Fear God, Not the Coronavirus: Two Pastoral Letters Encourage Us to Look to the Lord

Pastor Gibson is currently “self-isolating”, having developed symptoms associated with the Coronavirus pandemic.

If there is one thing that the Coronavirus should do, it should cause the world to seek the LORD while He may be found, to call upon Him while He is near. This virus is an act of judgement, for sure, but it is also an act of mercy; an opportunity given by God to turn back to Him, to seek His face and to cry out for that glorious pardon which is freely ours through faith in Jesus Christ alone (Romans 3:23-25).

 

Dear Friends:

As some of you know, under the instruction of my Doctor I am currently “self-isolating”, having developed symptoms associated with the Coronavirus pandemic. As I write, this virus has caused the death of over 7000 people throughout the world, a figure which is rising daily. Many Governments have temporarily closed their country’s borders, the sporting world is practically in “lock-down”, supermarket shelves are emptying and the financial markets have experienced their worst day since 1987. There is no question that many people, both here in Scotland and throughout the world, are living in fear. Men, women, boys and girls are worried. Worried about the health of already frail relatives. Worried about catching the illness themselves. And, yes, worried about the prospects of death.

However, there is one kind of fear which is sadly missing in these days, namely a fear of God Himself. God is sovereign over all things, including the Coronavirus. This has come as no surprise to Him and it will spread to the precise extent that He has determined in order to accomplish His perfect will and just purposes in His world. The truth is that because of the fall (Genesis 3), humanity is in constant rebellion against its Creator (Psalm 2:1-3) and as long as life is trouble-free, man in his unbelief is prone towards thinking that he is invincible and that he has no need to give a second thought to God or His will for our lives (Romans 1:18). We convince ourselves that death will never come – or at least that it’s so far off that it needn’t be a cause for concern today.

But then God ordains disaster. Sometimes an earthquake, other times a tsunami and other times still, a deadly virus which spreads across the globe causing widespread calamity. It is, in the end, both an act of judgement and of mercy: judgement in the sense that these events are often His just response to a world intent on defying His laws and rejecting His rule (Isaiah 45:7); mercy in the sense that these temporal disasters serve to warn the unbeliever of the far greater disaster which is to come. The disaster of facing Holy God on judgement day and being sentenced by Him to the everlasting torments of hell.

The Bible tells us that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” and that “the wages of sin is death”. It tells us that apart from God’s mercy in Christ, we are not on a right footing with Him, but instead under His condemnation, awaiting a day when He will cast the unbeliever into that place where “the worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.” But the glorious news is that God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to suffer, in His death, the punishment that was due to us for our sins so that all who believe in Him will not perish but have eternal life.

If there is one thing that the Coronavirus should do, it should cause the world to seek the LORD while He may be found, to call upon Him while He is near. This virus is an act of judgement, for sure, but it is also an act of mercy; an opportunity given by God to turn back to Him, to seek His face and to cry out for that glorious pardon which is freely ours through faith in Jesus Christ alone (Romans 3:23-25).

May there be a fear of God in these days and may He grant the grace of repentance, the gift of faith and bring many sons to glory.

“And I will shake all nations, so that the treasures of all nations shall come in, and I will fill this house with glory, says the LORD of hosts.” Haggai 2:7

“…let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.” Isaiah 55:7

Soli Deo Gloria!

With love and affection in Christ,
Paul Gibson

Paul Gibson is Pastor of Knox Presbyterian Church in Perth, Scotland. This article appeared on the church website.

 

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To All Saints:

As we are all obviously occupied with the coronavirus situation, I would like to share this quote from Martin Luther. This was written during a time when Germany was facing the plague:

“I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine and take it. I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance inflict and pollute others and so cause their death as a result of my negligence. If God should wish to take me, he will surely find me and I have done what he has expected of me and so I am not responsible for either my own death or the death of others. If my neighbor needs me however I shall not avoid place or person but will go freely as stated above. See this is such a God-fearing faith because it is neither brash nor foolhardy and does not tempt God” (The Annotated Luther, Volume 4: Pastoral Writings, page 404).

There are two aspects to our response to our present circumstances. First, we have to consider that which every person is concerned with at present, which is our health and the health of those around us. As Luther observes, we should take all due precaution according to what we know about the virus and its transmission. We should care for our own health, and the health of those with whom we might have contact.

Second, there is a matter that concerns professing believers specifically. I’m referring to our witness during such a time. While we take all proper steps to protect ourselves, as noted, we must not forget that we are the people of God and we are, consequently, uniquely qualified to be of service to coworkers, family members, and even strangers.

You have probably noticed that people are quite fearful, and they are acting accordingly. Much of this fear is unfounded, of course, but this is the world in which we live and the one in which believers must operate.

My advice, therefore, is simple. Continue living as a Christian. But, given the unprecedented nature of our time, we must be vigilant and expectant. Be ready to come to your neighbor’s assistance or go out of your way to speak a kind word to someone who is anxious. Understand that in the coming days God will surely provide you with increased opportunities to serve.

In regard to any personal anxiety you may experience, I would exhort you to put your trust in God because you know He cares for you (1 Pet. 5:7). Remember that you are in the hands of “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all” (Rom. 8:32) .

Meditate on these words from Jesus and rejoice:

Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows (Matt. 10:28-31).

We fear God and only Him. We confess that He is the giver and sustainer of life. Even death itself for the Christian is simply our home-going. That was true before the coronavirus and it will be true after this crisis passes.

With these truths established in your heart, you can be of genuine service to your neighbors. Display the heart of Christ in your conduct. Particularly in these trying days, people will take notice of your life like never before. Let them see your hope and pray that God will put a question in their hearts that you can answer.

May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it (1 Thess. 5:23-24).

In Christ,
James Bordwine
Pastor, All Saints Parish Church
Battle Ground, WA