in fear (just like Elijah), you might be wondering if there is a way out.   I have been there and I know it can be a difficult journey,  but there is a way out and there are many great guidelines to be found in God’s Word.

Deal with the physical

Firstly, on a very practical level, God dealt with Elijah’s physical needs. I love that God is a God of practicalities!    Immediately, God sent Elijah some food and water  (delivered by an angel) and then allowed him to sleep. Once Elijah had been strengthened on a very physical level, God began to speak to Him. He did not give Elijah all the answers, but He asked him questions and allowed him to experience His presence.   If you are feeling overwhelmed by situations in life, it is first good to check all the physical, practical causes, such as lack of rest or proper nutrition.

However, it is also important to deal with the spiritual causes and here is some advice, based on things I have learned in my own life.

Instigate disciplines

Discipline is a part of discipleship.  If you have the discipline of regular devotionals in your life (so that it becomes a daily habit), you will be able to continue reading God’s Word even when you are in a dry patch.  If you create frameworks of discipline in your life, before you experience despondency, you will find that you have a ready-made oasis just when you need it.

Phone a friend

Find a friend you trust and ask them to do the journey with you.  For many years (until he passed away), I had a wonderful friend who knew me so well, that he could detect even a change in my voice and understand if something wasn’t right.  He was great at provoking me to speak out and to share what was going on.  He and I were often able to travel the journey together and support each other in prayer, when the other was going through a difficult time.  Having good strong friendships is very important.

Practice the presence

Jesus was led into the wilderness for 40 days and was tested in many different ways before His work could begin.  Often, the enemy will try to attack our identity (just as he did with Jesus;  ‘If you are the son of God…’) he said.  Jesus knew His identity and He knew God’s Word and He was able to stand firm against the test.  At the end of the test, he experienced God’s presence and He left the wilderness refreshed, anointed and ready for His assignment.   Often in church, we work first and rest later, but I believe that God wants us to operate from a place of rest.  When we work and live in God’s presence, we can act from a position of faith, rather than what our feelings tell us.

Go back to God’s Word.  

I love Psalm 13. To me, it sums up a feeling of despondency and downheartedness so very well.

How long Oh Lord?  Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day, have sorrow in my heart?  (Psalm 13) .

This Psalm is wonderful because after David has poured out his heart to God, a switch happened, something changed.  By verse 5 and 6, he says, ‘But I trust in your unfailing love. my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing the Lord’s praise for He has been good to me’.  

As he wrote and cried out to the Lord, his heart started to move toward praise.  One minute, here we have a guy who feels forgotten and forsaken and then as he cries out to the Lord, he moves into the realm of praise.

It is ok to feel forgotten, forsaken, despondent, depressed – none of these things are a sin. But it is important to not rely on these feelings, and instead go back to the reality of God at work in your life.   God has never failed you (or me!) in the past and He will not fail you now.   Ask Him today to help you move beyond your feelings and instead, into an atmosphere of praise and faith.

It is in His presence, that we can find true rest and also once again begin to find God’s purpose in our lives.

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