Fear creates panic.
The coronavirus (COVID-19) is now a pandemic (a global outbreak of disease). The word “recession” is being thrown around, schools and businesses are closing, and the White House recommended no gatherings over 10 people. Things are happening so fast it’s hard to stay up-to-date. As the coronavirus continues to spread and fear increases, how do we lead ourselves to remain in God’s rest and confident in His sovereignty? How do we lead others in times of crisis and in a way that imparts hope instead of fear and panic?
Fear Creates Panic
Let me give you an example of how fear creates panic. Massachusetts is in the top four when it comes to states with the highest number of coronavirus in the United States, and one-half of the cases are in Middlesex County where I live (how it started and spread from one conference is a different story you can read here). Recently, my wife went to the grocery store. I’m not sure how it is where you live, but here most of the shelves are cleaned out (and it’s not just the toilet paper that’s gone)!
What is happening?
A symptom of fear is panic. The root of our buying frenzy is fear. People are afraid stores are going to shut down, the food will be gone, and there won’t be enough to go around. So, they are stocking up!
My wife had a good point. She was after all the one who went to the store. She said:
People are creating shortages because they are buying things they don’t need!
Our fear of shortage is the very thing that creates a shortage.
Fear begins as soon as your alarm clack goes off and you think, I’ve got to get there first or everything might be gone (which is sort of true)! What if there is not enough? What if the grocery stores shut down? How will we eat? I better get there before it’s all out. I need to buy extra in case I can’t get it later. Especially toilet paper!
Our emotions, fueled by fear, cause us to panic and do irrational things. That’s because fear is not rational. You can’t reason with it. You have to tell it to shut up! Fear must be uprooted and replaced with truth. More on that later.
When you operate by fear, that which you fear often comes upon you.
I don’t think fear is a mystery. It’s a part of the fall of man a.k.a the result of sin. It’s also a demonic spirit (see 2 Timothy 1:7). And fear can cause us to act in such a way that brings about the very thing we fear!
Fear can be like a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Furthermore, Jesus taught us to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” As long as we have that, Jesus is fulfilling His promise. I know it’s not comfortable, but it’s kingdom!
As we lead ourselves and others, here is a guide that will help us lead by faith rather than fear. It is based on the acronym P.A.N.I.C.
P – PRAYER, PRAISE, AND PROMISES
I know you’ve heard this passage of scripture before, but have you internalized it? It’s one of my favorites (which tells you something away about me: I need to pray it often!)
Don’t be pulled in different directions or worried about a thing. Be saturated in prayer throughout each day, offering your faith-filled requests before God with overflowing gratitude. Tell him every detail of your life, 7 then God’s wonderful peace that transcends human understanding, will make the answers known to you through Jesus Christ. (Philippians 4:6-7 The Passion Translation)
Pray until you have peace. Like the oxygen mask on a plane, leaders need to put their own mask on before helping others. If you are a mess how can you inspire confidence in someone else? Don’t just talk about prayer, do it! Do it exactly how this verse says. Tell him everything. Give Him your cares and burdens. Ask for what you need. Do it with thanksgiving to remind yourself of His faithfulness, and pray until you experience the tangible “peace that passes understanding.”
Praise God and worship Him. Make it a lifestyle if it’s not already (though it’s harder to do once hard times hit). Nonetheless, if you haven’t done so already, start now!
Dwell on His promises – on the words of Scripture. Pray them. Praise Him for answering them. His promises are true and they bring faith and confidence.
Here’s a message I shared on this passage a while back called The Pursuit of Joy. The book of Philippians is called the “Book of Joy” even though Paul wrote it from prison. It has some gems God wants to teach us about joy in the midst of suffering and hardship.
A – ADVICE (FOLLOW SOUND ADVICE)
Misinformation breeds fear. As followers of Jesus, we can’t bury our heads in the sand and ignore the facts, but we also need to hear from the Lord. First, hearing from the Lord.
The apostle Paul said, “I wish you all would prophesy” (see 1 Corinthians 14:1). Start by asking the Lord, What are YOU saying?
You can hear the Lord.
After you’ve tuned in yourself, what are the Lord’s prophet’s saying?
Surely the Sovereign Lord does nothing without revealing his plan to his servants the prophets. (Amos 3:7 NIV)
God is always speaking to His people, and one of the primary ways He does it is through respected prophetic voices. Though you should approach this area with caution, you shouldn’t ignore it. It would take a whole post to share how I vet prophetic voices, in the meantime, here are a few of the trusted voices I listen to: Lou Engle, Shawn Bolz, Lana Vawser, Cindy Jacobs, and Chuck Pierce.
Next, we need to keep abreast of what’s actually happening by following reliable sources that don’t traffic in fear. In the case of coronavirus, we probably only need to stay tuned to the CDC (Center for Disease Control), the WHO (World Health Organization) New Whitehouse Guidelines, and our state and local governments.
Following the right sources won’t eliminate fear, but hopefully, it will ensure that you are getting the most accurate up-to-date information so you can make good decisions.
Be careful how much media you’re ingesting when difficult things are happening, and for heaven’s sake limit your social media intake! It can very easily become overwhelming. Discipline yourself to check our reliable sources once or twice per day instead of a steady diet of fear and panic that is often perpetuated through media.
