Updated: May 10, 2020
During the 2nd Century epidemic in Carthage, as idol worshippers were throwing those who had been affected by the plague into the streets, it was the Early Christians that ran out to embrace them on the streets to welcome and care for them in their own homes.
Beloved, let me start by repeating the now familiar stark warnings: remember to wash your hands regularly. Maintain social distancing. Avoid touching eyes, mouth, and nose. Practice respiratory hygiene by covering your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing. Seek medical help quickly if you have a fever, cough, and breathing difficulties. Do not take anything for granted. Be EXTREMELY careful with individuals you meet while working or transacting business, some might be infected already, and not showing symptoms. Coronavirus is aggressive and deadly. The pandemic has humbled the powerful, and great nations have been brought to their knees. No one is immune to it, and no country is safe from it.
These are indeed perilous times. As believers, we must use our hearts and our heads. Pray and plan; watch and pray. Have faith, but don’t leave things to fate. Remember that the Lord preserved Israel for 40 years in the wilderness, but then He also gave them dietary and hygiene laws to protect them from diseases and epidemics. The Nehemiah Strategy is an approach worth adopting in times of adversity such as these:
‘They which builded on the wall, and they that bare burdens, with those that laded, every one with one of his hands wrought in the work, and with the other hand held a weapon. For the builders, every one had his sword girded by his side, and so builded. And he that sounded the trumpet was by me. And I said unto the nobles, and to the rulers, and to the rest of the people, The work is great and large, and we are separated upon the wall, one far from another. In what place therefore ye hear the sound of the trumpet, resort ye thither unto us: our God shall fight for us. So we laboured in the work: and half of them held the spears from the rising of the morning till the stars appeared.’ Nehemiah 4:17-21.
Yes, the Lord shall fight for us, but then the Lord expects us to THINK with the amazing brain He blessed us with and to ACT wisely. God is not going to use your leg or your head for you, you are a free moral agent! The devil will challenge you to do reckless things. To disobey the rules that government has put in place for our collective good. To visit indiscriminately, and to ignore the advice on hand washing and social distancing. You must remember that ‘thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.’
Health is wealth. You cannot be too careful. You must act proactively to support yourself, your family, your friends, and your community. Keep some essential items and foodstuffs, but remember to leave some in store for your neighbours to buy as well. Support the aged, the weak, and the vulnerable. And don’t forget to educate the ignorant and overzealous ones both within your religious circle and outside. Many are going to die due to ignorance, and because of reckless actions.
When we sent out a warning to African churches on the need to adopt small-group and online fellowship formats before the government ban on large church meetings, a Nigerian pastor called me an enemy of the church and declared that Christians are spirits, so cannot be affected by Coronavirus! People spread these sorts of misleading messages. We must shield the gullible from such ignorant individuals. Sadly, many are going to perish because of the activities of these men. Do your utmost to avoid becoming part of the unfortunate statistics.
Foolishness would be to ignore the important health advice coming from government and health authorities. The Bible is not opposed to medicine and healthcare as some of us are tempted to believe, what the Word opposes is putting our confidence in the medium ( healthcare delivery systems encompassing men and medicine) instead of in the One who uses that medium to help us. Physicians care while the Great Physician heals. Since ancient times, Christians have always played a role in delivering care and demonstrating the beauty of the Christian Faith through charitable acts of kindness. During the 2nd Century epidemic in Carthage, as idol worshippers were throwing those who had been affected by the plague into the streets, it was the Early Christians that ran out to embrace them on the streets to welcome and care for them in their own homes. It is a historical fact that the Christian Church played a major role in the evolution and development of hospitals. As early as the 2nd Century, Early Christian congregations had started organising institutions that catered for the infirm. Basil of Caesarea, a Christian who lived during the leprosy epidemic of the 4th Century founded a hospital to care for the sick, especially poor people. And many great Christian leaders have shown their appreciation for God’s natural gifts that we are today exploiting in both orthodox and traditional medicine.
