We are in perilous times right now. The Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has traveled around the globe causing turmoil in its wake.
It has shut down countries and separated families. Economies are roiling, and job situations have gone into tailspins. The virus has also presented churches with the dilemma of suspending services. Thankfully capable churches have taken advantage of live streaming. Still, many congregations are not set up to stream. This has caused churchgoers great sorrow.
Countless people around the world are hurting. Many more are fearful and anxious.
While we must take the situation at hand seriously, we must not permit anxiety and fear to take control. In times of crisis there is a fine line between pragmatism and panic. One is a proper response to real threats, the other an improper reaction to unknowns. One comes from a sound mind, the other from a worldly mind.
Through it all we live in the midst of our savior Jesus Christ. We must draw near to Him and respond with a sound mind, not panic, to the trials facing us. We must be self-aware and not allow fear and anxiety to plunge us into the depths of uncertainty.
Thankfully, the Bible is profitable in all situations (2 Tim. 3:16-17 KJV) and no world crisis is an exception.
Nevertheless, crisis situations present our minds with the underlying conditions necessary for a perfect storm of panic to arise from within. There are in fact three specific things that cause us to panic and that make our current world crisis such an arduous battle.
Panic’s Perfect Storm
The first ingredient is lack of control. We can’t control a virus or any other crisis when it comes. We can try to contain it but we can’t always control it.
By nature we dislike any situations that we cannot fully control. Yet, we do not have to be in full control. Even when we do not understand circumstances, we know that we live in a fallen world and that our allegiance is not to this world but to God’s eternal kingdom.
We can cast all our cares on Him (I Pet. 5:7 KJV) for He is in control and is sovereign (Is. 48:13 KJV, Psalm 103:19 KJV). Our relationship with Jesus releases us from the burden of controlling what we cannot while panic begs us to wrest as much control as we can.
The second ingredient is the unknown. A crisis is an unknown not just in the sense that we might not have experienced it before but also because its outcomes are unknown.
Fear of the unknown manifests itself with a preoccupation with the future. In fact, fear and anxiety are often focused solely on “what ifs.” These types of thoughts are concerned about the uncertainties of tomorrow not the realities of today. “Our relationship with Jesus releases us from the burden of controlling what we cannot while panic begs us to wrest as much control as we can.”
So, we dwell in uncertainty and lose sight of the here and now. We gain an unhealthy perspective on life that is no longer based in reality. This is why Jesus was so adamant that we must not fear tomorrow and the future and that instead we must seek first His kingdom (Matt. 6:33-34 KJV).
Lastly, we often fear change and a crisis always involves at the very least a temporary change.
The virus has resulted in a myriad of changes. While many will be temporary they have been drastic and disruptive. Countless people are working from home. Others are not allowed to gather among groups of a certain size. Stores are closed, kids are out of school, and so on. Change is scary, and times of crisis cause unprecedented change.
Thankfully we follow and are held by a God whose attributes and word never change (Heb. 13:8 KJV, Mal. 3:6 KJV) and thankfully in the perfect storm of panic we can choose another response.
The Right Response
The current crisis has magnified the sad realities of life in a fallen world. We are not in control. The unknown is an ever-present reality and change is our only constant.
These harsh realities cause fear and anxiety to swell up inside. They bring us into states of panic.
Yet, contrary to what the enemy would have us believe, panic doesn’t help us. It doesn’t lead us to peace or answers. Undue and improper fear and anxiety do not let us move forward.
Rather they snare and trap us. Panic is used by the enemy to enslave us. It is a downward spiral that forces us to rely on our own power instead of God’s for answers to situations we cannot control or understand.
Yes, many of us are facing questions right now. We are fearful and worried. Responding to a crisis with fear is not necessarily wrong, fear is a healthy emotion, but we must remember not to panic.
Panic is not a way forward. Panic only keeps us from the peace that passes understanding (Phil. 4:7 KJV) and from abiding in and responding with a sound mind.
For Christians it is a sound mind that is a key to responding to the things we cannot control, to the unknown and to abrupt life changes.
Responding with a Sound Mind
15) For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.Romans 8:15 (KJV)
The Holy Spirit is a spirit of adoption. We are adopted into God’s family when we become believers in Him. We choose Him because He first chose us (I Jn. 4:19 KJV). We are no longer slaves to fear but sons of God and as sons we need not be fearful.
7) For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.2 Timothy 1:7 (KJV)
God does not give us the spirit of fear. Instead God gives us the spirit of a sound mind. We are given the Holy Spirit at the time of our conversion (salvation) and can then walk forever with Him. Yet what does it mean to have a sound mind?
The Greek in Strong’s Concordance for “sound mind” is sōphronismós (G4995) which means “discipline” and “self-control”.
While I wish I could say that becoming a Christian is an instant cure to all of life’s crises and ills, that is not supported by the Bible. Jesus said our lives as Christians are not easy (Jn. 16:33 KJV) and we share in His sufferings (I Pet. 4:13 KJV).
While becoming a Christian does not make this life easier, it does lay the foundation for a life that can overcome challenges great and small by providing us with the greatest resource by which we can always draw strength: the Holy Spirit.
