George Vineyard Church

Teachings / Sermons

The radical middle between fear and flippancy

by Derek Flanigan

We are living through a time of crisis that is causing fear and panic across the world… no one is exempt from having to face the reality of the fast spreading Covid-19 virus, how we approach this time will make all the difference.
I have seen many different approaches ranging from fear and panic on the one hand and flippancy and foolishness on the other. How are we as believers called on to navigate these stormy waters?
Given the large scale of infection across the world, many feel like Jesus is asleep in the boat in the midst of the storm, and so just like the disciples who found themselves in that situation, panic and fear sets in. But just as Jesus was aware of the storm around him, God is not unaware of what is happening in the world today, and so we can take comfort in that knowledge and know that he is with us in the midst of the storm.
So how should we approach this crisis as believers?
Fear and Flippancy – the radical middle
Fear is an all to real by product of times of crisis, it is so real that the phrase “fear not” is mentioned 365 times in the Bible (one for each day of the year 😊 ).
The basis for not fearing is found in the Presence of God, time ad time again the Word encourages us that He will never leave us or forsake us, the word promises that He will be with us even to the end of the age. Isaiah 42.10 puts it like this

Isaiah 41:10 New King James Version (NKJV)
10 Fear not, for I am with you;
Be not dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you,
Yes, I will help you,
I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’
The other side of the scale is to ignore the crisis and to feel like you are somehow immune to all that is happening around you. It’s this approach that has given birth to a deluge of conspiracy theories as well as posts on social media platforms promising that if you just re-post a pic stating that if you have courage and repost this God will protect you from the virus… others criticize the precautions taken by many churches as a lack of Faith. Now I don’t want to dwell on this or criticize the judgement of others, each has had to make difficult decisions, I do want to point out however that Faith and Responsibility goes hand in hand.
I encourage you not to get caught up in the conspiracy theories, they are often self-serving and distract you from the reality of the dangers at hand, I would also encourage you to think before you post or re-post.

Our worship leader Zach pointed me to Proverbs this week

Proverbs 27:12 New International Version (NIV)
12 The prudent see danger and take refuge,
    but the simple keep going and pay the penalty.
Proverbs 1:7 New International Version (NIV)
7 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,
    but fools[a] despise wisdom and instruction.

So what should our approach be? I would like to suggest that we take the radical middle approach in taking responsible precautions and to encourage others to do the same. In that to also encourage those around you not to fear, as God is with us. 1 Thessalonians 5:11 calls us to “comfort each other and edify one another.
Let me unpack this a bit more:

When asked what the approach of the Church should be in the face of the Bubonic plague, Martin Luther gave this advice
“I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine and take it. I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance inflict and pollute others and so cause their death as a result of my negligence. If God should wish to take me, he will surely find me and I have done what he has expected of me and so I am not responsible for either my own death or the death of others. If my neighbor needs me however I shall not avoid place or person but will go freely as stated above. See this is such a God-fearing faith because it is neither brash nor foolhardy and does not tempt God.”
He points out that in taking all the precautions necessary, he would continue to look not only to his own needs but also to the needs of others… “if my neighbour needs me”

I read an account of the 3rd century church’s  response to a pandemic … “during the pandemic people panicked , many people abandoned the sick in ditches and left the dead unburied. People fled the areas where there was sickness and abandoned the elderly, the sick and disabled. Christians instead of leaving the city, stayed at great risk to themselves. They cared for the poor, the sick and the elderly.
I heard of quite a few people who have chosen to go into quarantine to assist an ill parent or friend, some of us might be called on by God to do likewise, but for many this is a time where you can be safely be generous to those in need around you in so many ways, where you can contact friends and family and in some cases re-establish broken relationships. Remember that many peoples work is suffering at this time and could be in jeopardy as businesses close, pray for them and ask what you can do to help where they may no longer be receiving an income.
Use this time of isolation to pray and deepen your relationship with God. Be guided by the Holy Spirit in all you do, even Jesus did not act on His own but lived out what He saw his Father doing in the world…

John 5:19-20 New International Version (NIV)
19 Jesus gave them this answer: “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. 20 For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, and he will show him even greater works than these, so that you will be amazed.
For those who are in isolation, I read this by Kitty O'Meara today;
And the people stayed home. And read books, and listened, and rested, and exercised, and made art, and played games, and learned new ways of being, and were still.
And listened more deeply. Some meditated, some prayed, some danced. Some met their shadows. And the people began to think differently. And the people healed.
So as you live your life in these difficult times, continue to look upward, inward and outward…
So in these weeks ahead, let’s find the radical middle between fear and flippancy, lets be Faith filled responsible believers. Even though the doors of the church buildings are shut, the Church Is not… be the church wherever you are, comfort others, be sharers of hope and the love of God, remind those around you that God is with us no matter what. Be generous and understanding.

Isaiah 43:2 New Living Translation (NLT)
2 When you go through deep waters,
    I will be with you.
When you go through rivers of difficulty,
    you will not drown.
When you walk through the fire of oppression,
    you will not be burned up;
    the flames will not consume you.

Date Added: 2020-03-22
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