Robin J Johnson
Welcome to the first of a two part series. This is an attempt to address certain aspects of some of the things we face and have to deal with, living in our present circumstances. It is not possible to comment on everything or completely cover each topic below. I am neither a qualified medical practitioner or hold a science degree or am I a member of a political party. I am simply a disciple of Jesus Christ, whom I have served constantly for over 50 years.
My hope is to offer some balanced insight into the differing information, opinions and contentions we are all presently facing. This article stems from our own journey over the past year and a half and the numerous conversations and questions from friends, family, ministry partners and associates, at home and abroad, seeking help and guidance. The plan is to manoeuvre down a stable pathway of truth; to seek an effective way forward through these challenging times and walk down a path, which is both realistic and optimistic, is faith based, tempered with Kingdom wisdom and discernment.
Teach a wise man what is right and he’ll grow even wiser. Instruct the lovers of God and they’ll learn even more. Proverbs 9:9 (TPT)
One thing on many people’s lips is, “I just want to know the truth.” That is true not only when it pertains to discerning a biblical position, but particularly when seeking information on health advice and vaccines. The latter are discussed in parts two and three. You may not agree with some or anything at all of what is written herein. My request is, please accept this in the spirit it is written; to build up, edify and encourage.
Finally, the underlaying premise is my surrender to and absolute trust in God our Saviour; to seek first His Kingdom, to be devoted to prayer, founded on His Word, saturated with His Spirit and unrelenting in proclaiming His Gospel.
A Worldwide Pandemic
Since early 2020 the world has been in the grip of a pandemic caused by a coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) known as COVID-19 or simply, Covid. It is a particular fast spreading virus that was first identified in China (2019) and spread quickly after what seems to have been an accidental escape of the virus from a laboratory where scientific experiments had been taking place (not conclusively proven, but a widely held view).
To begin, we have to acknowledge we are in the midst of a real and serious health crisis. Whatever you believe about its origin, the why and how of the virus, nevertheless there is a real problem. Around the world millions have died, some are left with severe prolonged illness and also thankfully millions have fully recovered. Loved ones have tragically passed away. Doctors and nurses in hospitals and medical facilities all over the world must be greatly applauded. They have time and time again gone far above and beyond in their dedication and sacrifice, in their attempts to aid and comfort the sick and support the dying.
We all long and pray for a better and safer world in the days ahead.
There is a future
Let me also say from the outset that this coronavirus pandemic will come to an end. There will be a return to normal, not ‘covid-normal’ as many like to say, but normal life. The challenge for all of us is the present and the next little while as we confront, navigate and live through all the challenges, which dealing with this virus presents.
People all over the world are praying for this cursed, demonic disease to shrivel up and completely die out.
Most importantly it is vital that we do not lose sight of the main thing. Keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrew 12:2) and be His witness (Acts 1:8). Let us not become so tied up with, obsessed by and overcome with the enormous amount of information and data around, that we fail to keep sight of the one most important thing in our life, the faith we have in our Saviour Jesus Christ. We can be a voice of hope in troubled times, a guiding light in the darkness, a pervader of good works that bring glory to our heavenly Father.
Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. Matthew 5:16
Guard your hearts and minds
There is an abundance of material regarding COVID-19 and the ensuing vaccines, information that is both helpful and not so helpful. Much is based on scientific and medical research, yet still there are differing opinions, conflicting evidence from among the science experts and health communities. Then there is the other material, which is imaginative, fanciful, misleading and in cases straight out fear mongering and dangerous. There’s no wonder that for many there is so much confusion and conflict with all the widely distributed information and misinformation.
There is an old saying, “Ignorance is bliss.” Not sure about that, because there is a more ancient saying directed at God’s people;
My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Hosea 4:6
So who or what do we believe is certainly the challenge facing us all. Another important aspect we need to adhere too is, do not let the confusion and conflict become internalised within us or allow it to impact negatively on and/or destroy our relationships, especially among our family or friends.
So above all, guard the affections of your heart, for they affect all that you are. Pay attention to the welfare of your innermost being, for from there flows the wellspring of life. Proverbs 4:23 (TPT)
I am hearing so many sad situations of conflict, hurtful and foolish words spoken by non-believers and believers alike. People are polarising with bitter divisions forming. Families are divided over Covid realities and vaccines, friends separating themselves, arguments over end-time predictions, etc. The enemies plan is to rob, steal and destroy (John 10:10). We must not allow ourselves to be used by Him in any way, shape or form.
