Closer to home for me, the county where I live now apparently has its first case of coronavirus. A man in his thirties traveled to California and is self-quarantined at home with his family while additional testing is done.
The president and the White House coronavirus task force held a press conference yesterday evening in which they announced economic steps intended to assist those who are at financial risk, especially those who cannot afford to miss work. They also announced practical ways Americans can protect themselves and others from the spread of the disease.
Three ways Jesus responds to fear
As the epidemic spreads across the US and the world, fear is spreading as well.
This is a new disease to humans (thus the “novel” coronavirus description). As a result, we have no acquired immunity such as we have developed to existing flu strains. There are also no approved vaccines or therapies for coronavirus as there are for flu. And its death rate at present stands at 3.4 percent, compared with far less than 1 percent for those infected by the flu.
Since anyone can get COVID-19, everyone can get COVID-19.
One way Christianity is different from other religions and worldviews centers in Jesus’ redemptive response to fear. Consider three lessons he offers his followers.
One: We should live in the present and trust the future to God.
Jesus taught us, “Do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (Matthew 6:34). This day is the only day there is.
Someday there will be a global crisis that seems frightening and unmanageable, but before it accelerates, Jesus will return for us or you or I will go to him. This could be that crisis. That’s why “now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2).
We are one day closer to eternity than ever before, and we have only today to be ready. So live in this day and trust tomorrow to the providence of your Father.
Two: Worry is fruitless.
Jesus asks us, “Which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If you then are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest?” (Luke 12:25–26).
Worry provides the sense that we are doing something about our fear, but this is an illusion. Rather than worry about the future, we should prepare by doing what we can do and trust God with what we cannot.
Three: Our Father is Lord of the universe.
He asks: “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore” (Matthew 10:29–31).
The virus is one nine-hundredth the width of a human hair. Our Father measures the universe with the palm of his hand (Isaiah 40:12). He is on the throne of the world. Let’s be sure he is on the throne of our hearts today.
Newton was born in 1725, the son of a ship commander. He went to sea at the age of eleven and eventually became the captain of a slave ship.
He had received religious instruction from his godly mother, but she died when he was a child and he gave up any religious convictions. However, during a violent storm, he called out, “Lord, have mercy upon us.” He believed that God addressed him through the storm and that his grace had begun to work on his life. He called March 10, 1748, his “great deliverance.”
Newton eventually became a disciple of George Whitefield and came to admire John Wesley. He taught himself Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, and surrendered to a call to ministry. He eventually wrote 280 hymns for the church, of which the most famous is “Amazing Grace.”
John Newton later moved to pastor a church in London, where he influenced William Wilberforce. Though he lost his sight in his later years, he continued preaching until his death in 1807.
I visited his gravesite several years ago, where I found these words: “John Newton, Clerk, Once an infidel and libertine, a servant of slaves in Africa, was by the rich mercy of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ preserved, restored, pardoned, and appointed to preach the faith he had long labored to destroy.”
Jesus used a storm to bring his amazing grace to a lost soul, and through him, to the world.