Living Unafraid Through Coronavirus
We are in the midst of one of the greatest challenges our world and nation has ever faced with the threat of the Coronavirus. As of the 24th of March 2020, the WHO reports 375,498 confirmed cases of Coronavirus, 16,362 deaths and 195 countries, areas or territories with cases. There are 6,654 confirmed cases in the U.K with335 deaths. There is a media frenzy and the world has never been more afraid or nervous.
I remember a time when I was faced with fear and worry about the future. My beautiful wife, Lynsey and I married on 17th March 2001. In 2003 we were expecting our first baby. We went for our first scan and they noticed a problem with the baby’s bladder. Over the coming weeks and months, Lynsey went through numerous tests and attempts to correct the problem. We were referred to a specialist in Glasgow who told us that our baby had very little chance of survival and termination was our best option.
We faced incredible worry and fear during this time. I was afraid of the future and uncertainty. What if our first baby died? How would my wife ever recover? We prayed and asked God for a miracle and decided not to terminate the pregnancy. Our son was born at 36 weeks on the 19th of April 2003 and lived for 59 minutes. He died in our arms peacefully.
That was almost 17 years ago. We now have five beautiful children and God has healed our hearts deeply in many ways. Looking back on that experience, I realise that sometimes life is very painful, disappointing and scary. One of the scariest things is an unknown future. I think back on this experience during this Coronavirus season because the future for many millions of people on earth is scary and unknown. This is very difficult to live with. One of the many things I admire about Lynsey during this was her childlike trust and faith in Father God that whatever happens, God would get her and us through. Lynsey continued to trust God even as we buried our son.
I don’t think we will ever fully understand why suffering on this side of eternity. One thing is for sure, we will face many challenges and experience pain on this earth. One thing we learned through the long and painful journey of losing our son was to walk closely to God in order to cope with the uncertainty and fear of the future. We didn’t do this perfectly but it did help us through our darkest days and it can help you in this very difficult season we are going through globally.
One of the many questions we face as Christians is how on earth can I live without fear during such times of crisis? We have these great encouraging verses from Isaiah:
‘But now, this is what the Lord says— he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.
For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior; I give Egypt for your ransom, Cush and Seba in your stead. Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you, I will give people in exchange for you, nations in exchange for your life. Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bring your children from the east and gather you from the west. ‘
The Message translation puts it beautifully:
1 But now, GOD’s Message, the God who made you in the first place, Jacob, the One who got you started, Israel: “Don’t be afraid, I’ve redeemed you. I’ve called your name. You’re mine.
2 When you’re in over your head, I’ll be there with you. When you’re in rough waters, you will not go down. When you’re between a rock and a hard place, it won’t be a dead end—
3 Because I am GOD, your personal God, The Holy of Israel, your Savior. I paid a huge price for you: all of Egypt, with rich Cush and Seba thrown in!
4 That’s how much you mean to me! That’s how much I love you! I’d sell off the whole world to get you back, trade the creation just for you.
5 “So don’t be afraid: I’m with you. I’ll round up all your scattered children, pull them in from east and west.
What hope can we take from these words? Here we are promised that you will go through waters and rivers, you will go through fire and flames. We are not told “if you go through waters and fires” but WHEN! It reminds us of the words of Jesus, “In this world you will have tribulation…” Tribulation comes from the Greek thlipsis.
Thlipsis means pressure, oppression, anguish, tribulation, adversity, affliction, crushing, squashing, squeezing, distress.
Imagine crushing some grapes in your hand, that is thlipsis, putting a lot of pressure on something. The word is used for crushing grapes or olives in a press. It’s worth noting here at the start that crushing grapes is a vital process in the production of fine wine.
The word tribulation is a fitting word for the world in coronavirus outbreak. The world like never before is being put under massive pressure physically, emotionally, mentally, economically and financially.
So Isaiah tells us we will go through rivers and fires. Jesus tells us we will go through tribulation and massive pressure. And this is what we are all feeling right now in so many ways. One thing that pressure does is that it creates fear in our lives. And the question becomes how can I live through the Coronavirus outbreak without fear and how do I deal with the fear that comes into my life?
Know who you are.
Isaiah gives us the first reason we should not be afraid. “You are mine.” When you put your faith in Jesus and became a follower of him, you are adopted into God’s family and became one of His children. That’s an incredible and powerful truth you must fully grasp in order to be free from fear. What did Jesus say?
29 “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care.
