We are living in unprecedented times. Never in history have we seen people – sick and healthy alike – being quarantined in their homes, prohibited from going to work and forced to keep their distance from one another on such a global scale, all for the fear of an invisible virus. If we had been told even a few months ago that this would be happening soon, most probably none of us would even have believed it!
An yet, this is where we have been for weeks now (at least many of us). There are so many issues around this COVID-19 situation, so much that most of us do not understand fully and so much that does not make any sense. In any case, the greatest issue remains a spiritual one. It is not mainly about a “deadly virus” but, as we see in the book of Job, something happened in the heavenly places that led to this. And we know that although many things take place on this earth, the Lord in His wisdom accomplishes His purposes through them at all times.
His Purpose In Us
We will certainly never be able to understand everything about what the Lord does in this world. But His Word assures us that through hardship and tribulations (including diseases), as well as working His purposes in the world, He is also at work within us, developing us into the image of Christ.
This is true for us as individual believers, but also for us as a corporate body of believers, the Church. In the West, we are too often focused on our individual separate lives, but the Lord sees us as His body and His bride together. And He is perfecting His Bride until she is ready, without spot or wrinkle.
My brothers, count it all joy when you fall into diverse temptations, knowing that the trying of your faith develops patience.
Not only so, but we also boast in tribulation, knowing that tribulation produces patience, patience produces character, and character produces hope.
Although the fulness of His work in us will remain a mystery on this side of heaven, we know that His aim is for us to become like Him. And for that purpose, He will use any and all of our circumstances.
So what should our response be during this pandemic?
From James 1:2-3 quoted above, our response is very clear, “count it all joy”. Friends, we should be rejoicing! Even though things do not make sense, even though we are affected by disease or seeing loved ones affected by disease, even though we are going through all kinds of suffering, we do not stop rejoicing.
Why? Not because suffering is pleasant or because we enjoy it, but because through it, the purposes of God are being accomplished. Our faith – which is more precious than silver and gold – is being tried and that trial produces good fruit in us, such as patience.
This rejoicing does not need to manifest in much laughter and should never amount to forced, manufactured “smiles”. This is a rejoicing of the heart; a joy in the Lord that is much deeper than simple happiness. That joy does not depend on our situation, but only looks to Him and the advancement of His Kingdom (including in us).
Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!
Our rejoicing is in who God is and what He does, not in good or bad circumstances.
And beyond rejoicing, the Lord does want to us to cooperate with Him on what He is doing, not by doing it with or instead of Him, but by surrendering to Him and “letting” Him do it.
But let patience perfect its work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.
This is the way to maturity in Christ. It is clearly possible to not “let patience perfect its work”. It would be to oppose or go against the work of the Holy Spirit in us, in other words to be stubborn and unteachable.
I urge you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy, and acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service of worship.
Offering our bodies to God as a living sacrifice is our “normal” response in every circumstance of life as Christians. This should flow out of our understanding of what Christ has done for us through His death and resurrection and the fact that He is now living His life through us, which is a sacrificial life that gives itself without restraint.
Jesus laying His life for us was an example for us to follow and His Holy Spirit in us gives us the grace to do the same. We already belong to Him, but He wants us to consciously give ourselves back to Him again. This does not mean that we will have to literally die and give our physical life away (although we should be ready to if necessary). It means that we should be totally surrendered to His will and commit our bodies to serve His purposes instead of ours.
Seek His Face
So when we find ourselves in various trials and difficult situations, our first questions should be, “What is the Lord saying to me and to the Church in all this?”, “What does He want me/us to do?” We may not always get complete answers, but I believe it is right to seek the Lord and ask Him directly. He wants us to ask in prayer and He will lead us.
“It is the glory of God to conceal a thing, but the honour of kings is to search out a matter.”
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and it will be opened to you.”
God’s work within us – individually and corporately – is much more important than the situation in itself (it is an eternal work) and the Lord will give us insight and understanding when we ask (at least to a degree) so that we can “let patience perfect its work”, hear His voice in it and having our heart softened to respond according to His way.
