Christian Wisdom for the Coronavirus (COVID-19)
It is March 17, 2020. We are now in a worldwide pandemic called the Coronavirus (COVID-19). The world is shutting down in an effort to stop one of the most infectious diseases ever on this planet that has been aided by our highly mobile culture. Worry, anxiety, fear, and anger are everywhere. Christians need to understand how to respond in wisdom to this worldwide trial we are experiencing.
How should a Christian respond to the Coronavirus (COVID-19)? Should be continue to gather together as commanded in Hebrews (Heb 10:25)? Or, should we submit to government and not gather in groups of more than 10 (some areas sheltering-in-home)? Should I fear dying from the virus? Is it wrong to be anxious, worry or even fear? On and on and on go the questions.
As Christians, we see and respond differently to world events than non-Christians do. We call that our different “worldview.” In virtually every aspect of life we have different attitudes and actions towards many things of the world. Not surprisingly, the same is true with COVID-19. At the foundation of our response is knowing that God is Sovereign and God has revealed Himself and His will for us in the Bible. In the Bible we have all things pertaining to life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). Everything I will share is based on those two facts: God is sovereign and His will is in the Bible.
We need wisdom from God to respond. This starts with a fear of the Lord (Proverbs 1:7), leading to knowledge, wisdom, and instruction. We fear the Lord because He is sovereignly in control of our life (Luke 12:5; Hebrews 10:31; Revelation 14:7). We begin by acquiring knowledge and understanding which then becomes wisdom when we trust God by living what we know is His way. Wisdom is godly living.
Consider Christian Wisdom for the Coronavirus in the following attitudes and actions we must take to please God and enjoy the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) during this trial:
– Acknowledge, Accept and Act on God’s Sovereignty!
– Acknowledge and Accept Satan’s Activities!
– Avoid Sinful Responses
– Acknowledge, Accept, and Act on Your Stewardship Responsibilities
– Actively Share the Gospel with unbelievers.
ACKNOWLEDGE AND ACCEPT GOD’S SOVEREIGNTY!
Fact: God is SOVEREIGN over LIFE and DEATH and heaven is “much better” than living here!
God sovereignly determined the day you were born and the day you will die (Deuteronomy 32:39; Job 14:5; Psalm 139:13,14). In other words, you won’t live a moment longer than God planned for you. And, the life after this, heaven, is infinitely better than life here on this fallen earth (Philippians 1:23 “much better”). Because of these facts, Christians should never fear death. It is something we cannot control and leads to something “much better” (infinitely better) than our life here.
The bottom line? You will NOT die from the Coronavirus UNLESS God, by His sovereign will, has already (from eternity past) decided that you will die from this virus. In other words, He has already WILLED when, where, and how you die. Then, Christian, you go directly into the loving arms of Jesus Christ, your Savior, and will be forever beyond pain and suffering and sin. Therefore, do not fear COVID-19. To do so is sin (more on this later) and will not change your time of death.
Fact: God subjected the world to futility / fallenness as part of Man’s Fall (Romans 8:20-23). Disease is a normal part of the fall (e.g. Leviticus 13-14).
Our worldview is usually tested by man’s evil (murder, crime, hate, etc.). But we are not often tested in our day and age by a worldwide pandemic (i.e. worldwide disease). However, disease is just yet another result of man’s fall and we should not be surprised by it in this fallen world. Therefore, we don’t respond with worry, anxiety, fear, anger, etc., as the world does. They do not understand as we do that disease is willed by God. They don’t have heaven awaiting them. So, they see this as fate, or the randomness of evolution, or even as something like “karma.” They legitimately fear. This is messing up the best life that they have – life this side of eternity!
The bottom line? Our worldview explains disease like this. We are not to be surprised nor are to respond sinfully (worry, anxiety, etc.). We know God willed this.
Fact: God is SOVEREIGN over our TRIALS!
