The coronavirus pandemic is a complicated Divine providence. It affects us, our families, our nations, our churches, and our places of work; it affects everything. The different ways that this providence affects us should lead us to consider the varied duties to which God is calling us, including – contrary to our natural way of thinking – the duty of spiritual rejoicing.
The duty to repent. This providence is calling us to consider our sins, our manner of life, and the evils that we may be allowing in our lives. It is calling us to forsake these things. In particular, God is calling us to look into our own souls and examine whether we have a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. Are we in fellowship with Christ? Do we seek to walk with Christ, to abide with Christ, to continue with Christ?
The duty to mourn. We see around us those who are suffering, who have been bereaved, who are facing eternity. How much suffering there is in this world! These are all matters demanding our compassion and our prayers. We are not to be selfish in these things. We are to mourn with them that mourn.
The duty to prepare for eternity. There are dangers connected with this virus, dangers to others and dangers to ourselves. We are made to realise that we are not immune from this and that we do not know how long we have in this world. We must make our preparation for eternity. If our treasure is only in this world, then to die is to lose everything. We are being called loudly to ensure that our preparations for eternity are in hand. “Prepare to meet thy God” (Amos 4:12).
The duty to pray for others. There are many in great need. Not only is their health in danger, but many now fear for their circumstances and their livelihoods. We must have compassion on these people, particularly those more closely connected with us. We have a duty to be bearing them upon our hearts in prayer.
The duty to value the means of grace. God has closed the places of Public Worship. We have long enjoyed the public means of grace in Britain, a privilege denied to many of God’s people in history. Perhaps we have not profited from the worship of God as we should – not growing in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. Now we cannot gather with the saints of God to commune with the Lord Jesus Christ in the way we would desire. This ought to quicken our esteem for the privilege presently withheld.
The duty to value outward blessings. God is teaching us to place a greater value on the outward gifts he has been giving, which we have been all too inclined to take for granted. We have had prosperity and abundance. It was a shock to many to see the empty shelves in the supermarkets and to realise that this abundance was not automatic. The Lord is teaching us to acknowledge him in these gifts.
The duty to rejoice. There is matter for thankfulness that God is troubling his enemies and bringing judgements upon them. We are called to the duty of rejoicing: “Let mount Zion rejoice, let the daughters of Judah be glad, because of thy judgments” (Psalm 48:11). We are not called to a malicious pleasure in the sufferings of others, but a holy rejoicing that God is troubling the kingdom of darkness. We are not to be as those in Revelation 18:15-17 who bewailed God’s judgements on Babylon. There are four strongholds of Satan being troubled by God at this time, which should lead us to rejoice:
1. God is troubling Atheism. The atheists have been saying, “Where is now thy God?” They have argued that “all things continue as they were from the foundation of the world” (2 Peter 3:4). But now they cannot use this argument because God has given his people an easy answer. It is easy to argue that God is holding the world in his hands, and balancing and controlling the spread of the virus with infinite wisdom and patience. “It is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers” (Isaiah 40:22).
2. God is troubling Hedonism. The hedonists, who live for pleasure, are perplexed because God has taken away most of their enjoyments. He has stopped professional sport; he has closed the places of drinking; the gigs and concerts are cancelled. The hedonists are forced to look for something else in life. They are confronted with their emptiness.
3. God is troubling Humanism. The humanists makes man the measure and hope of all things. They say that man does not need God because he can do it all himself. But here is something too strong for them. Here is a trouble from which no money or power or alliance of power can give immunity. The plans of millions of people, rich and poor, have been brought to nothing. An American aircraft carrier is disabled by the virus. The Lord of Hosts has sent the least part of his creation, and men have to bow before it. “The loftiness of man shall be bowed down, and the haughtiness of men shall be made low” (Isaiah 2:17).
4. God is troubling Liberalism. The liberals claim that men may live as they please. They disregard, in particular, the two commandments “Thou shalt not kill” and “Thou shalt not commit adultery”. How open and bold they have been! But now they are afraid for health-reasons to continue their immorality. Wealth and luxury gave birth to their liberalism – the sin of Sodom was “fullness of bread and abundance of idleness” – but now God is stripping them of their wealth.
Let us rejoice that God is showing himself in this way. The people of God have been waiting for this and praying for this for a long time. “How long Lord, how long?” they have been crying. God is troubling the powers of darkness.
An opportunity. God has opened a gospel door. Men have been shaken: Yet once more and I shake the earth. Men are realising their weakness, their vulnerability, and their need. They cannot mock Christianity as they have been accustomed. This gives an opportunity to the people of God. We are to go with God against these powers of darkness. We are to follow with our prayers, and with our spiritual weapons: “The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds” (2 Cor 10:4). We are to pray that the Lord would not give over until he has carried the work to a conclusion; that he would not only shake these strongholds but pull them down, and free many people from the power. “And let it be, when thou hearest the sound of a going in the tops of the mulberry trees, that then thou shalt bestir thyself: for then shall the LORD go out before thee, to smite the host of the Philistines” (2 Sam 5:24).