30 And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.
31 So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”
The truth of your adoption, who your Father is, who you belong to and your true value is essential to being unafraid. To fully grasp this truth you need the word and the Spirit. You must meditate day and night on this truth and the Bible verses about your adoption. We are told that if you do this you will be like a tree planted by streams of water, which bears fruit and leaf does not wither. But meditation must not be a “word only” practice. It must be a “word and spirit” practice where you meditate on the words and ask the Holy Spirit to open the eyes of your heart to fully grasp the truth of the words you are meditating on. The Holy Spirit is essential to take the truth from your mind to your heart and to move from a troubled heart to a peaceful heart.
Know He is With You
Isaiah gives us the second reason we should not be afraid;
“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you… Do not be afraid, for I am with you…”. Isaiah 43:1-5.
One of the main reasons we can be unafraid is to know and believe that He is with us always. Jesus said that before He left earth which is rather funny. He said, ‘And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age’ and then He disappears back to heaven and left them. So how is He with you always? It was better for His to return to the Father because He could send the Holy Spirit to dwell in each believer and the Holy Spirit is fully God who dwells in you and so God is truly with you always.
Where is He? He is inside you and with you always. It may not necessarily always feel like He is. In fact, it can often feel like He is a thousand miles away but this is where we must not rely on our emotions and feelings again but by the “word and Spirit.” It is by learning to walk in the Spirit, live by the Spirit, be led by the Spirit and not quench the Spirit that we can truly walk in victory and peace and be unafraid. Letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace. Again this takes some work on our part. How do you let the Spirit control your mind? This takes practice, effort and requires us to be proactive. Fill your mind before it is filled. Worship, prayer, solitude, fresh air, good books and good company (albeit ‘virtual’ company) are all essential.
Know his faithfulness and promises
Moses changed the name of a man from Hoshea (which means salvation) to Joshua (which means “Yahweh” – the Lord is Salvation). His future role was placed into his name to remind Him of his calling. Moses no doubt wanted him to know that salvation does not come from man but from Yahweh (the name of God). Joshua was Moses’ assistant since youth. He was a warrior who would fight on behalf of Moses. He was one of the 12 spies who came back with a good report along with Caleb.
In Joshua chapter 3-4 Israel is preparing to enter into the land that God had promised them. They are about enter a crucial transition into the promised land but first they must cross a boundary. The basic promise to Joshua is “His presence”. This promise of “His presence” reminds us of the promise we read in Isaiah and of Jesus’ words to be with us always.
The priests are told to carry the ark and stand in the river. The river was the Jordan river. It was flooded at this time of spring and the Jordan river had a reputation for being a muddy river. In spring the river was wider than its normal width of 90-100 feet and deeper than its average 3-10 feet. The Israelites were about to experience another miracle from God (similar to the one at the splitting of the Red Sea) but first the priests had to stand by faith with the ark in the muddy river.
Let’s not rush past the significance of this. The priests represented the people to God. They had to carry the ark which was the symbol of God’s power and presence. And they had to go into a flooded, muddy river and stand in it. This required incredible trust, faith and humility. All this was required before the miracle. It’s interesting the miracle didn’t come as they prayed at the side of the river.
The waters of the Jordan would not be cut off until the priests set foot in the Jordan. It reminds me that Peter did not walk on water until he got out the boat. The miracle we need comes as we hear His voice, respond in faith and action and step into the muddy river. Often, we want to hide from or avoid the river of tribulation. But the good news is we can get through it and come out the other side to the promised land. Hoshea could not do this but Joshua could. Hoshea could not experience the miracle without Yahweh but Joshua could witness the miracle of Yahweh on His behalf. And so can we as Yahweh is similarly with you.
Isaiah uses rivers and fire as a picture of tribulation, trials and great pressure that we will go through. Here in this historical account we see another picture of the people of God experiencing this truth literally:
“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.”
Joshua reminds the people that the “living God” is among you. The phrase Living God occurs twice in the Psalms and once in Hosea and refers to one who is faithful and keeps His promises. To overcome fear, you must know the living God is among you. In fact, He now dwells in you by His Spirit. This living God is faithful and keeps His promises.
In this season of Coronavirus we must meditate “in word and spirit” on His promises to us in His word and on His faithfulness. He will never leave you and he will not let you drown or burn. He will be with you in the waters and with you in the fire as he was with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. I love this story in Daniel. What was the only thing that burned in the fire? The ropes that bound them and yet the fire had not harmed their bodies and the fire had not singed their hair nor scorched their robes. In fact, there was no smell of fire on them! God is faithful to His promises. Yes, in this world we will have tribulation but we can come through rivers and fire without even smelling of smoke!
