Currently we are facing unprecedented times in our world with fear over the Coronavirus and uncertainty over how our economy is going to be affected as a result of this global pandemic. Add to this our frustration as believers not being able to gather together to encourage one another in love.
If our eyes are on our circumstances, it is quite easy for panic and anxiety to set in. But as we have been considering in our streaming sermons as of late, let the example of the Apostle Paul lift your eyes off of your circumstances and on to truth.
Recently I have referenced the book of Philippians in my sermons because I believe it speaks so clearly to how the Christian worldview must be shaped in perilous times such as these. Paul was imprisoned at the time of his writing the epistle. His future was uncertain. He did not know how the future turn out. And he was unable to gather corporately with his church family due to his circumstance. Paul’s circumstances closely mirrored our own. Notice some things that Paul did not do in the midst of this crisis.
To blame Satan when calamity comes upon us is actually to give Satan more credit than he is due. This is a default that we as believers can easily fall into when tribulations come our way. And I believe that with the best of intentions, we are quick to give Satan credit for life’s hardships because in a way, we are trying to protect God. It sounds wrong to us to say that God would ever allow or ordain trials and or persecution. However, in our attempts to “protect God” from accusation, we fall into sin by neglecting scripture and failing to see the beauty in God’s sovereign plan. Consider the words of the Lord in Isaiah and Amos wherein He addresses the origin of worldly tribulations;
Isaiah 45:7 “I create the light and make the darkness. I send good times and bad times. I, the LORD, am the one who does these things.”
Amos 3:6 “When the ram’s horn blows a warning, shouldn’t the people be alarmed? Does disaster come to a city unless the LORD has planned it?”
Knowing that it was God who ordained that Paul would be imprisoned gave the Apostle the greatest of comfort in the midst of his persecution. Because to believe the alternative, that Satan had escaped his leash and was frustrating the plans of God is more terrifying. Also, Paul knew that the Lord used trials and persecution in the world for the ultimate good of those who love the Lord and are called according to His purposes.
Romans 8:28 “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”
The Coronavirus is not the result of Satan frustrating the plans of God. Rather, this pandemic was sent by God. You may ask, “Why would God send a virus such as this?” The answer; For the glory of Christ and the good of those that love Him. The question is not, “Is this true?” The question we must ask is, “Do we believe this?” That the Lord is so powerful that He uses evil to bring about good that could not be had without it. If anyone would doubt that God can use evil as a tool to create beauty, let them be reminded of the cross.
Acts 2:23-24 “But God knew what would happen, and his prearranged plan was carried out when Jesus was betrayed. With the help of lawless Gentiles, you nailed him to a cross and killed him. But God released him from the horrors of death and raised him back to life, for death could not keep him in its grip.”
Genesis 50:20 “You planned evil against me; God planned it for good to bring about the present result–the survival of many people.”
This reality should radically shape how we as believer view tragedies, wars, and pandemics in our world today. If we are not rooted and grounded in a Biblical worldview, then we will default to speculation and myth when hard times come. And this knowledge of God allowed Paul to endure suffering without grumbling or complaining. Paul knew that his present suffering was bringing about a greater manifestation of God’s glory and a future good for His people. And it is the same in the circumstances we face today.
2. Paul Didn’t Complain, He Rejoiced!
Philippians 4:4-7 “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
When someone in the first century wanted to put an emphasis on something, they would repeat it. In the face of horrible circumstances, Paul was adamant in reminding the church to REJOICE in the Lord! Why? Because again, Paul knew his hardships were producing a greater good for those that love the Lord!
In hard times, it is common for people and especially believers to feel that the Lord is somehow distant. Paul knew how easy it is for people to feel this way. Notice in the verse above that Paul tells the church to rejoice, and he follows that up by reminding them that THE LORD IS AT HAND! He is not distant and far off! God is not apathetic to His children. Rather, through the suffering believers are bearing witness to God using the evil as a chisel to create beauty!
Therefore, building on what Paul knew of God’s sovereignty over evil, he could confidentially tell the church that they should not be panicking. Nor should they be fearful or anxious! The reason for their trepidation was because their eyes were not on God, but were on the trial in front of them.
Let me as Paul emphasize my point by repeating myself. It is crucial that we let our worldview be shaped by scripture and not by current events. I will go farther and say this; We cannot rightly interpret the events we see played out in our world without filtering everything through the scriptures.
What is the result of having our eyes on Christ rather than circumstance? Peace in the midst of tribulation. And this peace is a witness to the outside world. Consider this; When your unbelieving neighbor or family member calls you to express their fear over this pandemic that we currently face, and they hear a clam in your voice, it wont be the reaction that they expected. When the outside world sees a smile on your face in the midst of crisis, it will cause them to wonder where your peace comes from. They may even be prompted to ask you, “How is it that you are so calm and peaceful in this great time of uncertainty?”
If this happens, the door has swung open wide for you to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with them. You see, if we view this pandemic through the lens of God’s Word and then let it be our comfort, even a situation such as this can turn into an opportunity to present the Gospel that may never have so naturally come about without our current crisis.
Rejoice brothers and sister! And again I say REJOICE! The Lord is at hand! He is not only in the midst of this pandemic, He is using it to create a greater good that couldn’t have been had without it.