I recently read an article of a pastor who had died from COVID-19. The article pointed out that the pastor was noted for having previously taken to Facebook deriding the virus as a hoax. As I later contemplated writing about that article, it seemed appropriate to revisit it. Going back to my original online source, I came across so many similar stories that I gave up my search. Numerous pastors have died after either ridiculing COVID-19 or asserting their faith over it. The articles got me to think on how people of faith should properly integrate faith and science. I wonder if we are enticing the media into ridiculing us and our faith. When we, in the name of faith, make outlandishly bold assertions in defiance of reality, which prove to be false, we discredit ourselves. Consequently, people don’t take our prophetic voice seriously.
Many of us don’t actually understand faith. For too many, faith is a matter of wishing hard enough and saying, “I believe.” Others believe they manifest faith when they speak to (or yell at) inanimate things in an effort to eradicate them in the name of Jesus. But what is faith? When does faith work and when doesn’t it? When does God defy reality in our favor and when does He not? If only we could figure this out, we could be more precise in our use of faith.
Faith is a bold trust in the specific sayings of God. It is based on clarity of understanding coupled with an implicit trust in God. Faith is not a bombastic vocalization of our wishes couched in religious verbiage, no matter how desperately we desire a thing. Faith trusts God and serves God. When we figure out that God is not a Genie and that He owes us nothing, we begin to be a little more cautious about our pronouncements. Faith works where it aligns with God. Faith fails when it is out of alignment with God’s will. God acts in response to our faith aligning with His will.
Many Christians don’t realize that faith requires management. While it is true that faith in Jesus empowers us, I wonder if we’re misusing that power when we take it upon ourselves to defy reality. Remember the seven sons of Sceva (Acts 19:13-17).
Consider that after Jesus’ baptism, He went out into the deserted areas where He was tempted by Satan. Each temptation began with the words, “If you are the son of God…” (Matthew 4 and Luke 4). Satan sought to bait Jesus into trying to prove Himself. Yet, Jesus refused to take the bait. Not until Jesus stood before the Jewish high priest, who sought to kill Him, did Jesus assert Himself as the Son of God. I point this out because I believe many Christians are trying to prove themselves as spiritual people by making bold faith assertions that they’ve not been invited to make. We misapply the word of God when we assert an air of spiritual superiority. When we do so, we essentially say to the world, “We’ve got special powers because we’re Christians.” When those powers fail us, it makes the world more cynical about us and our God.
God allows the disappointments in our prayer lives in order to inspire spiritual maturity in us. It is in understanding the limits of safety that we learn to master our situations. When we know what God will and won’t do, then we can practice our faith effectively. What many Christians would like to believe is faith, turns out to be wishful thinking.
After a few disappointments, the easy out is to give up on faith. Yet, at some point we’ve all experienced a miracle. The life of Christians bear evidence of divine intervention. So, we live between the amazement of God in action and the disappointment of His inaction. The tension can be infuriating. How are we supposed to be bold in faith when we don’t know what God will or won’t do for us? We can have confidence in God, but not necessarily in our wish lists for God.
When God makes a statement, we can be sure of it. When we make a bold request, there are no guarantees. As Christians, we are not entitled to spiritual arrogance.
So how should our faith relate to COVID-19? Firstly, our faith should keep us from panicking about what may happen to us. When we are in tune with God’s will, we understand that our lives serve His purpose and glory. Therefore, if it is in God’s interest that we die, by faith we do so joyfully and calmly. If it is God’s desire that He use us to manifest His healing power, then we take on the suffering as a privilege to show the greatness of our God. If God is best served by our not being infected, then we humbly and gratefully accept the privilege of that divine choice.
Secondly, we acknowledge the truth and limits of science. That means we pay attention to what the scientists are saying about the virus. We learn all that we can about it from the most reliable sources we can find. We distinguish between what may be factual and what may be disinformation.
Thirdly, we integrate what God has already taught us about science and healthful living. That means we do things to enhance our body’s immunity. In light of the impact of COVID-19 on our lungs, we engage in cardio and breathing exercises. We also practice the NEWSTART (nutrition, exercise, water, sunlight, temperance, fresh air, rest and trust in God) lifestyle.
There is no guarantee that we won’t contract COVID-19. There is an almost certain guarantee that we will die if Jesus does not return in this century. But there is a most certain guarantee that whether we are alive or dead when He comes, we will have eternal life if we have put our trust in Him and surrendered our lives to Him. In the meantime, let’s not make claims that God did not instruct us to make. Let’s not try to prove God’s power by seeking to defy the scientific community on coronavirus. Let us practice healthy living and let our lives make whatever statement God would have us make.