The next five posts in this series are all meant to answer one question: What can/should/must Christians do at this time? In other words, Pastor Mike and I are going to offer five different thoughts on how God’s Word calls us to respond to the pandemic and all its implications. As we dive into this, let’s together thank God that he has promised to give us both the will and strength to obey.
Hope, Not Fear
The first response that God’s Word calls Christians to in any trial is to hope and not be afraid. Although the Bible has a good deal to say about both individually, the simple fact is that we cannot really do one without doing the other. We are not truly hoping in God if we are afraid, and we cannot be afraid if we are truly hoping in God. In fact, the presence of one really is the proof of the other. For that reason, I’m going to treat them together here. And from my perspective, doing so well means taking a look at four headings: 1) The Biblical passages, 2) The Biblical definitions, 3) The Biblical object, and 4) The Biblical practice. Let’s quickly look at each.
The Biblical Passages
There are many, many passages in the bible calling God’s people to hope. The Psalms are especially full of them.
Psalm 33:18-19 Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love, 19 that he may deliver their soul from death and keep them alive in famine.
Psalm 42:5 ( see also 42:11; 43:5) Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.
Psalm 119:43 (see also vs.49, 81, 114, 116, etc.) And take not the word of truth utterly out of my mouth, for my hope is in your rules.
The NT book of Romans is also a book filled with passages calling God’s people to hope (5:2, 4, 5; 8:24-25; 12:12; 15:4, 12-13).
Likewise, there are many, many passages in the bible calling God’s people to not be afraid. They are all over Genesis:
Genesis 15:1 (see also 21:17; 26:24) The LORD came to Abram in a vision: “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.”
Exodus 14:13 And Moses said to the people, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will work for you today.
Judges 6:10 And I said to you, ‘I am the LORD your God; you shall not fear the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell.’
Matthew 10:29-31 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30 But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.
The Biblical Definitions
Have hope and do not fear. That is the consistent message of God’s Word. But what do those words mean? Quite simply, hope in the biblical sense, at least the biblical sense to which I am calling us, is the belief that nothing but good will come to God’s people according to God’s promises. And fear is the product of the absence of that kind of hope. These passages and definitions point straight to the biblical object of our hope.
The Biblical Object
It is absolutely tragic when people put their hope in good sounding, but hollow advice, half-truths, and outright lies.
“Follow your dreams” – What if your dream is to fly off of a skyscraper?
“Believe in yourself” – What if the issue is brain surgery?
“Trust your gut” – What if your gut always leads you to make the Amazon purchase?
“You deserve to be happy” – What if kicking puppies is what makes you happy?
Truly believing in these things might lead to a lack of fear in skydiving without a parachute, operating on someone’s brain, having a house full of gadgets, and punting puppies, but in each of those cases fear would be a good thing. Countless people have wrecked their lives by placing their hope in things that shouldn’t have and couldn’t bear their hope.
Embedded in each of the passages and definitions above is not only the call to hope, but the true object as well. It will not do for God’s people to put our hope in things that can be shaken or taken. We must put our hope in things that cannot let us down. God’s promises alone fit that bill. God’s promises alone, in Jesus Christ, can produce the kind of hope and the absence of fear that God’s people so desperately need during times like these. They alone can withstand every assault. Truly, where there is no promise of God, then, there can be no well-placed hope, and where there is a promise of God, there can be no God-honoring fear. And that leads to the final section, the biblical practice of hope.
The Biblical Practice
What does it look like when God’s people truly hope in God in a season like this, and what are some steps you could take to do so?
- As I said above, it looks like a lack of fear, even if death is the result, for to live is Christ and to die is gain. This oughtn’t mean that we are unwise, only that we live in such a way as to demonstrate that our love for God and people are greater than our love for life.
- It looks like confessing your fear to God and asking your friends to pray for you in it.
- It looks like calling to mind specific promises of God for the specific challenges you encounter and believing in them instead of anything else.
- It looks like building a fort with your kids and reading Psalm 46 together.
- It looks like putting on the Easter play as a family.
- It looks like listening to, and singing good hymns and worship songs that declare God’s sturdiness and the hope Jesus provides.
- And it looks like celebrating Easter with great zeal as the resurrection is the greatest proof of the trustworthiness of the promises of God.
There are some aspects of the coronavirus that are rightly scary, especially its potential to kill the most vulnerable among us. And yet, the first thing Christians ought to do in the face of this real danger, is to remind ourselves of the promises of God and ask for God’s grace to live in light of them. As God sees fit to answer that request it will drive out all fear in us and fill us with the kind of hope that stands out to the world around us.