Pastor Michael Bowman
In the midst of a global pandemic, there are many who will tell you not to fear. They’re wrong. You need to fear. You need to fear much more than you currently do. It’s true that you don’t need to fear a virus, but you do need to fear God. This isn’t a “Jesus Juke”. This is actually the greatest need at a time like this.
Fear is something that is directed at something that has power or control over you. You fear something that is in charge of the situation, something that can do with you as it pleases. Moments like this show us how many things we fear. We fear sickness and plague. Despite our amazing advancements in medicine, we aren’t able to halt a virus like Covid-19 soon enough to keep everyone safe. We fear the suffering that a virus like this could cause. We fear death. We fear running out of food or modern conveniences like toilet paper. We fear economic depression.
If you fear these things, it means that they have power over you and they control how you choose to live. But if you fear any of these things then you should always be afraid. This has all happened before and will likely happen again. Plague, suffering, lack, chaos, and death is all a regular part of life in a fallen world. So why start fearing now? We are afraid now because our normal means of distraction aren’t working. Our normal means of alleviating the fear can’t fix it. Our normal ways of pretending that we don’t have to fear have been taken away. Now wherever you turn, there are more reminders of how bad things are getting out there.
The answer to fear is not to pretend it doesn’t exist or to ignore it. There is a good reason to fear viruses and death if this world is all there is. The solution to our fear is not to fear less, but to fear God more. We need to direct our fear properly. This is why we have the often repeated command in scripture to “Fear God.” “And the LORD commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the LORD our God, for our good always, that he might preserve us alive, as we are this day” (Deut. 6:24). It’s at times like this that we need to rediscover the fear of God.
Pop Evangelicalism would like to turn the fear of God into respect. It really does include respect. If you were standing before a hungry lion there would be a kind of respect, but it’s not without fear. When God spoke to Job from the whirlwind, I’m sure Job had some respect for the sight, but his knees were probably shaking as well. God has complete control over you and your life. You couldn’t breathe without him. Your heart wouldn’t beat without him. Yes, men can kill your body, but you should fear the one that can destroy both your body and soul in hell.
Outside of Christ, God should terrify you. Inside of Christ the fear doesn’t go away but it becomes the fear of a son for his father. We have not been given a Spirit of fear (2 Tim. 1:7). This is one of those Biblical truths that makes sense from the inside. You can’t see it apart from faith. In death there is life. In suffering there is joy. To be a slave to Christ is to find freedom. To fear God is to remove all other fear. True knowledge and wisdom doesn’t even start apart from that fear (Prov. 1:7).
Obviously, it’s somewhat provocative to say in a time like this that you should fear more. I’m not simply trying to be provocative. This is actually one of our greatest needs. God often shakes the earth to show what is truly stable and what remains (Heb. 12:26-28). God is a consuming fire and when he consumes, the ultimate purpose is not destruction and condemnation but renewal and salvation. To fear God at a time like this is to recognize that he is in total control, he is using even this pandemic for his ends, and we should turn to him in trusting faith. We don’t know why he is shaking, why he is sending such a plague, but we should know that he is in control and thus the only one to be feared.
*This is the second article in a series that will hopefully be helpful in shepherding our church through this season that God has placed us in as a people seeking peace in pandemic.