Evangelical pastor and author Max Lucado is encouraging Christians to choose faith over fear and consider what God might be telling them as the novel coronavirus continues to spread in the United States and abroad.
“We’ve never lived in a time like this. This is unprecedented,” Lucado, pastor of Oak Hills Church in San Antonio, Texas, told The Christian Post. “Yet the Bible tells us that times have been bizarre before. You open your Bible and you read about pestilence, fears, dark times. The Bible is written for times like this.”
“I think this a time where we need to be feeding our faith,” he continued. “If you feed your faith, your fears will starve. If you feed your fears, your faith will starve. Our tendency is to feed our fears. We have to do intentional things to feed our faith.”
Choosing faith over fear amid the onslaught of negative headlines, The New York Times bestselling author said, begins with thought management.
“When I turn on the news this evening, I’ll hear somebody say things are getting worse. If I don’t guard myself, I’ll let that create a sense of anxiety that will fill my heart, and then I will purvey that to the world,” Lucado explained.
“We think that just because we have a thought, we have to think it. We don’t. We don’t have to receive it. There are lots of lies out there and falsehoods distributed right now, in the form of exaggeration, like, ‘We’ll never get through this’ and other overstatements. We need to guard against those things because they can suck us down.”
The Lucado Encouraging Word Bible author pointed out that in 2nd Corinthians, the Apostle Paul exhorts believers to “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”
“This means, we hear that thought, and then we pray: ‘I know it seems things are getting worse, but Lord, you are in control, and I’m not going to surrender to that. I give my fear to you,’” he said. “Instead of allowing anxiety into my heart, faith goes into my heart so that later, what I say is, ‘Things are tough, but I believe in a good God and He’s on the throne.' I become one who purveys hope instead of fear.”
He encouraged every believer to ask: “‘Lord, what are you saying to me during this crisis?” God, Lucado stressed, is “talking to the world” through the global pandemic.
“I believe His message is both personal and global,” the pastor emphasized. “Some of us need to hear something individually. For example, I sensed the Lord was telling me, ‘Max, don’t depend on the economy.’ It could be that God is telling people, ‘Don’t trust entertainment for your fulfillment.’”
“Who would’ve foreseen empty sports stadiums? This feels like a science fiction novel,” he continued. “It could be that some of us need to hear the Lord saying, ‘Quit making an idol out of these sources of pleasure. Come to me for fulfillment.”
“Go to the Lord, ask what He’s saying, and then say, ‘How can we be used by you? How can we serve others?’" he advised. "It’s not easy because of social distancing. But we can text and call people, drop gifts off for someone, we can get creative, especially with the vulnerable.”
Throughout Scripture, Jesus provides the perfect example of how to respond in times of crisis, Lucado said.
“If you want to know how Jesus responds to a global calamity, we can look at the way Jesus responded to the fact that 5,000 men women and children had no food, and how he fed them,” he said. “Want to look at the way Jesus responds to the evil specter of death? We can see how He responds when Lazarus died by raising him from the dead.”
The pastor’s most recent book, Jesus: The God Who Knows Your Name, looks deeply at the life of Christ and what He means to us today. It's both for new Christians who want to “walk through the life of Christ and understand the beauty of this real person who lived on this Earth” and for seasoned believers who “want to go deeper and explore different aspects of Christ’s life,” Lucado said.
“The book helps people come to an understanding of why we treasure Christ,” he said. “The reason that God became flesh is to reveal to us the heart of God. When we see Jesus, we see God’s heart.”
“They all reveal the heart of Christ which is compassionate, hates religion that takes people away from God, and loves people.”
Like many churches around the world, Lucado’s Texas-based church has suspended on-campus worship services in response to the coronavirus. Instead, Lucado has in recent weeks hosted a brief Sunday service on Facebook and will continue to do so “for as long as is needed.”
“On Sunday, I preached sermons to an empty auditorium because we don’t think it’s safe to gather,” he shared. “I thought, not every church has live stream capacity. So I decided to have church every Sunday for as long as this lasts. Every week, we do a 15 to 20 minute message and a time of prayer and reflection.”
In addition, Lucado is offering a free, five-week online Bible study based on his book, Anxious for Nothing, concluding on April 25. The Bible study is based on the Philippians 4 passage: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.’”
“People can access it through maxlucado.com and it’s free,” he said. “The videos are free, the curriculum is free, if they want to order the book they can, but they can still benefit from the study even if they don’t have the book. In these times, we need to remember that while the challenges are great, God is greater.”
In times of calamity, Christians should strive to “keep our Bibles and hearts open” more than ever before, Lucado stressed.
“We have situations like this in history and it will happen again," he said. "I don’t know if this is an indication that we’re near the end of the world as we know it, but it could be. Nobody knows. But it’s a reminder to us to turn our hearts to the Lord and keep praying.”