As I usually do with Easter coming, I’m reading the Gospels about the crucifixion and resurrection. The other day, a verse jumped off the page at me. Jesus came to the disciples who had gathered in fear for their lives. He simply said, “Peace be unto you.” If there’s one thing He is saying to all of us during this viral ‘storm,’ it would be, “Be at peace!”
Covid-19, it’s the name of a new type of cold virus that is rocking the world. Nations are ‘shut down.’ Economic forecasts are ominous, yet they are as unpredictable as the weather next week. I fully expect to hear of all kinds of prophetic declarations and religious reactions to it. Here’s my prophetic insight. If a person claims to have a prophetic word about this pandemic such as, “This is the judgement of God,” ask yourself this. Did they have any prophetic insight about the Corona virus before it broke out? If not, I’d be highly suspicious about what they’re declaring now as a prophetic declaration. When God spoke to the prophets in scripture, they always declared what God would do before He did it, and its occurrence usually depended on how men listened to the prophet’s message.
Having said that, Jesus spoke about the Corona virus 2,000 years ago! Oh, He didn’t call it that. But He did teach us what to do about it. I believe that the best way to find out what God is up to is to read the Bible on the subject. I found myself writing down my daily study notes on this subject the other day, and as I sought the Lord, I realized Jesus was talking about today! What follows is that study without necessarily having written these words to publish them.
Here’s the passage: 21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? 23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. 24 Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: 25 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. 26 And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: 27 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it. Matthew 7:21-27 Note that Jesus didn’t say, “If a storm comes,” but “When the storms come.”
These are my notes from that day’s study. Verse 24 - To this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word. Isaiah 66:2 The obvious application question is, “Do I fear disease more than I fear God’s Word?” Faith comes by God's Word. When a man learns to fear WHY things are happening, and why God allows things to happen, and that nothing happens without His sovereign knowledge and control, then he begins to understand what faith really looks like. He begins to have more respect for what God intends to do instead of having so much respect for what the Cororna virus will do to our health, our jobs, our families, and our future.
Carnal fear is not freedom. It is captivity, and Jesus came to bring freedom. I understand that freedom comes from sacrifice, shed blood, and the giving of life. It's true in the world of war, and it's true in the world of God's Kingdom. Soldiers can only be fully effective when they are fully dedicated to giving their lives. If they fight with the fear of dying, they can’t function effectively as warriors. The hardest thing that soldiers do is to say goodbye to their kids and wives when they leave to go to war. They willingly give their lives for others, and THAT is what makes them free to wage war and to win.
When a person dares to truly believe God and His Word, he will learn to become willing to take up his cross and GIVE HIS LIFE to Jesus and to others. He, like the soldier, doesn't battle daily challenges to save his life, but it is for love of country, his brother in arms, and to bring freedom to others. It is drilled into a soldier to never give up, never quit. By this he develops true character, similar to the character of the Kingdom. THAT takes true faith. It is not the faith to save one's life, but to lose it, that he may gain it forever. "He who seeks to save his life shall lose it," Jesus said. When a person has truly surrendered his life, his fear of dying and his fear of loss is gone. Is not that exactly what faith does? For lack of surrender, so many people's faith isn't working for them to provide for them and conquer their inner demons.
You see, faith makes us something before it gives us things. That's why Jesus talks here about entering the Kingdom by doing what Jesus said. What we do comes from who we are, and who we are is revealed by the fires of life, and it is properly established through faith in God's Word. It is a life that trembles at His Word more than it trembles at viruses, finances, and personal hurt.
God spoke to me recently out of His Word where Paul says, "You are not your own." It was one of the rungs in the ladder that is changing me. We don't choose to just do what we want with our lives. Listen, God is in control of this COVID-19. But simply believing that God will heal us, or that He won't let us die isn't going to cut it. True followers don't fear death. That's part of what makes them free. They have already died. Until that happens, all of our faith for healing is shallow at best.
God is not merely looking to keep carnal Christians and godless nations healthy, happy, and prosperous. He's making victorious, courageous men and women who are willing to give their lives if necessary, for their fellowman and in the name of Jesus. He's working to establish character, commitment, integrity, and the image of Christ in us above all. That divine image in us, understood by us, and embraced is in fact a tremendous position of victory and power over all our feelings of failure, worthlessness, and condemnation. You have Christ's very image of glory and honor given to you through the new birth. Put it on! Believe it and act like it. That is God's primary will in the earth! Once that's on the road to being put in place, the other parts of God's will for you will come into place. Now, having sincerely considered that. Read on about the coming storm.
Verse 25 notes - There is a present storm coming. Today it’s called, COVID-19. But it's not the only storm. There will be many others in your life and mine. I'm presently learning the lessons of a storm that came upon me two years ago. It's been a LONG storm. I've often felt that I was going to give out and die at any time - over and over again, severe fatigue so bad that it was hard to breath. Then I'd get better for a few hours. Hope came after several days or weeks of crippling fatigue and pain! Then after a few hours or a couple of days maybe, bang - it starts all over again.
What's God doing? I'm in a storm. Will I lose my peace and joy? Will I beat myself up as though I'm being punished for some spiritual failure - for they are always there in our past. What is God really up to? The notes I've written these past few months in this Olive Tree Bible are all about what God is showing me about dying to myself, trusting God, learning real legitimate faith on a deeper level, and passing it on first through how I live, and then what I my say or write.
