Tony Evans, the pastor of a Dallas-based megachurch, warned in a toned-down sermon Sunday—delivered from a chair in his living room—that fear was spreading more quickly than the coronavirus and urged his audience to not let “worry own you.”
Like thousands of other pastors across America, Evans was far removed from his regular routine of preaching before his flock while he honored a coronavirus lockdown. For the foreseeable future, sanctuaries have become empty shells. While the buildings are closed for business, God is not.
“Worry and fear have a way of transferring very quickly from you to other people,” Evans, senior pastor of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship, said as a fire crackled behind him, The Christian Post reports.
No choir. No vestments. No altar.
"I think that’s what’s happening with this virus,” he said in a YouTube video of his sermon. “The virus is not the only thing that transfers quickly. Our anxiety, worry, and fear is outpacing the problem of the virus because it’s consumed the mind, the heart, the energy and the emotions of our selves, our families, the whole nation and even the world.”
Using Matthew 6:25-34 as his text, Evans offered a straightforward antidote: Don’t worry.
“We have a legitimate right for legitimate concern. What we don’t have the right to do is worry,” he said, adding that worry is “concern gone haywire.”
Being removed from fear doesn’t mean we ignore trials, said Evans, who lost his wife, father and sister in a three-month stretch beginning in November. His daughter, Priscilla Shirer, a Bible teacher, actress and author, is recovering from a January surgery to remove a nodule from her lung.
“God does not expect us not to deal with reality,” the pastor said. “If you’re sick, you’re sick. If you’re struggling, you’re struggling. But that’s different than worry. Concern you own; worry owns you.”
Evans said over exposure to the news coverage, especially as the number of infections and deaths spike, can create an unhealthy and unbiblical response.
“It can draw you from legitimate concern from which you should act responsibly to illegitimate worry,” he said.
The best salve to worry and fear, he said, is building faith.
“The size of your faith is tied to the size of your God,” he said. “When you shrink God, you automatically shrink faith. So if you and I have little faith, it’s because we’re operating with a small understanding and view of God.”
Coming to understand the paternal nature of God is critical to expanding that view.
“This father cares for you,” he said. “When you come to look at Him this way, understand Him this way, relate to Him this way, you begin to experience God the daddy and not just God the creator,” he said. “God will keep you calm even in a drought, even in a virus. So I want you to calm down, look at your family members right now, who are seated with you, and say, ‘Don’t worry.’”
Video courtesy: Tony Evans
Lori Arnold is a national award-winning journalist whose experience includes 16 years at a daily community newspaper in San Diego and 16 years as writer-editor for the Christian Examiner. She owns StoryLori Media and is a member of the Evangelical Press Association.