COVID, the Christian, and Doubt

Let’s be honest, we’re not enjoying the way the world is at the moment, are we? Not gathering as the church, kids not going to school and not seeing their friends, not getting together with our own adult friends, the inability to travel and see family, friends, or far-off lands. Honestly, not many people can say they are 100% happy with the world right now. This also makes us doubt, doesn’t it? Why is this happening, is this consistent with a good and loving God? How do I feel about all of this?

So is it ok to doubt? As a Christian, is it ok to doubt? Honestly, it depends.

There are different kinds of doubt, and whether it’s ok to entertain them depends on the particular type of doubt. Let’s break them down.

There are doubts of the will. Example – do I want to follow Jesus? Do I want to do this or that?

To this, the Bible has a strong response – James 1.5-8 says 

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.  But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord;  he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

There are doubts of the mind. Example – can this be proven? Do I understand this?

To this, the Bible has a softer response – Isaiah 1.18 says

“Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord:
though your sins are like scarlet,
    they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red like crimson,
    they shall become like wool.

Then, there are doubts of the emotion. Example – how do I feel about this?

In the latter stages of his short letter, Jude is writing specifically about those caught under false teaching, to those who are being taught things to make them feel differently about their faith. He writes,

have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh. 

Jude 1.22-23

Jude is talking, it seems, about doubts of the emotion – how do I feel about all of this? 

Doubts of the will, doubts of the mind, and doubts of the emotions.

Doubt is human and doubt is universal, says Os Guinness. We live in a broken world and to doubt how we feel about it all is sadly just a part of life. We are going to question how we feel about things on an almost daily basis. Maybe how you feel about COVID-19 and its impact on the world changes daily. That’s ok.

Doubt, inherently, isn’t a bad thing. 

Psalm 73 also speaks of the response to doubts of the heart.

Nevertheless, I am continually with you;
you hold my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will receive me to glory.
Whom have I in heaven but you?
And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

So, is it ok to have moments of doubt? Yes, absolutely.

Your feelings will change on all manner of things, maybe daily. When we come across people who hold a different opinion to us, when we come across people who are feeling differently about things to us, when we come across people who doubt things we don’t, Jude tells us to have mercy on those who doubt

Author Charles Hummel said that a stronger faith can emerge through doubt. It’s ok to doubt how you feel about things, change how you feel about things. It doesn’t make you a bad Christian if your feelings and emotions change on a topic back-and-forth. You learn some more, you feel differently about something. You feel differently about something, so you learn some more, and so on and so forth. The key for you as a believer will be to always and forever filter everything through the lens of Jesus, Jesus who never changes (Hebrews 13.8, John 8.58). Our desire to follow an unchanging and eternal God in an ever-changing world must never be doubted.

COVID may have you doubting how you feel about certain things, it may have you doubting how much you know about certain things, but, Christian, COVID should never have you doubting if you want to follow Jesus through all things.

If one member suffers…

In 1 Corinthians 12 Paul is talking about spiritual gifts and how many different gifts are used to keep a body of believers loving and living. He goes on to say that more important than the giftings we receive from God is the fact that we love one another. He writes in v.31I will show you a still more excellent way…and then goes directly into a chapter often that is often chopped out of context to talk about exclusively about love (1 Corinthians 13).

What he is saying, in context, is that love is the most desirable and most special gift of all, the gift of being able to love others more than yourself, to love sacrificially, to love as Christ loves us.

Part of his explanation of gifts and how we all need one another’s gifts is this statement,

If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.

1 Corinthians 12.26

At the core, Paul is teaching that we are to value others, have no division with others, to love others. We are to have compassion on others, work hard to understand others, be there for others, serve others, to love others. In another letter he writes that we are to bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6.2). Our ‘others‘ focus’ as believers should move us to take action when others are suffering or struggling.

This kind of command in-principle isn’t particularly complicated, is it? Look around, who is suffering, who is struggling, who is carrying a heavy load, who has a need (Luke 10.36-37), for whom can you stand in the gap?

Today one of our church family is undergoing a very serious surgery. We have called for a 24 hour church-wide prayer and fasting-from-food for those that are able.

We want to show this family that we love them, that we are here for them, we want to show them that we believe in the truth that if one member suffers, all suffer together. We want to bear one another’s burdens.


If you are reading this and you are part of our Saar Fellowship family and are able, we would love you to join us as we fast from Tuesday evening to Wednesday evening and pray.

If you are somewhere else in the world, we would be honoured if you would join us too and pray for this family, for their children, for the doctors and nurses involved, for the whole process.

If you would like to send a message of support or prayer for this family, or for their 3 young children, you can email it to me at james@saarfellowship.com or send it to us via Instagram at @saarfellowship.

Social Distancing: Staying Apart, But Staying Connected

As much of the world is now on lockdown, meaning that voluntary physical distancing became physical distancing through a government order, I wanted us as believers all over the world to consider the difference between “social distancing” and “physical distancing.”

Social Distancing vs. Physical Distancing

Rather than term what we are all doing as “social distancing,” would it not be better to refer to this as “physical distancing?”

Here’s why this is important:

  • Social distancing means that we are isolated socially, not in touch with anybody, alone, feeling abandoned and definitely not part of a loving and living body of people (1 Corinthians 12:12).
  • Physical distancing is simply just that; you don’t get too close to people. This is a small difference in choice of words, but a huge difference in understanding, acceptance, and consequently, practice.