N – NO FEAR (PERFECT LOVE DRIVES OUT FEAR)
When I grew up in rural Pennsylvania the 80’s and early 90’s, there was a popular decal people put on their big trucks (it’s a thing in the country) that said,
The problem is, it’s not true! Everyone has fears. Thankfully, God has a real answer to fear that isn’t based on the size of our truck.
There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. 19 We love because he first loved us. (1 John 4:18-19 NIV)
Yes, I understand this is talking about not having fear concerning the day of judgment [nearly every time I share a verse of scripture someone seems to comment about the context of the verse as if I haven’t read it in context. FYI: I always read for context. I just don’t always explain the full context every time I share a scripture]. In other words, we don’t need to fear judgment day if we are secure and confident in the love of God, in His Lordship, and that He has given us the free gift of salvation that came by grace through faith (see Ephesians 2:8-10).
But I also think there are other implications to these verses. It says there is no fear in love. It says perfect love drives out fear. After all, fear isn’t confined to judgment day. Here’s the implication:
As we become more and more like Christ, fear has less and less of a hold on us. We don’t have a fear problem, we have a love and trust problem.
Love conquers fear and so does faith. Fear must be replaced by faith, and faith only comes one way: by hearing (and obeying) the word of God (see Romans 10:17). Take the verse above (or another one) and use it to displace fear in your life. As you do, your confidence in God will grow and fear will subside. As Lester Sumrall said, “Feed your faith. Starve your doubts to death.”
I – INTERCESSION (PRAY WITH, FOR, AND ON BEHALF OF OTHERS)
Intercession is standing in the gap between heaven and earth and praying for ourselves, other people, situations, problems, and circumstances.
If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. (2 Chronicles 14:7 ESV)
It starts with God’s people taking initiative. We are also obligated to pray for those around us. Start by praying for yourself and other believers in your church and neighborhood. Then move out from there and pray for believers in your city, your nation, and worldwide.
Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere. (Ephesians 4:18 NLT)
Pray for our medical professionals for stamina, health, and wisdom. Pray for our scientists – that they find a cure. Pray that God would give our government leaders wisdom from heaven. Pray that God would intervene and stop the spread of this virus.
But don’t stop there. Pray for people around you that don’t know Him. Pray that this situation would soften their hearts and prepare them to receive the gospel. Pray for them like you would want to be prayed for. God can (and often does) use difficult circumstances to open people’s hearts and turn them to Himself.
The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise (to return), as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent. (2 Peter 3:9 NLT)
Like always, God uses what the enemy meant for evil to do something good. He doesn’t cause evil, but He will flip it around on the enemies’ head! As was the case with Joseph when His brothers sold him into slavery, God turned it around for His own sovereign purpose:
You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. (Genesis 50:20 NIV)
C – CHECK-IN WITH PEOPLE
Finally, when a crisis hits, we can become so worried about self-preservation, we don’t think to check in with others. Do you have a neighbor that is elderly? Did you ever think about your older neighbor (who is in the most vulnerable category) is going to get groceries (if there are any left)? Is someone you know sick and in need of help? Who in your life or proximity do you need to check in with? Is it so hard to make a quick phone call or text? Ask yourself,
Who can I be a good neighbor to?
I’m pretty sure Jesus meant it when He said, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Turn it around and think about yourself: wouldn’t you want someone to be concerned for you and check in on you if you were in the same situation? Of course you would. So be a good neighbor and do it for someone else!
We may not be able to hold normal services, but we can do something better.
Be the church!
The church was never a building, an organization, or a place. It’s always been, people! That means you can be the church wherever you are!
Here are a few things Journey Church is doing during the coronavirus. Yes, we are meeting online via Zoom, but instead of trying to coordinate church-wide efforts, we are encouraging our people to be the church.
P – Pray, Praise, and Promises (Feed your faith)
A – Advice (Follow Sound Advice)
N – No Fear (Perfect love casts out fear)
I – Intercession (pray for and on behalf of others)
C – Check-In with People (Be the church)
Followers of Jesus, the world needs you in moments like these. Don’t get sucked into the panic and fear. Don’t bury your head and ignore it. Take a step back. Breathe. Pray. Get your face in the word of God and cry out for God to work in you and through you in this hour of need.
Leaders, we need you to lead the way! Get in front of the issue. You may not be afraid, but many of the people you’re leading probably are. Fulfill your job description: inspire people, bring confidence, solve problems, and build big people.
As I worshiped the Lord recently, I had such joy and a strong sense that God was going to work through this crisis in unique and powerful ways. Though I’m saddened by what is happening, I’m hopeful and expectant about what the Lord is going to do through this.
Stop hiding your lamp under a basket. The world needs you to shine.
“You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. 15 No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father. (Matthew 5:14-16 NLT)
Here are some other resources that I’ve found helpful.
- Corona Virus and the Church (Ed Stetzer and Rick Warren)
- Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Blog and Podcast
- There Is Plenty of Food in the Country by the New York Times
- How Should Christians Respond to the Coronavirus Pandemic? By Richard Land
- Coronavirus and the Church: Christianity Today’s Latest News and Advice