Two Responses to Coronavirus: Turn and Trust (Part One)

I almost feel like I should start this article out with an apology. Since there have already been countless articles, posts, discussions—not to mention arguments—on the coronavirus, adding another might just seem like more noise. However, I firmly believe that balanced, biblical reminders always have value in the midst of uncertain times. And though what one author writes may not resonate with you, something from another might really hit the mark.

As far as my writing and thinking goes, I like to keep things simple—especially when life gets complicated. To say life has become more complicated over the past couple of months, and especially over the past couple of weeks, would be an understatement. Wow! Who would have imagined, even three months ago, the situation we find ourselves in today. We have witnessed travel coming to a halt, economies contracting, and commodities flying off the shelves. Terms rarely needed in 2019 have now become commonplace in our daily conversations and media intake. I mean, think about it: How many times did you use the word “quarantine” in 2019, or could you have found Wuhan on a world map back in December? Now, these words and places, along with a host of others, assault us dozens of times each day. We cannot escape hearing terms like pandemic, mortality rates, travel bans, asymptomatic individuals, incubation periods, community transmission, and social distancing.

So, now that we are all in the same boat trying to navigate through this sea of uncertainty how do we chart our course? Where do we go from here? Biblically, the answer is simple. You either need to turn to God or to trust Him. In this article and the next, we will work through these 2 points.

  1. Turn to God

Why does God allow disease? Why would God ever bring plagues upon the earth? Why do people suffer? Obviously there are a lot of ways we could try to answer these questions. But to start, take instruction from God’s words to Pharaoh in Exodus: “For at this time I will send all My plagues to your very heart, and on your servants and on your people, that you may know that there is none like Me in all the earth” (Exodus 9:14). Two verses later God says to Pharaoh, “But indeed for this purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth.” Probably, the closest biblical parallel to today’s coronavirus epidemic would be that of “plagues.” What is a plague? Well, a plague is a calamity resulting from Adam’s Fall, and the subsequent curse God placed on His creation (Genesis 3:17). We live in world under a curse. So, it really should not surprise us to see disease, earthquakes, tornadoes, tsunamis, etc.

But, the thing I want to point out from Exodus is the reason God said He sent the plagues upon Egypt. His motives are not concealed. Check out His purpose statement: “So that you (Pharaoh) may know that there is none like Me in all the earth.” Once Pharaoh saw the signs and destruction of the plagues, there were no questions lingering in his mind regarding God’s existence, or even Who the true God was. The only question that remained was whether he would submit to this Almighty God, or in stubbornness refuse Him. Sadly, he never turned to God. Many today follow Pharaoh’s example and harden their hearts. Rather than giving God glory by humbly submitting to Him, they reject Him.

Another example of turning away from God comes from a period that will be known as the Great Tribulation (as described in the book of Revelation). Scripture records: “But the rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands, that they should not worship demons, and idols of gold, silver, brass, stone, and wood, which can neither see nor hear nor walk. And they did not repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts” (Revelation 9:20-21). A similar scene is depicted a few chapters later in the same book: “And men were scorched with great heat, and they blasphemed the name of God who has power over these plagues; and they did not repent and give Him glory… They blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and did not repent of their deeds” Revelation (16:9, 11). From how this is described, these individuals are fully aware that God is the “source” of these plagues, and yet instead of repenting and giving Him glory, they blaspheme Him. They curse Him. This is the exact opposite of turning to God. This is the opposite of humbly acknowledging Him.

So, you are left with the question, How am I supposed to respond to something like the coronavirus? Well, if you don’t have a relationship with God, allow your uncertainty and fears to drive you toward Him. If you are like most people, you often feel more self-sufficient that you ought to. At times you might even feel indestructible. Then something—like the coronavirus—comes along and shakes your confidence. And it is not even just about the virus itself. There may be individuals who really aren’t afraid of catching the coronavirus (maybe they are young and in good health). However, this pandemic has had a far greater impact than on people’s physical health alone. We are now dealing with global insecurities affecting economics, jobs, travel, shortages, etc. Those concerns are enough to produce anxiety in even the most courageous heart—even if you are not worried about getting physically sick.

So, when fears arise, it is time to take inventory of your life. Do you know God? Not just the casual, “Sure, I believe in God. I know God.” I mean do you have a real relationship with God? Do you know that you belong to God? You are His child? He is your Master? This relationship begins once the light of the Gospel shines into your life. You see your sin, and at the same time you see the beauty of the Savior, Jesus Christ, Who died for your sins, and rose again. The Bible pictures it so many different ways. It is being rescued, reconciled, redeemed, born-again, and cleansed (to name a few). Jesus is the Good Shepherd, and He is willing to receive you into His fold. In fact, He laid down his life to make you a part of his flock (John 10:1-11). But the only way to enter this fold is through the door… and by the way, Jesus is the door too!

