Christian courage and faith loom large in times of uncertainty
Easter lessons about the vaccine include wisdom, patience, faith
Merdies Hayes | 3/31/2021, 5:17 p.m.
Courage is widely considered an indispensable asset for both spreading and preserving the truth. It takes great courage to remain steadfast in the teachings of Christ. Sometimes that philosophy may fall out of favor or be considered antiquated over the passage of time.
In the current pandemic, many African-Americans of faith may waver in their courage to be tested, to be vaccinated—or to endure an uncertain hospital stay if the infection turns worse.
Pastor James McKnight, lead pastor of the Congregational Church of Christian Fellowship in Los Angeles refers those who may find their courage waining to 2 Timothy 1:7 -- “God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, of love, and of a sound mind.”
“During difficult and uncertain times, God provides the answers, the courage and the resolve to remain confident that He is with us always and will not abandon us even in the most dire of situations,” McKnight explained.
The Bible emphasizes that another one of the greatest qualities we can possess is wisdom. The books of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes are replete with timeless advice, especially about the importance of wisdom — “The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding (Proverbs 4:7).
King Solomon, with all his magnificent wealth and possessions, understood the value of wisdom: “For wisdom is better than rubies, and all the things one may desire cannot be compared with her” (Proverbs 8:11).
Wisdom helps us make wise choices. The effective outcome of responsible and sound choices and decisions are largely determined by the three crucial components of wisdom: knowledge, understanding and application.
During the pandemic, health officials have turned to the leaders of the Black Churches to inspire their congregations to participate in the testing and vaccination sites. As in most crises, it’s the Black church to the rescue, helping members to address their fears with wisdom and truth by consulting with physician congregants and reading through health department data.
Generations of Christians have often followed the example of King David in Psalm 51. David did not justify himself, but rather judged himself as being guilty of sin (verse 4). He understood the principle explained in verse 6: “Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts, and in the hidden part you will make me to know wisdom.” In short, genuine truth can be considered the hallmark of wisdom.
Pastor Otis Moss III, senior pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, said that wisdom plays an important role in making decisions regarding our health choices. The pandemic may serve as a testimonial or spiritual “corroboration” of the wisdom we seek through His works.
“It's okay to have questions like 'is it safe?' 'What if I have a pre-existing condition?' 'Where can I get it (vaccination)?'” Moss III said, explaining that he believes the vaccine is life-saving. “We'll be better able to reconnect with one another...as soon as we can.”
While patience is one of the cardinal Christian values, few people are in any hurry to obtain it. This virtue is often defined as a delay in getting what we want.
Patience is not optional for a Christian. That was affirmed by one man's trials and tribulations as told in the book of Job. In the New Testament, Paul repeatedly commanded Christians to demonstrate patience to each other. In fact, this is often a critical test of Christian authenticity. Paul instructed the Ephesian Christians to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:1-3).
It is generally accepted that the Bible's understanding of patience as a Christian virtue is rooted in the totality of Christian truth.
Patience is said to begin with the affirmation that God is sovereign and in control of human history, working in human lives.
Persons of faith understand that full “satisfaction” is never obtained in this life, but he/she looks to the consummation of all things in the age to come. Patience can be explained as both a command and a gift from God, and as with all Christian values, people are obligated under the command of God to demonstrate the “fruit of the Spirit''--of which patience plays a vital role. As a command from God, patience arrives at the Christian conscience as a matter of accountability. And at the same time it serves as a divine gift from God.
In the 20th Century, perhaps no affirmation of patience has been better demonstrated than by the endurance of Martin Luther King Jr. when he addressed a determined, yet weary audience on the steps of the state capitol in Montgomery, Ala. in 1965:
“I have come to you this afternoon, however difficult the moment. However frustrating the hour, it will not be long because truth crushed to earth will rise again.
“How long? Not long, because no lie can live forever.
“How long? Not long because you shall reap what you sow.
“How long? Not long: Truth forever on the scaffold, wrong forever on the throne. Yet that scaffold sways the future, and behind the dim unknown, standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch above his own.
“How long? Not long, because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”
There is an old biblical saying within the Black community regarding “faith of a mustard seed.” It's the smallest seed in the garden—and usually the first one to sprout life. Faith plays a significant role in a person's spiritual growth.
Most of the great heroes of the Bible share two things in common: They all wore sandals, and they were all required to persevere in their faith.
In the pandemic, many people are cautious with their faith regarding the vaccination shot. Will it work? Will it prevent me from getting sick? Will it do me more harm than good?
Those willing to trust in God for victory over sin have had their faith tested. The late televangelist and author Dr. Frederick K. C. Price often reminded his flock “For we walk by faith, not by sight” taken from 2 Corinthians 5:7. This line of scripture requires one to go to a place one does not know. It's somewhere that God will reveal as one walks in obedience.
With faith, the Bible explains that everything in our past can be taken and used for good. Every failure (like those of Peter) can be transformed by God's mercy. Every weakness (like Paul's weaknesses) are supposed to be a vehicle for God to demonstrate His strength.
Though people must persevere in faith—amounting to centuries for the African-American slaves—the Bible reveals that faith is the means by which God enters the equation. Paul may have offered the best example of faith in that it serves as a “spiritual armor.” He used a helmet to illustrate the truth of salvation: That which protects the mind, and protects us from a fatal blow.
Rev. Traci D. Blackmon, associate general minister of local church ministries with The United Church of Christ, believes that the pandemic—no matter how horrendous after more than 2.7 million deaths worldwide (nearly 548,000 in the US. alone) -- may serve as a test of faith in allowing our reliance on God's sovereignty to see us through the darkest of times.
“God provides a way through His words, through medical treatments and through doctors,” she said. “You may still have questions, and that's okay.”
Alternatively, faith can grow through new challenges as most people are called into circumstances where they will need to trust and rely on God. As they take courageous steps, God shows Himself as worthy of their trust and love...and hence their faith grows accordingly.