How Should We Respond to Problems Like the Coronavirus?
March 6, 2020 Speaker: Steve Fuller Series: How Should We Respond to Problems Like the Coronavirus?
How Should We Respond to
Problems Like the Coronavirus?
The Elders thought it would be wise to take a one-week break from our study of Luke’s gospel to talk about the Coronavirus.
We’ve all heard about it. The Coronavirus is spreading, but there are lots of unknowns. And because of these unknowns, there are lots of different responses.
Some of you might be completely at peace, because you think it’s nothing, and will all go away soon. I hope you are right. That’s what we should be praying for. But let me challenge you that even if you are right, that’s not the basis for our peace.
Our peace isn’t because nothing bad will ever happen. Our peace is because of what God promises to do when bad things happen.
But others of you are feeling some level of concern, and others are feeling great fear. You might be fearful for your own health, or the health of your children, or loved ones both here and in your home country. Others are worried about traveling, job security, the world economy.
So what I want to do today is ask the question – how should we respond to problems like the Coronavirus? And I want to give you five answers from God’s Word.
First, and most important, understand that God is in complete control of the Coronavirus. Look at Psalm 103:19 –
The LORD has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all.
God created everything. And God rules over everything. So everything that happens is under God’s control. His throne is in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all, including the Coronavirus.
In fact, Jesus told us ahead of time that these sorts of things would happen. In Luke 21 he tells us what will happen during the time between his first coming, when he died and rose again, and the second coming. And look at what he says in verses 10-11 –
Then he said to them, "Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences. And there will be terrors and great signs from heaven.
So we should not be surprised at the Coronavirus, because Jesus said these sorts of things would happen. And what’s even more important is that we understand that God is not surprised by the Coronavirus. God is not worried about the Coronavirus. God is in complete control of the Coronavirus, and God has purposefully allowed the Coronavirus.
Then second, do not fear this virus, because it cannot separate us from Christ’s love. We can see that in Romans 8:38-39 –
For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Because Jesus suffered to pay for the sins of all who trust him, and because you are trusting Jesus as your Savior, Lord, and Treasure, nothing can ever separate you from his love.
There is nothing like the love of God in Christ. When we see his love, and feel his love, our hearts are filled with joy like we’ve never known. And nothing can ever separate us from his love.
And what I want you to see this morning is that the Coronavirus cannot separate you from the love of God in Christ. Why not? Three reasons. It’s because God will either protect you from it, or God will allow you to get it and then heal you, or God will allow you to get it and then take you heaven as a result of it.
Let’s look at these one at a time.
First, God can protect us from it. You can see that in Psalm 91:14 –
14 Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows my name.
God can protect you from the Coronavirus, just like he protected Israel from the plagues that came upon Egypt, and just like he protected David when Saul threw a spear at him. God can protect you from it, because it’s entirely under God’s control.
Now some followers of Jesus teach this means that God will always protect you from every problem. So they would say God promises to protect you from the Coronavirus. And earlier verses in Psalm 91 describe God keeping us from pestilences and plagues. So we could think that God promises to protect us from the Coronavirus.
But that’s not what we see if we read the rest of Psalm 91. Look at v.15 –
15 When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him.
So God promises to be with us in trouble. So if God is with us in trouble, that means God does not protect us from every trouble. It means there are some troubles that, in great wisdom and love, God allows to come to us.
Think of the story of Job. Job was the most righteous man in all the earth, and God allowed him to get very, very sick, so his body was covered with boils. But this ended up being a great gift to Job, because Job says that he had heard of God with the hearing of the ear, but now he has seen God.
So God can protect you from the Coronavirus. But he may choose not to. Which is the second possibility –
God can allow us to get it, and then heal us from it. Psalm 103:3 says that –
God heals all your diseases.
Think about Jesus healing the man who had been paralyzed from birth. Or Jesus healing blind Bartimaeus.
