Making Jesus Visible Amidst Covid-19
The Coronavirus took us all by surprise. The outbreak caused millions to be paralyzed with fear. Extreme measures were taken in order to slow the spread of the virus. All eyes and ears were transfixed on the TV screen for the first few months awaiting the latest news on the number of infections, the death toll and updates on the development of treatments and vaccines.
In a previous post we talked about Jesus’ role during the Coronavirus Pandemic. We addressed the question “Is the Coronavirus beyond God’s control?”, how to find our way back to our foundation, and learned how to see God’s sovereignty for what it is.
Faith in Time of Covid-19
In order to have an effective Christian response to the current crisis we must have a faith that is firmly grounded in Christ. A Christian response is hopeful, loving and encouraging. Our mindset should be focused on reaching hurting people with the Gospel of Christ, while addressing their practical needs.
When others who are paralyzed by fear see our strong faith in God during a crisis they’ll naturally wonder where that faith comes from. And while we all want to take the necessary precautions to protect ourselves and others from infection, there will be times when God asks us to reach out, in faith, to people who are suffering. This faith involves risk; one that we should be willing to take for the cause of the Gospel.
So, we find ourselves smack dab in the middle of a pandemic. It’s been nearly a year since it all started and the vaccine is trickling into the population. People are still fearful and anxious and angry. And many are losing perspective. That’s where the people of God come in.
John Piper, in the second part of his book, Coronavirus and Christ, urges us to see with spiritual eyes what God is doing through the coronavirus.
Biblical Reflection on Covid-19
Piper makes an important point in part two of his book. “Compared to the wisdom of God, my opinion counts for nothing. So does yours. What we think, out of our own heads, is of little significance. The Bible says that ‘whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool’ (Proverbs 28:6). Instead, we are told, ‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding’ (Proverbs 3:5).”
Right from the get-go we need to understand that ultimately it is God’s opinion that matters most, not man’s. So everything from this point on will be based on Scripture. Piper gives us six answers to the question “What is God doing through the coronavirus?“.
- God is giving us “a physical picture of the moral horror and spiritual ugliness of God-belittling sin”. Romans 5:12 tells us the very reason why suffering exists in the world: “Sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.” And because of sin the world is living under condemnation (Romans 5:16). Those who are believers – “those who embrace Christ as their supreme treasure” – are not under condemnation (Romans 8:1) so we are not being punished, but we are being purified.
Satan, whom the Bible calls “the ruler of this world” (John 12:31), is busy causing misery all over the planet. “But Satan is on a leash. The leash is in God’s hands“, says Piper. Therefore, the enemy of our souls is limited in what he can accomplish.
The author poses an important question: Why did God bring a physical judgement on the world for a moral evil? And the answer is that God uses physical calamities as a sort of siren to warn us of the coming wrath against sin.
“God is mercifully shouting to us in these days: Wake up! Sin against God is like this! It is horrible and ugly. And far more dangerous than the coronavirus.”John Piper, Coronavirus and Christ
- “Some people will be infected with the coronavirus as a specific judgement from God because of their sinful attitudes and actions.” I know, it sounds harsh. But, give this line of thinking a chance.
Not all suffering is a judgement for specific sins, but some is. Job’s suffering wasn’t because of sin. But, God did allow the Israelites to be given over to slavery because of their disobedience.
Piper points out what the Apostle Peter wrote: “It is time for judgement to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And ‘if the righteous is scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner’?” (1 Peter 4:17-18 ESV)
The purpose of suffering for believers can sometimes be a way for God to get our attention so that we come to our senses and turn away from specific habitual sins and get back on course with God’s will. It’s the loving discipline of God according to Hebrews 12:6.
As believers we must search our hearts whenever we experience any type of suffering or calamity. Is there something we need to address? Some sin to forsake?
In the same way, for unbelievers suffering is often God’s way of saying, “I am here. Turn away from your sin and come to me in repentance and faith for salvation.”
- The coronavirus is God’s reminder for us to be prepared for the second coming of Christ. Piper reminds us that Jesus told us to look for certain signs of his return. These “birth pains” include wars, famines, earthquakes (Matthew 24:7, 8) and other disasters and diseases (Romans 8:22).