The devil, evil spirits and men have all contributed to pollute this perfect world the Lord gave us. Our individual and collective actions and inactions continue to affect our world and impact on our mortal frame in many negative ways, paving way for diseases and disasters across the globe. We are all implicated. We live in a physical dimension governed by natural laws. When natural laws are broken, the unsavoury consequences are usually inevitable unless God steps in to effect a miracle. It is noteworthy that the devil tried unsuccessfully to instigate the Lord to go against natural laws (convert stones to bread, jump off a cliff). Today many of us are yielding to those same temptations. When you go against the logical advice to wash your hands during this pandemic, you are tempting God. While God gives us special protection, we can still fall ill from time to time. Take a moment to reflect on this:
Prophet Elisha died of a sickness.2Kg 13:14. Apostle Paul 'preached through the infirmity of the flesh' and had 'a thorn in the flesh'.2Cor 12:7-9, Gal 4:13. Epaphroditus, Paul’s companion was sick and near unto death. Phil 2:25-27. David Brainerd, the great missionary evangelist, died of TB at the age of 29. Praying Hyde, the mighty prayer warrior and missionary to India, died at 47 after his heart shifted from the left side of his chest to the right, due to intense praying. Augustus Montague Toplady, the remarkable songwriter who wrote that great Christian hymn ‘Rock of Ages’, died of TB, aged 38. Kathryn Kulman, the dynamic faith healer, died in her early 60s due to complications arising from open-heart surgery. John G Lake, the powerful faith healer, and missionary died of a stroke at 65. Aimee Semple McPherson, the charismatic founder of Foursquare Gospel Church, died of medicine overdose at 53. We could go on.
We can deduce from the above that it is not necessarily how we die, where we die, or when we die that matters, it is actually who we are when we die, and where we end up after we die, that is more important. God protects from sicknesses and diseases, and God heals. I have personally witnessed and interviewed hundreds, if not thousands, of individuals who got healed by the power of God. But we will all ultimately die from one thing or the other. While depending on the Lord for mercies and protection, the onus is on us to also use the wisdom He has richly endowed us with, to comport ourselves wisely to promote our health and wellbeing.
The present global crisis is an opportunity for the church to do two things. The first is to pray for revival and the manifestation of God’s mighty power, and the second is for the church to demonstrate Christian love by reaching out to help those around us.
God’s people can unite in faith to pray for revival and the manifestation of His healing power to turn the tide against this pandemic. He did it in the past and He can do it again. He has promised to heal the land if we turn to Him in humility, repentance, and prayer. The terrible atrocities in the world, and the spiritual abnormalities in our churches, testify against us to high heavens. We need to humbly repent of our personal and denominational pride, our idolisation of men, and our neglect of the poor. We must turn away from our carnal rivalries, ungodly competition, haughty looks, proud attitude, covetousness, greed, excessive attachment to material things and worship of the god of success. We must do away with lying words, deceptive actions, and evil thoughts. We must repent from the hatred for our fellow man, and envy of those we call friends and brethren. We need to repudiate the gossips and tale-bearing that have become normal in our homes, workplaces and Christian gatherings. We must expunge the sinful lusts lurking in the inner recesses of our hearts, and the immoral activities that we carry on in dark places. We need to bemoan our loss of Christian innocence, Bible-holiness, and child-like simplicity; and bewail the beauty of the Lord that has faded from our lives, and the glory that has departed our homes and congregations. I fall on my face to acknowledge my own iniquities and the impurities in my family and fellowship. May the Lord forgive me. What about you? How clean are your hands, and how pure is your household and church before the All-Seeing eyes of the Thrice-Holy God? May we not be too blind or too proud to acknowledge our sins in the presence of the One who crafted us from dust and before whom we must all ultimately bow to account for our deeds.
We can use this opportunity to demonstrate the love of Christ as salt and light in the world through strategic humanitarian actions. Church buildings can temporarily provide refuge for homeless and vulnerable individuals. Churches can organise community-wide outreaches to support widows, orphans, old people, disabled individuals, and the destitute. Christians can donate food, finance, and facilities to alleviate the terrible conditions occasioned by this situation. We can mobilise to create awareness that will stem the spread of the virus and save many lives.
Undoubtedly, some of the super-spiritual ones among us will consider me a man of little faith for some of the remarks here, but nothing could be further from the truth. This season, while they will probably be hiding behind their computers to criticise and condemn, we will be on the streets of London supporting vulnerable homeless people through our Christian charity. Christians do not show faith by preaching alone, they demonstrate it by producing fruits. They are not moved by fear, they are motivated by love. Life is beautiful, and Jesus makes it meaningful and deeply enriching. But when the time comes for me to take a bow and leave this earthly stage, I do not want to remain here a second longer. Bible believers are not afraid to die, they are only afraid of dying before fulfilling their God-given assignment on this side of eternity.
For those living in fear of death due to the present crisis, this is the time to run to the Lord Jesus, the giver of life. For those struggling and groaning under the heavy burden of sin, this is the time to repent and embrace Christ, the Prince of Peace. Burdens are lifted at Calvary. For the Christian, you must hold on in faith and courage. You are covered by the blood of the Lamb. No weapon fashioned against you shall prosper, and nothing shall by any means hurt you. For me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. May the Lord keep you.