What Is God Doing with the Coronavirus?

Dr. Ron J. Bigalke

Your initial response may be, how can anyone claim to know what God is doing, when Romans 11 says God’s ways are inscrutable (meaning unable to be known)?

So, how can anyone claim to know what God is doing? While admitting the need for caution, it is also important to recognize that God is not silent regarding His purposes in the world.

One of the primary reasons that God revealed Himself to humanity through the Holy Bible is to help us understand His purposes. For instance, Ephesians 3:9 says that by reading the Bible, it is possible to gain insight into “the mystery” of what God is doing. One may not know precisely what He is doing in every aspect of life, yet it is possible to know the general manner of how God works. In that regard, Jesus criticized the religious leaders of His day for being hypocrites, who knew how to analyze the appearance of the earth and the sky, yet did not analyze the present time (Luke 12:54-56). So, what is God doing with the coronavirus? Consider a fivefold purpose.

God Is Manifesting the Horrors of Sin
In the coronavirus, God is letting humanity witness the horror of sin. All misery and suffering is the result of sin in the world. When God created the world and all that is in it, He declared “that it was good.” Human sin is what brought the curse of disease and death into the world. Romans 5 reveals that because of sin, “death spread to all” humanity. Romans 8 (v. 20) says, “creation was subjected to futility,” so that humanity groans awaiting God’s redemption. Futility and groaning are images of global desolation, which came because of humanity’s rebellion. Sin against God is a somber reality, and physical suffering is a reminder of that. C. S. Lewis once said, “Pain is God’s megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” Misery, pain, and suffering indicate that something is dreadfully wrong in the world. The coronavirus lets the world know that the present world is both temporary and incapable of sustaining humanity.

God Is Preparing Humanity for His Return
God intends for the coronavirus to prepare humanity for His return. History is, of course, replete with false predications regarding the end of the world. Certainly, most people are familiar with false predictions. Nevertheless, Jesus will return, and Scripture declares that it could be at any moment. For instance, Scripture refers to believers “awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor 1:7; cf. Phil 3:20; 1 Thess 1:10). The normal attitude of the Christian is eager anticipation of the Lord’s return. The expectation of the Lord’s return should motivate believers to live holy and pure lives, “so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming” (1 John 2:28). The expectation of the Lord’s return as imminent and personal is cause for great joy and hope. Through the coronavirus, Jesus is saying, “Be ready for My return, because the present world is not going to endure forever.” Everyone needs to prepare themselves for the Lord’s return. Pandemics are symptoms of a fallen world that groans for the coming Savior.

God Is Stimulating Revival
The coronavirus should stimulate all to revive their relationship with God. In Luke 13, messengers from Jerusalem reported to Jesus “about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices.” Many of the Jews believed the tragedy was the direct result of some personal sin (cf. John 9:1-3). Apparently, their conclusion was the Galileans perished because they were great sinners (v. 2). Jesus refuted the idea by referring to a tower collapsing on a crowd of people, killing eighteen. Some may have thought they died because God was angry with them. Jesus responded, “I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (v. 5). Jesus asserted that people who experience tragedy are not necessarily greater sinners than all others. What is important to know is that all people will experience divine judgment unless they repent.

Disasters like the collapse of the tower, killing eighteen people, are not typically God’s specific judgment upon someone; however, they do serve as reminders for all people to repent. Disasters can be a gracious prod from God to repent and be saved while there is still opportunity. Ask yourself, “How can this coronavirus stimulate me to be more serious in my relationship with God (specifically, loving Him with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength)?”

God Is Demonstrating Generosity
God uses distressing times to demonstrate the generosity of His people, in addition to the gospel message of God’s grace received through faith in Jesus Christ. In Matthew 5, Jesus said, “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you … Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great … You are the salt of the earth … You are the light of the world.” Jesus referred to persecution, not disease, yet the application of His words to life in the present is the same. Generosity motivated by God’s grace exceeds that of normal human goodness. Many people are generous in times of plenty, yet truly reflect the gospel when that generosity is sacrificial, because it serves as a reminder of the Savior, who gave His life voluntarily for sinners. The gospel message necessitates living sacrificially in the midst of crisis. The church has the unprecedented opportunity to live redemptively in times of crisis and fear.

God Is Spreading the Gospel Message
Lastly, the coronavirus should lead the church to reach those who do not know Jesus as Lord and Savior. In Acts 7, God used a religious persecution that began with the stoning of Stephen, to bring a tremendous worldwide expansion of the gospel message. No one expected it or was prepared for it. Satan was the reason for the persecution—though which he intended to discourage God’s people—yet the Lord used it instead for a remarkable worldwide expansion of the gospel message.

Suffering frequently emphasizes what is most important. Jesus healed the man born blind, “so that the works of God might be displayed in him” (John 9:3). The physical healing resulted in the man understanding that Jesus was truly God’s Son, which then resulted in spiritual healing. Suffering brought the man to God. In a similar manner, the current pandemic can be a means for many to be healed spiritually through faith in Jesus Christ. Pandemics are an opportunity to demonstrate the love of God in Christ Jesus through loving one’s neighbor (Mark 12:31; Jas 2:14-17).

Conclusion
Winston Churchill once remarked, “An optimist sees an opportunity in every calamity; a pessimist sees a calamity in every opportunity.” The following anecdote will help illustrate what Churchill meant. The story is told of two researchers who were dispatched by a large shoe manufacturer to one of the world’s least developed countries. The purpose for the venture was to assess the business potential within that country. The first investigator reported that no one wore shoes, so there was not a market for the manufacturer. The second researcher announced a tremendous potential for the company, since no one wore shoes. Both researchers were dispatched to the same country to explore identical circumstances, yet they viewed the potential opportunity quite differently.

Would you describe yourself as an optimist or a realist? The first researcher would likely consider himself both, yet his focus was limited; thus, he could not see the potential before him (and in doing so, he was neither an optimist nor a realist). The second individual witnessed the obvious yet sought the possibilities in the circumstances, and focused upon the opportunity (and, in doing so, he was an optimist and a realist).

God desires for His church to be both optimistic and realistic, through a resolute faith and complete dependence upon Him. Psalms 112:6-7 declares, “For he will never be shaken; the righteous will be remembered forever. He will not fear evil tidings; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the LORD.” What helps in the current pandemic is to “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” (Rom 8:28). The sovereign Lord is working for His eternal glory in the midst of worldwide turmoil. Every opportunity, joy, and success that a believer may experience—in addition to trials—is God’s work in the lives of His people. Yet, they can still praise God during those difficulties (Ps 23:4). Christians need to learn the lessons that God intends for His church. While not necessarily grateful for the coronavirus pandemic, nevertheless, we should “in everything give thanks” (1 Thess 5:18).

James 1:3 exhorts believers to consider how various trials produce endurance. God intends for life difficulties to refine the faith of His people (cf. 1 Pet 1:6-7). The intent of James 1:3 is not that the Lord is confirming the reality of faith; rather, He is testing a faith that is already present and making it resolute. Some aspects of our character would be undeveloped without trials that purge and remove defects from immature faith. Those who endure trials with faith in God can become more like Jesus (cf. Rom 5:3-4; 8:29; 2 Thess 1:4).

What is your response to present times? Have you lost hope for positive change? Do not waste time during this present crisis! Ask yourself how your life aligns with the purposes of God during this pandemic. Of the fivefold purpose of what God is doing with the coronavirus, which best indicates what God is doing in your life? Share that with your family and with someone else.

Midnight Call - 10/2020

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