Just a final thought. One time a group of men came to Jesus telling him about some of the current tragedies of their day. They spoke of Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed in with their sacrifices—obviously killing them. Maybe if this were today, it would be a group of people telling Jesus about those who have died from the coronavirus. After Jesus hears of the current events, He then offers an example of his own: there were 18 men building a tower in Jerusalem who were killed when it collapsed. What Jesus said about these tragedies is sobering: “Do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish (Luke 13:4-5). Both events were legitimate tragedies—tragedies that had a lasting impact on the hearts and minds of the people. Make no mistake about it: the coronavirus is a tragedy. However, what was the point Jesus was making? He was encouraging them to allow those tragedies to instruct their hearts. He was making sure they didn’t miss how God wanted to open their eyes to more vital spiritual truths. We become fixated on physical calamities. They trouble our minds and strike fear into our hearts. But the point Jesus made is that there should be something of far greater concern that consumes our lives: Eternal judgment. Physical death is one thing. Eternal death is on a completely different level. Should we be concerned about the physical? Sure. Should we take necessary precautions to stay safe? Absolutely. However, we should be infinitely more concerned about the spiritual. Unless you repent, you will perish. So, take this time, if you have not already, to turn to Jesus Christ, and by faith confess Him as your Lord. In the second part of this article, we work through a Christian’s response to the coronavirus: Trust the Lord.

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Man Plans… God Ordains

I wanted to give a brief update on our family’s travel plans. We initially purchased tickets to fly out from Bacolod to Manila on Tuesday, March 17 with a flight from Manila to New York (via Seoul, Korea) on Wednesday, March 18. However, with the spread of the coronavirus, the president of the Philippines announced that flights to and from Manila would be suspended through the middle of April. So, we are in the process of finalizing the cancellation of our scheduled flights, and are looking into other flight options. Our hope would be to fly out within the next couple of weeks (most likely out of Cebu, rather than Manila).

An additional factor in all of this is that we are dealing with is sickness. Though we do not believe it is related to the novel coronavirus, the children (and I) have been dealing with coughs which would have obviously made it very difficult (if not impossible) to travel this week. On Friday, I was able to take two of our girls to the doctor to be checked out. The doctor was somewhat concerned with the congestion in Emi’s lungs. So, as the Lord brings us to mind, you can pray for her. Other than being congested, she is doing fine (active, happy, and sleeping and eating well).

In the middle of all of this uncertainty, I was reminded of a verse from Proverbs 16:9 that often comes to my mind: “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” This verse is a comforting reminder knowing that even though we seem to make countless “plans” in life, it is the Lord Who guides and directs our paths. So, even when our plans vanish before our very eyes, we can find rest in the Sovereign God Who orders our steps. Now, I will be the first to admit that I get frustrated when my plans are thwarted. It annoys me. And on those occasions I need to remind myself of some basic truths. God is in control. God does not need my approval, nor does He seek my counsel for what He does. God is pleased with faith. He is pleased when His children submit to Him and trust Him. So, we are going to do our best to do just that.

In the meantime, there are a few things you can pray about for us:

  1. Peace and grace to accept lots of things we cannot change.
  2. Health for our family, especially Emi at this time.
  3. Wisdom with airline tickets (ability to cancel our original flights, and find reasonable replacement tickets through another hub).

Once more, we are grateful for your prayers and support for our family. By the way, over the next couple of days, I plan to write our March Update. Hard to believe, but we finished our first year of classes at Haven of Grace Seminary. To God be the glory! Stay tuned for the more information.

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To All Nations

Three different nations were represented around our dining room table this afternoon (I guess you could say four if you consider the fact that we were serving Italian food!). Of course, eating with Filipinos is nothing unusual for us since we live in the Philippines. However, it was our joy to share fellowship (and a meal) with a brother from Pakistan who is taking our course on General Epistles (offered by Haven of Grace Seminary) this week and next.

From the very start, our desire at Haven of Grace has been to not only make an impact in the Philippines, but all across Southeast Asia, and really throughout the world. To have a pastor from Pakistan with us, a man who, at some point, would love to start a Bible College in his own country, fulfills a great desire of our ministry. If we can equip and train men to go out and continue the work of equipping and training other men for the Gospel ministry, we will have considered our work here a success. May the songs of praise rise up to God from all peoples, tongues, and nations!

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The Brigade!

A couple of weeks ago I was able to speak at the Boys and Girls Brigade Camp here at Haven of Grace. What a great opportunity to preach the Gospel to close to 400 campers on two separate days. My text was Romans 1:1-17 as we went “Back to the Basics.” From our text we saw how the Gospel is our road map to salvation, and how faith is the vehicle that gets us to our destination. I encouraged the campers to consider how they have responded to this good news!

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