Christians around the world are experiencing a pandemic with the spread of COVID-19. For many, this is the first time to witness a viral outbreak crippling individuals and entire nations. However, the Bible regularly references famines, diseases, and plagues that destroy livelihoods and leave people destitute. As we look back on the crises in the Bible, we are reminded that “these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction.” (1 Corinthians 10:11)
Three principles emerge for our instruction:
#1: SEEK THE LORD
Times of suffering drive many to fear the Lord, which is the beginning of wisdom, and force us to seek God in ways that times of plenty do not. Suffering shows how much our life is built upon sand, unable to bear the weight of eternal matters. When our health fails and our job disappears, it forces us to seek God’s face with earnestness. If anything, this pandemic should convince us that “one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” (Luke 12:15)
As we watch the value of our retirement funds plunge and fear that our health may be in jeopardy, the words of Jesus take on a different significance, For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:32-33)
As we seek the Lord, our pandemic experience is put in perspective. We are assured “this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen.” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18) A crisis like this moves us to look to the Lord for hope instead of our health and bank account.
#2: REMEMBER THE VULNERABLE
God’s people suffered as a community. The Israelites faced war and poverty as a nation. The early church faced isolation and persecution. Repeatedly, God reminds His people to remember the vulnerable among them.
In the Old Testament, God told Israel “there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.’” (Deut. 15:11) Because of famine and disease, people were often forced to leave their farms. Like Ruth, they would become displaced and left to rely on the generosity of others.
In the New Testament, the newly minted apostle Paul was given a final command when he met with Christ’s disciples, “Remember the poor.” (Gal. 2:10) The first critical moment in the life of the early church was ensuring widows would be fed. (Acts 6) The church is called to be a community that remembers the vulnerable and seeks their welfare.
It is natural to think of our own welfare during times of crisis, concerned about how we will find work and stay healthy. It is unnatural to think of others who can do nothing for us (widows, elderly, poor, etc.) In fact, it is supernatural! With the help of God’s Spirit, we need to be mindful during this crisis of those in need who might otherwise go unnoticed.
#3: SHARE WITH OTHERS
We have more to share during a crisis than we realize.
- We can share burdens. Spiritually, we can pray and fast for those who need healing. More tangibly, we can help people run errands and secure groceries. However God permits, we can “bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” (Gal. 6:2)
- We can share God’s comfort. It is our privilege to assure others of God’s promises. God allows us to go through trials so “we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” (2 Cor. 1:4)
- We can share our resources. God has entrusted us with resources so we may be “generous and ready to share.” (2 Tim. 6:18) Crises like famine and disease affect many people, but scripture makes it clear that the impetus to help those in need falls on the shoulders of those who are able. (See Matthew 25)
The PCA Foundation is helping to meet the needs of God’s people during this crisis by doing all that is within our power to be of assistance to the broader church. We recently announced free online giving for PCA churches. To help serve both churches and members, the PCA Foundation will facilitate and accept online gifts for the benefit of each church that would like to participate. The Foundation will bear the costs of this online cash giving without charge (but subject to card merchant fees if the giver chooses to give via credit card) through the end of May.
Please pray that God uses the crisis to prompt men and women to seek the Lord’s mercy, and to open our eyes more widely to Him and His purposes in this world.