Monday, March 16, 2020

Fear From Within Worse Than Fear From Without

Typically I write my blog posts two or more weeks in advance, but with news about the Coronavirus developing so quickly, I thought offering a more immediate view might be helpful. I’m not disputing the urgency and seriousness of the situation that has public institutions, schools, workplaces, sporting events, and many other places shuttering their doors until the emergency passes. (Not to mention the growing shortage of toilet paper – the connection for which is yet to be determined.) But panic definitely is not the right form of response.

Last week my friend, Ken Korkow, a man who has shared godly wisdom with me on numerous occasions, offered the following perspective:
“I have compiled a short history of fears, with my personal greatest concern at the very bottom:

As a kid in grade school, we watched the 1950s animated film, 'Duck and Cover,' which showed us safety techniques for the dangers of Russian nuclear attacks. In case of an attack, the film taught us to be like Bert the Turtle, a cartoon character: duck under tables or desks, or next to walls, and tightly cover the back of our necks and faces.

Then there was the so-called 'Y2K bug,' also called the Year 2000 bug or Millennium Bug, which concerned a problem in the coding of computerized systems that was projected to create havoc in computers and computer networks around the world at the beginning of the year 2000 (in metric measurements, 2K). After more than a year of international alarm, feverish preparations, hoarding and programming corrections, few significant failures occurred in the transition from December 31, 1999 to January 1, 2000.

Since then we have had other much-feared international calamities, including:
2002 – West Nile virus
2004 – SARS (Severe acute respiratory syndrome)
2005 – Bird flu
2009 – Swine flu
2014 – Ebola virus
2016 – Zika virus
2020 – Coronavirus (COVID-19)
Along the way we have added ‘Active Shooter Drills’ in our schools.

But my biggest challenge is not the junk on the outside. It's the junk on my inside. 

Please consider Mark 7:14 - 23: "When He (Jesus) had called all the multitude to Himself, He said to them, 'Hear Me, everyone, and understand: There is nothing that enters a man from outside which can defile him; but the things which come out of him, those are the things that defile a man. If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear!' When He had entered a house away from the crowd, His disciples asked Him concerning the parable. So He said to them, 'Are you thus without understanding also? Do you not perceive that whatever enters a man from outside cannot defile him, because it does not enter his heart but his stomach, and is eliminated, thus purifying all foods?' And He said, 'What comes out of a man, that defiles a man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man.'"

At some point, each one of us is going to die – and then comes eternal judgment. Therefore, my biggest wish/challenge/concern is that I would never sin again. But I continue to do so. Amazingly, God continues to love me anyway. And He loves you, too. A quick understanding of God’s grace can be found in the GRACE acronym: 
God's Riches At Christ's Expense

Paul Tripp, a pastor, author and conference speaker, has nailed it: ‘The stuff outside you, no matter how troubling, is not as dangerous as the mess inside you, and for that you have the grace of Jesus.’ So what is the solution? Marinate in God’s holy Word to know and live His truth and be actively involved in His purposes.”

My friend is not diminishing the seriousness and concern over the Coronavirus. Only weeks ago, most of us have never heard of it; now daily we’re receiving new revelations and warnings about it. But despite its gravity, we dare not lose sight of God’s sovereignty in this and every situation we face. And what we face within us is a far greater challenge than anything outside of us.

As 2 Timothy 1:7 reminds us, For God has not given us a spirit of timidity (fear), but of power and love and discipline.” Another passage provides this assurance: “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10). If we look away from God, fear can overwhelm us. But if we look to Him and trust in Him, fear can’t defeat us.

The Lord was with us in the past, through a variety of dangerous flus and viruses, as well as many other calamities. Thousands of years ago He made this promise: Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). And that promise holds true for the present Coronavirus crisis, and for whatever else will follow. As certainly something will.

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