The Herald Weekly Vol XVIII : 7

Pastoral Word on the Novel Corona Virus Epidemic

We issue this pastoral word in the midst of concern, anxiety and fear over the novel corona virus which has infected more than 40,000 people and caused over 1,000 deaths.

We believe that “…God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7 KJV

As people of sound mind, we take all necessary precautions to protect ourselves, our loved ones and our neighbours. We support and cooperate with authorities on all steps taken for the common good, and eschew anything false, misleading or unhelpful we read or hear.

As people of love, our hearts and prayers go out to those who are affected, both the sick and their families as well as healthcare personnel in the frontlines and researchers working on vaccine and cure. We eschew anything prejudicial against commanded by God to love all as He so loved the world.

As people of power, we take our stand as followers of Jesus, the Lord over disease and death, to demonstrate peace where there is fear, hope where there is gloom, and the good news of the gospel wherever and whenever it needs to be proclaimed and heard.

Finally, as the current epidemic brings much of life and activity to a pause, we take time to reflect on the greater virus of sin which has infected all without exception and repent before God both personally and corporately that forgiveness and healing may be granted graciously to us.

“If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14 KJV

Rev Dr David Wong
General Secretary
The Bible-Presbyterian Church in Singapore

Why Does God Allow Tragedies?

Earlier this month, California experienced the largest forest fire in US history. In Australia, its former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull last week declared the smallest continent as “a land of drought.” Meanwhile, Europe was bracing itself for the hottest-ever temperatures with Spain and Portugal that reached the 48C (118.4F). Nearer to us, Kerala, which has the second largest Christian population in India, received the heaviest rainfall and floods in its 100 years of history. The rising waters resulted in 200 deaths or more, and marooned thousands from their homes. Just two and a half hours’ flight from Singapore, three strong earthquakes struck Lombok, an Indonesian island, in a short space of time. Many of the houses collapsed and several hundreds of the people died with thousands of them evacuated.

Tragedy, one after another, strikes our world almost daily causing unprecedented deaths and displacement of people. In fact, the possibility of disease in the wake of all these disasters could ultimately bring the death toll into the millions. Obviously, this would be a huge tragedy. In the wake of all these mishaps, it is easy to just let them pass, and maybe have some special prayer during church services or prayer meeting. We struggle with these tragedies and have questions to ask. But one thing we must be sure of is that the Word of God has told us that these things will take place.

Why does God allow tragedies?

There are three possible answers.

1. God caused it, for either a testing or a punishment.
“…and evil will befall you in the latter days; because ye will do evil in the sight of the Lord, to provoke Him to anger through the work of your hands.” (Deut 31:29)

2. Satan caused it, to bring harm and destruction to those he hates.
The example of Job’s suffering – it was Satan who was behind the calamity which happened to Job and his family.

3. God allowed it (though maybe not causing it directly) for reasons we may never know.

Which is the answer? It may be all three, or combinations of one or two, or it may have happened for reasons that are not related to these reasons. We don’t have all the answers.

But, one thing that we do know for sure is that God is sovereign, and He is in full control. The world’s inhabitants may think that God has no control over what is happening. But, as Christians, we know that everything lies in God’s hands.

Jesus talked to His followers about the tragedies to come

In Matthew 24:4-7, Jesus referred to “wars and rumours of wars…famines, pestilences, and earthquakes…All these are the beginning of sorrows.” He says this to warn His followers of what is to come. He tells them that people will rise up and afflict His followers, and they will be hated for His name’s sake. (vs 9-10) He also warns them of false prophets and many who will deceive those who follow Him. (vs 11). Christ mentioned that “iniquity shall abound, (and) the love of many shall wax cold.” (vs 12). He warns of false Christs, and false prophets, (who) shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.” (vs 24)

Jesus prepares His followers for His second coming

Jesus is preparing His followers for tragedies to come, and He is saying that these will take place to usher in His return to earth. He talked to His followers about this even before He was taken away to be crucified on the cross. Why does Jesus do this? He is actually forewarning them so that when these things do happen, they will remember His words in vs 25: “Behold, I have told you before.”

Jesus mentions the “tribulation of those days (when) the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.” (Matt 24:30)

Jesus wants His followers to be ready when He comes again

Being human, it is so natural to be anxious when we see tragedies around us. But, Jesus says to His followers: “Let not your heart be troubled.” (Jn 14:1) He also says, “he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.” (Jn 14: 13) Jesus also says, “Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come…Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh. Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season? Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing.” (Matt 24:42, 44-46)

What can you and I do in the face of tragedies?

As people who have experienced the love of God, we can reach out to touch the lives of those in pain. We can help those affected by tragedies. It is the right thing to do. We can give financial aid, food or clothes to those who have lost everything in their houses. We can volunteer with the relief efforts, and pray for others who are involved in rescue or relief missions.

But, we must do more than just that. We must pray for those who still do not know Christ. We are commissioned to go and preach, to go and teach, to go and make disciples for Christ (Matt 28:19-20). Physical aid is important, but sharing the good news of Christ was Jesus’ last commission to His followers. We can donate generously to provide relief, and spare time to do charity work, but can do more. We can volunteer to be involved in mission trips, to bring the message of salvation and hope in Jesus Christ to those who are lost in sin, despair and hopelessness.

Beloved, let us be found faithful in our walk with the Lord, and not be seduced by false teachings. Let us be forewarned of tragedies to come. Let us be busy in bringing the gospel of love, hope and salvation of Jesus Christ to our loved ones, friends and colleagues, and to those whom we do not know in faraway places.

Pastor Bob Phee
(1st printing, 26 Aug 2018)

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