Summary: This message focuses on God's intentions toward His people, and the good outcome that He desires for us in the current crisis. What is the key to finding the best solution for the coronavirus pandemic?
Good morning, I am coming to you from my home today, in compliance to a Stay-at-Home order issued in our city. The COVID-19 pandemic is dramatically affecting our lives in many ways. Our daily routines have been disturbed. Many conveniences that we took for granted are removed. We all hope and pray for a speedy end to the disruption. But there are so many unknowns that it is impossible to predict exactly when that will happen. A terrible virus is at work. Our scientists are working diligently for better ways to control and cure the disease. Our health care heroes are doing all they can. Our government has passed a 2 trillion-dollar stimulus bill to rescue the economy from a steep recession. But I have good news for you this morning: God is also at work. He is on His throne; He is not passive; and He is working all things together for our good (Rom. 8:28).
My message today is entitled “Best Outcome for COVID-19 Pandemic.” There is a way this crisis can end that would leave us far better off than when it began. To see this possibility, we must understand the crisis for what it is. What is it? It is a wake-up call for the world and particularly for God’s people. I will not repeat the explanations I gave in the previous two messages. But we must know that God is sovereign in all this. If He did not send it, He is big enough to stop it. So, if you insist that God did not send this trouble, you must at least acknowledge that He is allowing it.
Based on Scripture, I believe that God does send trouble when it’s necessary for our ultimate good. He sent trouble to Jonah to get him turned in the right direction. What was God’s objective behind sending the storm and the fish Jonah’s way. It was to get Jonah aligned with His purposes. It was the salvation of many souls in Nineveh. Consider the persecution that came on early church in Acts 8. That persecution broke up their “holy huddle” and got them out into the harvest field. The end result of that disruption was an advancement of the gospel. Acts 8:4 says, “Therefore [the result of the persecution was:] those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word.”i
The church today is being forced to send out the word through the Internet. Many of us have already been doing that. But we are also forced to step up our efforts by using additional technology. We have been posting our messages on the Internet. But now we must add to that for the sake of our congregations. But it may also be for the sake of the multitudes who are not yet in our congregations. This is our first Sunday to stream the service. We had to get out of our comfortable routine and develop new ways to proclaim Christ. God is always interested in the harvest. He is always seeking that which is lost.
So, there was the early church serving God in Jerusalem. But God had already said in Acts 1:8 that this gospel was not to stay in Jerusalem. It was to spread to Judea and Samaria and to the “ends of the earth” (NIV). The command in Mark 16:15 had already been given to “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” Here is the good thing that came out of that persecution: “Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word.” Any farmer knows you can’t keep the seed in one spot and get a good harvest. You have to scatter it in the earth. The next verse introduces a specific example of the benefits reaped: “Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria and preached Christ to them. And the multitudes with one accord heeded the things spoken by Philip, 6 And the multitudes with one accord heeded the things spoken by Philip. . . .” Many lost souls were swept into the kingdom. I doubt those early Christians fully understood what God would bring out of the persecution that came their way. But God worked His plan, and it moved them toward fulfilling the Great Commission.
To understand what’s going on in today’s crisis, we need to understand;
(1) God’s RELUCTANCE to Send Trouble and
(2) God’s INTENTIONS behind Sending Trouble.
I. GOD’S RELUCTANCE TO SEND TROUBLE IS ADDRESSED BY JEREMIAH
In the book of Lamentations Jeremiah reflects on all the troubles he and his people had experienced. He makes the following observation about God in Lamentations 3:31-33: “For the Lord will not cast off forever. 32 Though He causes grief, Yet He will show compassion According to the multitude of His mercies. [Notice the two words of God in that verse: (1) He causes the problem (2) But He shows compassion as the source of its resolution. The next verse expresses God’s reluctance to send trouble.] 33 For He does not afflict willingly, Nor grieve the children of men.” Like any loving parent, God “does not afflict willingly.” It’s not something He wants to do. But it is something He has to do at times—for our ultimate good. But His corrections are always an invitation to learn and improve. His corrections are always tempered with mercy and compassion.