By David Dombrowski
For many, the coronavirus has been a roller-coaster ride trying to decipher the seriousness and magnitude of this pandemic. Coming from two extremes, some have tried to minimize what is happening by suggesting this is a hoax while others seem to think this is the end of the world. Jesus spoke of a time when “the end is not by and by” (Luke 21:9) that will be marked by wars and commotions along with “great earthquakes . . . in divers places, and famines and pestilences . . .” (v. 11). Jesus said when you witness these things, “be not terrified” (v. 9). While the coronavirus definitely seems like one of the pestilences Jesus said would come, I also believe it is another wake-up call that God is using to get us ready to face the future. But how do we go about preparing for the future?
Many practical measures are being taken right now in dealing with the coronavirus, and I fully agree that practical measures need to be taken. Yet, as believers in Christ, we do not want to miss the spiritual significance of what is happening.
Already, we can see that this current pandemic has ramped up talk by New Age and political thinkers who say the world needs a new-world order. They even see COVID-19 as a positive means to a desirable end—i.e., the merging and unity of all beliefs, all people, and all nations. We saw this happen to some degree with the aftermath of 9-11 where we witnessed a push for ecumenism (in the religious realm) and global unity. But very little actually happened in seeing a genuine effort at repentance and turning to God.
So during this virus crisis, let us do the practical things that need to be done, but let us more so, as those who understand the times in which we live from a biblical perspective, prepare for a change in the spiritual climate of our nation and the world where genuine Christians will be more ostracized and one-world thinkers will be glorified. But the truth is, the world will continue to witness more of the things Jesus described in Luke 21 as a result of the world not turning to God in sincere and humble repentance.
In seeking God for a word of encouragement for our readers, I found a very sure word of hope in the Scriptures that relates to both COVID-19 and the present state of the church. In his second epistle, Peter writes, “Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust” (2 Peter 1:4).
Peter also says, in verse 19, “We have also a more sure word of prophecy.” We can, therefore, find the encouragement we need in the Scriptures as we lay hold of God’s promises and assurances for the future.
Thus, let us remind ourselves of Jesus’ promise to Peter (and to us) that the gates of hell will not prevail against the church (Matthew 16:18) and that He is preparing for Himself “a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle” (Ephesians 5:27). Consider also the words of David to his son Solomon concerning the construction of Solomon’s temple:
And David said to Solomon his son, Be strong and of good courage, and do it: fear not, nor be dismayed: for the LORD God, even my God, will be with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee, until thou hast finished all the work for the service of the house of the LORD. (1 Chronicles 28:20)
These same words can be applicable to us today. Solomon’s temple has come and gone, but God is not yet finished with building the invisible body of believers called “the church.” In light of Jesus’ promise to Peter, this verse takes on special significance in that it can assure us that God will accomplish all that He has set out for each of us to do as part of God’s spiritual body.
Furthermore, it is such promises as these that can help us on the more personal level. All of us struggle, at one time or another, with the prospect of death, and the coronavirus has caught everyone’s attention on a global scale. But these fears can grab us at different levels. There is, of course, the prospect of facing our own death, and our concerns here can be multiplied if we have family or loved ones who need our help. Questions arise like, what will happen to them if I am gone? Then, too, there is the prospect of losing a loved one. Ordinarily, we do not like to think of such things because they are too painful—until something like this pandemic happens. But, here too, we can look to the Scriptures for support, allowing the Holy Spirit (the Comforter) to speak to us through His Word.
One of the greatest comforts a believer can have is in knowing and believing that God will fulfill all that He has set out to do and that He has promised to never leave us nor forsake us. He will always be with us at our moment of need. The prophet Isaiah suffered much and witnessed a lot of calamity in his lifetime, but he also drew strength and comfort in knowing that God would not fail to accomplish His purposes though the world be torn apart. God is, and has always been, faithful as the book of Isaiah expresses so beautifully:
For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it. (Isaiah 55:9-11)
In 2014, twelve years after we began Lighthouse Trails, I wrote a booklet titled Preparing for Perilous Times and Finding God’s Peace in the Midst of Them. The following is an extract from that booklet, which I feel is very relevant today—
When perilous events will come, be it judgment or persecution, will we as Christians be ready for it? Such changes can come very rapidly and seemingly overnight; ask Anita Dittman or Diet Eman (Lighthouse Trails’ two Holocaust-survivor authors) if this is not true. They know; they saw it firsthand. Jesus said that men’s hearts will fail from fear of seeing the events happening around them (Luke 21:26). In Luke 21 and Matthew 24, Jesus gives a basic outline of the peril that will precede His return; He did not give specific calendar dates of what will happen, but He did teach us (as do the apostles and prophets) how we can be ready to face the future.
