I knew the question would come up and, sure enough, it did. Someone wrote to me asking, “Pastor Jerry, are the current troubles in the world the judgment of God?” There certainly are plenty of reasons that the Almighty would want to let loose a corrective plague. Greed, materialism, violence, unending war, exploitation of the earth and the resources, pride are just a few of the sins that are rampant in this world. However, the simplistic thinking that concludes, “We sinned and God smacked us down,” is a complete misunderstanding of Who He is and how He acts.
God is not like an exhausted parent who just ‘loses it’ and makes everybody pay! We, human beings, do that sometimes. When we come to the end of our patience with the kids, everybody loses privileges, or is sent to bed early, or worse, in some cases. To think of a vengeful, wrathful God Who set a virus loose in the world because He is fed up with the world – with all of the suffering, the death, the economic chaos- misses His great heart entirely. Don’t stop reading or object to the reasoning until you finish this blog, please.
Listen to the Word about the way God acts for our good.
Don’t rush through this passage. It is rich for us, particularly in this time.
“And have you entirely forgotten the encouraging words God spoke to you, his children? He said, “My child, don’t ignore it when the Lord disciplines you, and don’t be discouraged when he corrects you. For the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes those he accepts as his children.”
As you endure this divine discipline, remember that God is treating you as his own children. Whoever heard of a child who was never disciplined? If God doesn’t discipline you as he does all of his children, it means that you are illegitimate and are not really his children after all. Since we respect our earthly fathers who disciplined us, should we not all the more cheerfully submit to the discipline of our heavenly Father and live forever? For our earthly fathers disciplined us for a few years, doing the best they knew how.
But God’s discipline is always right and good for us because it means we will share in his holiness. No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it is painful! But afterward there will be a quiet harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.” (Hebrews 12:5-11, NLT)
God allows us (think not just of yourself as an individual, but as a world) the freedom to choose to align ourselves with His will or to ignore it. Throughout the Scripture, we learn that when people live as He directs, they enjoy life. When they choose to live selfishly and/or sinfully, their actions produce death. Pray for insight as you read these passages.
- The principle started in the opening chapters of Genesis where God gave a direction: “Don’t eat or you’ll die.”
- In Deuteronomy the principle is amplified: “Look at what I’ve done for you today: I’ve placed in front of you Life and Good Death and Evil. And I command you today: Love God, your God. Walk in his ways. Keep his commandments, regulations, and rules so that you will live, really live, live exuberantly, blessed by God, your God, in the land you are about to enter and possess. But I warn you: If you have a change of heart, refuse to listen obediently, and willfully go off to serve and worship other gods, you will most certainly die. You won’t last long in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess.” (Deuteronomy 30:15-18, The Message)
- Christians, who live in the promise of Grace through Jesus Christ, are challenged to obey and find the best life. Jesus said, “If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” (John 15:10-11, NIV)
- Paul’s inspired words are clear: “Remember that you can’t ignore God and get away with it. You will always reap what you sow! Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful desires will harvest the consequences of decay and death. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit. So don’t get tired of doing what is good.” (Galatians 6:7)
Asking if coronavirus is God’s judgment is simply the wrong question. In one sense, it is because it, like all things that produce human pain and suffering, results from the work of Evil in this world which is loosed by the choice of humanity to reject the will of God. But, truly this breaks God’s heart for His children. Christians who rub their hands in twisted joy as they say, “God is giving the world what it deserves.” have an incomplete knowledge of their Father’s heart.
He is sad with us that choices to ignore His ways are ripping us apart, robbing us of peace, bringing death. Those are, in fact, the work of the Devil, and we who are the children of God, through Jesus Christ, are called to resist him, to pray for the “Kingdom of God to come and His will to be done, on earth, as it is in Heaven.”
Can God use this plague to call us to Himself? Yes, He can. Our illusions of self-sufficiency are being shattered. The slender nature of the thread of life becomes much more obvious when we realize it can be broken by an invisible virus. We do not know where it came from, how it was released on us, or when it will end. BUT we know that God saves, not kills; that His desire is our salvation, not our destruction.
So this morning, I invite you to join me in humble prayer. If confession is needed, let’s do it – with the full expectation of His grace to cover our failures and sins and to restore us to our place near His heart. Then, let us go on to bold prayers for the release of His power, first in the invisible realm, praying that He will curb the power of the Evil one who seeks to ‘kill and destroy,’ and second in the presentation of ourselves as servant warriors who love others to wholeness- body, soul, and spirit- as we give ourselves in selfless service.
The word from the Word is the prayer Jesus taught us to pray. Would you pray it with me, not just as a rote recitation, but as the expression of your faith, the surrender of your heart and mind to HIM?
“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed (treated with reverent respect) be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.
For yours is the kingdom, and the power,
And the glory forever. Amen.” (Matthew 6:9-13, NIV)
How I Need You
(Listen and worship in this simple song of faith)
Every day in Your hands
You were there before time began
Sovereign one I rest in Your plan
From the depths to the dawn
You are there Your promise is strong
I will trust with all that I am
Jesus Jesus oh how I need You
You stay the same
You are good in Your ways
Jesus Jesus oh how I need You
You are enough
All my trust is in You Lord
You fashioned me formed my heart
Search my soul and know every thought
Love so great but never too far
And through the storm You’re the calm
And every war You’ve already won
Life secure in Your loving arms
You are powerful God above it all
I believe in You I believe in You
You do miracles the impossible
I believe in You I believe in You
Bethany Phillips | Chris Griffin | Micah Massey | Nicole McLean © 2018 Highlands Creative Publishing (Admin. by Music Services, Inc.) CCLI License # 810055