“Stay awake. Stay awake. Stay awake.” – Piper exhorts us. It’s so easy to get distracted by the cares of this world, of daily life. Just as we are able to walk and chew gum at the same time, we are also able – and must – live out our earthly lives while looking expectantly to the sky for Christ’s return. He’ll be here soon. People, get ready!
- The coronavirus pandemic is a powerful, yet merciful, call for sinners to repent while there’s still time. And the message of Christ to sinners in the midst of disaster is “Repent, or perish”. (Luke 13:3-5)
Sinners are suffocating in their sin and they don’t even realize it. They’re slowly running out of oxygen and disaster is the merciful language that God uses to grab their attention. It’s his way of saying, “You’re lost without me!”
It’s our duty, and our privilege, to reach out to unbelievers with the message of repentance. We need to tell them why they’re so utterly lost and show them the way to be saved.
The message we need to convey is this: “The reason all of us deserve to perish is not a list of rules we have broken, but an infinite value we have scorned — the infinite value of all that God is for us in Jesus Christ.”
“The coronavirus calls us to make God the all-important, pervasive reality in our lives. Our lives depend on him more than they depend on breath. And sometimes God takes our breath in order to throw us onto himself.”John Piper, Coronavirus and Christ
Repentance means to deliberately change our hearts and minds about sin and about God. To change from our allegiance to sin and fixing it on God. It’s a call to “treasure God with all that you are and to treasure Jesus more than all other relations”.
“This global pandemic takes away our freedom of movement, our business activity, and our face-to-face relations. It takes away our security and our comfort. And, in the end, it may take away our lives.”John Piper, Coronavirus and Christ
- In the midst of the coronavirus God is calling his children to “overcome self-pity and fear, and with courageous joy, to do the good works of love that glorify God”. In the face of danger we are called to be the salt and the light of the world. While taking the necessary precautions, don’t let the fear of infection keep you from fulfilling God’s call on your life. It is the call of every believer to do good deeds toward’s others — to the glory of God.
“God glorifed in everything. Christ magnified in life and death. This is the great, God-given goal of human life.”John Piper, Coronavirus and Christ
If we Christians claim to have all the answers in a failing, ailing world, we have numerous opportunities to give the message of life during this pandemic — to the sick, to the struggling, to the unemployed and to all those in need.
We can provide meals and medicines, we can pay someone’s rent and put gas in someone’s car. We can make an encouraging phone call and run errands for a neighbor. There are so many things we can do to live out the Gospel to the glory of God and for the souls of men.
“There is no contradiction between seeing the coronavirus as God’s act and calling Christians to take risks to alleviate the suffering it causes.”John Piper, Coronavirus and Christ
- During the coronavirus pandemic “God is loosening the roots of settled Christians” and preparing them to go to other nations with the Gospel of Christ. It may sound strange to some, but “God has used the suffering and upheaval of history to move his church to places it needs to go”.
God’s ultimate goal is not for us to live our best life here on Earth, but for us to complete the Great Commission and to be ready for Christ’s return. Jesus said, “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it”. (Matthew 16:18). He also said, “This gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations“. (Matthew 24:14)
“Even pandemics will serve to complete the Great Commission.”John Piper, Coronavirus and Christ
Coronavirus and the Christian’s Response
I’ve only given you the highlights from John Piper’s book, Coronavius and Christ. I encourage you to read it in full. It’ll have a calming yet motivating effect on your life. It brings everything into perspective and reminds us to be active even during shutdowns. People are struggling mentally, physically and emotionally now more than ever. They need answers and hope.
We have the answers! We have the hope they’re looking for! Even if we are struggling financially, physically and emotionally we always have something to give. We can support and encourage other believers and point unbelievers to Christ. Our work hasn’t been paused because of the pandemic. We should be more active now than ever before!
And I think we’ve all finally realized that being the Church has little to do with Sunday attendance behind closed doors and much more to do with taking the light of Christ to the world.
John Piper’s website, DesiringGod.org, offers the digital version for free. Click the image to the left and download it now!
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