So, today, we are going to continue our series Prophetic Living, but we’re going to leave the prophet Samuel behind today. Our message today is entitled “Coronavirus – Faith not Fear.” The most recent coronavirus was first reported in Wuhan China on November 17, 2019. The virus began to spread world-wide and on March 11, the World Health Organization declared it a pandemic. A pandemic is defined as a virus that has sustained community-level outbreaks in multiple countries and regions of the world.
By March 13, 144,000 cases had been confirmed in 130 countries with at least 5300 deaths. The symptoms are like a mild flu for most, but for some it is life-threatening, just like the flu. On March 13, President Trump declared a national emergency over the coronavirus and St Louis county declared a state of emergency and banned all meetings of more than 250 people in the county. In response over the last couple of weeks, the stock market has taken about a 20+% decline into bear market territory.
If we could characterize the response of the world to the coronavirus, we would see a lot of panic, confusion, fear and uncertainty. How should we as Christians and as a church react in such a time as this?
2 Timothy 1:7 (ESV) for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.
Those who are not believers are characterized by fear, while believers are to be known for boldness or courage in times of difficulty.
Psalm 112:7 (ESV) He is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the LORD.
As believers, we don’t need to be afraid of bad news. We need to know what is going on, but rather than give in to fear, we must put our trust in the Lord. Yet, God’s Word teaches us to use wisdom in our approach to danger.
James 1:5-6a (ESV) If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith,
We need to use wisdom in responding to this pandemic, on an individual level, as a church family, as a city, state and nation. We must not let our faith become unwise presumption, but be a wise faith. So, today, we are going to look at Psalm 91, a psalm about God’s protection in the midst of danger. My prayer is that this word would be an encouragement to each one of you and that you could use this message to encourage others as well. So, what is …
Psalm 91 has a lot of fantastic promises from God. But like many of God’s promises, these promises are conditional. They do not apply to everyone, only those who are meeting the conditions of the promises. The main conditions of the promises in this psalm are found in the first two verses.
Psalm 91:1 (ESV) He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
This first condition says that we must dwell in God’s shelter. To dwell is to live with God day in and day out. To live with God is not just to call on Him when I’m in trouble, but to have a relationship with God on a daily basis. In the New Testament Jesus used the word abide to describe the same concept. He spoke of abiding in Him as a branch abides in a vine. Having a life-giving relationship with Jesus. When we live with God, verse 1 says that we abide in the Almighty’s shadow. Notice the two names of God used in this verse, Most High and Almighty. There is no power higher than the Most High. There is no force stronger than the Almighty. So, we must live close to God, the Most High. That is the first condition of the promises of Psalm 91. Secondly, we must …
Psalm 91:2 (ESV) I will say to the LORD, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”
Verse two talks about speaking the Lord and saying first of all that God is the one who protects me. These words of faith come from a heart that is trusting in God. Our words not only reflect what is in our hearts, they also help our hearts trust. If you speak words of fear, they reveal the fear in your heart and reinforce that fear. Not only should we speak faith-filled words to God, we can speak these same words to ourselves and to others. When we are tempted to fear, and fear is a temptation, we must learn to speak these kind of words of faith and trust in God.
How do we dwell in God’s presence and learn to speak words of faith? The most important way is to simply immerse yourself daily in the word of God. I would encourage you to read Psalm 91 on a daily basis this week and throughout this coronavirus crisis. As you do, you will prepare yourself, not only to see God’s protection, but also to be a witness to others who are fearful and seeking help. When we meet and grow in these two conditions, we can claim the following promises of God.
We’re going to look at two aspects of God as we go through this Psalm. The first aspect of God’s help is His deliverance. God as a deliverer means that He will save or deliver you from something that has already attacked or bound you. Something that is already put you in serious peril.
Psalm 91:3-4 (ESV) For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.
The snare of the fowler is some type of trap or net that catches birds unawares. A deadly pestilence or disease is like a fowler’s trap. You can get caught in it from simply going about life and suddenly, you have a painful or deadly disease. Wisdom tells us to see a doctor, but God is the one who heals and delivers. God is the one who heals even is the doctor prescribes a pill and God is the one who heals when the doctor has no explanation for the miracle that has happened. Once you are delivered, God protects you from further attacks as an eagle covers its eaglets. God can and does deliver people from COVID-19, the coronavirus disease.
Psalm 91:5-6 (ESV) You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness, nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.
When something is dangerous or deadly, the natural human tendency is to fear it. This verse clearly teaches that those who are living with God and speaking words of faith do not need to, should not fear anything in the night or during the day, including the pestilence of the coronavirus.
Psalm 91:7 (ESV) A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you.
