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Pandemics and the Work of God

The deists of the 18th Century believed that God was like a clockmaker. In their view God created the world and the mechanisms necessary for it to run, then He let it be. It may be tempting to view the role of God in that way today, but that is far from the Biblical understanding of the work of God.

The Psalmist writes in Psalm 139, “If I ascend to the heavens, You are the there; if I make my bed in Sheol, behold, you are there.” When we think about the empowerment of the Holy Spirit on the church in the Book of Acts, clearly we can see God is intricately involved in the affairs of men. When we survey the Old and New Testaments we even see countless examples of God softening and hardening the hearts of men. What power!

That should bring us hope. After all, that is the nature of the Gospel - God is with us. Jesus told us that He would send the Great Comforter to us, and that is reason to rejoice.

However, it also leads to questions. If God is with us what role does He have in our lives? Does He cause every circumstance to happen or are there some things that He simply allows to happen? Does it matter how I live my life if our Soverign God is in control of all things or are the circumstances of life simply something I could never change? Some even ask - why do bad things happen to good people? A better question as some have phrased it - why do good things happen to bad people?

These are ancient questions. They are nothing new to the Christian faith. People have struggled with these questions for centuries, and they have come away with a variety of conclusions. I believe a pursuit of Church History can strengthen our faith because we can see how God brought others through hard times, and we can take heart as well.

In comes the year 2020 and COVID-19. Christians are once again faced with these questions. My young nephew got to the heart of the issue when he asked his dad - “Did God cause the Coronavirus?” What a question from the heart of a child.

Let me first say that I believe in the sovereignty of God. There is nothing beyond His power or authority. He is the giver and sustainer of life. You and I are here because He wants us here. However, we also must ask the question, “What impact does our response to His sovereignty have on our lives?”

To answer that question we should go back to the Garden of Eden. God made man and woman. God walked with them and was intricately involved in their lives. He also gave them a choice - “Do not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil OR you will surely die.”

Did God know that Adam and Eve would eat of the tree? I think, inevitably, He did. The coming of Christ for the redemption of man was the plan from the beginning as we see in John 1, “In the beginning was the Word...” However, God still gave them the capacity to respond in their own way.

So, how does this apply to COVID-19? Was God surprised by COVID-19? No, I don’t believe He was. He knows the nature of this world, and I believe He is using this circumstance to refine His Church for His glory. Did God cause the Coronavirus? No. God is not the author of evil. Dr. Richard Land came to the same conclusion and said, “Yes, God is omnipotent. However, since He is omnipotent, He can choose to limit himself in order to give fallen men the opportunity (when convicted by the Holy Spirit) to respond to Him with confession, faith, and allegiance to Jesus and thus to worship Him freely and willingly, rather than being compelled to do so.”

So, again, did God cause COVID-19? We should probably ask a few broader questions. Did God cause the suffering and death of 6 million Jews in the Holocaust? Did God cause the death of millions under the reign of Jospeh Stalin? Did God cause the suffering death of 1/3 of Europe during the Black Plague? What about the person who committed suicide? Did God, in His sovereignty, cause that to happen?

No. All of these circumstances are in direct relation to the fall of man in Genesis. We are still living with the effects of sin and death. However, the wonder of it all is that God can use these circumstances for the refining of His Church and the glory of His name.

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