Remember What He Has Done in the Past
In Joshua 4 Joshua commands the priests to take 12 stones from the middle of the muddy Jordan river at the place where their feet stood. These 12 stones were to be set up as a memorial so that future generations could learn and remember the living God who was among them as one who is faithful to His promises. It was to teach future generations and act as a reminder to themselves of how faithful and powerful God is.
To overcome fear, you need to constantly come to a pile of 12 stones. You need to come and visually see the actual times in the past when God was with you and did a miracle for you. Each stone had to come from the place where the priests stood in the middle of the muddy river.
Each of you in the past has stood in a muddy river of tribulation. And God brought you through that river and showed himself faithful to His promises. Imagine you had a stone for each time God did a miracle for you in the midst of a muddy river. Not just for you but for all the family of God. We would see a stone from that river of cancer that person was brought through. We would see a stone from that river of a lung transplant that was desperately needed. We would see a stone from that river of financial desperation that God brought us through. We would see a stone from that river of tragedy that God brought us through. We would see a stone from that river of poverty and sickness that God brought us through.
Imagine as a church family we all piled up our stones from the rivers and fires God brought us through.
We would remember the living God is among us and He is faithful to His promises.
That is what we need to come back and visually see and mentally remember in order to overcome fear during this deep river we are currently in.
Let’s finish on the words of Paul which give us deep hope and asurance:
2Co 12:9 (ESV)
“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”
The Bible Believer’s Commentary notes:
“Paul’s prayer was answered, but not in the way he had hoped. In effect, God said to Paul, “I will not remove the thorn, but I will do something better: I will give you grace to bear it. And just remember, Paul, that although I have not given you what you asked for, yet I am giving you what you need most deeply. You want my power and strength to accompany your preaching, don’t you? Well, the best way to have that happen is for you to be kept in a place of weakness.”
This was God’s repeated answer to Paul’s thrice repeated prayer. And it continues to be God’s answer to his suffering people throughout the world. Better than the removal of trials and sufferings is the companionship of the Son of God in them, and the assurance of His strength and enabling grace.”
 ‘These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”’ John 16:33
 Psa 1:3. “That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither— whatever they do prospers.”
 Eph 1:17-19 (NIV). “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people,and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength…”
 Rom 8:16 (MSG) “God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children.”
 Mat 28:20 (NIV) “and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
 Rom 8:6 (NLT). “So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace.”
 Num 13:16 (ESV) “These were the names of the men whom Moses sent to spy out the land. And Moses called Hoshea the son of Nun Joshua.”
 Num 11:28 (ESV). “And Joshua the son of Nun, the assistant of Moses from his youth, said, “My lord Moses, stop them.”
 Jos 3:7 (ESV) “The LORD said to Joshua, “Today I will begin to exalt you in the sight of all Israel, that they may know that, as I was with Moses, so I will be with you.” Deu 31:23 (ESV). “And the LORD commissioned Joshua the son of Nun and said, “Be strong and courageous, for you shall bring the people of Israel into the land that I swore to give them. I will be with you.” Jos 1:5 (ESV). “No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you.”
 Jos 3:8 (ESV). “And as for you, command the priests who bear the ark of the covenant, ‘When you come to the brink of the waters of the Jordan, you shall stand still in the Jordan.’”
 Jos 3:15 (ESV) “and as soon as those bearing the ark had come as far as the Jordan, and the feet of the priests bearing the ark were dipped in the brink of the water (now the Jordan overflows all its banks throughout the time of harvest)”
 Jos 3:10 (ESV). “And Joshua said, “Here is how you shall know that the living God is among you and that he will without fail drive out from before you the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Hivites, the Perizzites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, and the Jebusites.”
 Psa 42:2 (ESV) “My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?” Psa 84:2 (ESV) “My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the LORD; my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God.” Hos 1:10 (ESV) “Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be like the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured or numbered. And in the place where it was said to them, “You are not my people,” it shall be said to them, “Children of the living God.”
 Dan 3:24-25 (ESV) “Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished and rose up in haste. He declared to his counselors, “Did we not cast three men bound into the fire?” They answered and said to the king, “True, O king.” 25 He answered and said, “But I see four men unbound, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods.”
 Dan 3:27 (ESV) “And the satraps, the prefects, the governors, and the king’s counselors gathered together and saw that the fire had not had any power over the bodies of those men. The hair of their heads was not singed, their cloaks were not harmed, and no smell of fire had come upon them.”
 Jos 4:3 (ESV) “and command them, saying, ‘Take twelve stones from here out of the midst of the Jordan, from the very place where the priests’ feet stood firmly, and bring them over with you and lay them down in the place where you lodge tonight.’”
 Bible Believer’s Commentary on 2 Cor.12:9.