For the sake of others, let us practice physical distancing willingly and obediently. Let us be the model citizens the Word calls us to be (Romans 13:1) and exemplify those who put into practice the instructions of our respective national governments that are given for the good of all.

The church is still the church despite physical distance. Nothing will stop the church being the church. Nothing. Jesus said that, on the bedrock truth that He is the Son of God, nothing would ever prevail against the church (Matthew 16:18), and being physically distant from each other for a fixed period of time will certainly not. So, valuing others more highly than ourselves, let us willingly practice physical distancing.

During this unprecedented time, we have a wonderful opportunity to see if the church is really the church.

We will see if this body of people is self-supporting, self-sustaining and self-supplicating (James 5:16).

  • Is the church reaching out to the community?
  • Is the church meeting the needs found therein?
  • Is the church bathing its members in prayer?

We will see if this body of people is Kingdom focused or kingdom-focused (Matthew 6:24).

Is the church focused on God’s plans and purposes during this time, or is the church focused on the things that have been postponed or cancelled. Is the church focused on the programmes or the people?

We will see if the church is filling its God-given mandate to make disciples (Matthew 28:19-20).

On any given Sunday (or Friday for me), the actual work of the church is usually done by a select few, those “on staff” maybe, or the faithful few who understand that serving the Lord through serving His people is not optional for the believer. Now that this physically cannot be the case, we will see whether the church family at large will spring into action and be the hands and feet of our Lord.

We will see if there is fruit and a root (James 2:14-26).

What we do always shows what we believe, so this time of enforced change will quickly bring to the surface through our actions what we hold dear and where we are willing to invest our time, talent and treasure. Does our fruit match what we claim to be our root?

Simply, we will see if this called-out-of-the-world group of people really are fully regenerate born again believers, part of the living body of Christ, or just a group of consumers who turn up to watch a religious TEDTalk once a week.

This is going to sting for some; this is going to turn some away (John 6:60), but for those truly part of the body, this is going to be a defining period of time, a call to action, a call to take up arms, a call to show that, yes, we are the church. We aren’t going anywhere; we are here for each other and for the world.

Brother, sisters, in a spirit of deferential love, let us willingly practice physical distancing, but let us not now nor ever be a church that is comfortable with social distancing. Let us come together, socially and spiritually, and show the world that we are the church today, tomorrow and every day.


This article was originally published here on April 9, 2020.

Rest

As we’ve all been adapting and changing to this temporarily augmented way of life because of the Coronavirus pandemic, many people will have been working harder, longer, and in stranger ways than ever before.

We set off sprinting into this pandemic, but we seem to have accepted that it isn’t going away anytime soon so we’ve slowed to marathon pace. Along the way, it’s now important that we pause and rest appropriately if we want to keep going.

So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.

Hebrews 4.9-10

Our enemy wants to keep us busy, distracted, stressed, and full of thoughts that are ultimately not about things that are good, noble, right, and pure (Philippians 4.8). He wants you bogged-down in the nitty-gritty of the here and now and everything that could go wrong, certainly not resting.

But, we really do need to rest! Lots of folks think about resting as going to the beach, doing nothing, firing up Netflix and kicking back on the couch to find out just how many tigers a man needs to keep. Maybe your idea of rest is different; maybe you rest by exercising, spending time with friends and family, sharing a meal, the list could go on and on…

We can have true rest from stress, anxiety, worries and weariness, and from our great accuser through one place and One person only: through Jesus

Hebrews 3 and 4 develops this idea that Jesus Himself is our rest, and the key to us understanding this is to understand what Jesus Himself said!

Jesus declared Himself as Lord of the sabbath in Matthew 12.8, and in Mark 2.27 said that the sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath. 

In Hebrews we read of how a relationship with Jesus frees us from the works-based righteousness that being under a law demands. Jesus has done all of the work needed to satisfy the righteous requirements of God (John 19.28-30), and because of this, we can rest easy. There is no longer an incessant need to work, to earn, to strive for righteousness, to bear your own burdens and work them away, to occupy our every waking moment with thoughts of being good enough or accepted.

We can rest, we can recharge, and we can regroup and not worry that we are not fulfilling laws and expectations by doing so.

Jesus serves as our Sabbath rest in the sense that He provides freedom from living under the works of the law. Instead, His sacrifice has paid the price for our salvation in full. We accept salvation as His free gift, entering into His rest both now as well as in eternity in His presence. 

No pandemic or earthly circumstances will every change this, so whilst it might be tempting to work a bit longer, a bit harder, or a bit more because your situation has changed, never forget that the rest you have in Jesus is real and ready. The stress, anxiety, and burnout that comes from overworking yourself to try and get on top of your earthly circumstances will only increase the harder you try. 

So today rest, recharge, refocus, and remember that this is all possible through Jesus.

Redemption through Resurrection

The passage we looked at together on Easter Sunday, 1 Corinthians 15.1-11, teaches us to never forget the Gospel, to see that the resurrection is the crux of our faith, and that the redemptive work of Jesus still has the power to work in your life today. It changed Paul completely, and it will change you too.

What does this mean for you, individual you?

It means redemption from death to life, redemption from the consequence of your sin, redemption from the life you want to leave behind, from whatever is holding you back, is available.

Today, just take a moment to think about what God has changed in your life through His grace, think about how this is available to you only because of the resurrection, and commit to Him that which needs His power to be redeemed.