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!