I know many of you think it’s bad. Certainly this virus is bad for some who catch it, very bad for a few. Can good come out of bad? Did God send this? Is it judgment for our sins? Does God have a purpose for the pandemic?
First of all, God is omnipotent and sovereign. That means He may do whatever He pleases, and He is powerful enough to do it. Therefore, whether God sent this virus, He is certainly powerful enough to stop it. God is also good, and His purposes, although often inscrutable (beyond our understanding), are ultimately good. God is love, but at times His love is what we might call “tough love.” “We must go through many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22).
This ain’t heaven. We live in a fallen world, and it is filled with hardship and suffering. Even those of us who believe in Jesus and try to follow Him suffer, sometimes more because of our faith. We’re not going to make our world into heaven, but heaven is coming. This is bootcamp for eternity! God has a purpose for our suffering and difficulty down here: to make us more like His Son, Jesus.
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.” (Romans 8:28–29, NIV)
God can make good come out of a bad situation. God has a purpose for the pandemic we are currently experiencing. What is it? Let’s look at something Jesus said when confronted with the suffering of his countrymen. The religious leaders of Jesus’ day, and many of the people, believed that when something bad happened to someone it was God’s judgment on them. They deserved it because of their sin. Now, we can certainly bring suffering upon ourselves as a consequence of our bad decisions and evil actions, but that doesn’t mean that every time something bad happens to someone, it is some kind of punishment from God for a particular sin.
“Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”” (Luke 13:1–5, NIV)
Unless you repent, you too will perish… We all sin. Sin is falling short of God’s purpose for you. It is rebellion. It is breaking the moral law. Sin is failure or refusal to believe that God exists and rewards those who seek Him. It is refusing to believe that God is, and is good and loving. Sin is self-centered idolatry. Sin is Pride. “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
We all sin, and we must all turn away from sin and toward God. We must put our faith in the one who can and will save us, Jesus Christ. If you don’t, then you’ll eventually be destroyed by your sin. “The price for sin is death…” (Romans 6:23a). This is eternal death, separation from God, total destruction in hell. The reason for death and hell is sin. The reason the world is fallen is because of our sin. “But unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”
“….but the free gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ, our Lord” (Romans 6:23b). Jesus came to save us from eternal destruction. Jesus was raised from death on the third day, Easter Sunday. All of those who are in Christ will overcome death too. In fact, He promised those who believed in him would not see death. “Very truly I tell you, whoever obeys my word will never see death.” (John 8:51, NIV) Those of us who believe in Jesus and follow Him because of our faith will not die forever. In fact, we’ll not really perceive death, only a transition into the presence of God. We will not perish. We have received His gift of eternal life. “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, so that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). “I am the resurrection and the life, whoever believes in me will live, even though He dies” (John 11:25).
In a very real sense, everything bad that happens down here, including and especially death, is God’s judgment, which is the consequence of our sin. So, I’m not sure the distinction is all that important between God causing a particular thing and it happening due to nature. The world we have inherited is separated from God. That’s the judgment. What you and I must do is turn our lives over to God by putting complete trust in Jesus. We must repent of our sin, which means change our thinking and our ways.
I believe God’s purpose for the pandemic is to bring about repentance, especially repentance from idols. It is a reason for you to turn from worthless things, and turn (or return) to Jesus. The world is filled with idols, and we have set our hearts on those idols. Now, some of them have been taken from us, albeit temporarily. No sports, no eating out, no parties, loss of money, loss of precious freedom. These are not necessarily bad in themselves, but we value them too highly. Too often we look to them rather than God. As author and pastor Tim Keller put it: “Anything we look to more than we look to Christ for our sense of acceptability, joy, significance, hope, and security is by definition our god.” Now, you may say, “Well, I don’t really value sports, my gym, or favorite restaurant that much.” Here’s the test of whether something or someone is an idol. Once again from Keller, “A sure sign of the presence of idolatry is inordinate anxiety, anger, or discouragement when our idols are thwarted. So, if we lose a good thing, it makes us sad, but if we lose an idol, it devastates us.”
You and I are forced to stay at home right now so we might focus on what is really important: our souls, our homes and families, and our relationship with God. So, what are you doing with the time you’ve been given? As for me, I’ve been thinking and praying about making some changes in my life for quite some time, but I never seem to quite do what I want to do.I begin but don’t carry it out to the end. I’ve asked God to help me, and He has, but I return to the same old patterns. The pandemic is a wake up call. It has given me perspective. It has laser-focused me. It’s like chemotherapy for my soul. It’s killing some things that needed to die. But it can’t last forever, or it will kill what is good too.
