In times of comfort and prosperity, everyone wears a mask. It’s called the “mask of civility,” and it is a polite, controlled covering of whatever lies underneath. During times of crisis, however, the masks come off to reveal people’s true natures, whatever they may be. Recent reports from both the news and a friend’s firsthand account from China have revealed the depravity of mankind in a situation in which society has come undone. Whether the coronavirus comes to our country or not, it is worth considering how we would react in a similar situation near us. As born again Christians, what should our behavior look like in comparison with those who are not? How do we continue to bear the fruit of the Spirit in a time of crisis?
There Are Only Two Kinds of Trees
The Bible tells us that we will know who people are by how they behave. Matthew 7:17-18 says, “Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit.”
But what makes a “good tree”? In Matthew 19:17, Jesus says “No one is good but God.” It is the Spirit of God, Himself, in us that makes us good trees. When we were saved, the Holy Spirit came to live inside of us and changed us into a new creation. The Holy Spirit’s presence in us gives us a new nature with new desires. The more we yield to Him, the more power He gives us to reject our old ways and, instead, behave more like He does. These “fruits” are the natural product; they are the characteristics we possess as we choose His ways instead of our own. The closer we get to God, the more power we have, and the more fruit we will bear.
What makes a “bad” tree? Sinful flesh produces certain types of fruit that reflect the old nature. This certainly doesn’t mean that unsaved people can’t behave in perfectly noble ways. That just means that it isn’t something we can count on when we are dealing with unconverted people.
In fact, understanding the two-tree system is paramount to having the correct mindset. We can’t go into a crisis expecting everyone to be “good.” That would just set us up for disappointment, anger, and frustration when they are not. We have to get into our heads before the situation occurs that sinners sin. It’s what we did before we were saved, and it’s what we would still be doing without our Savior. We have to go into the situation knowing that we are all accountable to God for our own behavior, so our standard has to be what God expects and not how other people are reacting.
The Fruit of the Spirit
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.”Galatians 5:22-23
Love is hard to define, but the Bible gives a definition in 1 Corinthians 13:4-5. Because God’s love is in us, it flows out from us. It allows us to see other people as objects of God’s love and to want the best for them even when they might not “deserve it” by their actions. Philippians 2:4 says, “Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” And, Matthew 7:12 gives us the golden rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
My friend Jason is a Christian who has been visiting Hong Kong for the past couple of months. While there, he has witnessed a lot of hoarding of necessary supplies like masks, water, and toilet paper (see his pictures above). He said, “But this Wuhan Flu thing is making people crazy here. Absolutely ZERO compassion on one another. People buying up everything themselves with NO regard to others. It’s literal Thunderdome.”
As Christians in this situation, we must remember that our resources are not our own. God has given us our financial position to help other people. We can’t just look out for ourselves or treat others the way they treat us. Instead, we must be concerned about other people and help when we can simply because God loves them too.
Joy is a gladness of heart. It is a feeling even stronger than pleasure or even happiness because it is in reaction to the eternal instead of the temporal. We can have joy even in the middle of a great trial because we can experience God’s presence, assurance, and comfort. Plus, we know that this life is temporary. Psalm 30:5 says it this way: “…Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.”
In a video entitled Heartbreaking Suffering in China, a woman is furious about the injustice of the government in light of the tragedy. This highlights a grave danger for the children of God. If we focus on the world and the things that are hurting us and the ones we love, anger and despair will be the result. Instead, we must acknowledge our temporary situation but focus on worshiping God and fulfilling His call on our lives. Psalm 16:11 says, “You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” This life is not all there is, and no matter what happens, we can never forget that..
Peace is the opposite of distress. It can be found by trusting in God no matter what. Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” We bring our requests to God and leave them at the altar, and He, in turn, gives us His peace.
While in Hong Kong, my friend Jason was staying next to a building where the government quarantined some people who had just returned from Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak. The people were “bussed in under protection and ushered in under covering.” Even though the quarantine was only a precaution, and there was no physical evidence of illness, people were “losing their minds…everyone desperately clinging to life.” When life and death situations occur for people who are not secure in their eternity, distress is the immediate reaction. If we are ever in a similar situation, we must remember who is in control in our lives. We must choose to reject the chaos around us and trust God, to accept His peace in trade for our distress.
Patience is the ability to wait even in situations in which we are severely tried. I think the key here is to understand that God’s ways and timing are not our own. If God is for us (Romans 8:31) and He fights for us (Deuteronomy 3:22), then we can trust Him to take care of us. Otherwise, we might start to get worried or discouraged when things don’t seem to be happening exactly the way or in the timing we think they should. But, we need to remember that God will give us strength. Psalm 27:14 says, “Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the Lord!”
In a YouTube video by A Minute to Midnight entitled Wuhan Coronavirus – The Truth. Shocking and Concealed! a man comes on about the 15 minute mark. He explains that the entire society had been halted as people were quarantined. Emergency services were not functioning, and hospitals were so backed up that even people with other serious conditions could not be seen in a timely manner because of the lack of manpower and supplies. Innocent people were unable to get help but basically told to go home and die.
