David Jeremiah recently provided a brief message for his San Diego congregation. He spoke about how Christians should respond to the Coronavirus panic.  I intend to use these points for followers of the Christ in the order Pastor Jeremiah presented them in his encouraging message. I suspect that they would be roundly rejected by many who are outside the Faith of Christ the Lord, though the points presented would prove valuable for anyone. Nevertheless, maximum value will undoubtedly be realised by those who are on speaking terms with the Lord God.
People throughout our region, like people in almost every nation of the world, are deeply concerned about the possibility of being infected by the COVID-19 virus. The virus was first recognised as an infectious agent in the Chinese city of Wuhan. Though medical personnel in that city warned that the virus was exceptionally contagious and that it appeared to have a higher mortality rate than other flu-like illnesses, Chinese Communist officials reportedly attempted to stifle release of information about the virus. Their delay in containing the contagion and their reluctance to notify the appropriate health authorities in other nations of the ease of transmission or warn them of the lethality of the virus ensured a rapid and widespread transmission of the COVID-19 virus.
Few nations had been alerted to the danger they faced, and consequently, nations acted quite late in their efforts to halt the spread of the virulent pathogen. A few nations did act swiftly to impose restrictions on people who attempted to enter from infected areas. Such efforts were condemned by news organisations as being xenophobic and/or racist. The charges of racism frequently caused hesitation when speed was required.
Health authorities in multiple nations are now walking a tightrope as they attempt to keep people informed about the need to take sane precautions to avoid the risk of infection without inducing panic. No one should minimise the serious nature of this particular virus, but neither should people panic concerning the presence of the virus. Canada has weathered SARS, H1N1, Swine Flu, and MERS during the first two decades of this present century. We are blessed to live in a time when medical science provides a greater measure of protection than at any time in the history of mankind. We have been living with AIDS for well over thirty years now, and advances in treatment of the various ailments that continue to afflict us continue apace. We are well prepared to respond.
On March 11th, the World Health Organisation declared the COVID-19 virus a global pandemic. Suddenly, people took the illness seriously. The National Basketball Association, Major League Baseball, and the National Hockey League are suspending games. Broadway theatres in New York City have gone dark through April 12th. Schools at all levels have either cancelled classes or classes are being offered online. Children are to be kept at home, while exasperated parents are challenged to begin home-schooling, if not “home entertaining.” Even Disneyland and Walt Disney World is closed through mid-April. Non-essential jobs are no longer to be performed, and even many medical/dental offices are closed as the physicians or the dentists self-isolate because they may have inadvertently been in contact with someone infected with the virus.
For those who complain that the actions of governments are too harsh need to hear what some are saying. Andy Crouch has been quoted as saying, “Any action by leaders to impose drastic measures against COVID-19 that doesn’t seem too early to most people will be, in fact, too late. Correspondingly, any action to lift mitigation measures that don't seem too late, will be too early.”  That assessment is probably correct. It is unlikely that governments will soon relax the strictures they have put in place as they struggle to respond to the spread of the disease.
So, what should the conscientious Christian do in these uncertain times? When the world seems to be spinning out of control and people are reacting rather than taking positive steps, what can the follower of the Christ do? Here are some steps that will make a difference for the one who will honour God in these trying times.
CONCENTRATE ON PRAYER — Now is a wonderful time to pray. Certainly, prayer should be the first response of the follower of Christ in time of trouble. Tragically, prayer is often the last thing we do. Perhaps we imagine that we are in control. However, our current situation makes it obvious that we are not in control. With the Psalmist, the wise Christian will look up and proclaim,
“I trust in you, O LORD;
I say, ‘You are my God.’
My times are in your hand!”
You have heard me refer to Jehoshaphat, King of Judah, in a day of trial. A coalition of powerful enemies were moving to attack the nation. If they were not stopped, they would surely destroy the nation. The first thing the godly king did was to call the nation to prayer—and he led the people in praying! As he prayed, he reminded the LORD that God was pledged to deliver His people. Jehoshaphat began by affirming his faith, “If disaster comes upon us, the sword, judgment, or pestilence, or famine, we will stand before this house and before you—for your name is in this house—and cry out to you in our affliction, and you will hear and save” [2 CHRONICLES 20:9]. What is especially encouraging to read is the manner in which he concluded his plea to the Lord GOD. “We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you” [2 CHRONICLES 20:12b].