My goal here is not to tell you what God is saying to us through the COVID-19 situation, but rather to encourage all of us to seek Him and ask Him for ourselves if we haven’t already. I believe He has much to say to His Church…
He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
Another appropriate and key response to God’s wonderful workings in our lives, is simply to offer Him our thanks and praise in all circumstances, good ones and bad ones alike.
In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.
(1 Thessalonians 5:18)
Give thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The Bible commands us to give thanks in all things and for all things. There is no exceptional time or situation that is exempt from this. Have you already thanked the Lord for this COVID-19 situation? If not, please pause for a minute and do so now.
It is always easy to thank Him when we see blessings in our lives, but God wants us to thank Him at all times and for all things. He already is in charge and has the whole situation in His hands. As believers, our gratefulness towards Him is evidence that we trust Him and that we know that whatever He allows to happen in our lives is for our good.
We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.
With God, nothing happens randomly or by mistake. He is sovereign and knows what is good for us, according to His purpose – which is to fashion us into His image.
So from a heavenly perspective, we see that our God reigns and does all He pleases, using all circumstances for His glory and our good. Our response can basically be summed up in one word – TRUST. We are simply called to trust Him and have faith in Him.
Not So Good Responses
From an earthly perspective, the picture we see is totally different. There seems to be forces that are actively at work to bring chaos and diminish or even destroy our simple faith in the Lord. There is a push by evil powers – controlled ultimately by the enemy – to focus our eyes away from the Lord and onto the circumstances themselves.
These powers use people (including those in authority) as well as organisations and various agencies. Their devices are shameful and include lies, murder, confusion, injustice and an abundance of sins… and we are not unaware of these.
But as Peter found out when he was walking towards Jesus on water, we know that when we move our eyes away from Christ and begin focusing on the storm, we quickly drown (see Matthew 14:22-32). No matter how bad the situation is, Jesus Christ remains the same, still far above it and in control.
So when we face trials and tribulations, such as COVID-19, what does our response look like if we move our eyes away from the Lord and stop trusting in Him? In other words, what would be an inappropriate response to this situation?
I have been struck by the huge fearmongering that has been generated throughout the world by the medias. This has led to people and governments having totally disproportionate reactions to the actual threat that was presenting itself before us. So-called experts have been broadcasted everywhere with a message of doom, explaining how disastrous the pandemic was and how millions of people were going to die. Repeatedly, the message from the world has been, “BE AFRAID!”
The Bible’s message on the other hand is: “Do not fear!”
Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, I will help you, yes, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.
When what we hear in the medias is constantly in opposition to what the Word of God tells us, maybe it is time to consider turning off these voices and not submitting ourselves so much to their influence… Whether we like it or not, the same way faith is produced by hearing (the Word), fear is also produced by hearing (lies). We would be wise to limit the lies we hear if we want to avoid walking in fear; and even wiser to increase our time in God’s Word.
Fear (False Evidence Appearing Real) is a well-known tactic of the enemy. Fear and faith are total opposites. Being fearful and trusting in God are fully incompatible; they don’t fit together. Being fearful simply means that we do not believe in God’s ability to deal with the situation.
Fear will lead to other preservation mechanisms such as manipulation and control. If we do not believe that we are safe in God’s hands, we will take our safety into our own hands and we will seek to control our environment (including people) as much as possible as a way to protect ourselves. In effect, if God is not able or willing to protect us, we have to protect ourselves.
It is important to recognise that fear is actually a sinful behaviour for us a believers. It is something that the Lord repeatedly commands us not to do; it is very destructive to our faith and needs to be repented of. When we find ourselves in fear, our reaction – after confessing our sin – should be in simplicity, to ask God to enable us to trust in Him. The strength is always found in Him, not in ourselves.
Oh how quick are we to moan and murmur like the Israelites were! And how much does this behaviour irritates the Lord!
The Lord spoke to Moses and to Aaron, saying: How long will this evil assembly be murmuring against Me? I have heard the murmurings of the children of Israel which they murmur against Me. Say to them, “As I live,” says the Lord, “just as you have spoken in My ears, so I will do to you. In this wilderness your corpses will fall, and all who were numbered of you, according to your whole number, from twenty years old and upward, who have murmured against Me, you will not go into the land which I swore by My hand to cause you to dwell in it, except Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun.