When the fear is just from bad news, it is one thing, but when you hear and see people succumbing to something deadly, it is even harder not to fear. Yet, verse 7 is clear, even if you see a thousand or ten thousand succumbing to a disease, God is able to deliver you from being afraid. He is able to keep you safe as you put your trust in Him. And when it is your time to go be with Him, He will take you to your heavenly mansion.
Our message title included the phrase Faith not Fear. The two are really mutually exclusive. When you are afraid of something, you can’t trust God to deliver you from it. But when you trust God, He can deliver you from fear. If you contract coronavirus, God can deliver you, as you put your trust in Him. Balance your intake of the news with daily doses of prayer and God’s Word. If you begin to struggle with fear or worry, ask someone to pray with you for God to set you free from that fear. God is your deliverer.
Psalm 91:9 (ESV) Because you have made the LORD your dwelling place— the Most High, who is my refuge—
Verse 9 reminds us of what we need to do to have the next promises fulfilled. The next verses that we’re going to be looking at are for those who have made the Lord their dwelling place. Who take refuge in the Most High. For those …
Psalm 91:10 (ESV) no evil shall be allowed to befall you, no plague come near your tent.
In this section of the psalm, we move from being delivered from something that is attacking or has bound us, to being protected. In this message, we’re focusing on disease and the coronavirus in particular, but there are many kinds of attacks. All disease is at the fundamental level, an attack of evil from the evil one Satan. No disease or illness is caused by God. So, when we take our refuge in God, He can protect us from evil and plagues, such as the coronavirus. Trust God to protect you and your loved ones and our church family. How does God offer protection?
Psalm 91:11 (ESV) For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.
God has myriads of angels under his command. One of the tasks of angels is to protect believers. Verse 11 says that for those who abide in Him, God will instruct angels to guard you against every attack of the enemy. Normally we can’t see angels with our physical eyes, but they are all around us. I’m sure that there are many in this very room. Trust God to be your refuge.
When Satan tempted Jesus, he used verses 11-12 of Psalm 91. He took Jesus to the pinnacle of the temple and tempted Jesus to jump, saying that according to Psalm 91, the angels would protect Him. Jesus resisted that temptation by saying that you shouldn’t test God. This temptation of Jesus could be referred to as the sin of presumption, which some people are deceived to think of as faith. The sin of presumption says that since God can protect me, since God can heal me, I don’t need to see a doctor, I don’t need to take any wise precautions, because God will take care of me and my family. Godly wisdom is to take reasonable precautions, to use the medicine and doctors that God has blessed us with, believing that God is the one who ultimately heals. But He can heal in many different ways. God is our refuge as we trust Him and use godly wisdom in our lives.
This psalm ends with two additional responsibilities of the believer in order to receive God’s promises. We must …
Psalm 91:14 (ESV) “Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows my name.
We must hold fast to God in love. What this means is that we must love God alone. We must have no other loves, no other idols. We must seek first His kingdom, not anyone else’s kingdom, not our own kingdom. When we do that, we have a reiteration of the two promises that we’ve been talking about in points 2 and 3. God will deliver or rescue those who have fallen into the trap of the enemy. Let’s be clear, you can fall into having the coronavirus through no fault or sin of your own. This is true of many diseases and illnesses. Although disease can be the result of sin, oftentimes it is simply the result of living in a fallen world. Not only can God deliver His children, He can protect them as well. The last condition of these promises if that the believer knows God’s name. This is simply another way of saying that the believer knows God intimately. When we love God alone, when we know His name, we will …
Psalm 91:15-16 (ESV) When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.”
When we’re in trouble, we must call out to God. Even though we use wisdom with doctors, hospitals and medicine, we put our ultimate trust in God for healing. God promises to answer those who call on Him, to rescue them and honor those who love Him.
On a practical level regarding the coronavirus, we need to respect the guidance of the government authorities that God has put over us. Currently, there are no prohibitions against us meeting together, so we will continue to do so. Various larger events of the Assemblies of God have been cancelled recently. Take the standard precautions of washing your hands often. We would recommend not coming to church if you are ill with something that could be a cold, flu or coronavirus. Let us know that you’re ill through text, email or phone so we can pray for you. Our weekly messages are recorded as videos and available on our website, Youtube channel or Facebook. If church is cancelled due to coronavirus, we will continue to record weekly messages and let you know about them. As we take seriously our responsibilities and trust God, He will take care of us.
Although this coronavirus has taken us all by surprise, it didn’t take God by surprise. Although He didn’t cause this, He is able to turn it for good for those who love Him. He is able to deliver and protect us from both the disease and from fear of it. As we walk in faith not fear, God will give us opportunities to reach out to others with the good news of Jesus’ power. God is our deliverer and our refuge. He wants us to learn to speak words of faith, to Him, to ourselves and to others. May God use this time to turn more people to Himself as we pray.