Protecting our relationships, especially when it comes to family and also friendships, is most important!
Hatred keeps old quarrels alive, but love draws a veil over every insult and finds a way to make sin disappear. Proverbs 10:12 (TPT)
Above all, constantly echo God’s intense love for one another, for love will be a canopy over a multitude of sins. 1 Peter 4:8 (TPT)
Briefly, let me offer this (as a father of 5 wonderful adult children and 15 grandchildren), that when speaking to children keep the information age appropriate. These are difficult times for all. Take great care not to cause or add to any fear by involving them in adult conversations and viewing news services. Neither let your frustration, upset and anger, if you have some, overflow to your children. Their mental health is important and the physical isolation from friends and wider family members can cause stress and upset. How we as parents handle this, our reactions and responses play a big part in the children’s response. They do observe our behaviour and reactions. Wisdom tells us “do not be eager in your heart to be angry” (Ecclesiastes 7:9). Self control is a great commodity in these days, for all of us.
In the fear of the LORD there is strong confidence, and his children will have refuge. Proverbs 14:26
I guess the biggest challenge has been the home online schooling of children when schools have been closed. Hopefully we are now coming out of those days. Do not freeze frame on the moment. Look to the future and believe in the resilience of your children. With your help and guidance, along with their teacher’s support, they will catch up (if any learning has been effected). It has always been the parent’s ultimate responsibility to educate their own children. Whether you choose a State system or private or homeschool, parents have the final say with their children’s education. The ‘State’ does not own our children.
Sifting through the information
Though there is only one pandemic, we face the challenge of discerning between volumes of information and misinformation. From medical advice, government regulations and actions, theories around end-times and what is an appropriate biblical response, to some or all of the above. In part one the focus is on a biblical foundation and response, the area which I am most familiar, having a certain knowledge and credentials that should allow me to speak with some authority. However, I am happy to leave the reader to ultimately decided on that claim.
On the Rock — Wisdom from Above
As with all the challenges and conflicts in life we need a balanced and sound biblical foundation on which to present our arguments. The Bible does not speak specifically of Covid (and neither many other things). Nevertheless, our way forward must be grounded on the Rock of Christ and His Word;
- Build on truth without deviating
- Undergirded with godly wisdom
- Adhere to the fundamental values and principles of the Kingdom of God “righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17).
But the wisdom from above is always pure, filled with peace, considerate and teachable. It is filled with love and never displays prejudice or hypocrisy in any form 18 and it always bears the beautiful harvest of righteousness! Good seeds of wisdom’s fruit will be planted with peaceful acts by those who cherish making peace. James 3:17-18 (TPT)
There is a plethora of opinions; emotional, unsubstantiated claims and falsehoods along with numerous conspiracy theories. Many have shared their fantasies, some even daring to claim God as their source (dubious prophecies and revelations). These are unhelpful while adding to the confusion, which can be damaging, especially for naive, weak, immature or vulnerable believers. Neither is silence an appropriate response. A lack of advice has left a vacuum into which many were drawn grappling with misinformation and various conspiracy theories, etc. On the other hand, thank God for the wise and balanced views presented by numerous Christian leaders who have the confidence to speak, though also knowing they could be open to misunderstanding and criticism.
If there ever was a day when we needed discernment it is certainly today. We’ve all been flooded with emails, messages, etc, forwarded by well intentioned folk, though often not very discerning. Many of the originals have come from dubious sources, new age devotees and others who are aligned with anti-establishment anarchist type groups.
Then there are the patriots who mix Christian views with their patriotism. Patriotism is not necessarily wrong. Pride in one’s nation is commendable, though it can at times be misguided and not at all appropriate when it clashes with the Kingdom of God. As believers we must understand our true citizenship.
For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; Philippians 3:20
“I love my country and am glad to have been born an American, but I will never allow my love for my country to become an article of faith. I belong to the kingdom of God. America is a place on a map. The kingdom of God is an eternal state of being in which the rule and reign of God are realised. Therein lies my allegiance. When patriotism becomes an item of faith, hatred is birthed, and people always get hurt.” (R Loren Sandford — Sadly Loren went to be with the Lord in September 2021)
We learn to be discerning by reading and feeding on God’s Word. The Bible refers to two specifics. One is a manifestation of the Spirit, a gift of discernment (1 Corinthians 12:10), the other is through maturing as a follower of Jesus Christ feeding from His Word (Hebrews 5:14). A topic that needs much more attention at another time.
