John Piper Guides Us Through the Worst Pandemic in 100 Years
During the final days of March 2020, after sensing the fear and anxieties of many Christians over the recent news of a new and deadly virus that was spreading across the globe, apologist and author John Piper began writing a book whose aim is to “show why God in Christ is the rock at this moment in history…and what it is like to stand on His mighty love”.
As of the date of publication of this article there have been 81.4 million cases of coronavirus confirmed worldwide, and nearly 1.8 million of those have resulted in death, according to the WHO.
Related: What on Earth is God Doing?
Every one of us has been affected by this pandemic in one way or another. Lockdowns, quarantines, hospitalizations and loss of income have caused much anxiety and depression around the globe. And the loss of life has devastated many families.
Poverty, crime, domestic abuse, unemployment, substance abuse and suicide are rising at alarming rates. Loneliness and despair have invaded the hearts of millions as a hopeful future disappears on the horizon.
“Hope is power. Present power. Hope keeps people from killing themselves – now. It helps people get out of bed and go to work – now. It gives meaning to daily life, even locked-down, quarantined, stay-at-home life – now. It empowers love and risk-taking and sacrifice – now.”-John Piper, Coronavirus and Christ
Is the Coronavirus Beyond God’s Control?
John Piper’s book, Coronavirus and Christ, is divided into two parts. The first part is called “The God Who Reigns Over the Coronavirus”. Piper calls us to “Come to the Rock” in the first chapter, reminding us that Jesus is very much present in our circumstances and that our hope doesn’t just focus on the future, but the here and now.
He is the God of the “now” and of “forever”. He’s involved in every circumstance. He’s not sitting way off in heaven just observing all the things that happen here on Earth, shaking his head in frustration or sadness while we struggle through this pandemic.
“This book is my invitation for you to join me on the solid Rock, Jesus Christ. What that means will, I hope, become clear. My aim is to show why God in Christ is the Rock at this moment in history – in this pandemic of the coronavirus – and what it is like to stand on his mighty love.”John Piper, Coronavirus and Christ
When our faith is shaken, where do we turn? The government? The news? To therapists? None of those things can provide the solid foundation that we really need. Piper writes, “Listening to God, and believing him, is like building your house on a rock, not on sand (Matthew 7:24)”.
“He is wonderful in counsel and excellent in Wisdom.” Isaiah 28:29 ESV
“His understanding is beyond measure.” Psalm 147:5 ESV
“The counsel of the Lord stands forever.” Psalm 33:11 ESV
“His way is perfect.” 2 Samuel 22:31 ESV
If we turn to God for comfort, direction, wisdom and peace we’ll experience joy even in the midst of chaos. “Your words become to me a joy and the delight of my heart.” (Jeremiah 15:16)
“The secret of “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing” (2 Corinthians 6:10) is this: knowing that the same sovereignty that could stop the coronavirus, yet doesn’t, is the very sovereignty that sustains the soul in it. Indeed, more than sustains – sweetens. Sweetens with hope that God’s purposes are kind, even in death – for those who trust him.”John Piper, Coronavirus and Christ
No, the coronavirus is not beyond God’s control. We can be sure that God allowed it to spread across the globe, but we can also be confident that he did not do it gleefully. His purpose in it will prevail as it always has and always will.
Related: God is Working for Your Good
Finding Our Way Back to the Foundation
The author begins chapter two by stating “It matters little what I think about the coronavirus – or anything else, for that matter. But it matters forever what God thinks. He is not silent about what He thinks. Scarcely a page in the Bible is irrelevant for this crisis.“
What is our foundation? The whole counsel of God, the Holy Scriptures, the Word(s) of God. Piper answers the question, How do you know the Bible is the word of God?
“My short answer is that there is a divine glory that shines through it, which fits perfectly with the God-shaped template in your heart – like sprocket and gear, hand and glove, fish and water, wings and air, the final piece of a jigsaw puzzle.”John Piper, Coronavirus and Christ
We all place our faith in something. Most would agree that it’s important to believe in something beyond ourselves. Wouldn’t it make sense to believe in something that is trustworthy, something we can rely on when things get hard?
“It’s called faith not because it has no foundation. It’s called faith because it involves trust. Jesus didn’t call the believers blind; he called the unbelievers blind (Matthew 15:14). ‘Seeing, they do not see’ (Matthew 13:13). Saving faith in God’s word is based on ‘seeing’. Real seeing. Seeing what? The Bible answers like this: Satan does all he can to blind ‘the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God’ (2 Corinthians 4:4).”John Piper, Coronavirus and Christ
Christians have often been accused of having “blind faith” in an unseen God, and according to human logic we’re foolish to do so. Scripture tells us:
For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written:
“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise;
the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”
Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.1 Corinthians 1:18-20, 25 NIV
The foundation of our faith is Christ, whose words are found in the Bible. To know the Bible is to know the mind of Christ, not just to know about Him, but to know Him. And through the work of the Holy Spirit we learn and experience the Truth. As we learn and experience the Truth we grow and change and our faith is strengthened.
Related: God Disciplines Those He Loves
Seeing God’s Sovereignty for What it is
In chapter three, Piper emphasizes the righteousness of God which means he’s always perfect in everything he does. He is holy. If He could fail we’d have no trustworthy foundation.
In chapter four, the author addresses the Sovereignty of God and, more specifically, the “bitter providence” of God. Someone who is sovereign is someone who has “supreme power and authority“. The term “bitter providence” is referring to the disasters that we experience in life that God has allowed to happen.
God has complete control over all the things that happen in nature, even the natural disasters. None of it is beyond his sovereignty. He is sovereign over all sickness and death, over all calamity and sorrow. God’s sovereignty isn’t limited to blessings, abundance and happy occasions. He is sovereign over all. Even over the coronavirus pandemic.
“The coronavirus was sent, therefore, by God. This is not a season for sentimental views of God. It is a bitter season. And God ordained it. God governs it. He will end it. No part of it is outside his sway. Life and death are in his hand.”John Piper, Coronavirus and Christ
God described his own supreme authority in Deuteronomy 32:39: “See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand.” (ESV)
God is not merely moving pieces around down here on Earth as if humans were pawns on a Chessboard. It’s easy to fall into that kind of thinking in our finite minds and Satan sure does know how to mess with our thoughts!
“Not one sparrow falls but by God’s plan. Not one virus moves but by God’s plan. This is meticulous sovereignty. And what does Jesus say next? Three things: You are of more value than many sparrows. The hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not. Why not? Because God’s meticulous sovereignty – whether we live or die – serves his holiness and righteousness and goodness and wisdom. In Christ we are not his dispensable pawns. We are his valued children. ‘You are of more value than many sparrows’.”John Piper, Coronavirus and Christ
Once we accept the fact that God is in complete control, not only during this pandemic but in every crisis, we’ll go through each day with a confident faith that will be impossible to shake.
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Come back soon and read the second part of this series: “Coronavirus & the Christian Response” He has been very busy! We’ll continue with highlights from part two of John Piper’s book which encourages believers to join Christ in His work through this important time in history.
Since it’s original publication in the Spring of 2020, Coronavirus and Christ has been translated into 28 languages! Download your free copy of this book by clicking the photo below.
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