President Trump didn't just proclaim Sunday, March 15 a National Day of Prayer against the coronavirus. He also said in a tweet he'd be watching the Sunday service of Free Chapel live-streamed out of Gainesville, Georgia. So Pastor Jentezen Franklin may have been preaching to an empty church like so many others this past Sunday, but suddenly he had a national audience.
It's hard to think of another moment, especially in the years before the internet, when such a national audience came to or even could come to a single worship service. So as much of the nation is shutting down in a historic way to fight the spread of COVID-19. It's also a historic moment where much of the nation can also join together all at once to pray and worship and listen to the same sermon.
Franklin read from the President's National Day of Prayer proclamation: "As we come to our Father in prayer, we remember the words found in Psalm 91: 'For He is my refuge and fortress. My God, in Him will I trust.' And we unite in prayer. We're reminded that there is no burden too heavy for God to lift or for this country to bear with His help. Luke 1:37 promises – I tell you, I believe the president's going to preach a better message than I am today – Luke 1:37 promises that 'For with God, nothing shall be impossible.' And those words are just as true today as they have ever been."
In his own preaching, Franklin pointed out, "You know, the most often-given commandment in the Bible is 'Fear not.' Isn't that something? Fear not. And it's always coupled with the most often-given promise: 'For I am with you.' 'Fear not' is mentioned 366 times in the Bible. That's a 'fear not' for every day you get up, you turn the TV on, or somebody sneezes at work, or somebody coughs. Fear not! I've got a 'fear not' every day I get up. Goodness and mercy are waiting at the foot of my bed. Fear not."
Franklin didn't let political correctness keep him from telling viewers Jesus Christ is the One they need to cling to in this time of the pandemic. He preached, "Don't let worry make you go into a panic. Jesus said 'I am with you in your home. I am where you are. I know your address. I know all about you. I have not forgotten about you. I am with you.'"
The pastor continued, "No matter what comes our way, our first reaction should be faith that overcomes the fear. Choose faith over fear. Choose faith over panic and over being petrified and crying. It's much ado about nothing when you stack it up and compare it to the healing, miraculous, powerful God that we serve. Well, what about this virus? We will survive. We're more than conquerors through Christ. No weapon formed against us will prosper. And then He said that nothing can separate us from the love of God."
While there was no congregation on hand for Franklin, he was joined by Free Chapel's worship band and choir, belting out several boisterous songs, and ending the service with a new song released just a few weeks ago by worship leader and singer Kari Jobe and her collaborators titled "The Blessing." And that's just what it commanded Sunday: a national blessing, with lyrics like, "May His favor be upon you, and a thousand generations, and your family, and your children, and their children, and their children. May His Presence go before you and behind you and beside you, all around you and within you. He is with you in the morning, in the evening, in your coming and your going. In your weeping and rejoicing, He is for you…He is for you."