Whining and moaning never helps anything; in fact it stops our fellowship with God. He wants us to be content and to rejoice (as we saw earlier) in every circumstance we find ourselves. Even when a situation is unfair, complaining will not solve the problem but only make it worse because on top of the problem, people will have to deal with our bad attitude…
Neither murmur, as some of them also murmured and were destroyed by the destroyer. Now all these things happened to them for examples. They are written as an admonition to us, upon whom the end of the ages has come.
(1 Corinthians 10:10-11)
Complaining is a serious issue. In a sense, it could actually be equated to criticizing the way the Lord chooses to accomplish His purposes on the earth and in our lives... But He alone has the full picture and knows where He is going with all He does.
If our whining song has been on repeat lately, it’s time for an update to the latest godly tune - a new song of praise! (this update is 100% free but not refundable)
Idolizing the Experts
During this crisis, we have seen many experts suddenly appear out of thin air. So many of them seemed to fully understand the situation and had so much to say about it. On the spiritual level, self-appointed prophets knew all about the pandemic and what God was doing in it. But where were they before it started? Why didn’t they warn us beforehand? Or was God taken by surprise?
On the other hand, most ‘great’ healing ministers were nowhere to be found… As soon as they heard about the pandemic, they just went into hiding mode – only making sure their followers’ tithes and offerings were still coming in of course (it was definitely not the time to stop sowing your seed or beware of the COVID curse!)
On the physical level, we also observed the emergence of many health experts. These were people crowned with multitudes of impressive qualifications and eloquent speeches. Unfortunately, looking back it is easy to realise that most of their predictions and calculations were wrong. They predicted overwhelmed hospitals and millions of deaths which never happened (I will expand on this in part 2). Where are they now? Only a handful were being reliable and truthful.
Again, what a majority of these experts do is capitalize on fear. We have seen them everywhere on the medias. They attempt to scare us through the fear of disease and death; they exaggerate things so they can manipulate us and control our lives.
But our trust must be in the Lord, the only wise God who knows all things. He has the ultimate answer. Experts can give their opinions, but they are never to be put on a pedestal so that their viewpoint cannot be questioned. No matter how many degrees they have or how spiritual they look, they can be wrong too!
Idolizing people due to their knowledge, intelligence, charisma or anything else is a great trap so let’s be vigilant about this. I believe this is akin to what the Bible calls “the fear of man”.
The fear of man brings a snare, but whoever puts his trust in the Lord will be safe.
Maybe you haven’t fallen for any of the above, maybe you haven’t done anything wrong… but maybe that is where the problem lies: you haven’t done anything!
None of us is called to rise up and resolve the situation with a click of the finger, but we are not called to do nothing and wait and see what happens. This is not a Christ-like attitude.
For I was hungry and you gave Me food, I was thirsty and you gave Me drink, I was a stranger and you took Me in. I was naked and you clothed Me, I was sick and you visited Me, I was in prison and you came to Me.
Those who are called “righteous” at the return of the Lord Jesus Christ, are those who did something: they fed the hungry, clothed the poor, visited the sick, etc… Those who are called “cursed” are those who did absolutely nothing. They witnessed suffering, injustice, needs and yet they stayed silent and refused to help.
We are nobody’s saviour. There is only one Saviour of the world - Jesus. But we must be His hands and His feet to one another and to a dying world.
It is not about only ensuring our own protection and safety or waiting patiently for our blessing to come or for the lockdown to end. Regardless of our own situation, there will be opportunities for us, as the Lord leads, to help someone, comfort someone, pray for someone and express the love of Christ in many different ways. This divine loves compels us to put aside our own difficulties and consider the needs of others.
Let each of you look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.
So, as we wait upon Him, may our lives express the magnificent love that God has shed in our hearts through his Holy Spirit in everything we do and say.
Above all, let us keep our eyes on Him and keep our trust in Him!