So God might allow some of us to get the Coronavirus, and then heal us from it – either miraculously and supernaturally, or through doctors and medicine. Since God is in control of the Coronavirus, God can heal us from the Coronavirus.
But does this mean that everyone who trusts Jesus will be healed of the Coronavirus? Psalm 103:3 does say that God heals all our diseases, and he does. But sometimes, in his wisdom and love, he does not heal us immediately. And sometimes he does not heal us until he takes us home to heaven.
One reason I say that is because of what Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 –
16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.
So Paul says that we followers of Jesus will experience our outer self wasting away. That means we will experience sickness. But during this sickness, our inner self can be renewed day by day. That means our inner self is growing stronger, and more vibrant, and more joyful day by day. Why? Verse 17 --
17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,
Don’t miss this. Whatever sickness or trial we experience in this life, as heart-breaking as it might be, is light and momentary compared to the eternal weight of glory that will be ours in heaven.
So what is this eternal weight of glory? Glory is the radiance of God’s perfections – and God’s perfections shine most brightly in Jesus’ love. Think of God’s love shining forth from Jesus – God in the flesh, loving us who rejected him, and going to the cross to suffer and die for us. There is no love like Jesus’ love. And when we see his love, and feel his love, we are filled with joy, and wonder, and praise, and celebration.
And heaven will be a weight of glory. I think the point is that it’s not light-weight. The glory of Jesus is REAL. MASSIVE. Weighty.
And it will be eternal. You will be blown away by the glorious love of Jesus forever and ever and ever and ever. Ever-increasing joy. Heart-filling joy. Leap and dance and celebrate joy.
And the trials of this life are light and temporary – and they prepare for us this eternal weight of glory. Every trial of this life, every sickness of this life, is a gift from God to prepare for you more of this eternal weight of Jesus’ glory.
But this does not happen automatically. There is something we must do – verse 18 --
18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
So when we get sick, we let that sickness point us toward eternity. We remind ourselves: this world is not my home; this body is going to be raised from the dead; I am on my way to heaven. And as we do that, our sickness prepares for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.
So the Coronavirus cannot separate us from the love of Christ. One reason is because God can protect us from it. A second reason is because God can heal us from it. But we have seen that God does not always heal, so we need to talk about the third reason, that God can take us to heaven as a result of it.
Now I don’t want to be overly dramatic. I know that the odds of anyone of us dying from the Coronavirus is very small. No one really knows yet what the percentages are. But let’s say that 2% of the people who get it die from it.
That’s not the reason the Bible gives us for why we have peace. Our peace is not the percentages. It’s not that we only have a 2% chance of being separated from the love of Christ. NO. It is 100% certain that nothing will separate us from the love of Christ – even if any of us were to die from the Coronavirus.
How can dying not separate us from the love of Christ? It’s because of what Paul says in Philippians 1:21 –
For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
Living is Christ. Jesus Christ is our love, our meaning, our purpose, our glory, our joy. He walks with us, comforts us, strengthens us, and guides us. Living is Christ. And dying is not loss. Dying is gain. Gaining even more of Christ.
Now if you don’t experience anything like this, then let this be your focus this week. Cry out to God to make himself more real to you. Confess all known sin, and ask for him to forgive and change you. And seek his face in the Word, and in prayer, and in worship. I promise you – you will start to experience how living is Christ.
And then you will know what good news it is that dying is gain. So don’t fear death. The odds are small that you will die from the Coronavirus. But you know what -- the odds are 100% that we will all die, unless Jesus comes first. And you have no reason to fear death. None.
God will take care of your loved ones. God will give you the grace to die whatever death he has appointed you.
So we have no reason to fear the Coronavirus, because nothing can separate us from the love of Christ. God will either protect you from it – which would be beautiful. Or God could allow you to get it, and heal you from it – which would be beautiful. Or, God could take you to heaven as a result of it – which would be gain, gain, gain.
