By Femi Aribisala
Early in my relationship with God, the Holy Spirit engaged me in discussion over my obsession with going to heaven. “Femi,” he asked, “why do you want to go to heaven?”
I could not answer him directly because my interest in heaven had little to do with heaven. Instead, it had to do with my fear of hell. I wanted to end up in heaven because I did not want to end up in hell.
But this could not be a satisfactory answer for God. Therefore, he dropped the bombshell.
“Femi,” he said, “heaven is not for you. There is nothing in heaven that you like. There is no food in heaven. There is no sex in heaven. None of the material possessions you crave are in heaven. Why would you want to spend eternity in such a boring place?”
Wages of sin
I have since learned my lesson. The only acceptable reason for anyone to want to go to heaven is the earnest desire to be with God.
God is: “the Desire of All Nations.” (Haggai 2:7). “In (His) presence is fullness of joy; at (His) right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (Psalm 16:11). Therefore, God rewards those who diligently seek Him with Himself. (Hebrews 11:6).
For this reason, God says: “The soul who sins shall die.” (Ezekiel 18:4). This death is not just physical death; it means separation from God. Spiritual death is the greatest punishment God can inflict on sinful man because it takes us away from His glorious presence.
However, Christians who don’t value God do not consider the denial of His presence as punishment enough for sin. Therefore, instead of the scripture’s assertion that “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23); they have substituted a fictional and diabolical “the wages of sin is eternal torment in hellfire.”
Jesus foresaw this development and berated the Jewish clergy of his day. He said: “their fear toward me is taught by the commandment of men.” (Isaiah 29:13).
Fear of the dark
As a little boy, I was afraid of the dark. At night, my imagination went wild. We had house-helps that regaled us with fantastic stories about witches and wizards. We read to my grandmother D.O. Fagunwa’s books, including “Forest of a Thousand Daemons.” The stories were more than enough to keep me up at night.
Therefore, at night, I could not sleep alone on the bed; someone had to sleep with me. Moreover, it was unacceptable to me if the person on the bed with me turned his back to me. He must face me. Only then could I sleep in peace.
If I happen to wake up in the middle of the night and the person has turned his back, I would wake him up so he can turn and face me again. Little did I know that I was acting out a cardinal kingdom dynamic. Imagine my surprise, therefore, when I later found my predicament in the scriptures.
Presence of God
For Israel to prosper and be at peace, God must face the nation. Whenever He is offended and angry with Israel, he says: “I will turn my face away from them.” (Ezekiel 7:22). When he does this, Israel gets into trouble.
Habakkuk says to God: “You are of purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot look on wickedness.” (Habakkuk 1:13). The psalmist also declares that: “The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous.” (Psalm 34:15).
But when the sins of Israel cause God to turn His back, He withdraws His peace and loving-kindness. The result is that the people start dying from viruses, famine, the sword and other disasters. (Jeremiah 16:5).
“If God is not our fear, then COVID-19 will definitely be our fear.”
David understood this. The presence of God was the most precious thing in his life. When he sinned against God by adultery with Bathsheba, he pleaded with God: “Do not cast me away from Your presence, and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.” (Psalm 51:11).
Elsewhere, he declares: “One thing I have desired of the Lord, that will I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in His temple. For in the time of trouble he shall hide me in His pavilion; in the secret place of His tabernacle He shall hide me; He shall set me high upon a rock. And now my head shall be lifted up above my enemies all around me.” (Psalm 27:4-6).
Therefore, all we need in this era of the coronavirus and Covit-19 is the presence of God. Those who dwell in the presence of God need fear no virus: “The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.” (Proverbs 18:10).
Don’t even wait until there is a pandemic to run into the Ark of the Lord. Stay permanently in His presence. The psalmist says: “He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.” (Psalm 91:1).
Make sure you dwell in the secret presence of God. Carry the presence of God with you at all times, and the coronavirus will run away from you.
God says: “He who works deceit shall not dwell within my house; he who tells lies shall not continue in my presence.” (Psalm 101:7).
Many Christians are oblivious to this scripture. We fail to realize that one of the reasons why we don’t feel the manifest presence of God is because we are habitual liars. We call some lies “white lies;” but lies are lies whether white or black.
Jesus gives Christians this assurance: “Surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20). But once sin sets in, we lose the awareness of his divine presence.
Fear of God
Today, the coronavirus pandemic is ravaging all over the world. Nothing seems to be working against it as world scientists have yet to fully understand the virus. The numbers of the sick and the dying are rising sharply on a daily basis. In this kind of situation, the only defense is the shield of the presence of God.
Moses understood this. He told God he would only lead the Israelites into the Promised Land if God went with them. Accordingly, God made him a promise. He told him: “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” (Exodus 33:14).
As a result, the presence of God in the form of a pillar of smoke by day and a pillar of fire by night, safeguarded the Israelites from the plagues of Egypt. The same divine presence is available today to safeguard us from the scourge of the coronavirus and COVID-19.
True believers don’t fear viruses. God says: “Do not call conspiracy everything that these people call conspiracy; do not fear what they fear, and do not dread it. The Lord Almighty is the one you are to regard as holy, he is the one you are to fear, he is the one you are to dread.” (Isaiah 8:12-13).
If God is not our fear, then COVID-19 will definitely be our fear.
Management and Social Development did not exist. But then 10 months ago if you said Corona, young people would think of a beer brand while older folks would think of an old car model, ToyotaCorona. The Coronavirus, also, did not exist.
But times have changed and today, with the world on lockdown from Minna to Minneapolis and Lagos to Lisbon, the word de jour is Covid-19, a disease caused by the novel Coronavirus.
Total global infections now stand at over 2.8m with a total fatality rate of almost 200,000 which is well over 5%. Of the global number of infections, 808,024 people have recovered. Figures are based on statistics available on April 25, 2020.
Nigeria with 1,095 confirmed cases and 32 deaths is fast closing the gap against Ghana which has 1,279 confirmed cases and 10 fatalities as well as South Africa which has reported 4,220 cases with 79 fatalities.
Prognostications from the Nigeria Center of Disease Control (NCDC) are dire with the figures expected to rise further in the coming days as more tests are carried out.
The global pandemic has impacted the world in horrible ways. The global economy is in tatters, the airline and travel industry may never recover, the Olympics has been cancelled, football leagues abandoned, blockbuster movie releases pushed back, terminal examinations postponed indefinitely while oil prices are in negative territory, having dropped below $1. Medical facilities and personnel are stretched thin even in highly developed countries like Germany, France, Canada and Japan.
While a few countries like Sweden, Czech and Georgia seem to have seen the worst of it, most of the world has been impacted so negatively it will take decades for a full recovery to occur.
The Covid-19 pandemic can only be likened to a sneak guerilla attack with no warning and scant preparation. The world was left flat-footed as can be seen from the debacle unfolding daily.
Wrong advice and faux pas have become the order of the day as we see world leaders, who, overwhelmed by the scale of the disaster and drowning in the muck are reaching for any strand of hope to cling to.
The innate ability to keep your head in moments of the crisis has long been recognized as a defining attribute of leadership and the Covid-19 pandemic is showing up leaders across.