My weekly Bible study is focused on the current events of COVID-19. The corona virus is on the minds of all people worldwide. So this past week we looked at defining our theology of suffering and we considered reasons why God has allowed COVID-19 to afflict us. We started with a foundation of that which we know for certain about God in our current circumstances:
- We believe that God did not cause this virus. We know that all disease is a consequence of the fall of Adam. In judging Adam’s sin, God declared that his body would begin the dying process (Adam was created to live eternally). Therefore, a consequence of sin is disease as well as death.
- We also know that God has the power to stop the spread and afflictions of any disease, including COVID-19. As of now, He has not stopped the coronavirus.
- Finally, we know that God has used worldly things, including people, according to His perfect will and His plan for good. In ancient times, God brought about a worldwide flood and used it for His good purposes. He used a famine in Egypt to bring about His good plan. So we can trust that God will use the COVID-19 pandemic to bring about good things in accordance with His purpose and plan.
COVID-19 and Suffering
As Christians, we should look at COVID-19 through a biblical worldview. Doing so helps to form, or better define, our theology of suffering. It’s important that we process all circumstances through the “lens” of the Bible, and begin with these three things:
- In this world, we are guaranteed to have suffering. But as Christians, we can have peace in suffering because Jesus has overcome the world (John 16:33). He did this by His suffering on our behalf. (Read: What is the Difference Between Peace WITH God and Peace OF God?)
- God is our Father and that He is a good Father (watch: Good Good Father by Chris Tomlin). We know that God loves us and His purpose is good.
- We will get through this, and we will move forward. However, the future will be different. It will be a new normal, and, hopefully, a world that is awakened to the things of greatest importance.
It has been said: God cares more about our spiritual growth than our creature comfort. Therefore, we can trust God is using this pandemic and rather than asking why bad things (sufferings) happen to good people, lets consider what we can learn from the worst suffering ever that happened to the best person who ever lived.
Heb 2:10 For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.
Jesus was made perfect though sufferings (plural)? Too often we think only of His suffering on the cross, but Jesus suffered more than any other human being, and in many ways:
- Leaving Heaven was suffering. We can only imagine the glory of Heaven and when we go there we will never want to leave.
- Coming to earth was suffering. Stepping down into a world filled with sin, and God’s people under Roman occupation, Jesus suffered.
- Taking on human form was suffering. Jesus came to earth to be fully man, yet He was still fully God. He was the righteous God-Man who walked with sinful people. Jesus came to dwell on earth as Emmanuel, God with us. In doing so, He set aside His glory and lived a human life.
- Living an earthly life was suffering. Jesus suffered as we do. He was grieved by sin. He mourned over death, lamented over the brokenness of everything in our world, and He experienced all things we do.
- Offering Himself on the cross was excruciating suffering. From the betrayal by Judas in the garden and the illegal trials during the nighttime hours, to the Roman scourging and the agony of crucifixion, Jesus suffered for us.
In all these sufferings, one thing was required: obedience to His Father’s will. Obedience required that Jesus humble Himself, and He did so throughout His entire life:
Phil 2:7-8 [Jesus] made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. nd being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.
Suffering Humbles Us
Suffering strips us of self-sufficiency, and creates in us a God-dependency. When we are humbled low, God is lifted high. When we are weak, Jesus is strong for us (2 Cor 13:9). And, when we are small (humbled), God is big. We are told that God give grace to the humble and rest to the weak.
Psa 138:6 Though the LORD is on high, Yet He regards the lowly; But the proud He knows from afar.
Prov 29:23 A man’s pride shall bring him low: but honour shall uphold the humble in spirit.
1 Pet 5:6 Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time…
James 4:6 …”God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.”
Mat 11:28 Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
The Corona Virus has certainly humbled us. All the great minds of medical science are frantically working to slow the spread, to cure the sick, and to develop a vaccine. But for now, the virus has control over people’s thoughts, words, and deeds (i.e. activities).
More harmful and deadly than the coronavirus, is a “virus” that every human is born with — sin. The good news is the “sin virus” already has a cure, and it’s readily available and free. Jesus took that “virus” upon Himself and suffered it for us, so we can receive the “vaccine” (forgiveness) and never suffer its eternal consequences. That should humble us beyond measure.
Saved from Sin, Yet Still Suffering
Though our sins have been forgiven, and sin’s eternal consequence removed, we still sin and we still suffer. Paul tells us that sufferings bring blessings and that in in all things (including suffering) our goal is to come to know God better and to be conformed to the image of Jesus.
Phil 3:8-10 Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.
We all want “the power of His resurrection.” But if we are honest, we’ll admit that we don’t really want “the fellowship of His sufferings.” And we all want to be conformed to His image (Romans 8:29). But conformed to His death? That includes dying, which for most people will include suffering to some extent. Very few experiences sudden death with little or no suffering.
How we deal with suffering in our final hours will be greatly influenced by how we live. Do we keep our focus on Jesus or do our eyes turn to our circumstances? Are our minds filled with God’s promises of peace or do we allow the world’s lies to unsettle us? By surrendering to the Lord’s will (humbling ourselves), depending fully on Jesus (trusting Him), we receive His grace and rest (the peace of God). When final suffering come, we can know that we will be made perfect through it, for we will attain glory just as Jesus did.
Heb 12:2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
The Benefits of Suffering?
Good in Afflictions: Psalm 119:71 tells, It is good for me that I have been afflicted…
Why is it good? Psalm 119:71 gives the answer: That I may learn Your statutes.
Joy in Tribulations: James 1:2 tell us, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations.
Why are temptations, trials, tests to be counted as joy? James 1:3-4 gives the answer: Knowing this, that the trying of your faith works patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.
Glory in Tribulations: Romans 5:3 tells, …but we glory in tribulations…
Why do we glory in tribulations? Romans 5:3-5 gives the answer: …also knowing that tribulation works patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope makes not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.
The answer to our question?
“Why Has God Allowed COVID-19 to Afflict Us?” We know that because God allowed COVID-19 to afflict our world, He is faithful to use it for His glory and for our good!
1 Peter 5:10-11 But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.To Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.
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