A message from the Chairman of PTS Council, Dominic Stockford :
We are threatened, it seems, with a global pandemic of a nasty virus which is easily caught, and which has an unusually high fatality rate. The UK is already struggling with this, and as I write I have just learnt that when my wife sang in a concert on Saturday she sat next to someone for three hours who has now tested positive for Covid19. It is real, it is nearby, it is personal. However, we must be careful not to lose the balance we should have. We should not over-spiritualize our response and thus ignore the practical ramifications of our actions, nor should we “over-practicalize” our response and ignore the reality of our all-powerful Sovereign God and His place in the events of our lives.
Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you. (1 Peter 5:6-7)
It would be easy to read this verse and think that our physical needs, which appear to be under so great a threat in the current circumstances, will be filled by God. We should not forget that of course He cares, for God personally knows and understands, through the sufferings of Jesus Christ, how terrible human suffering is. It is worth, however, stopping for a moment and considering the context in which Peter wrote these words – a warning about the assaults of the devil upon our spiritual equilibrium. At this time it would be all too easy for us to become petulant with those around us. It would not be difficult to be cross with those who are stripping the shelves of food and other commodities in London and elsewhere. It might also be easy to get angry with our pastor and elders for either closing the church on Sundays, or strongly discouraging over 70s from attendance. However, we have to remember that temptations in such directions would indeed be the work of the devil.
As Christians we need to give a faithful and consistent witness to the work of Christ in our lives, and we need to do this now, almost more than ever. So many around us are panicking, are indulging in criticism of the behaviour of others, and are doing everything but the one thing that really would help – which is to hold trust in God and in His Sovereign work and will. We need to demonstrate that trust by our calm and thoughtful actions. We should seek to show that we respect our government (Romans 13:1), and seek to follow their advice (they have the medical experts, we do not), and yet still seek to reach out with care and compassion to those around us.
It is more than disappointing that we do not expect anyone in Government to call for a Day of Prayer – even though it would have to be held in our homes. However, our response should firstly be in prayer – turning to our Father and placing the situation before Him. We should seek to know how it is we can best serve Him in whatever situation we find ourselves. And while we should not fail to take sensible precautions against catching or transmitting the virus, we should not forget that man’s days are numbered by the Lord, and whenever He is to call us to Himself, then so be it.
Our secondary response must be to consider how best we can seek to share the peace that we have through our faith in Christ:
Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. (John 14:27)
Because we know that in Christ there is a sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life, we have a peace that we can at the moment see is so visibly lacking in the lives of most of those around us. We know that in the end this world is not the be-all and the end-all, but that there is an eternity in God’s presence lying ahead of us. Whilst we should not deliberately seek to put ourselves at physical risk, the danger of death is not a matter about which we ought to be panicking. Instead, as Christians, we should hope to find a way in which we can share the eternal hope that we have in Christ with those who are panicking. And many are.
Ligonier Ministries put out a tweet today (March 17) saying that “The world is fearful and anxious, but it is fearful and anxious about the wrong things. The world is fearful about the economy, and the world is fearful of diseases like the coronavirus. The world, however, is not fearful of God.” There is our challenge, to help those around us to understand that those who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ have nothing to fear from man, or from anything else for that matter. Thus, not only do we seek to act in accordance with our faith towards those around us, but we also pray for those around us, pray for those in authority, pray for the church, pray for repentance and a renewal of true faith within this nation, and do so remembering the one in whom we trust.
He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust. Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence. (Psalm 91:1-3)