In this situation, it would be so important for the child of God to trust in Him. God is a healer. He can heal where there is no medicine. He can provide where there are thought to be no supplies. We must wait on Him and not lose heart. Even seemingly impossible situations are nothing to our God. Psalm 37:25 says, “I have been young, and now am old; yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his descendants begging bread.” God will take care of us in our time of need.
Kindness and Goodness
Kindness is the care we take of other people when we help them. Goodness is when we do things to be morally right and a blessing to others. These two are about doing the right thing with integrity when dealing with other people. We must love our neighbors as ourselves. In the Parable of the Good Samaritan, this looked like taking care of someone at a personal cost of time and money. In Acts 28:2, the islanders showed Paul and his group kindness when they built a fire and welcomed them out of the cold and rain.
By now, everyone has probably seen the video of the Chinese woman spitting on the buttons in an elevator. She was angry at others after a fight and decided that deliberately spreading germs would be an acceptable way to handle it. In another video, it is a man. This kind of behavior isn’t right by anyone’s standards of morality. It can make you angry unless you realize that these people are lost and feeling helpless. We must still remain good and kind in the face of the actions of humanity.
Jason personally saw a situation in which mainlanders flooded into Hong Kong. “A LOT of them not wearing masks, and I noticed they’d use the bathroom and not wash their hands and then go out and touch railings. Or spitting on the ground etc etc.” But his admonition to us is the real Christian reaction to this behavior. He said, “Also still be kind… Don’t use that as an excuse to start treating them like animals or whatever.”
Faithfulness is when we are full of faith, when we persevere down the path God has set for us. It is about trusting in God no matter what. Romans 5:8 says, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” Whatever happens, we can’t get weary in well-doing. We must cling to the hope that God is in control of our lives.
Very few people in China are Christians. Leaked videos show angry people speaking out against the Chinese government, the CCP (Chinese Communist Party), which has set itself up as their god. Jason said, “The Chinese people are suffering… More videos like this WILL come out… Distrust in the govt at an all-time high. If only they just trusted the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.”
The people there are ripe to hear about the kingdom of God. As Christians, we possess the gospel, the hope for all mankind. In times when the world is falling apart, our peace can show people a better way. It is up to us to be witnesses when we can. Our faith is a testimony that God is real and can save anyone. Jason said, “But I think it’s time to consider leaving my comfort zone life back home and trying to do something out here for the Lord. If he gives me the strength to do it.” More than any other time, the time is now to be ready to give a reason for the hope that is in us.
Gentleness involves being humble and thankful to God, using our words and actions to lift others up instead of tearing them down. Circumstances can change in a moment. Our lives are held in the palm of God’s hand. We shouldn’t think we are better than others because of our position. We should use our position to help people and cry out to God on their behalf.
Jason said, “Pray for the people of Hong Kong… They will definitely need it… the few members of the Body of Christ here are probably under siege badly. Not sure how this city will heal when this passes, when people’s dark hearts have been exposed to one another.” We must realize that the world will be dark if and when a situation like this hits our land. But we are the light of the world. It’s up to us to shine.
Self-control involves saying “no” to what is bad for us and “yes” to what is good. Sometimes that means keeping silent when we want to speak. Sometimes that means speaking when we want to keep silent. During a crisis, it means restraining our fleshly desires in favor of following what the Holy Spirit tells us to do.
At one point while out and about, Jason got his empty bottle of hand sanitizer stolen from out of his backpack. More recently, a story came out in which hundreds of rolls of toilet paper were stolen by men with knives in Hong Kong. That is just one of the many stories coming out right now. People are stealing masks and medical supplies, and hospital workers are accused of taking hospital items home for themselves. In a crisis, we will definitely need the power of God to control ourselves. To give instead of take, to share instead of steal. We must remember that God will supply our needs when we submit to Him instead of doing things our own way.
One Parting Thought
When it comes to trees, there are only two kinds: good and bad. In a crisis, we will be expected to bear fruit with the power of God inside us, but we can’t count on others to do the same. Jason said about his experience, “I was naive. I knew that, yes, we are all sinful by nature, but deep down I wanted to believe there was goodness in everyone. That everyone deserves a chance. I still believe they deserve a chance with Jesus Christ… But my view of everyone being ‘basically good’ is finally gone for good.”
As Christians, we will need to be kind to others and pray for them, to trust in God and His timing, and to witness to others. But, we can’t do it alone. In John 15:4-5, Jesus says, “Abide in Me, and I in you. …he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” It all comes down to our relationship with God and how close we are to Him. We must submit ourselves and allow Him to change us to be more like Him and less like us. But that process can’t start when the crisis begins. It has to start today. We must get closer to God than every before so we can stand and bear the fruit of the Spirit in the evil day.
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