The Good News That God Is Sovereign
There’s no doubt you have been immersed in the news these past few weeks and have seen the effects and impact of COVID-19. Currently, officials estimate that around 6,500 people have been killed by the virus thus far and tens, if not hundreds, of thousands more have been infected. The past few weeks have been chaotic with online schooling, travel restrictions, ghost towns, and online church services. However, there is a truth that comforts those who are in a relationship with Jesus Christ: God has been, is, and will always be in complete control.
It is easy for us as Christians in times of panic to say “Oh yes, of course God is in control, y’all don’t worry.” But do we really believe and trust that God is sovereign and in control? Do we really trust that God’s sovereignty is a good thing? What does this mean, especially in the midst of such a fearful time?
God is Sovereign Over All Things
“God is sovereign,” simply means that He is in control, meaning that everything that has happened, is happening, and will happen does not occur apart from the decree or permission of God. On the topic of God’s sovereignty, A.W. Pink writes:
Were it in anyways possible for something to occur apart from either the direct agency or permission of God, then that something would be independent of Him, and He would at once cease to be supreme.
God’s sovereignty is one of the most beautiful truths which reveals to us God’s perfect character. Starting in Genesis 1:1, we see that God created everything. Psalm 145:7 says: “Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit.” All throughout scripture God reveals to us His sovereignty (1 Chron 29:11-12, Job 42:2, Ps 8:1, Ps 24:1-2, Pr 3:5-7, Jer 32:27, Rom 8:29-30, Eph 1:11-12, Col 1:16, Heb 4:13). He is in control of all things.
Why does it matter that we recognize that God is sovereign? If God were not sovereign, He would cease to be God. We would have no assurance of salvation. We would have no way to be justified by Christ and be saved. We would have no morality. We would be dead in a chaotic world with no way to become alive. God’s sovereignty allows us to run to Him and have faith in Him—to be alive in Christ by His grace.
In times when we are overrun by anxiety and fear, we can go to Him and be calmed in His presence. We are able to be fully loved and reconciled to God despite our brokenness because of Christ. We ought not worry because God has given us His Spirit of love, power, and sound mind (2 Tim 1:7). We will encounter anxiety and fear, especially pertaining to the sickness and death brought about by COVID-19, but we are called to submit ourselves to the Lord and lay our anxieties and worries at His feet (Matt 6:34, Phil 4:6, 1 Pet 5:6-7). God, in His grace, has given us the ability to feel and relate emotionally. But we are not given these emotions so that we may be left to our own devices. Instead, our feelings and emotions allow us to truly run to God and have faith completely in Him. He wants us to feel and experience emotions but he wants us to feel those emotions in His presence with Him. We should run to our Almighty Father, who calms us and gives us hope. He takes us into His arms and brings us peace because in His presence, we recognize that He is sovereign and that it is good that it is so!
The coronavirus pandemic is not something that has taken God by surprise. Instead, God is using it to point His people back to Him and to point all glory to Him (John 9:3). Though it is incredibly hard for us to see, we trust that God is using this for His glory. In all of this, whether we feel joyous or indifferent to God’s power and control, we can come to Him who is sovereign and loving.
What Does This Look Like Right Now?
It can be difficult to know what it looks like to have faith in God and His sovereignty in practical ways. Here are six practical steps to take in order to glorify God, grow in our faith, and point others to Christ during this time of worldwide panic. These practical steps help us to be present with God during the craziness of this disease and its effects.
Have faith in Christ alone
In light of how we have seen God’s sovereignty laid out all throughout scripture, we are called to an initial response of faith. We are not enabled to have faith on our own because none of us seek after God (Ps 14:3). Only by God’s grace in Christ attaining salvation for us, are we enabled to have faith (Rom 10:9-10, Eph 2:8-9).
We have faith purely in Jesus; that he lived a perfect life, died an atoning death, and rose three days later to accomplish salvation for us. We were destined to damnation in hell due to our sin but all those who repent and have faith in Christ will be saved and spend eternity delighting in the one true God (Gen 3:16-19, John 3:16, Rom 3:23, Rom 6:23, Rom 5:8, Rom 10:9-10).
We have faith not because we are good but because God is good! We have faith that God is who He says He is (Ex 3:14, Ex 20:1-2, Deut 32:4, John 14:6, 1 John 14:6), and we know who God is because he reveals Himself to us in His word! Read His Word daily and seek to know God more. Pray and humble yourselves before God and make your requests known to Him. Death is not the end for us. Because we know that Christ has conquered death, we can be comforted amidst the fear that death does not have the final word. We have hope in Christ alone.
