Pastoral Letter for April 23, 2020
While it may feel like we can’t do anything during this strange season we’re in, the above graphic is a good reminder that there’s a lot we still can do … and need to do. So, in line with Frank Wang’s words in this week’s church email, I want to look at some things from a different perspective in this letter. I want to view the coronavirus pandemic through the lens of the Bible, starting with Romans 8:28, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.”
This text teaches that for believers in Christ, all things – without exception – work together for good. In times of great trial, we can often feel as the Biblical Patriarch Jacob felt, Genesis 42:36c, “All this has come against me.” And yet later, once we look back, we can say with another Biblical Patriarch, Joseph, Genesis 50:20b, “… but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.”
So how can this coronavirus pandemic be for our good? Let me suggest ten ways …
- It can unite us in prayer. And as we pray, let us not underestimate what our prayers can do. Revival begins with prayer. Perhaps not for you, but for most of us, we’ve been praying more than ever. Our Community Groups are meeting every other week to pray, our Adult Sunday School class is meeting once a month to pray, as is our Session, and we’re going to have an All-Church Night of Prayer on Thursday, May 28th. Maybe God’s teaching us how to pray better, how to pray wisely, as we pray more, so we can say with the Apostle, Philippians 1:19, “for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance.”
- It can open a door for us to share the gospel with the unbelievers. With this pandemic, Christians have a wonderful opportunity to show Christ’s love to others. As Jesus says, Matthew 5:16, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Are you able to serve someone you’re normally not able to – perhaps a co-worker, a neighbor, an old friend you haven’t seen in a while?
- It can wean us from some of our idols in this world, such as sports since this virus has caused cancellations and postponements of sporting events. Sadly, some Christians would rather watch or attend a sporting event than worshiping God. I write that as one who loves sports and was disappointed in the postponement of the Olympics. But, as the Apostle Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 1:9, “For they themselves report … how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God.” That’s a good report … for any of us!
- It can compel us to put our confidence in God for healing since there is no known vaccine yet for this virus. Medicines are gifts from God, but sometimes we depend on and appreciate these gifts rather than the Giver. Don’t get me wrong, we should be grateful for all that our medical community is doing right now, but their limitations have been exposed. And that forces us to the words of Psalm 121:1-2 to heart, “I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? 2 My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.”
- It can give parents special time to be with their children since this virus has also caused schools to shut down. Let’s ask help from God that our time with our children will become a blessing rather than a burden. Let’s remember, too, that our children are watching us. So, by what we say and do, let’s teach them how to react to a crisis like this in a God-honoring way. Psalm 78:4, “We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the LORD, and His might, and the wonders that He has done.”
- It can serve as an occasion for us to obey our Lord's command, Psalm 46:10, “Be still, and know that I am God” The pace of life in Northern Virginia is so fast that we hardly find time to pause and think on God’s Word. Since this virus has brought normal life to a halt, for most of us we have a little extra time to commune with God and think more deeply about eternal things.
- It can bring us face to face with the reality of death, as this virus continues to claim lives around the globe. Just today I read about another PCA Pastor who’s lost both of his parents to Covid-19, his mother dying the day after his father. I can’t imagine that level of grief. And yet, he testified to their love for the Lord and the affect that had on so many. Such a testimony should encourage us to say with David, Psalm 23:4, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.”
- It can be a wakeup call to us from God to repent of our sin. In the Bible, pestilence is often a sign of God’s judgment. We tend to live as if repentance is a Sunday only thing instead of an everyday thing. The people around the world suffering under this pandemic have not been singled out, but should serve to remind us of Jesus’ words in Luke 13:4-5, “Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? 5 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” Tragedy should always lead us to repentance.
- It can point us to Christ’s Second Coming. In a sense, we should not be surprised to see more events like this pandemic, as Jesus Himself says regarding the last days, Luke 21:10-11, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. 11 There will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences.” Unfortunately, people prepare for the coming of the coronavirus, but give little thought to the coming of Christ. And yet, James 5:7-8 encourages us to “Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. 8 You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.”
- It is certain that God will use this pandemic as an instrument in His hand to conform us more to the image of His Son Jesus. The coronavirus is not designed to drive us away from God, but to draw us closer to Him. It is in this sense that this virus is ultimately for our spiritual good and for God’s own glory. I’ll finish where we started, with Romans 8:29, “For those whom He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, in order that He might be the firstborn among many brothers.”
Therefore, fellow Christians, hear the words of our Lord, John 14:1, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in Me.” And John 16:33, “I have said these things to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
These ten points have been heavily adapted from the article “Ten Ways COVID-19 Can Work for Our Good” by Rev. Brian Najapfour, 3/21/20, www.reformation21.org. Brian is the author of several books, including A Hearer of God’s Word: Ten Ways to Listen to Sermons Better. He blogs at biblicalspiritualitypress.org.
I hope you found this little trip through Biblical Theology to be helpful. I realize this is the seventh pastoral letter of the coronavirus pandemic and I hope it still finds you healthy and calm!
Dr. David V. Silvernail, Jr., Senior Pastor
Potomac Hills Presbyterian Church