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Christ Covenant Update #2: Following Christ in the Midst of the Coronavirus

 

As Ray mentioned last week, we’re addressing various topics as they relate to these extraordinary times in which we’re living. The topic for this week is “discipleship”, or to state this as a question, “How should we live as followers of Christ in light of the coronavirus?” Let me mention two brief points.

1. As followers of Christ, let’s seek to fight fear with faith 

I know there is a lot of fear around the spread of the coronavirus. The more it spreads, the more fearful we can become.

But remember that the disciples were no strangers to fear and Jesus often told them not to fear. For example, Matthew 8:23-27 says:

23 And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. 24 And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. 25 And they went and woke him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.” 26 And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm.27 And the men marveled, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?”

What caused the disciples to be so afraid? Their lack of faith in Jesus, in who He was.  They had seen Him perform miracles of healing but didn’t know that He was God the Son, the Creator of all things, who could easily calm the storm.

We need to remind ourselves who our God is and that He is not asleep at the wheel. He is sovereign and doing something of a global nature that if truth be told, should excite us.  Instead of looking at the waves (i.e. being fearful of statistics that we hear in the news), we need to remember that Jesus is unchanging. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. In Him all things hold together (Col 1:17). He has promised to never leave or forsake us (Heb 13:5), that nothing can separate us from His love for us in Christ (Rom 8:35-39), and that He will complete the work that He started in us (Phil 1:6). There is no reason to fear.

Now aren’t God’s promises sweeter to us as a result of the coronavirus? As Peter says, they are “precious and magnificent” (2 Pet 1:4) but can’t we see this more clearly now?

For example, consider Phil 4:6-7 in light of COVID-19.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Fear and anxiety over the virus should be gracious reminders to us to pray so that we would increasingly experience this incredible peace of God that is beyond understanding.

And consider 1 Peter 5:7: “casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you”.  May we cast and leave these anxieties on Him, because He cares for us/you! Take a moment to meditate on this truth: that the Creator of all things cares for you. How incredible and true and reliable this is!

As followers of Christ, may we fight fear with faith, a faith that rests completely on the character of our God and on these and so many other precious and magnificent promises.

2. As followers of Christ, let us embrace this time to be salt and light

The early church was no stranger to pandemics. It may surprise you to know that according to both Christian and non-Christian accounts, one of the main catalysts for the growth of Christianity was how Christians navigated these pandemics.

In AD 362, Julian, emperor of the Roman empire, complained that the Hellenists needed to match the Christians in virtue, blaming the recent growth of Christianity on their “benevolence to strangers, their care for the graves of the dead, and the pretended holiness of their lives.”  He also wrote “For it is a disgrace that . . . the impious Galileans [Christians] support not only their own poor but ours as well.”

Dionysius (early church father) said of the pandemic of his day:

“Most of our brother-Christians showed unbounded love and loyalty, never sparing themselves and thinking only of one another. Heedless of the danger, they took charge of the sick, attending to their every need and ministering to them in Christ, and with them departed this life serenely happy; for they were infected by others with the disease, drawing on themselves the sickness of their neighbors and cheerfully accepting their pains. … Far from being a time of distress, it is a time of unimaginable joy.”

To be clear, Dionysius wasn’t celebrating the death and suffering that accompany pandemics. But he was rejoicing in the opportunity God had given them for testing the genuineness of their faith, to go out of their way to love and serve their neighbors, spreading the gospel in both word and deed in times of great fear.

In a word, Christians were markedly different during the pandemics: the focus of non-believers was self-preservation while believers focused on serving others.

I am certainly not saying that we should blindly put ourselves at risk, but neither should we be saddled with fear, aiming at self-preservation. Instead, may we display the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22,23): love for neighbor, joy in knowing our Creator, peace that surpasses understanding, patience in being housebound, kindness to those in need, goodness as our God is good, gentleness with others, and self-control in fearful times – against such things there is no law … nor may I add any national, state, county, or city ordinance.

So, what are some practical take-aways, especially given the current shelter-in-place orders?

1. Pray

Cast your anxieties on Him and leave them there, for He cares for you.

Ask that God would give you genuine concern for your neighbor, provide opportunities to serve, and give wisdom which He promises liberally (James 1:2-8)

 2. Go

Take walks in your neighborhood while respecting social distancing guidelines. People are more open to talk now than ever, and I’m already hearing this from several of you. Ask questions like “Are you finding everything you need in the store?” Be willing to share if you hear of a need that you can meet. Write a note and leave it on a door or in a mailbox of a neighbor, offering to pick up groceries or help as needed.

Contact the church office about helping the refugees at Sandy Forks either individually or as a care group.  Some care groups are already doing this.

3. Connect

Call or video conference with believers and non-believers. Ask questions to discover their needs. If you are not already meeting online for fellowship with a care group, contact Daniel Harman (dharman@cccraleigh.org).

4. Report

Let the staff or an elder know of any needs that you have (contact Nik Lingle at nlingle@cccraleigh.org). We are trying to call everyone but please, do reach out to us as well. We are a family.

May God enable us to walk in faith without fear and to live as salt and light as followers of Christ as never before, making the most of these unique days.

If you want to find out more about how the early church navigated pandemics of their day, see the links below:

"What the Early Church Can Teach Us About the Coronavirus," Moses Lee (The Gospel Coalition)

The Rise of Christianity, "Epidemics, Networks and Conversion" (Chapter 4), by Rodney Stark