Peter teaches us that trials are necessary from God’s point of view, are distressing, and vary (1 Peter 1:6). “Necessary” is exactly how that verse calls trials! God wills trials in our lives to grow us spiritually to make us like Christ (James 1:2-4). That’s why we are to consider trials a joy (James 1:2)! Did you know that God the Father “perfected” Jesus Christ’s humanity through suffering? Hebrews 2:10 teaches us that!
Yes, you are to be a good steward of your life (more on that soon), but if God wills you to get the Coronavirus, your challenge is to respond to Him in faith, never giving up your joy and peace during your illness. He will grow your faith, your relationship with Jesus Christ (more dependent), and will grow you to be more like Christ – IF you live by faith (as we are always to do anyways! (Romans 1:17 and several other quotes of Habakkuk 2:4).
The bottom line? Know that God is causing your trials and is causing your trials for a purpose – to grow you to Christ-likeness! His perfect will for your life includes trials. Your challenge? Respond to trials in faith, growing closer, more dependent on Jesus Christ, and God will also grow you to be more like Christ! Your faith will grow too!
Fact: God COMMANDS US to turn to Him, ENTRUST OUR LIVES TO HIM, when Suffering.
1 Peter 4:12-19 provides a summary on trials. He starts by reminding us that we suffer according to the will of God (4:12) and finishes by commanding us to “entrust” our lives to God, our “faithful Creator,” during our trials. He wants us to depend on Him for our protection and strength, for our very lives (“entrust”), as we go through trials! This is how you “act on” God’s sovereignty as the title of this section calls for.
Back in 1 Peter 1:6-9 he taught us that God grows your faith during a trial, IF you trust Him, not trying to rely on your own strength. When the trial is over, He shows you your increased faith, and even rewards you in eternity (“praise and glory and honor” (1:7)). But, you must live by faith, entrusting yourself to Him, to experience this growth. That’s hard to do, right?!
Well, as always, God has already shown us that we can entrust ourselves to Him. In 1 Peter 2:21-23, we see the perfect example of Jesus Christ when He suffered for us. The section actually starts in 2:20. There we see that we “find favor” with God if we do what is “right” (righteous), suffer for it and patiently endure the suffering:
1 Peter 2:20 For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God.
Peter then takes this last sentence of 2:20 to make another point about “do what is right and suffer for it.” The point? We are CALLED to do this and Christ is our example to follow in how to suffer!
1 Peter 2:21 For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, 22 who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; 23 and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously;
As I wrote above, God as already shown us that we can entrust ourselves to Him when suffering. Christ entrusted Himself to His Father when He suffered and died for us! So, we can too by literally following in Christ’s steps (2:21) by not sinning (2:22) and continually turning to God during the trial for His strength and protection!
As you go through a trial (which are by their design “distressing” (1 Peter 1:6)), IF you continually turn to God for strength to continue on in holiness, He will grow your faith and as Peter also teaches, He will grow you spiritually:
1 Peter 5:10 After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you.
God doesn’t promise to shorten or ease the trial. He put you in the trial to grow you, just like He did His Son, Jesus Christ (Hebrews 2:9-11, especially 2:10). But, you must entrust yourself to Him, or you will be suffering needlessly. Since God is going to grow you (Philippians 1:6), you don’t want Him to put you into another trial because you didn’t grow the first time! 😊
A simple prayer during your suffering sums this up: “God, my Father, you created me, are sustaining me, are growing me (Philippians 1:6), and have put me in this trial (1 Peter 1:6; 3:14; 4:19) so that I may spiritually grow even more. As my faithful Creator (4:19), I entrust myself to you, give my life to you for protection and strength to be holy, knowing that You are doing what is best for me. Help me to follow in Jesus Christ’s footsteps in every thought and action until this trial is over.” That is a prayer that accepts, acknowledges, and acts on God’s Sovereignty.