Each of us is more like Jehoshaphat than we might imagine; and whether they acknowledge the fact or not, our leaders are much like Jehoshaphat. Our nation is attempting to respond to a crisis we have not faced before. In some respects, we are entering into a new world, and we need divine guidance.
If you wonder how we should pray, then I would suggest that we pray for peace. When so many are acting out of fear, the one who follows Christ needs to be filled with His peace. I would suggest that we pray for His goodness to be extended to us and to our families. Ask the Lord to give your neighbours His peace. Obviously, we need to pray that God will give wisdom to those who lead the nation and the provinces, and that our leaders will act with discretion and honour. When we pray, it is easy to forget those who labour tirelessly for our health. Pray for the physicians, nurses, and medical technologists who are working long shifts during this time.
CONTROL YOUR MIND — As He prepared His disciples for His passion, Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid” [JOHN 14:27]. That is excellent advice in uncertain times. Allow God’s peace to rule in your life—and His peace will rule in our lives as we focus on Him and on what He has provided for us as His people.
Writing a small congregation that was under pressure from the society in which it ministered, Paul admonished the believers, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you” [PHILIPPIANS 4:4-9].
We are taught in this passage to exalt prayer, refusing to allow anxiety to control us. Pray about everything! And as we pray, God’s peace will be extended to us. Focus your mind on those things that are true, honourable, just, pure, lovely, and commendable. Invest time allowing the Lord to speak to you through His Word. Now would be an excellent time to begin Scripture memorisation. Memorise the twenty-third Psalm. Memorise the opening words of the Gospel of John. Lead your family in Scripture memorisation. Begin now and continue. Fill your mind with God’s Word.
When he was being assailed by fellow Christians and by religious leaders intent on destroying him, Paul advised the Christians in Corinth to take control of their thoughts. He wrote, “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ” [2 CORINTHIANS 10:5]. He refused to allow his thoughts to run wild; he refused to allow himself to become anxious. He didn’t necessarily know what the future held, but he was quite confident of Who held the future. Thus, he would take to heart the encouragement offered by Jesus, “Do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” [MATTHEW 6:25-34].
Think about this business of anxiety. Worry is always directed toward tomorrow. Your anxieties are focused on the future. When I am anxious, I’m bringing my fear of tomorrow into today; and the fears of tomorrow don’t belong to today! This is the reason Jesus admonished His people, “Do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” When we focus on what may happen tomorrow, we are borrowing unrealised problems to complicate the challenges of the present.
Years ago, one of the verses I led my children in memorising was one which Paul wrote while encouraging a struggling preacher. Paul wrote, “God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” [2 TIMOTHY 1:7]. It is an excellent verse for the people of God to think on. Allow the Spirit of God to rule by refusing to give way to fear. It may not seem to be the case, but I assure you that God is in control. This present situation did not catch Him by surprise; and He knows the pressures you are now facing.
COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS — And we are blessed! Have you been to the store recently? Did you notice the empty shelves? Toilet paper? What are people doing with all that toilet paper? Fresh chickens? I’ve never seen a run on fresh chickens like this. Eggs? Not even at Easter do you see a run on eggs as we are now seeing. I noted, however, that luxury items were in stock. While bottled water was somewhat limited, I noted that the expensive sparkling water—Perrier, San Pellegrino—was available. My thoughts turned immediately to the words the Revelator wrote as he described the breaking of the third seal during the judgements poured out during the Great Tribulation. “A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius, and do not harm the oil and wine” [REVELATION 6:6b]. Then, the things we know as necessary will be limited, but the luxuries will be in abundance. I gave thanks to God that we live in a time of abundance and that we’ve not known such restrictions since the dark days of the Second World War.
Christians are instructed in the Word of God, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” [1 THESSALONIANS 5:16-18]. We are not to give thanks for every circumstance, but we are taught to give thanks in every circumstance. I’m reminded of the old saint in the piney woods of Texas who was always praising God and giving thanks. Her joyful demeanour irritated some, but she didn’t waver in her gratitude to God. On one occasion she came to church and people wondered how she would react. The day was miserable. Rain was driven sideways, and a bitter wind added to the misery of the day. On top of everything else, the fire had gone out in the stove that heated the little country church. When time came to pray, she stood and prayed with radiant joy evident in her face, “Father, thank you that every day is not like this day!” Give thanks in all circumstances.
