Fear and Faith

Fear is the muscular sibling of the current global pandemic. Fear, in fact, is even bigger as it stretches well beyond the actual reach of COVID-19. It can rule our hearts even if it doesn’t touch our health. It stirs our impulses to hide, to hoard, to fixate on media and social news, and to scrub all our family spaces. We feel helpless as an invisible virus threatens every corner of our personal security.

This raises a question for those of us who trust Jesus as Lord. What difference does our faith make? How does faith confront such an instinctive and fact-based fear?

First off, let’s avoid a superficial answer: “Just trust Jesus and everything will be fine!” The hard fact is that Christians have already died, and many more will die in days ahead. The coronavirus is an equal opportunity nemesis, and Christians aren’t offered unique shelter.

Yet faith still defeats fear. It supports us as we recognize and embrace the power of Jesus in the crisis. He always calls us to live by faith, not fear. And as we display faith the world gets to see that he is still as strong as he was on the very first Easter. We have a risen Lord and when we live in that assurance non-believers get to see his life working in us.

But where do we get this remarkable faith? It comes from God. Faith emerges as we hear the words of Jesus sharing his Father’s love for us. The Spirit of God takes the words of God to make us into men and women of God. It’s a transforming display of his new life birthed in us.

Confusion comes when some in the church have what the apostle Paul called “the appearance of godliness” without “its power” (2 Tim. 3:5). The power of faith, ironically, centers on the cross where Jesus, with his indestructible life, died to swallow death for all who believe. So the key to faith is to treat physical death as nothing in light of eternal life. As Paul put it, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20).

A crisis then shows off the reality of living faith versus ineffective alternatives by an absence of fear in the face of what seems like doom.

Let’s press the point. Almost all of us in the West are now saturated with the views of post-Christian “naturalism.” That is, the premise that only science offers us truth about reality. It’s presented to us as a drumbeat. Media and educational voices—such as “Nova” on PBS in the USA or “Panorama” on BBC in the UK—have coached us to believe nothing exists outside of Nature.

Which is to say, they dismiss the God who rules Nature. And who also rules “super”—that is, “above”—Nature. So that Naturalists have a faith based on denial. Thus a perpetual standoff exists between a narrow Nature-only-faith; and faith in a supernatural God. And only one is true.

The cross, then, is where Christianity pokes a hole in Naturalism. Death is the boundary of natural life … and the gateway to supernatural life. Christ’s death and his resurrection is where God showed his power over both Nature and Eternity. Death couldn’t hold him—or hold us.

There’s nothing new in this polarity. Whether in the epidemic among the Philistines after they captured the Ark of the Covenant in the days of Samuel; or in Elijah’s confrontation of false religion by a three year drought in the Old Testament; or when Jesus silenced the storm in Galilee, God regularly signals his power in and over Nature. And when humanity ignores him, watch out. Some sort of dramatic reminder is sure to come along as a call to faith.

Here’s the bottom line. Christian faith works—as we read in Hebrews 11—with the certainty that even if God allows some of us to die while others live, we can still trust him. He’s good, strong, and loving. And he still rules over Nature, his creation. So, trust him—and don’t be afraid!

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2 Comments

  1. Eric Wilgus

    “God regularly signals his power in and over Nature.”

    Yes! I’m hearing many Christians say this current pestilence is not from God because his love for people wouldn’t allow him to kill us, so just pray.

    You would know the academic term – praying for God’s will be done, versus praying for God to make it all go away. I wonder what were people praying when Peter knocked? In Acts 12 – NASB

    Peter’s Arrest and Deliverance
    Now it was during the day. So Peter was kept in the prison, but prayer for him was being made fervently by the church to God.
    On the very night when Herod was about to bring him forward, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and guards in front of the door were watching over the prison. And behold, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared and a light shone in the cell; and he struck Peter’s side and woke him up, saying, “Get up quickly.” And his chains fell off his hands. 8And the angel said to him, “Gird yourself and put on your sandals.” And he did so. And he *said to him, “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me.” And he went out and continued to follow, and he did not know that what was being done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision. When they had passed the first and second guard, they came to the iron gate that leads into the city, which opened for them by itself; and they went out and went along one street, and immediately the angel departed from him.
    When Peter came to himself, he said, “Now I know for sure that the Lord has sent forth His angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.” And when he realized this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John who was also called Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying. When he knocked at the door of the gate, a servant-girl named Rhoda came to answer. When she recognized Peter’s voice, because of her joy she did not open the gate, but ran in and announced that Peter was standing in front of the gate. They said to her, “You are out of your mind!” But she kept insisting that it was so.

  2. R N Frost

    It’s a good question, Eric: knowing how to pray. James was killed by Herod (also in Acts 12) while soon after Peter was supernaturally rescued. Only God knows his reasons why one and not the other, but at least we know God was always in charge. And it seems he sees both life and death very differently than we do.

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