People will hold different opinions. We must seek realistic, balanced and substantiated facts whenever possible. As believers our own position must be founded on biblical wisdom and Kingdom absolutes. We shouldn’t fear open, robust and respectful debate. It is always healthy.
It takes a grinding wheel to sharpen a blade, and so a friendly argument can sharpen a man. Proverbs 27:17 (TPT)
In our pursuit for answers we must be willing to listen, learn, change our opinion (if necessary) and even possibly disagree, yet agreeably and peacefully. Debate with one another must be respectful, the door of communication needs to be kept open and most importantly be governed by “speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 3:15). Simply silencing someone who has a different opinion or criticising them is not appropriate. Something that is obviously dangerous and life threatening should certainly be dealt with appropriately.
And remind them to never tear down anyone with their words or quarrel, but instead be considerate, humble, and courteous to everyone. Titus 3:2 (TPT)
In this climate of fear, suspicion and the unknown, fanciful theories abound. Claims of globalists takeovers, depopulation, one world government, the antichrist, the beast and his mark, spread rapidly throughout the Christian communities. Recently I was told (again) that the rapture is eminent. These imaginations are unfruitful, misleading, often divisive and fear producing, especially for young and undiscerning believers. My simple advice is, ignore the fictions and keep your attention on that which edifies and builds up; saturate yourself in and with the Word of God and the Holy Spirit.
So keep your thoughts continually fixed on all that is authentic and real, honorable and admirable, beautiful and respectful, pure and holy, merciful and kind. And fasten your thoughts on every glorious work of God, praising him always. Philippians 4:8 (TPT)
Deception commonly runs close beside the truth, thereby being deceptive, misleading and causes people to stumble. Those who are young or immature in their faith or lack discernment are often the most vulnerable. Though it is often surprising to see different ones, those considered mature, who should know better, caught up and chasing questionable theories. We all love a mystery. It is well known that evangelical Christians have a high propensity to chase after and believe conspiracy theories. The lack of sound and balanced biblical teaching can be one reason for that.
The Holy Spirit has explicitly revealed: At the end of this age, many will depart from the true faith one after another, devoting themselves to spirits of deception and following demon-inspired revelations and theories. 1 Timothy 4:1 (TPT)
We need to stand and declare, “Fear will not triumph over me!”
At the beginning of this pandemic I, along with others, warned that fear would be a greater threat than this virus. Unfortunately that has been proven to be right. So much of what is taking place today is fear driven. We cannot be careless, we need to be sensible, but we cannot let fear dictate the way we live.
I believe the term “fear not” (or its equivalent) appears in the Bible 365 times. So we are well covered (except for a leap year when we may have one day of trembling, I jest).
We have an antidote to fear; living surrendered to and having faith in our God.
Keep trusting in the Lord and do what is right in his eyes. Fix your heart on the promises of God and you will be secure, feasting on his faithfulness. Psalms 37:3 (TPT)
Fear always partners with a lie.
Lies come in various forms. There is the straight up blatant lie. Then there are others, more subtle, misinformation or misrepresentation or half truths. Someone suggested that statistics should also be listed, probably because they can be easily manipulated to suit. There is also a new fear, FOMO. I admit when I first saw this acronym (on a TV add) I had no idea what it was. After seeing it several times I finally asked my wife what it meant (as all good husbands do) and she informed me, FOMO the ‘Fear Of Missing Out’. I didn’t even realise it existed. Though initially it was supposed to be a clever ad campaign, for many it has now become a real thing.
Truth counteracts the lie and therefore eliminates fear.
Those who struggle with fear usually either don’t know the truth or misunderstand it or misapply it. When Paul speaks about spiritual warfare he uses the illustration of wearing armour. He then lists the armour of God (Ephesians 6:11). The first piece listed is, “Put on truth as a belt to strengthen you to stand in triumph” (6:14 TPT). In a series on spiritual warfare, Prepared for War — Surviving the Battle, I unpack this in some detail. We cannot always avoid fear, but we can certainly learn to rise above it. Acting boldly is not about the absence of fear, but pressing on regardless of fear or intimidation.
