Our goals at Forerunners of America include helping people stand firm through difficult times as well as minister through difficult times. Certainly, this coronavirus pandemic is proving to be a difficult and confusing time. If you haven’t already, please read my article titled “Evaluating the Coronavirus from a Christian Perspective.” This is important because before we can effectively minister to others, we should first educate ourselves on what is happening and review what the Bible says about it.
Two things offer Christians a great advantage in understanding what is transpiring around us. In Matthew chapter 22, some religious leaders asked Jesus a question. These were people trying to make sense of the world around them, but they drew the wrong conclusion. Jesus answered them, saying, “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God” (Matt. 22:29). Understanding what God has said about a matter and trusting in the power of God to overcome any difficulty are invaluable advantages when navigating a crisis.
If we haven’t already, this is a great time to get serious about engaging with God’s Word. Perhaps one place to begin is to look for all the places in the Bible where the word “refuge” appears. When faced with death, David called upon the Lord in his distress, writing, “The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold” (Psa. 18:2). Similarly, King Solomon teaches in Proverbs 14:26–27, “In the fear of the LORD one has strong confidence, and his children will have a refuge. The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, that one may turn away from the snares of death.” He also reminds us, in Proverbs 30:5, “Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.”
One of the most incredible passages about refuge appears in a prophecy about the Day of the Lord. This is the time when Jesus Christ will return to earth in judgment, producing an unparalleled time of distress. At that time there will be cataclysmic signs in the heavens, a world war, and a massive earthquake that topples cities and collapses mountains (Matt. 24:29–30; Isa. 24:19–23). During this time, the psalmist writes, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. … The nations rage, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts” (Psa. 46:1–3, 6).
Certainly, our difficulties stemming from the coronavirus are not as serious as these events, but isn’t it great to know that our God’s refuge and strength for His people is powerful enough to remain firm even through such an apocalypse? Imagine finding ourselves in the midst of a world war with both the heavens and the earth literally shaking and collapsing all around us. It is hard to imagine a more terrifying scenario, yet it is at this time that God says, “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psa. 46:10). Regardless of the threat, chaos, or panic that surrounds us, we who are God’s people can rest in the knowledge that our God remains in control, and He will provide refuge and strength to endure whatever may come our way.
This does not mean that God’s people will not suffer death as a result of the coronavirus. We do not know the length of our days or whether God will use the coronavirus to draw our allotted days to a conclusion (Job 14:1, 5; Psa. 139:16). Certainly, God will be a physical refuge to many of His people throughout this time, but our refuge ultimately rests in the assurance we have of our destiny as children of God (1 Pet. 1:3–5; Php. 1:21–24; Tit. 3:4–7). For Christians, death is merely a transition into the glorious presence of God (2 Cor. 5:6–8). Moreover, God has promised to resurrect our bodies from the grave and to grant us eternal life in His kingdom (John 3:16; Rom. 6:22–23; 1 Cor. 15:5–55).
In light of what God has revealed in His Word, Christians have no reason to fear the coronavirus. The worst that it can do is relieve us or our loved ones from the trials of this life and transition us or them into the comforting presence of Jesus Christ. If we maintain this perspective, then we can echo the words of the Apostle Paul who declared, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Php. 1:21).
Our national anxiety is rising as this coronavirus draws ever closer to our own homes. Fear of the unknown may be producing panic in those around us, but there is no reason for a Christian to panic (2 Tim. 1:7; 1 Pet. 5:7). Granted, we may not know what tomorrow holds for us, but we do know what eternity holds. We may not know whether tomorrow we will be alive upon this earth or standing in the presence of God, but either way the Christian cannot lose! Our confidence that our bodies will be resurrected from the dead and that we will be granted eternal life in God’s kingdom trumps the uncertainty of what tomorrow holds. This should produce in us a hope and confidence that sets us apart from everyone else in times of crisis.
It was the Apostle Peter’s expectation that in times of difficulty, our hopeful attitude and unshakable confidence would prompt people to ask us why we are different from everyone else (1 Pet. 3:15). A necessary step for anyone who would seek to minister to others through the difficulties associated with this coronavirus is to anchor our hope in the promises of God. Our refuge must be in God and the certainty of His future for us. Only then will we be prepared to minister to those who are fearful and uncertain.
**I’m indebted to Pastor Greg Rensberry who presented much of this content during his Sunday message at Mapleview Free Methodist Church in Niles, Michigan on March 15, 2020.
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Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright ©2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.