I could lose everything if God doesn’t step in and do something powerful and miraculous. Lifewell Church is my life’s work. For some who attend our church, it may just another activity, something to do on Sunday, a place to gather with friends, hear some music, maybe listen to a nice message, some teaching from the Bible. For me, well, If I lose this church I lose everything. I lose what I’ve worked for for more than 20 years. What happens if the shutdown lasts for months? Will people lose interest? What happens if they lose their income and stop giving? We can’t pay our bills. Would the church dissolve, and I fade into the light of common day? If I didn’t believe God would protect us and hold us together, I would be in despair right now. I’d be living in panic and fear.
This leads me to realize that according to Keller’s evaluation, even Lifewell Church might be an idol to me. So, I’ve made it clear to the Lord that as long as I have Him, nothing else matters. I need His presence, His protection, and His direction for my life. “Whom do I have in heaven but You, and I desire nothing on earth beside You” (Psalm 73:25). Abraham was told to sacrifice Isaac, the child God promised him. Abraham was willing to give up his son, and God gave Isaac back, along with affirmation that Abraham’s descendants would be a multitude and become all that God had promised.
“By Myself I have sworn, declares the Lord, because you have done this thing and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.”” (Genesis 22:16–18, NIV)
Sometimes you have to give something up to keep it from becoming an idol, and if it is God’s will you’ll receive it back. Only then it will become what God intended it to be in your life. This works with anything, or anyone, we value too much. I have given Lifewell Church over to the Lord completely. God has given me confidence that our church will be well. I am at peace. I am not afraid. I am waiting on the Lord to act miraculously. I still believe we will become all that God established us to be. In fact, I believe we will actually grow during the pandemic! We’ll come back stronger than ever. I believe.
Here’s something you desperately need to realize during this potentially dangerous time: God can and will protect you if you trust and rely on Him. If you turn from your self-seeking ways toward God’s perfect plan for your life. then you and your family will be protected. This is true of all who will remain “in Christ.” You may suffer, but you will not be destroyed. That is not the case when you think like the world and wander around doing your own thing. That’s living like a practical atheist, even if you say you believe in God.
I cling to Psalm 91 in times like these.
“Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty… “You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday. A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you.” (Psalm 91:1, 5–7, NIV).
We’re under an emergency order to “shelter inside your home” right now. Well, Almighty God is my home, and He will protect me because I am sheltered in Him. You can count on God to keep you safe from destruction if you are in Christ, because God promised to do so and He keeps His promises.
So, I have been fasting and praying daily for the past week, and I plan on continuing to do that until Easter Sunday. I am praying for the protection and prosperity of my Lifewell Church family. That’s what they are to me, family, not followers, parishioners or attenders. I am praying daily that none of us gets sick. I am believing we will not. I am praying for a miraculous breakthrough in this pandemic by Easter Sunday. I am praying and fasting and praying for our nation and our world! I do not receive sickness, hospitalization or death. I believe the report God gives in His Word, not the fear-mongering media, and not the unbelieving masses online.
I am desperate. I am determined. I am in the process of making changes in my own heart and life. I confess this with the hope that you will look closely and carefully at your life too. Let the Spirit of God encourage you and grant you a change of heart, friend. Decide. Change your thinking; change your ways. “Don’t be conformed to this world any longer, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may test and approve God’s perfect and pleasing will for your lives” (Romans 12:2).
Will you join me? Will you repent? God can, and I believe God will, stop the pandemic, but not until his purpose is accomplished. That purpose is not punishment, or I’d be sick already. God is warning us. Our repentance may well be what God is waiting on to shut this down.
“The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9, NIV)
In the end God will accomplish his purpose, and he is working everything out for the good of those who love him and are called to that purpose, which is to make us like Jesus. So, have faith, be confident. Faith is inherently positive when it is invested in the all powerful, good and loving God. This is the One we may call Father because of Jesus.
“The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’” (Romans 8:15, NIV)
Remember, fear is the opposite of faith, and Jesus’ followers have the Holy Spirit, not a spirit of fear (2 Timothy 1:7). Seek the Lord and make the necessary changes to your life. “In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your path” (Proverbs 3:6). This pandemic will result in good for those who follow Jesus to God’s glory. I am believing God that this will end soon. Make it so, Lord, amen!