Peace in the Midst of a Pandemic
By Mark A. Finley
[Editors note: For the next 15 weeks, our reading and prayer focus for United in Prayer will correlate with the program for 100 Days of Prayer. If you only wish to get one devotional and prayer focus a week, this is the place to be. However, we encourage you to take part and sign up for the daily prayer focus and heart questions that will be e-mailed out for all registered members daily from March 27 - July 4. You can sign up here!]
The figures are skyrocketing. A raging pandemic, coronavirus or COVID-19, is traveling with lightening speed across the globe. But there is another plague that is racing even faster. It has infected more people than those afflicted with the coronavirus. As serious as the coronavirus is, and it is serious, there is something else that is deadlier—fear. Fear, anxiety, and worry impact our immune systems, strangle our joy, and rob us of hope.
How can we be kept from being consumed by worry and anxiety? What can help us from being overcome by crippling fear? Or it might be more accurate to say who can deliver us from our paralyzing fears? Jesus speaks of our time in Luke 21 when He predicts: “Men's hearts failing them for fear for the things coming upon the earth.” The next passage says, “Then they will see the Son of man coming in the clouds with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to happen look up, lift your heads, for your redemption draws nigh” (Luke 21:26-28).
Whether we are consumed with fear or filled with hope all depends where we are looking. If you are looking at natural disasters; if you are consumed with bad news; if pestilences and disease occupy your thoughts; if that's where you are focused, your heart is going to be filled with fear. Jesus says, “Look up!” Why? When we look to Heaven’s sanctuary, we see Jesus and discover strength in His promises.
In Christ we find confidence. In Christ we experience assurance. In Christ we are lifted above life’s uncertainties and concerns and our hearts are filled with security in the One who loves us with an everlasting, undying, unfathomable, exhaustless, endless love. In Christ we are delivered from our crippling fears. At times we may experience the emotion of fear, but we will not be paralyzed by fear because our confidence in God triumphs over our fear.
Here is another encouraging statement from Signs of the Times, October 9, 1901. It is a comment on Jesus’ statement in Luke 21. “Men’s hearts are failing them for fear of the things that are coming upon the earth. But those who believe in God will hear His voice amid the storm, saying, "It is I; be not afraid."
Here is an additional wonderful statement from the book Evangelism, p. 65: “In the great closing work we shall meet with perplexities that we know not how to deal with, but let us not forget that the three great powers of heaven are working, that a divine hand is on the wheel, and that God will bring His purposes to pass.”
The Bible says “do not fear” or “fear not” repeatedly. Although I have not personally counted the number of times the Bible uses this expression, one author has counted 365 times that an expression like “fear not” is used throughout the Bible – that is one for every day of the year. God has the entire calendar year covered. He invites us to rest in His love, trust in His grace, and rejoice in His power.
In one of the Bible’s most reassuring promises, Isaiah encourages us, echoing the words of our Lord: “Fear not for I am with you.” Why don't we fear? Jesus is with us. Whatever we must go through, He is by our side. “Fear not for I am with you. Be not dismayed for I am your God. I will strengthen you; I will help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isa. 41:10). Our faith clings to the promises of God’s Word. Our light shines in the darkness of this world. The current COVID-19 pandemic can be a catalyst to lead us to a deeper relationship with God, a greater faith, and a richer prayer experience. In times of crisis our faith is in Him. Our trust is in Him. He is our security, our assurance, our strength, and our hope. May this current pandemic be a clarion call to repentance, revival, and reformation. May it be a time that we cling to His promise that a better tomorrow is coming!
Mark Finley is assistant to the General Conference president. This devotional and the following heart questions are featured in this first week of 100 Days of Prayer. If you aren't already signed up to be part of the program we encourage you to sign up here!
HEART QUESTIONS: In the midst of a world filled with chaos, where do we find our security and where do we put our faith? Is it in science or in what the medical professionals say? Is it in our job security or our relationships, or is it in Jesus and the promises of His Word? If Jesus truly is the foundation of our faith, how will the urgency and focus of our daily prayers change during the crisis we are facing?
ACTIVE HEART CHALLENGE: Before Jesus returns, we must come to find our entire dependence and hope in Him. Let’s start praying today that He will give us His peace, strengthen our faith in His Word, and fill us with the Holy Spirit so we can work effectively for Him, even in the midst of this crisis. Let’s begin claiming the promises of 2 Chron. 7:14, Luke 11:13, and Zech. 10:1 as we pray daily for a deeper filling of the Holy Spirit and for healing for our land.
“The season of distress and anguish before us will require a faith that can endure weariness, delay, and hunger—a faith that will not faint though severely tried. The period of probation is granted to all to prepare for that time. Jacob prevailed because he was persevering and determined. His victory is an evidence of the power of importunate prayer. All who will lay hold of God’s promises, as he did, and be as earnest and persevering as he was, will succeed as he succeeded. Those who are unwilling to deny self, to agonize before God, to pray long and earnestly for His blessing, will not obtain it. Wrestling with God—how few know what it is! How few have ever had their souls drawn out after God with intensity of desire until every power is on the stretch. When waves of despair which no language can express sweep over the suppliant, how few cling with unyielding faith to the promises of God.” The Great Controversy, p. 621
To download the materials for week 1 of 100 Days of Prayer, click here!
100 Days of Prayer - Prayer Focus
- PRAYER REQUEST: Pray for God’s church to stand strong in the midst of the great COVID-19 health crisis facing our world. Pray for our many health professionals, doctors, nurses, and others working around the clock to save lives.
- PRAYER REQUEST: Pray for our church members especially in Italy, France, Spain, Germany, as these are the hardest hit regions of the COVID-19 pandemic in Europe.
- PRAYER REQUEST: Pray for church members and health care workers in New York City, one of the hardest hit regions in the United States.
- PRAYER REQUEST: Pray for those in China who are still dealing with the after effects of the Coronavirus or who have lost loved ones in this pandemic. Pray for hope and comfort in the midst of the pain.
- PRAYER REQUEST: Pray for church members in Kenya, and other African countries, who are struggling because their open-air markets are closing.
- PRAYER REQUEST: Pray that the coronavirus pandemic would stop spreading, and that God would hear the cries of His people and heal our land.
- PRAYER REQUEST: Pray that in the midst of the chaos, Christians worldwide would sense the nearness of Jesus’ soon return and press the heavenly throne in prayer pleading for the Holy Spirit.