ACKNOWLEDGE AND ACCEPT SATAN’S ACTIVITIES
Given the fact that God is sovereign over all things, Satan lives under God’s sovereignty too. However, in this fallen world, God has allowed Satan to do evil, but on a “leash” (i.e. within God’s sovereign limits). We cannot assume that Satan is causing this virus or even spreading it because we do not have revelation from God saying so (a counter example is Job 1-2 where we can see how and where God gave Satan power to put Job under severe trials). But, Scripture does teach us that Satan will use many means to get Christians to doubt God, to turn from God and trust themselves or the world. So, we can expect that He and his demons will “try” to use this trial to get us turn from God to our flesh. Let’s explore a couple of these:
Fact: Satan is attacking us “remotely” (i.e. internet, news) with Flaming Arrows
In Ephesians 6:10-20 Paul teaches us how to conduct spiritual warfare. First, he teaches us that our battle is spiritual:
Eph6:10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.
The key here to remember is that this means it won’t be obvious warfare where we see our enemy standing in front of taking a swing at our jaw! 😊 Spiritual warfare is carried out subtly, through the world system and we have to understand how that plays out.
I want to focus on one aspect of spiritual warfare here, “flaming arrows”:
Ephesians 6:16 in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.
used to fight, they would march towards each other in large formations on large,
open fields. LONG BEFORE they’d ever
engage in hand-to-hand combat, they would shoot flaming arrows at each other,
trying to take as many soldiers out as possible. The shield for this was the size of a door,
covered in pitch so that it wouldn’t burn from the flame!
OK, so how does this apply to us? What are flaming arrows today? Simple. Long-distance attacks by Satan, his demons, and his army of fallen people! This used to be newspapers, the 6pm news 😊, etc. NOW, it’s the internet! We are naïve if we go to the internet thinking that it is a safe, neutral, innocent place. It is not. Satan is firing flaming arrows at us in every way, shape, and form on the internet. What’s he attacking? YOUR FAITH. He wants you to worry, be anxious, fear, get angry, then DOUBT GOD, DISTRUST GOD, DISOBEY GOD, and become USELESS to God, and, hence, POOR SERVANTS to our fellow servants and POOR WITNESSES to unbelievers.
*IF* you’re getting worried, anxious, fearful, angry, etc. about the virus (or anything else in this world!), you may well be listening to and trusting your internet sources more than what you’re taught in the Bible.
Fact: Earthly, Natural, Wisdom is Demonic wisdom from Satan
A specific biblical teaching that applies here is from James:
James 3:13 Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth. 15 This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic. 16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy.
Look at the contrast in v.14 to godly wisdom and understanding described in v.13. The counterfeit to godly wisdom and understanding is grounded in your heart by “bitter jealousy and selfish ambition” and leads to being “arrogant and so lie against the truth.” In v.15, James call this wisdom “earthly, natural, demonic.” DEMONIC! Note that this also leads to “disorder and every evil thing” (v.16).
So, where’s the obvious place we’ve seen this earthly, natural, demonic wisdom based on bitter jealous and selfish ambition?” POLITICS. A simple application of this passage is to watch opposing politicians attack our government’s response to the virus FOR THE SOLE PURPOSE OF making us be anxious, fear, get angry,… and, first, vote their opponents out, and, second, turn us away from God with our sinful thoughts, attitudes, and actions. Does that mean our government has handled this perfectly? No. Does it mean that we should be discerning as we listen to what they are doing? Yes! Do we have to ignore much of what we hear? Maybe. We, at least, have to strip away the motive (bitter jealousy and selfish ambition) to find any facts in what they say – and respond discerningly, godly, to the facts.
The bottom line? Yes, Satan is actively at work in this trial. Know that. Put a “godly discernment filter” in place IN FRONT of everything you read and hear. Discard the earthly, natural, demonic wisdom (v.14) and learn to hear/listen to the wise and understanding (v.13).
AVOID SINFUL RESPONSES
Do not worry!
