Jump Start # 2550
Matthew 1:23 “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel, which translated means, God with us.”
One of the greatest emotions is fear. Often what one imagines is a lot worse than what really happens. Before a surgery, one gets all worked up, thinking the worst. After the surgery, “it wasn’t so bad.” A teenager is late coming home. The parents pace the floors, thinking the worst. In their minds, he is somewhere in a ditch, probably dead. In a few minutes, he walks in, oblivious to what time it is.
When a nation catches hold of fear, it can lead to panic. Immediately after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt tried to calm the nation by saying, “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” And, now, the country is in panic mode again. It’s not bombs from enemies planes but a flu epidemic. For those who got this flu and for the families who have lost loved ones, this is very serious. Even though there have been many pleas to calm down and simply wash your hands, the fear that is racing through many communities seems to have lost a sense of reason and balance. Stories are told every day of people stock piling supplies, others stealing masks from medical offices and near hysteria if someone happens to cough in public. How bad will this get? Only the Lord knows.
However, there are a few things that we know as well. We know these things because of Scriptures.
First, as our verse reminds us, God is with us. He always has been. He hasn’t left us and this evil virus has taken over. I will never desert you is a promise Jesus left with the apostles and a promise we find in the book of Hebrews. We do not travel this scary road alone. We remember that even though we journey through the valleys of the shadow of death, God is with us. Fear and panic takes our eyes off of the Lord. Fear and panic sees the problems but not the Lord. We must remember, greater is He who is in us than he who is in the world. The “He” who is in us, is God. The he who is in the world is Satan, fear and everything against God. God is greater. God is greater than a flu epidemic. God is greater than any war. God is greater than Satan.
Second, things might get worse before they get better. Already some schools are closing because of the virus. In time, some stores, restaurants and even businesses may close for a while. Congregations will have to decide what to do about gathering together. In some communities, shepherds may decide to not assemble. Don’t judge. Don’t be cruel. This is a time for lights to shine. Many people will go bonkers. This is a time to remind folks to pray. It’s a great time to share some passages with others.
Third, we will not lose our souls because we miss a service or two. If you do not feel well, stay home. Guilt has driven sick people to church services for fear that they will lose their souls if they are not at every single service. So, people show up hacking and coughing and sneezing and feeling terrible. Why did they not stay home? They were fearful of being lost. Now, if we think this out, if a person might lose their soul because they miss a few services, then the opposite must be true. The opposite would mean I get to go to Heaven because I have perfect attendance. That is nothing more than salvation by works. We are saved by God’s grace not by your attendance record. Stay home if you do not feel well. Think about others. Coming sick, makes others sick. This is how viruses are spread.
Fourth, much of this panic is driven by secular hearts who see nothing beyond the door of death. What’s the worst thing that can happen? We get the flu? We die? For the child of God, we’d get to be with the Lord. That’s where we want to be anyway. Jesus said, do not fear the one who can kill the body and do no more. That’s the flu. It can kill the body, but it can’t do anything more. It can’t kill love. It can’t kill our soul. It can’t kill our faith in the Lord. Revelation says that those early Christians “did not love their life even when faced with death.” What they loved was the Lord. Of all people, the people of God ought to be calm during this fearful panic. If we stay, we serve the Lord. If we are taken, we are with the Lord. Either way, it’s win-win.
Finally, this too shall pass. There have been plagues, famines, earthquakes, wars, disasters all throughout history. Many times the people thought that this is the worst ever. But in time, those things pass. Life picks up again. Normal returns. Some get hurt. Some die. Some are not touched at all. Joseph’s family was affected by a famine. The Jerusalem disciples were affected by a famine. Those things came and then they left. A greater concern is not whether or not we will get this flu, but what will this flu do to our spirits, souls and hearts. Will it make us forget about God? Will it make us panic and believe the world is coming to an end? Will we get all worked up and worried? Will we stand firm because our faith is built upon the rock? Storms come. Winds blow. The water rises. Do we give up? Do we become worried? Do we throw in the towel on God? Do we look for lessons to be learned and people to help?
All is well, because God remains upon the throne. All will be well, because God remains on the throne.