So, there is a lot going on right now. The coronavirus is taking a toll on people and entire countries. China was basically shut down and is just now, months after the outbreak, getting back to work. Italy, Spain, and France have basically shut down due to the spread of this illness. Saudi Arabia decided this would be a good time to try to hurt American oil producers so they flooded the market with cheap oil, that’s why your gas prices are so low right now. But this means that those new jobs that have helped America rebound are on hold for a while. The stock market has taken a plunge. This is not good because as much as people bash Wall Street, this is the retirement money that’s being lost. People are being temporarily laid off from work and this morning there was a 5.7 magnitude earthquake in Salt Lake City, Utah.
There is a lot going on right now. How do we think through events like this? I am going to propose that we think about three different passages of Scripture today: Luke 13:1-5, Romans 8:18-30, and Philippians 2:3-4. The idea expressed will be this. Be ready, trust God, and serve others.
Make Sure You Are Ready (Luke 13:1-5)
Pilate was not a kind man. Apparently, on one occasion he had gone into a place of worship and had people offering sacrifices to God killed. He then mingled their blood with the blood of the sacrifices in a way to mock God and to mock their worship. And the people wanted to know what was going on. Jesus’s answer is incredible.
“Do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than all of other Galileans because they suffered this fate? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” (Luke 13:3 NASB)
His rhetorical question is powerful. Of course those three were not worse sinners. But, you need to do something. You need to repent. You need to turn from ruling your own life and trust in me. But He didn’t stop here. He added another tragic event that they were thinking about. This one was an accident where a tower fell and killed 18 people.
“Or do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them were worse culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” (Luke 13:4-5 NASB)
The lesson you should take from this is a clear one. We are all going to die. The coronavirus may not take you, but something will. When you see tragedies in this world they should stand as a warning to you. You are no better than the people who have already died from this virus, so you need to repent.
You and I were born rebels against God. We didn’t just do a little something wrong. We have transgressed the holy law of the Almighty. We earned for ourselves His wrath and justice. Christ paid the full punishment for our sin and rose from the grave, conquering the power of sin and death for all who would believe. Have you trusted Christ for unless you repent you will likewise perish?
Repentance is turning from trusting your own way, turning from trusting in yourself, turning from ruling your own life, turning from being ruled by the world, turning from trusting in the world, and trusting in Christ. Give up on self. Give up on doing it your own way and trust Christ.
Don’t lose sight of the warning. For, unless you repent you will likewise perish!
God Is In Control (Romans 8:18-30)
Due to the nature of what we are doing today I am not going to cover this text with as much detail as I would like, though it would be good for you to go back through and think about after we are finished tonight. This text is so full of rich encouragement that it is my favorite and one that I go back to time and time again when I am struggling.
Why do things like a global pandemic or an earthquake happen? Why do we suffer in the here and now?
All of creation was “subjected to futility”. All the way back in Genesis 3 we find the answer to why the Coronavirus happens. We also find why the Spanish flu happened, the Bubonic Plague, Earthquakes, War, and other things like them. When Adam rebelled against God the punishment was this subjection to futility that you can feel. The Greek word here means “emptiness and futility”. Things come and go. Things live and die and it feels as if nothing really matters because of the way things happen.
As a result of the futility that the whole world has been subjected to and that we feel greatly we groan with the rest of creation for the day when Christ returns and we are with Him in the New Heavens and Earth. Paul says that we and all of creation “will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God.” (Romans 8:21b NASB) And things like the coronavirus are “the pains of childbirth”. (Romans 8:22b NASB)
There is a real sense in which we look around the world and we see that things are terribly wrong. 347 people died today from this virus in Italy. Something is horribly wrong.
Now, move down to Romans 8:28 with me.
“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28 NASB)
The horrors of this world are not overlooked by this text. All of the world is groaning in the pains of childbirth as things like this virus cause us to see that things are currently not right. But we rest in the confidence that God is in control. He has not abandoned us. He is working amid all of it to bring ultimate good to His people.
Does ultimate good mean that there will be no suffering? No, that is not what it means. But it does mean that the suffering on Earth is not purposeless. And we can trust our all-powerful God amid even the worst of circumstances. For He is working all things together for our good.
This perspective changes a lot. It causes us to see that the suffering that goes on around the world has meaning. God is moving the world for our good and somehow this coronavirus is part of that. And amid the chaos we trust that God is in control.
Consider Others More Important Than Yourself (Philippians 2:3-4)
One of the saddest things that I’ve read in all of this is how little many people care about those who are at risk in our society. It is saddening for me to see that level of animosity from one generation to another. It should not be this way for the Christian. Care for others, even if it inconveniences you.
“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:3-4 NASB)
This is how we should approach this virus. You are not likely to be harmed by this virus, but the reason you need to be separated with social distancing is care for others. There are a lot of people in our society that could be greatly affected by this. We distance for them. That is why we are meeting on Zoom instead of at church. That is why our church purchased an FM transmitter and is doing a church service in the parking lot like a drive-in movie theatre. We are doing it because we care for others.
You may miss a lot of things you don’t want to miss over the course of the next few weeks. But we do it because we count others more important than ourselves. We set aside our own desires for the health and safety of others. Generally, we would be applying this verse to acts of service, but at this point we are saying stay home. Just stay home and consider others more important than yourselves.
And in this we imitate Jesus, who the text goes on to say “emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant” for our salvation. (Philippians 2:7 NASB) God the Son could have remained in Heaven but chose take upon Himself human flesh for our salvation. He could have stayed there and done what was obviously most desirable, but instead He came to Earth. He took on human flesh and not only did He take on human flesh He died on the cross for our sins. He counted our salvation as more important than His comfort in Heaven and so He came.
I want to bring all of this into a summary. Coronavirus should strike you first as a warning. It should warn you that life is fragile, we all die, and you are a sinner who has rebelled against the Almighty. This warning is a call for you to turn from ruling your own life and trust in Christ. You should also find comfort in God’s Sovereignty and His care. He is in control and working all of this chaos out to your ultimate good. Lastly, go forward in faith. You are trusting that God is for you and so you can imitate Christ and think of others before yourself and love others. For the time being that means stay away from them.
R. Dwain Minor