As the COVID-19 pandemic wreaks fear and tragedy around the world, this could be the singular most important moment for the modern church.
As followers of Christ, we have a choice to make: we can allow fear to consume our thoughts and paralyze us, or we can live our lives fearlessly devoted to Jesus and His mission. The viral infection of fear must be defeated by the antidote of faith and hope. The church must be the carrier of faith and hope.
My friend David, a young believer in a communist nation, launched his church in 2010. By 2015 he had 78 followers of Christ. Then, the police began to harass the congregation, beating some as they attended on Sundays, throwing dead fish into the assembly, arresting David multiple times. He told me last month that today, in 2020, he has 387 Christians in his church. Passion defeated persecution. The church grows in times of crisis because the church is a refuge of hope and faith – the antidote for fear.
Luke recorded Jesus describing an age when "People will be so frightened that they will faint because of what is happening to the world." Another translation says, "Men's hearts will fail them because of fear…" (Luke 21:26). Fear can cause anxiety, apprehension, chaos, panic, and paralysis.
After losing everything including his health, Job admitted, "What I greatly feared has come upon me" (Job 3:25). Fear produced that which was feared because fear has power.
Theologically, the opposite of fear is faith. Experientially, the opposite of fear is confidence. Jesus said, "And everything I've taught you is so that the peace which is in me will be in you and will give you great confidence as you rest in me. For in this unbelieving world you will experience trouble and sorrows, but you must be courageous, for I have conquered the world!" (John 16:33 TPT).
The viral impact of fear can quarantine cities. But more often, fear is used in our lives to close our minds and cancel our dreams. In these trying times today, we must live in the kind of faith that will give us the confidence that there is hope for tomorrow.
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When Joshua took the lead of the nation—a situation that could breed great fear—God repeatedly told him, "This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the LORD your God is with you wherever you go" (Joshua 1:9 NLT). This was an actual command to be strong and courageous, to be filled with confidence. The Lord and Joshua's own friends built up Joshua's confidence, his resolve, his courage. As a result, he became a great leader and achieved his dreams.
The church has the ability to defeat fear by building men and women of great faith. Strong followers find faith and confidence through God's Word and then build courage in community. In a world full of fear, this is the church's moment to be bold and confident, to speak words of faith and strength to those around us. As a brotherhood of God, we must stand united and strong in faith at this time and proclaim that "God's got this."
Jesus said, "And everything I've taught you is so that the peace which is in me will be in you and will give you great confidence as you rest in me. For in this unbelieving world you will experience trouble and sorrows, but you must be courageous, for I have conquered the world!" John 16:33 TPT
This pandemic can be the greatest moment for the modern church. It must lead through this crisis by building strong followers who are ready to serve. Against the infection of a virus, the church can be the infectious carrier of hope and faith.
Paul Louis Cole is president of the Christian Men's Network (CMN), a highly effective global movement of pastors and leaders dedicated to changing the hearts of men. Founded over 40 years ago by his father, Dr. Edwin Louis Cole, CMN has trained over one million men to be leaders in 138 nations to date. CMN recently launched Majoring in Men – Foundations, a twelve-week online training tool utilizing the most widely-used, time-tested men's discipleship model in the world.