The world calls this stress! Don’t get “stressed-out” over the Coronavirus! But, I try to never use that word because it isn’t biblical and if I give someone biblical advice on not getting stressed, they won’t find it in the Bible! And, they’ll find a completely worldly definition on Google for “stress.” 😊 The Bible calls our over-concern for/ excessive-concern for / too-much-focus-on our welfare (our current life) “anxiety”(Philippians 4:6) and “worry” (Matthew 6:25-34)
We are blessed that while our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, walked this earth, He taught us VERY clearly not to worry in Matthew 6! Our Lord’s teaching:
Matthew 6:25 “For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 “Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? 27 “And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? 28 “And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, 29 yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. 30 “But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! 31 “Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ 32 “For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. 34 “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
Three times we’re commanded not to worry! And, Jesus Christ covers all approaches to worrying – don’t start, stop if you are, and, just plain, overall, DON’T WORRY! 😊
Christ first teaches that to worry is to NOT TRUST GOD our Father (6:25-30)! To NOT HAVE FAITH in God our Father! Using examples directly from our life: birds, lilies of the field, and grass, Christ argues from the lessor to the greater – Since he cares for all of these, won’t He care for you “much more?” We are the pinnacle of God’s creation – made in His image (Gen. 1:26-27)! He cares for us “much more” than the rest of His creation!
Christ is reminding us that the Christian perspective is MUCH bigger (and better 😊) than the world’s limited perspective. We KNOW God created and sustains all things (Colossians 1:16-17). That includes us! So, we can observe God’s care for the world around us and, knowing how much more He cares for us, know that He will care for us. If we don’t have this perspective, we have “little faith,” distrusting God.
Second, Christ teaches us not worry because we’re saved and living by faith. We are provided for (v.31-33). Christ says the unsaved (Gentiles) should worry. They have to “eagerly seek” the basics of life (v.31)! Remember, since we’re saved, we’re part of God’s household (Ephesians 2:19), i.e. His family, and His children (John 1:12)! He’s our Father who knows our needs (Matt. 6:32) and is ready and able to provide them (v.33 end), If you live by faith in Him, trusting Him (v.33 seek first His kingdom and His righteousness), then He’ll take care of you (v.33)!
Third, Christ teaches not to worry about tomorrow (v.34). He just taught us that God our Father takes care of us today, so we know that when tomorrow becomes today, He’ll take care of us too! This seems to be obvious from simple reasoning from the previous points, but we know that we when we don’t live by faith, we not only destroy today, but we pull the full weight of the future INTO today and crush ourselves with worry. Satan’s “flaming arrows” (section above) often magnify today’s problems in the news to catastrophes in the future. Heavens, if I would’ve believe Al Gore and his “inconvenient truth” about global warming 20 years ago, I’d have “worried myself to death” about a future that never happened. Al Gore is now living with that inconvenient truth!
Christ’s commands not to worry and His reasons not to worry are summarized by Paul: Colossians 3:1 Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. 3 For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.
Paul, like Christ, teaches to keep our focus on God and Christ in heaven. Christ IS our life and so our life is protected by Him in heaven.
The bottom line? Worry is a sin. And, it’s an ugly one because it is a sin directly against God and His promise to care for you. You don’t trust God. You are telling our Sovereign, all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving, God that you don’t trust His way! Ouch.
Do not be Anxious (Phil 4:6 in passage 4:1-9)
Philippians 4:1 Therefore, my beloved brethren whom I long to see, my joy and crown, in this way stand firm in the Lord, my beloved. 2 I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to live in harmony in the Lord. 3 Indeed, true companion, I ask you also to help these women who have shared my struggle in the cause of the gospel, together with Clement also and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life. 4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! 5 Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. 6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 8 Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. 9 The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
This is a fascinating and edifying passage! The command in 4:1, “stand firm in the Lord” drives the section. We are taught HOW to stand firm in the Lord!
The first four verses set the context for the command in 4:6 to “Be anxious for nothing.” First, the phrase “in the Lord” is used three times in four verses! It’s ALSO used in 4:7 and stated as “The Lord is near” in 4:5. That amount of repetition has to be understood. What Paul is referring to is our spiritual Union with Christ. I have a whole blog series on this, so I won’t cover the detail here. Know that your most fundamental identity is that you are in union with Christ. He is in you (e.g. Colossians 1:27) and you are in Him (here and over 200 times in the New Testament). Christ in you is your INDIVIDUAL union with Him. Being “in Christ, “in the Lord,” in Him,” etc., is your (ours) CORPORATE union with Him. The “body of Christ” is the most common metaphor for all Christians being together in Christ. We are “members” (meaning body parts)” of His body. YOU NEED TO KNOW AND UNDERSTAND THIS! Everything about your Christian life starts with your “Union with Christ.” Did Paul call himself a Christian? No. He called himself “A man in Christ” (2 Cor. 12:2)!
