Do God’s people really have faith, especially in times of crisis?
In the Parable of the Persistent Widow in Luke 18:1-8 Jesus finishes with these words: “When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”. In the light of coronavirus, this is a very good question indeed. Certainly plenty of non-Christians are moving into full panic mode right now.
All the panic buying and hoarding is one clear example of this. Many are selfishly stockpiling food, toilet paper and other things, often leaving the elderly and others in the lurch. In times of crisis the real self tends to emerge. If you are basically selfish and self-centred, this sure will come out in a time like this.
Of course we expect non-Christians to act like non-Christians. But here I want to speak to fellow believers. And my thesis is simple: There is nothing like a major crisis to see which Christians really do trust the Lord fully and have their faith in him alone.
Do we have the peace of God which passes all understanding? Is our faith firmly anchored in Christ alone? Do we believe he is able to take care of his own? Or are we living and acting just like the pagans, full of fear and turmoil, thinking of how we can make it through the tough times – no matter how selfish we may have to be to endure?
Sure, we must act wisely and prudently, including taking the necessary health precautions, and perhaps learning to live without all the luxury foods and goodies we have been used to if need be. Maybe getting a little vegie garden going in the back yard may be a good move.
So we of course try to take sensible steps to deal with a time of emergency. But this can become more and more difficult as people start to panic and try to hog all the food and goods for themselves that they can get. Yesterday in my local supermarket almost all tinned vegetables and fruits were gone – just empty shelves were there.
Some supermarkets are now hiring more staff and have set aside an hour in the morning for the elderly. But as the press reports today, the long lines do not seem to have done much good for them, as the shelves were still largely empty. This is the time where we should be pitching in and helping others, especially the more vulnerable, such as the elderly.
But too often it is every man for himself. Fear, panic and complete fixation on self is the name of the game for far too many people. So the question is, how will Christians respond? Will we do any different? Will we look out for others, and seek to love our neighbour as ourselves? Or will we be just as bad as the non-Christians can be?
The truth is, God is able to do his sifting work in a variety of ways. He is able to use circumstances like this to separate the wheat from the chaff, the true believer from the mere professing Christian. God wants us to have true and lasting trust in him, not in our circumstances.
Will we pass the test? Will we show to the watching world that we are different, that faith in Christ really does make a difference? Or will we be just like everyone else, living in great fear and doing all we can to save ourselves? As I wrote in earlier articles on this, the mark of the Christian is loving others, especially in times of crisis.
I wrote about the early church and how it stayed around in times of pestilence and plague to minister to the sick and needy. The pagans who were able to do so simply fled. They offered no help to any of the sufferers. But Christians did, and that in good measure is why the new faith spread so far and wide. This was Christianity in action, and it showed.
It should be the same today. Christians should be at the forefront of showing Christ’s love and compassion, especially to the needy. Yes, we have allowed the ever-expanding state to be the main source of welfare provision today. But the state is not invincible. Nor is it personal.
Committed Christians looking after their non-Christian neighbours is what we should be all about – not hoping the welfare state will always be there in a time of need. Indeed, in times of crisis, the state can heavily ration food and essential services, and there is always the risk that it will be rather selective in who gets what.
As I just pointed out in a new article, the state is always happy to grab a hold of more control and power in such times, but seldom likes to give it up later. The warnings found in Revelation about those who are able to buy and sell are real enough. See here for more on the ever-present reality of power-grabs by the state in time of emergency: https://www.spectator.com.au/2020/03/remember-big-government-loves-a-big-crisis/
So we cannot always count on the state to bail us out. But we can count on Christ to meet our needs and to protect us in difficult times. The trouble is, so few believers have actually allowed their faith to be stretched in this regard. They have plenty of stockpiles, they have plenty of cash, they have plenty of contingency plans.
They have everything in place for tough times ahead, except for faith. Why have faith when you can be self-sufficient? Why trust God when you can hoard and create a mini fortress all around you? But when all these things fail, then what?
Some of the first verses I read as a brand-new Christian many years ago were from Matthews’s gospel. I was quite impressed to read these words of Jesus from the Sermon on the Mount (6:25-34):
Therefore I tell you, 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.
Believers have heard and read these words zillions of times. But the question is, do we really believe them? Will we allow our faith to be tested here? Will we allow God to prove himself real on our behalf? Will we indeed trust in God in every area of our life – even during the coronavirus?
When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?