And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. 11And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death (Rev. 12:11, ESV).
This morning I got in my car to come to my office; my radio came on when I started my car. I was not interested in listening to the radio just then so I immediately turned the sound down. The only thing that I heard was a financial guru advertising his business and radio program, but he made this statement in the short time the sound was on: “… the most important thing is your health…” I almost shouted back to him, “No it’s not!” My service to Jesus is more important than my health. If I lose my health in the process of serving Him, it is what I was created to do.
Right now, the world is paralyzed by the fear that we will come down with a virus (which, last I saw, 98.5% of people survive). It has closed down businesses and, amazingly, churches. Our fear is mortgaging the futures of our children and grandchildren. I am not wanting anyone to be afflicted with this virus, and I have always tried to practice good hygiene, but there are worse things than getting sick — like hearing the Savior say, “I never knew you…” The true Church has in this day the opportunity to highlight what really is most important, but our fears are keeping us from it. Some try to justify our failure to prioritize this by telling us that social distancing is the fulfilling of Jesus’ command to “Love your neighbor.” But the greatest expression of loving our neighbor is to fear God, not a virus that He has told us plainly not to fear (Ps 91:1-6).
Our fear that paralyzes us because our health may be compromised does a disservice to the countless martyrs who have stood obediently in the face of danger. Look up the story of Polycarp, who was told to recant or he would be burned at the stake, but said “For 83 years I have served my Lord, I will not deny Him now.” Read the stories in Fox’s Book of Martyrs, of those who sacrificed their health — to the point of losing their lives — for the testimony of Jesus. What if Jim Eliot and his four companions had not endangered their lives to reach the warlike tribe of Ecuadorian natives known as the Aucas in 1956? Many would not worship at Jesus’ throne if “the most important thing was their health.” Our denomination, the Christian & Missionary Alliance, has a rich heritage of sacrifice for the Gospel of Christ. Thirty-six of our missionaries lost their lives in China’s Boxer Rebellion at the turn of the Twentieth Century. Many more suffered the loss of their health in internment camps during WWII. The Vietnam War brought more danger to the health and safety of our missionaries.
“The war kept worsening. By 1967 soldiers were dying on both sides at the rate of a thousand a week. The highland cities of Dalat, Pleiku, Kontum and Banmethuot with concentrations of missionaries and churches, were surrounded by roving Communist armies. Yet not a single missionary had left because of the danger” (Hefley, By Their Blood,124-125, emphasis added).
The Church in this generation needs to stand before a fearful, unbelieving world with faith in the God who told us countless times not to fear. We need to call attention to a Savior who told us that HE would protect us. We need to confess our sins as a nation and boldly call — even our government — to acknowledge that the God we serve has “created all things, visible and invisible” (Col 1:16). If we don’t bow before Him NOW when we are powerless to stop this death, we never will. And if we cower in fear like the world around us, it will demonstrate that we are not of the same character as those who have served Christ before us.
Plagues down through history have run their course, but the current fearful response is demonstrating that most in this nation — perhaps even many in the Church — are looking to government and not to Jesus for deliverance.