As of the 18th of March, we have been suddenly plunged into a frightening new reality. If the current political instability was not enough to scare us, there is now a restricted movement order that changes the very way of life for all of us. The 24 hour news cycle on the television and social media just been an unending stream of bad news conjuring up the spectre of fear. Fear exposes the worst in people. In Australia ,CNN showed long lines of people desperately fighting over toilet paper whilst at the same time in the US there were long lines for the purchase of guns revealing the different proclivities of each nation. Fear reveals racial prejudice evidenced by the assault on ethnic Chinese in Western countries fuelled in part by a reckless American President referring to it as the “ Chinese” virus. This is kind of paranoia is a throw back to the Middle Ages during the Black Plague, when it was the Jews who were vilified as well as black cats! In fact Pope Gregory IX had apparently proclaimed that the black cat was an incarnation of Satan and issued a death warrant that resulted in the decimation of the hapless felines all over the empire. One can imagine the impact of that when it was fleas off the back of rats which were the cause of the plague. Our black cats of today are now the millions of hapless bats vilified as the source of the virus but as in the CNN article on 19 March 2020 by Nick Paton pointed out,“the bats are not to blame we are”. The destruction of their natural habitats degraded their immune systems allowing infections to increase and to be excreted -- to be shed and passed to humans in a phenomenon known as zoonotic spillover. The key to any crisis is therefore the correct human response. Not in paranoia but a rational understanding of fear and how to face it head on.
For the Christian fear is not seen as an anomaly or a deficit of faith. Courage is not the absence f fear but our response to the presence of fear. What this present crisis needs to do in our lives is to solidify our faith and make it a daily reality rather than just a Sunday ritual which has all but evaporated with the restricted movement order. Psalm 3 is a good place to begin our journey in to learning to pray our fears
Psalm 3: 1 O LORD, how many are myfoes! Many are rising against me; 2 many are saying of my soul, “There is no salvation for him in God. Selah
In the opening verse, King David addresses his fears towards the only one who could save him, His God. Historically this psalm was written when David was overthrown by his very own son Absalom.
3 But you, O LORDa, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head.
This is the most powerful statement of faith here. A military metaphor appropriate for his embattled situation. A contemporary translation that would be more relevant to us would be to say
3 But you, O LORD, are a face mask about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head.
A shield or in our case a face mask, does not prevent one’s enemies from continuing their assault. I suspect many of us secretly harbour convictions that our cries for help will be met with the removal of attacks or of the dangers we face. It never did in David’s case nor will it in ours as well. However the attacks will not cut us off from the security of God’s love. The shield or the face mask provides the the cover for us to press on the attack upon the enemy so we will not be paralysed with fear.
Take a look at the General Joab who rallies his troops and gives them instructions on tactics in his up coming battle against the Syrians.
2 Sam 10: 12 Be of good courage, and let us be courageous for our people, and for the cities of our God, and may the LORD do what seems good to him.”
His faith is in God and the outcome is also left to Him. Never the less he charges into battle confident that he is covered by the shield of God’s love, that he is never far away from the protection and care of God.
How about Esther, when she risked her life in an unauthorised approach the King of Persia to intercede for the people of Israel in Esther 4:16b she said, “Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish.”
Each of these situations describes what happens when God is our shield. There is boldness because He is in control and His love surrounds us.
Hence the restricted movement order is not to be seen as the signal to put our spiritual lives on hold but an invitation to deepen our experience of Him over the next few months. For years, our default excuse was that there was not enough time, too much to do at work or too many programs in our lives. The Lord ,with one fell swoop has brushed away all those excuses and restored to us the most precious commodity of life which is time. Each of us has been allocated a definitive amount of it for which we are accountable. We don’t normally see it because time has been buried under our tight schedules as we live one event to another. Now is the time to be still and know that He is God and to feel that shield all around us. The time we now have on our hands must not only be used reconnect digitally but spiritually, delving into the Word. Taking up an on line bible study. Participate in the discipleship program Gamma on line where we will be studying the Sermon on the Mount from the first week of April. Whilst others will come out on the other end with months of wasted time languishing at home we should come out of it restored, reinvigorated by the Spirit. Each Gamma lesson will be available to view the video on line and participate in the video conferencing discussion with fellow believers. The answers to discussion questions will also be provided on line. There should be virtually no one in church who will be able to say they had no time.
The restricted order should spur us to new and innovative way to reach out with the gospel. The rest of the world is now forced into an on line existence like never before in the history of the world. With each movement of history the church has always met the challenge and always innovated. Whilst our neighbours wrestle with the intricacies of e-commerce we should be grappling with e-evangelism. On line zoom meetings expand our reach beyond our national borders. Placing our own testimonies and ideas of how the gospel impacts lives on line across the globe. We can use the time to compose new worship music or write new e books or collaborate on putting up new Christian portals that will reach into new areas for the gospel. If God is our shield ...lets get on with new boldness. Look at how David writes in verse,
7 Arise, O LORD! Save me, O my God! For you strike all my enemies on the cheek; you break the teeth of the wicked.
He is not cowering behind a shield he is expecting to use the shield to go on the offensive.