Beware the antichrist or not
I am always a little dismayed that certain talk about antichrist and end-time events generates fear and discomfort for some believers. Whether it is the intent or not of the proponents teaching things regarding antichrist, often people’s response is unease. Let us be advocates of hope, not fear.
Now may God, the inspiration and fountain of hope, fill you to overflowing with uncontainable joy and perfect peace as you trust in him. And may the power of the Holy Spirit continually surround your life with his super-abundance until you radiate with hope! Romans 15:13 (TPT)
This is not the time now to elaborate on end-times, but neither wanting to neglect it completely, please consider the following brief examination. The term “antichrist” is used only four times in the New Testament, all by the apostle John. Three times in his first letter, once in his second. John states that there are “many antichrists” (1 John 2:18) and he speaks of the “spirit of antichrist” which “is already active in the world” (1 John4:3). Without doubt it is easy to identify this “spirit of antichrist” at work in the world today. It is not just confined to the present crisis. However, any fear one may have considering that is quickly dispelled by the good news which John follows with.
Little children, you can be certain that you belong to God and have conquered them, for the One who is living in you is far greater than the one who is in the world. 1 John 4:4 (TPT)
Then there is the contention over the “mark of the beast” (Revelation 13:18). This is a metaphor, not a literal mark, though some would want us to believe otherwise. Over previous years I have heard of the onset of the “mark of the beast” at least three or four times.
“There is no need to insist on a physical mark, anymore than the seal on the forehead of God’s slaves (Rev 7:3 & 14 see also 14:1) or the names written on the victorious Philadelphian believers (Rev 3:12) would denote a visible, physical mark.” (Jon K. Newton – A Pentecostal Commentary on REVELATION)
These days the experimentation of an electronic devise (implanted chip) for personal identification stirs those theories. I’m not denying that this could possibly happen, but I am confident it is not the “mark”. I and every other Spirit filled believer already have the ‘seal’ of God our Saviour within (Ephesians 1:13). We have been given eternal life and Jesus said, “No one has the power to snatch them out of my hands.” (John 10:28 TPT)
Conclusion – Part 1
When you sit enthroned under the shadow of Shaddai, you are hidden in the strength of God Most High. 2 He’s the hope that holds me and the Stronghold to shelter me, the only God for me, and my great confidence. 3 He will rescue you from every hidden trap of the enemy, and he will protect you from false accusation and any deadly curse. Psalms 91:1-3 (TPT)
At the beginning of the pandemic, Psalm 91 appeared everywhere. It was the promise on everyone’s lips. It appears (to me) that Psalm 91, may have disappeared from view, is rarely spoken of? What has changed? “Covid, Covid, Covid” is all that we hear. Does every conversation have to revolve around this? Yes, it is important to be informed. But obsessed? I don’t think so! Have we stopped living our lives in the light of eternity and become so focused on the now? Solely focused on us?
“If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this.” (C. S. Lewis)
The Word of God has not changed, the Lord has not changed.
Let us not get caught up in all noise and distractions and lose sight of the fact that our God, the Almighty God, reigns, unchanging and immovable.
For I, the LORD, do not change; Malachi 3:6
The LORD has no intention of giving up or handing over this world to any other rule, dominion or power. The LORD God has the power, the glory, the dominion and the rule, His Kingdom is unshakeable and immovable.
He reduces rulers to nothing and makes the elite of the earth as nothing at all. Isaiah 40:23 (TPT)
Let us remain stedfast with our eyes fixed on Jesus (Hebrews 12:1), seeking His Kingdom (Matthew 6:33). We started our journey trusting in Him and in His promises, so let us holdfast and come through undamaged. We will finish stronger and bolder as we submit ourselves to the Spirit of God, relying on Him to sustain us, to teach us and guide us day by day.
But God’s amazing grace has made me who I am! 1 Corinthians 15:10 (TPT)
He has brought us this far by His grace, and His grace will see us through, in Jesus name!
Even though the Lord may allow you to go through a season of hardship and difficulty, he himself will be there with you. He will not hide himself from you, for your eyes will constantly see him as your Teacher. Isaiah 30:20 (TPT)
Read now… Parts 2 – Submission – Church Closures – Unlawful Gatherings – Lockdowns – Four Kingdom Responses
All scripture is taken from the New American Standard Bible (NASB) unless otherwise stated.
Photo by Fusion Medical Animation on Unsplash