Why is this such a huge emphasis here? Because, the reason we are to “Be anxious for nothing” (V.6a) is because “The Lord is near” (4:5). How near? HE IS IN YOU AND YOU ARE IN HIM. Why would you have ANY reason to worry when the sovereign, all powerful, all-caring, creator God is in you??? Remember, what Christ told the disciples at the end of the Great Commission (Matthew 28: 18-20)? “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (28:20). How is with you? HE IS IN YOU AND YOU ARE IN HIM! There is no greater comfort than that. Our God is in us.
And, second in the context here, is the major theme of Philippians, “Rejoice in the Lord always” (4:4). We won’t cover this in detail here, but suffice it to say, this rejoicing is NOT from your circumstances. This rejoicing is based on your Union with Christ – all that He has done for you, is doing for you, and will do for you. Since it is not based on circumstances, it will affect your circumstances. Fundamentally, it’s not an emotion. It’s a deep-seated KNOWING you have from the Holy Spirit who is in you, from Christ who is in you. Yes, sometimes your emotions overflow with rejoicing! But, ALL the time, even in the worst of trials, you have (and fall back on), your foundational joy because you are in Christ, i.e. a Christian in God’s care.
Following the setting of the context, Paul proceeds to command the Philippians:
Php4:6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
As I wrote above, “anxious” is the same as “worry.” This is our over-concern for/ excessive-concern for / too-much-focus-on our welfare (our current life). We all know anxiety and worry! It affects our whole being physically and mentally.
The verb here literally says, “STOP being anxious!” In other words, they were already anxious! Second, the command says to be anxious “for nothing.” That means NO EXCEPTIONS! Being anxious, worrying, is ALWAYS a sin to be repented of and turned from.
The Bible always teaches change as a two-part process. You must “put off” a sinful behavior AND, you must “put on” a righteous, God-pleasing behavior!
Fortunately, Paul quickly follows the command to be anxious for nothing with a “but!” Instead of being anxious, we are FIRST to PRAY! He is SO emphatic about the command to pray that he uses three words to pray, moving from general prayer to “your requests” (specific requests). He adds that ALL of our prayer is to be accompanied by, bathed-in, with thanksgiving!
Philippians 4:7 shows us the VITAL IMPORTANCE OF PRAYER! God makes a promise to you that if you pray, He will give you “the peace of God which surpasses all comprehension and guard your hearts in Christ Jesus.” Wow! Just by praying He’ll give you all that. These are the OPPOSITE of anxiety! Peace! Protection! This is peace that you EXPERIENCE here and now! Protection of your heart NOW! He will protect your thoughts from anxiety!
The second put-on Paul gives us is to DWELL on THINGS ABOVE (borrowing from Colossians 3:1-2 to summarize 4:8 here):
8 Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.
Question: What is true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, of good repute, excellent and worthy of praise? Our Lord Jesus Christ is! The Word of God is because He is the Word! Everything “above” in the heavens is as Paul writes to the Colossians:
Col3:1 Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.
What is one of those things “that are on the earth?” WORRY / ANXIETY!
The bottom line from Philippians 4:1-8? Our Lord Jesus Christ is in us and we are “in Him.” So, we have His presence RIGHT NOW. “He is near” (4:5) You can turn inward to Him (He’s there!) and STOP being anxious by praying to Him with Thanksgiving! You will experience the peace of God and He will guard your heart (your thoughts from more anxiety/worry!). Focus your thoughts on Him (4:8) – dwell on Him. ALL for being willing to turn to Him! Stop sinning and start trusting God!
More soon 😊
Then, coming soon…
– Acknowledge, Accept, and Act on Your Stewardship Responsibilities
– Actively Share the Gospel with unbelievers.