But some of you might be fearful, not so much your own death, as the death of your loved ones, like your children. But understand: because Jesus died to pay for sin, and because they are trusting Jesus, nothing can separate them from the love of Christ.
Yes, if they died, it would be heartbreaking. If God took Jan home to be with him, it would be devastating. But she would be with her Savior. And God would be with me.
Now if our children or loved ones are not trusting Christ, then the situation is different. But still, our response should not be to fear, but to pray. Pray, pray, pray. And share the gospel. And pray some more.
So Grace Church, do not fear this virus, because it cannot separate you from Christ’s love. We can look the Coronavirus in the eye and be fearless. Not because of medical odds, but because of God’s promises.
So we have covered two ways we should respond to the Coronavirus. First, understand that God is in complete control. And second, do not fear this virus, because it cannot separate us from Christ’s love.
Third, be discerning about what you hear and read. This is a time when lots of sensational things are written and reported and prophesied. Let me urge you to be wise and discerning, and to keep your Bibles open.
Here’s an example. This last week I heard someone say that the Coronavirus was in the Bible, in Revelation 12:3. I don’t think he was right. But he said that the Coronavirus started in China, and the symbol for China is a red dragon. And Coronaviruses look like crowns, which is why they are called the Coronavirus, because Corona is Latin for crown. And he said there are seven different kinds of Coronaviruses.
And then he said, look at Revelation 12:3 –
And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven diadems.
The word “diadems” can also be translated crowns. So he thought this was a prophecy about the coronaviruses. And he said that the rest of the passage shows that once this happens, Jesus will return soon.
But this passage is not talking about the Coronavirus. Whenever you hear something like this, be sure to read the verses before and after. So I started reading and came to v.9. Remember that he said the red dragon was China. But look at v.9 –
And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world-- he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.
So the red dragon is the devil. Satan. Not China. Which means that the seven crowns are not the Coronavirus. One reason I wanted to share this was so that none of you would hear this and wonder. And another reason is to help you see how we need to be discerning, and read the context of prophecies, as that will help us understand what the biblical authors are saying.
Fourth, share with others why we have such peace and hope. Look at what Peter says in 1 Peter 3:15 –
…but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect…
Pray over God’s promises until you are full of strength and hope in Christ. And then, as you shine with strength and hope, during a fearful time, people will ask you about it. And when they do, tell them that the reason you are at peace is because nothing can separate you from the love of Christ.
Sympathize with them that there’s lots of fear around. But explain that Jesus paid for the sins of everyone who trusts him, so you don’t need to fear death or God’s judgment. And that Jesus is in complete control of the Coronavirus, and will do whatever will bring you the greatest joy in him forever.
Fifth, love and serve those around you. Again, keep praying over God’s promises until he fills you with peace and joy in Christ. That will free you to care for others.
Hebrews 10:34 gives us an example of sacrificial love for others –
For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one.
They knew that visiting those in prison could identify them as Christians, and that then the government might allow their homes to be ransacked. But they chose the path of sacrificial love, because they knew that forever they would have the joy of beholding Jesus.
Throughout history, God’s people have been known to sacrificially care for others during times of disease.
In the 3rd century a terrible plague hit Rome, and 5,000 people were dying every day. Christians were also dying like everyone else, but unlike everyone else, and at great risk to themselves, they cared for the sick and dying.
Charles Spurgeon was a pastor in London in the 1800’s, and when Asiatic Cholera broke out, and hundreds were dying, he went out into the city and risked his life to pray for the sick and share the good news of Jesus.
It’s been reported that Christians in Wuhan, where the Coronavirus first started, went out into the streets, giving masks to people, ministering to frightened medical personnel, taking food to quarantined families, and sharing the love of Christ.
Now be wise. And take precautions. But because our eternity is secure, and Christ calls us to love, let’s be willing to take risks for the sake of love.
Think of what God could do through his people in Abu Dhabi in the next months, as we are full of peace and hope, and pursuing risk-taking, sacrificial love of those around us.
Let’s pray together.