Again, this does not mean it is easy. Having a sound mind is not easy. As the virus has taught us we still fight sin and the flesh. Keeping a sound mind is anything but simple. This is why Paul mentions to Timothy in the preceding verse…
6) Wherefore I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands.2 Timothy 1:6 (KJV)
We have to “stir up” the Holy Spirit within us. Now, if we are born-again and saved, God is always working and always with us. He does not lie dormant waiting for us to tell Him to start acting in our life.
What is meant here is we need to encourage ourselves to live with the Holy Spirit. We must not grieve the Holy Spirit (Eph. 4:30 KJV), we must cooperate with Him. God is always working in us, but we are not always so quick to respond to His still small voice.
This is why a sound mind requires and is synonymous with discipline and self-control. Even as born-again believer’s we tend toward fear and anxiety instead of soundness of mind because we still live in the flesh. We can only cultivate a sound mind by walking with the Holy Spirit and following Him.
Discipline and Self-Control
A disciplined mind and a self-controlled mind are not natural to us. However, they are part of us when we become believers by the Holy Spirit residing within us. God wants us to live in accordance with Him but how do we do that?
2) And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.Romans 12:2 (KJV)
As Christians we live lives transformed with minds renewed. Yet “be ye” is a command, we must continually renew our minds. We need to set our minds on Jesus each and every day and allow the Holy Spirit to lead us. When we do this we will prove the perfect will of God.“When the world panics we pray. In times of global fear we remain steadfast and confident. When the world tries to wrest control, we place trust in Christ and do what we can with where we are and with what we have.”
This is why Paul tells us not to be conformed to this world. The Christian life is a daily battle and renewal. We never lose our salvation but we easily lose our way.
Discipline and self-control of mind are formed when we continually reorient (renew) ourselves to Him and His ways and away from the world and its ways. This means we mind the things that are after the spirit. This is our new prerogative in life because we are born again after the Holy Spirit.
5) For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.Romans 8:5 (KJV)
The things of the spirit are the fruits of the spirit (Gal. 5:22-23 KJV) and the key is to walk in His ways (Gal. 5:25 KJV).
Our thoughts and responses must be Godly, they must follow the Holy Spirit. Again, it goes back to not being confirmed to the world. When the world panics we pray. In times of global fear we remain steadfast and confident. When the world tries to wrest control, we place trust in Christ and do what we can with where we are and with what we have.
11) But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness.I Timothy 6:11 (KJV)
To follow after implies a journey. That is just what it is that cultivates a sound mind. It is a gradual and continual development on our walk with Jesus.
Our minds do not become sound (self-controlled and disciplined) overnight. How we respond depends on the situation and situations are always changing. Often, we find ourselves responding to one circumstance rationally and another anxiously.
It is only by the continual following after the spirit that we can develop the consistency necessary for developing a sound mind in every circumstance. How do we accomplish this?
Renew your mind daily. Do not follow the ways of the world. Instead, follow Jesus with a disciplined and self-controlled mind. When we do that we are following after godliness.
Every Crisis a Test and Time to Pray
It is only through trials that we become more like Christ. Every crisis is a test. In each scenario will we walk in the ways of the Holy Spirit or be conformed to the world? Do we respond out of a sound mind or do we panic?
The more challenges we overcome by following after Jesus and walking with the spirit the more resilient we will be.
While it is not easy, the more we respond to difficult circumstances with a sound mind the more we will be better able to respond soundly during future challenges. This is sanctification in action and it only comes through practice.“We must always walk with Jesus. Not behind Him where we fall into the mores of the world. Not ahead of Him where we know all of the answers and take matters into our own hands. We must walk side-by-side next to Him.”
There is some danger in all of this, however. The danger lies is relying too much on ourselves. Must we strive to be like Christ and walk in His spirit? Absolutely! But must we do this without talking to God about it and without letting Him lead us on the journey? Certainly not.
In our daily walk and application of the Holy Sprit’s traits in our life we must remember to rely on the Holy Spirit for direction and always be in a state of prayer to God. It is all too easy to take things out of context and balance and rely on our own understanding (Prov. 3:5-6 KJV) yet that is not the way to becoming more like Jesus.
We must always walk with Jesus. Not behind Him where we fall into the mores of the world. Not ahead of Him where we know all of the answers and take matters into our own hands. We must walk side-by-side next to Him. This is how we can hear His still small voice (I Kings 19:12 KJV) and stay in step with Him. The best way we can do this is by communicating with Him through prayer.
15) For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.
16) Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.Hebrews 4:15-16 (KJV)
When is the time of need? As the great hymn states: “I need thee every hour.” The answer is we need Him all the time. Until we reach heaven we will always be in need of Jesus’ grace and the Holy Spirit in our lives. This is what it means to have a relationship with Christ.
Come and pray to Him. Pray for discipline and self-control. Pray for a sound mind, pray to ward off panic. In so doing you will find grace and help in every time of need.
The Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is out of our control, but God is in control. Its future course is unknown but we know with Jesus we are not to worry about tomorrow. It is causing our lives to change dramatically, but we know a God that never changes.
We can stare at the crisis at hand immobilized with fear, anxiety and panic. Or we can choose another response. We can respond with a sound mind. With a mind that reacts with discipline and self-control. We can view this virus as an unstoppable force, or view it for what it is to the Christian, a trial that we will see ourselves through because God has promised it to be so (Rom. 8:28 KJV, John 16:33 KJV).
Thanks be to God for Him and His Holy Spirit, who always guide us safely through all of the trials of this life. Amen.