Preach the gospel
We are called to preach the gospel to all and should desire to preach the gospel to all. Jesus tells his disciples and commands us all as followers of Christ to go to all nations, preach the gospel of Christ and call all to repent and turn to Jesus (Matt 28:19-20, Mark 16:15-16). We are called to do this in love (Matt 22:34-40, 1 Cor 13) and to lovingly yet truthfully proclaim the truth of God and His word to all. How unloving and selfish would it be for us as Christians to not share the gospel to everyone we meet during such a time!
If we have been saved by Christ alone, then we ought to have a desire and passion for all to hear the gospel, repent, and be saved. Those who do not have faith in Christ may be fearful and panicked during this time and this is such a wonderful opportunity for us to share with them why we have hope and do not fear or panic in such situations but rest solely on Christ.
We ought to be prayerful during this time. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 says, “Pray without ceasing,” and Philippians 4:6 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Pray and thank God for who He is, for His word, and for saving us. Pray that, regardless of what is happening, we would desire His will and be humbled before Him.
Pray for those who do not know Christ and that the Holy Spirit would save them. Pray for your brothers and sisters in Christ and that they would have the boldness and faithfulness to preach the gospel and love their neighbor, who most likely is overwhelmed by fear and anxiety in this time (1 John 4:19). Pray that if it be His will that the virus would cease and that all those who are sick would be healed. Pray that we might sing God’s glory in all of this.
Be mindful and love your neighbor well
If the love of Christ truly dwells within us, that love will flow out toward others (1 John 4:19). Be loving towards all as Christ loves us but be smart and mindful as well. Don’t go out in mass groups, and be sure to follow safety precautions. Be kind and loving in how you interact with everyone. Be provisional for you and your family but don’t hoard or be selfish. Be thoughtful of others and the need for others as well. Use discernment on when to go out and be mindful of those who are more susceptible to injury and possibly death. Refrain from jokes that make light of the harmful effects and outcomes of the coronavirus and let wholesome talk that will point others to the gospel flow from you (Prov 15:28, Eph 4:29, Col 4:6, James 3:1-12). Be mindful and prayerful for those who are affected or have been affected, especially those who have had friends and family die. Be there for those around you and check in on people often. Be a faithful witness and messenger of the gospel at all times, even after this pandemic. Show others the hope that we have in Christ by actively living it out.
Immerse yourself with the Bible
Don’t spend more time in the news than your Bible. This should be a daily thing. Yes, it is important for us to know what is going on in the world, but distance yourself from the TV and phone screens and run to God. Spend your time reading God’s Word and talking about it. Seek God in the midst of this time. It will serve us much better to fill our hearts and minds with the truth of God and who He is more so than what the world is offering us. We will never truly know what is going on in this world but we do know who is in control of it all—God Himself!
Praise God for who He is in the midst of this coronavirus outbreak. Especially in the midst of the chaos brought about by this pandemic, praise God for always being with us and giving us peace in His presence. Praise God for His sovereignty. Praise God for His grace. Praise God for His love. Praise God for His mercy. Praise God for His justice. Praise God!
Praise the Lord!
Praise, O servants of the Lord,
praise the name of the Lord!
Blessed be the name of the Lord
from this time forth and forevermore!
From the rising of the sun to its setting,
the name of the Lord is to be praised!
The Lord is high above all nations,
and his glory above the heavens!
Who is like the Lord our God,
who is seated on high,
who looks far down
on the heavens and the earth?
He raises the poor from the dust
and lifts the needy from the ash heap
to make them sit with princes,
with the princes of his people.
He gives the barren woman a home,
making her the joyous mother of children.
Praise the Lord!
The COVID-19 outbreak is a serious pandemic. It has taken many people’s lives and needs to be taken seriously. It is leading many people to be anxious and fear horrifying outcomes. Fear and anxiety are natural things to feel. God has given us the ability to feel such emotions because God cares for us and loves us. But when we begin to experience fear and grow anxious, God wants us to go experience those feelings in His presence (Ps 34:18).
When we are in God’s presence, we will begin to look more like Him and in turn our fear and anxiety will turn into hope and peace. It is such a beautiful and loving thing that the all-powerful and sovereign God will not turn us away in our fear and anxiety but instead love us and call us to Himself in the midst of those emotions. Do not be ashamed of your fear or anxiety but run to the Lord for a hope in Christ that drives out fear and a peace in Christ that, regardless of what is happening, will calm our heart and bring us full, eternal satisfaction.