If you can’t give thanks for what you have, give thanks for what you don’t have. Thank God that you have adequate medical care. Thank God that you don’t need to draw on that care at this moment. Thank God that you have a vehicle to take you where you need to go. Thank God that you don’t have to push that vehicle because it ran out of gas. And if the gifts of God in the present are somehow inadequate to elicit your praise, lift your heart to what He has provided for you beyond this moment we call now. Thank God for His presence and for His salvation. Praise Him because of the promises you have in Him. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” [EPHESIANS 1:3]. Amen.
CLAIM YOUR PROMISES — I’m a simple soul. I read the Word of God and witness all the wonderful promises recorded in that Word. Whenever I find a promise, I seize upon it, gleefully claiming it as my own. I know that on occasion some have remonstrated with me, arguing that some promise wasn’t meant for me. However, my Father delights to give me good things, and if I claimed something that didn’t belong to me, He lovingly assures me that He is not offended that I seized upon His promise.
The story is told that a man once came to evangelist D. L. Moody, saying, “I’ve found a wonderful verse that helps me overcome my fear.” “What is the verse?” Moody wondered. The man responded,
“When I am afraid,
I put my trust in you.”
“I have an even better verse,” Moody replied,
“Behold, God is my salvation;
I will trust, and will not be afraid.”
That is an excellent verse for us to memorise during these uncertain times. As you fill the dreary hours with the things that occupy your life, meditate on that verse.
Here’s another promise to encourage you as your RSPs and your TFSAs seem to evaporate before your eyes. “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we can confidently say,
‘The Lord is my helper;
I will not fear;
what can man do to me?’”
These are such rich promises, given to encourage the people of God. And the Lord will establish you as you focus on pleasing Him.
Let me encourage you by reminding you of one other promise God has given His people.
“You keep him in perfect peace
whose mind is stayed on you,
because he trusts in you.
Trust in the LORD forever,
for the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock.”
This is the heritage of the people of God.
CONSIDER YOUR RESPONSIBILITY — We’re not seeing as much of one another as we are used to. During these times of “social distancing,” remember that as followers of Christ we are not to neglect one another. Though we may not be meeting together as before, we can still encourage one another. We are taught in the Word, “Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God” [HEBREWS 13:16].
We who love the Lord are taught to encourage one another. Paul urges each of us even as he instructed the Thessalonian Christians, “Encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing” [1 THESSALONIANS 5:11].
Though you may not be able to spend time with one another as you did before, we are blessed to have phones with which we can call or text to see how others are doing. Perhaps you are on Facebook; if so, you can message others to encourage them to not grow discouraged or to see if there is something that you can do for them if they have a need. This is a practical application of the biblical instruction that teaches us, “Concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another, for that indeed is what you are doing to all the brothers throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more” [1 THESSALONIANS 4:9-10].
CONTINUE YOUR WORK — One of the major reasons the enforced inactivity is distracting is that we are created to be busy. When our first father was placed in Eden, he was given responsibility, indicating that we are made to be productive. Jesus testified, “My Father is working until now, and I am working” [JOHN 5:17b]. If you are forced to be away from your usual work, and you are not working at home, now would be a good time to complete some of the little chores that have been waiting on you to have time.
Pastor Jeremiah quoted a poem by an anonymous poet that seems appropriate at this time. Listen to these words.
From an old English parsonage down by the sea
There came in the twilight a message to me;
Its quaint Saxon legend, deeply engraven
Hath, it seems to me, teaching from Heaven.
And on through the doors the quiet words ring
Like a low inspiration: “Doe the nexte thynge.”
Many a questioning, many a fear,
Many a doubt, hath its quieting here.
Moment by moment, let down from Heaven,
Time, opportunity, guidance, are given.
Fear not tomorrows, child of the King,
Trust them with Jesus, “Doe the nexte thynge.” 
As one who follows Christ the Lord, I encourage you to stay focused on Him. Find how you can serve Him, and then do that. May He be glorified in your life. May He be honoured in you. Amen.
 David Jeremiah, “Facing the Coronavirus,” https://www.davidjeremiah.org/news/facing-coronavirus, accessed 22 March 2020
 Cited by Jeremiah, ibid.
 Anonymous, “Do the Next Thing”