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Ours is a world that seems driven by fear right now. Some fears are real and present threats, but others have been stirred up in our hearts and minds by others and our own imaginations. If we are honest, this has always been a scary world, but it seems absurdly worse of late. I mean, murder hornets…seriously?
Yet while the world shakes in terror, Christians have every reason to move forward fearlessly, putting all our confidence in God.
Perhaps no issue has pushed the world’s fear buttons more than the COVID-19 pandemic. A recently released Lifeway Research poll conducted last fall showed that 41 percent of those polled currently seek to avoid feeling fear most, compared to 24 percent who said shame, 22 percent who said guilt, and 12 percent who said they weren’t sure. And when asked what gave them hope during 2020, just 36 percent said their religious faith.
While that number seems disconcertingly low, a closer inspection reveals more interesting statistics. Of Protestant respondents, 55 percent said their religious faith gave them hope, but 74 percent of those who attend a Christian worship service four times a month and 76 percent with evangelical beliefs said their faith gave them hope. In other words, the more you invest in your relationship with Christ, the greater your trust in Him.
Sadly, 7 percent of total respondents said they had no hope whatsoever during 2020, with 12 percent of the religiously unaffiliated feeling that they had no hope compared to just 1 percent of those with evangelical beliefs.
For a while this spring it looked like the end of COVID was just around the corner, giving everyone renewed hope for the future, but now it seems that the virus may stick around longer than expected, thanks to a new variant. A Scott Rasmussen poll shows that respondents are worried about the continuation of COVID. Of those polled, 43 percent believe that the worst is yet to come, compared to 29 percent who believe the worst is behind us.
As fears about COVID resurface or even intensify, it is worth asking: Why were those evangelicals able to feel a sense of hope during 2020 when others weren’t?
To the Christian, hope is derived from God, as we know that He is in control of all things. He tells us in His Word not to be afraid, not because there is nothing too big for us to handle, but because there is nothing He can’t handle. No matter how big the obstacle, God is greater.
Look at a few examples where God’s Word teaches us not to fear (all New American Standard Bible 1995):
“For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.” – 2 Timothy 1:17
“When I am afraid, I will put my trust in You. In God, whose word I praise, In God I have put my trust; I shall not be afraid. What can mere man do to me?” – Psalm 56:3-4
“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
These are only a few of the verses that give Christians peace and teach us not to fear. That doesn’t mean that people’s fears are not legitimate. COVID is a real sickness and for some it can be a fatal one. However, the world, devoid of the hope in Christ for this life and the life to come, sees only despair. Fear feeds on fear, and as we all know, the media and politicians of all stripes excel in fomenting not just fear but hysteria.
While COVID is a legitimate concern, in the minds of many it is not a disease with a high chance of recovery, but one that is more likely to result in death. This isn’t true, but the mere thought of mortality to those without the hope of Christ is a scary one indeed.
Are you afraid? Look to Christ. If you are one who does not know the hope of Christ there is reason to be afraid — not because of COVID or any other danger in this world but because one day you will die and you will face God in judgment. To you I quote 2 Corinthians 6:1-2, which says:
“And working together with Him, we also urge you not to receive the grace of God in vain — for He says,
‘At a favorable time I listened to you,
And on a day of salvation I helped you.’
Behold, now is ‘a favorable time,’ behold, now is ‘a day of salvation’”
For the believer there is reason to be confident and to trust God wholeheartedly. Remember the example of Daniel. Here was a young man forcibly removed from his homeland by a ruthless conquering empire. When faced with the demands of a nearly mad king, Daniel held true to his faith and refused to eat the king’s food as it went against God’s law. Because Daniel was faithful, God blessed Daniel and he was elevated in service to the king.
Then the day came that King Nebuchadnezzar demanded his wise men tell him not only the interpretation of his distressing dream, but the dream itself. Daniel turned to God, God gave him the dream and the not-very-happy interpretation, and Daniel told the king, even though the king was bent on killing all of his wise men. In seeking God’s guidance and telling the king the full truth, Daniel was again elevated.
Soon enough (notice the pattern here), Daniel faced still another danger: a new edict that everyone must pray exclusively to the king. Daniel chose to ignore the edict, knowing that the punishment would be a cruel death, and continued with his usual custom of opening his windows towards to Jerusalem and praying to God.
As everyone knows, he was thrown into the lions’ den for his disobedience, but as Daniel explained to a very incredulous King Darius the next morning: “My God sent His angel and shut the lions’ mouths and they have not harmed me….”
No matter what Daniel faced, he was confident in God’s provision and His will, and the Lord delivered him. That doesn’t mean you will always be protected from hardship, of course. Joseph was sold into slavery and wrongly imprisoned. The apostles were martyred.
And even modern Christians have faced persecution for standing up for God and for other people, but God is faithful and near. Corrie Ten Boom, in her book “The Hiding Place,” wrote about how she was able to smuggle a Bible into the Nazi prison camp she’d been sent to; she tucked the Bible under her prison dress and although all the other prisoners were searched, she — miraculously — was allowed to pass by untouched. That Bible proved a source of great comfort and hope to Corrie and her sister, as well as other prisoners, and many people came to Christ as a result.
So if you are a Christian who has felt afraid or hopeless in recent months and continues to worry, take heart! God has promised to be with you through everything, good and bad.
As the Apostle Paul noted with great hope, certainty, and wonder in Romans 8:37-39, KJV:
“In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”