I’m sure we have all seen the ill effects that fear and worry can have on a person’s life, both spiritually and physically. Fear and worry, over an extended period of time, stagnates one spiritually, cripples one emotionally, and breaks one down physically. The enemy (Satan) uses fear whenever possible to thwart the progress of Christians and to promote his agenda. Whole societies have been controlled through fear. When we consider what happened in Nazi Germany, it’s true that great numbers were mesmerized by a charismatic leader with a demonic anointing, but overall he was able to rule the country through fear. Today, we already see the reemergence of fear and intimidation both in our politics and in many churches where fundamental Christianity is marginalized, if not villainized, while immorality and corruption are given special sanctions and promotion.
How can a Christian believer stand under this kind of pressure we see today? Fear is already at work eroding the values we have long held sacred. In many churches, just the pressure to remain popular or contemporary is enough to introduce Yoga and mind-altering meditation into our churches.
Fear is not something you can merely put the brakes on—like pressing a pedal in your car. Peter, who so adamantly insisted to Jesus that he would never deny Him even unto death did so three times in the course of one night.
Over a period of three years, Jesus taught His disciples how to live without being overcome by fear and worry (see Matthew 6:28-30).
Jesus said all of this after having just said, “Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? . . . Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?” (Matthew 6:25, 27).
In saying what He did about taking no thought for our lives, I do not think Jesus was advocating for personal neglect or for unpreparedness.
Jesus’ words about the lilies of the field (v. 28) were a much-needed exhortation to trust God in all aspects of our lives. At the same time, however, Jesus was talking to an agrarian people who knew and practiced preparedness as they utilized their skills in growing and properly storing food for the winter. If this were not true, Solomon would not have praised the ordinary ant in saying, “consider her ways, and be wise: Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, Provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest” (Proverbs 6:6-8).
If you have followed our ministry for any length of time, then you know that we have never yet talked about preparedness. Yet in by-gone days, it used to be a very normal task for people to cut firewood, tend the livestock, and plant or harvest the fields; so while it is not my intention to get into a lengthy discussion on the practical matters of life, let me say in passing that it would not hurt to consider the situations in which we live. While many of us may be locked into situations or locations that make change nearly impossible, it doesn’t hurt, if you have the opportunity, to consider what would be best for you and your family in the future. Especially if you live in a highly populated city, it does not take much imagination to think of the crime and looting that could ensue after a serious power failure or disaster.
Now, having said this, let’s return to the words of Jesus when He said that we should take no thought for our lives. The fact is, we are only as safe as the Lord enables us to be. Hence, regardless of our situation in life, our only real option for safety is to place our lives and our futures in the hands of the Lord. While it would be wise to make whatever practical measures we can for the future, none of us are immune from disaster, loss, or theft. To be truly prepared to face the future means above all to be spiritually prepared—and that means having a right relationship with the Lord.
Now is the time for Christians to “lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1). In other words, like the athlete set out to run a race, we need to strip off any excess baggage that would hinder us from giving the Lord our very best. God’s overwhelming desire for us is that we walk with Him with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength (Mark 12:30).
I would like to finish with some thoughts about what it means to walk in God’s peace.
First of all, let me say that just as the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes (Romans 1:16), it is also the avenue to peace with God: “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1).
All of us who have entered into union with God through believing the Gospel—namely that Jesus purchased our salvation fully through His death on the Cross—have God’s peace available to us. Today, it seems that many Christians do not really have a sense of God’s peace, and I am fully persuaded it is because they have become removed from the simplicity of the Gospel. The modern-day church leadership has left today’s Christian with a sense of insufficiency of the Gospel and has instead presented an array of substitutes all with an empty promise of delivering peace and God’s presence when in fact the Gospel is all sufficient for that purpose. Through the Gospel, Jesus opened the door of salvation, promising to live (abide) in us: “To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you” (Colossians 1:27) and “hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us” (1 John 3:24).
As we live by faith, we will enjoy the benefits of God’s peace. And as I mentioned earlier, when Jesus pointed out that we should take no thought for our lives, He indicated that our lives should be free of fear and worry. God wants us to strive for this goal and attain it as well. Jesus then ended His statements with the clause, “O ye of little faith” (Matthew 6:30). In other words, our freedom from fear and worry are only available to us as we allow our faith and trust in the Lord to grow. A perfect example of this is where Jesus, while walking on the water, welcomed Peter to come out and meet Him. Peter, whose life was a mixture of self-confidence and faith, was OK as long as he kept his eyes on Jesus, but as he turned his eyes to the wind and the waves, that confidence soon left him. It was the same self-confidence that led him to tell Jesus that he would never deny Him only to be dashed later, causing him to weep bitterly. But it was a good thing for Peter that his self-confidence was so utterly dashed because he was later able to become a great hero of the faith as he found he had abundant and sufficient grace through Christ (even to the point where he was able to go to his death for the sake of Christ) as he put his confidence in Jesus alone. In this one illustration of meeting Jesus on the water, we find the secret of faith that enabled Peter to walk in an abiding peace.
We will all need spiritual strength (that only God can give) to face the future. That means drawing strength from God by reading His Word. Then, it means applying that Word to our lives. The Bible says those who trust in the Lord shall not be disappointed (Psalm 34:22).
Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. (Romans 5: 1-2)
(Photo from bigstockphoto.com; used with permission)