There are storms coming. They will always come in varying degrees. When a big one comes into your life, I know that God is answering my prayers for you! Really? Yes, because storms are intended to try us and reveal to us just where we need to grow up. For most, the storms eventually make them bitter, hard, and hopeless. But for others, like you, those same storms cause a great seed of faith to rise up. That faith doesn't just learn to believe for how to speak to the storm to stop it. It teaches people how to believe in order to walk in the will of God, again, not just for divine healing, but for surrender to Him. Yesterday God spoke to my heart about commanding the storm. “You can’t command peace in the storm if you don’t have that peace in your heart first. Without peace in the storm you don’t have any peace to speak into it.”
Every war within and without is about a battle for sovereignty. Who's going to rule and reign on this ground? He who wins, rules. In this heart battle, it's about learning to let God rule and His Kingdom to reign in us. It's not about our will ruling, our desires for comfort reigning, our need for physical healing being our primary victory. He wants to establish true freedom. That's what war is about. Shed blood, dying, and giving one's life has always been at the root of establishing freedom. Where we live among a people who have to have their own way, have to have their selfish delights, who never learn that their freedom, and that of their loved ones, comes through surrender of their self-life, God will allow storms.
Victory doesn't come before a battle is finally honestly engaged. Some believe that storms like the Corona Virus come as a judgement for homosexuality and abortion in our world. I suppose that could be a small part of it, but truthfully, I've learned that even the plagues of the Apocalypse are redemptive in nature. God is always at work, in love, to dig out of our souls all of the darkness, the selfishness, and the sin that keeps us from living in incredible peace and joy. That only comes by taking up our cross by faith.
Verse 26 notes - I have the heart of a patriot. It is the heart of freedom and the price of freedom willingly paid. I know what it's like to be trained in the military and be given a job in which failure is not an option. I know the preparation it takes. It takes a lot of adversity. I remember marching my troop through an all-day rain to the shooting range. I was in charge of them, and I was sick. While we shot, I would oversee them, score their results, and then march them back into town and to the barracks. All day I had a high fever, but there was no such a thing as quitting. I wound up in the hospital the next day. After being reassigned to a different state, one night I was pulling all night guard duty over a barracks. There had been multiple break-ins so I was given a lead pipe as a weapon! I was still sick, and almost missed my flight out to go home the next morning to get married. But quitting never entered in.
Hard times teach you how to overcome. They were the beginnings of many, many hard life storms. Sometimes we've lost everything, but hey, I gave my life to Christ and had no right to complain when all that defined my earthly life was taken. I had offered it! It didn't mean a life of prosperity, luxury, and blessing. It meant a war, and it was a war that could be successfully won when the storms came. That's building a life upon the Rock.
I've just finished reading about a man who commanded the special forces who captured Saddam Hussein, rescued Captain Phillips, and killed Bin Laden. They were all Navy Seals who go through training so fierce that in one class of 165, only 10 made it. These men learn to wage war by living by the principles of commitment, integrity, and character. They hold to them because they fight for their brother in the fox hole with them. Quit never enters in.
One man who was shot multiple times, broke his pelvis, broke his back, was shot in the neck and the back, was paralyzed, was subsequently hunted for 6 days, crawled 7 miles, was finally captured and tortured until rescued, never thought of quitting. Outnumbered 150 to 4, none of them had a single thought that they were going to lose the fight. Three of them were killed. When he finally recovered from his wounds, he went back and was reassigned to Iraq. It was his training that made the difference.
These men fight for our freedom. Christians, like Jesus, also fight for their freedom by learning to give their lives for the love of God and men. Nothing else matters to them until victory is won or their life here is over. That's patriotism - to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word. Isaiah 66:2, whether it be in the Kingdom of God or the armies of men.
Today God is preparing us for battle. Don't wonder why life gets hard at times. We can fight it all we want. We can be afraid. We can try to run. We can live in denial. God may even bring us a reprieve from the hardness of our training for a season. But sooner or later, He'll bring us right back to the same place we failed to believe Him.
Maybe you need healing. Perhaps you've lost your income. Maybe your family is broken. It may be that you've grown cold towards God because your faith hasn't seemed to bring you relief. If you'll listen, God will set you free from those battles as you learn to enter the real battle. He'll take care of you, so don't worry about that. But it's not always safe to our flesh to get close to God's will. He'll let your outer man become weak and broken so you can find a strength in Him that will never, ever fail. I've been there many times over 45 years. I've learned to develop skills that bring overcoming victory, even though, oftentimes that victory means I must battle to new levels before my thoughts and emotions catch up with that victory. But these skills are like the statement in the movie, Taken. "I've developed a set of skills over 40 years in my career where I have become very dangerous to enemies like you have."
The enemies are selfishness and the devil who takes advantage of it at every turn. Now, if you're living with someone who needs to learn this, then learn this yourself. Learn how to overcome the sorrows of their selfishness with a joy that Jesus said, "No man can take from you." Often, our victories come by learning how to weather storms very near to us. Our problem, as Paul learned and said in 2 Cor. 12, is not that we need others to change, more money, more (or less) kids, a better church, job, or body, but that in these 'weakness inducing afflictions' our true need is for more of God's grace in our own lives. Stop asking so much for freedom from all your problems and start asking for more grace. That’s our great need that God will answer. Missing this truth is often why it seems that our prayers in the storm are not being answered. God is saying, "Stop asking me to change things. You are the one that I am bringing change to." Once you surrender to his will, a new freedom will be immediately delivered to you by the Holy Spirit! Storms will come, like the one we’re all facing now. Build your house on the Rock! That’s exactly what God is up to.