Recently John Piper wrote a short insightful book in which he lists six areas where he thought God’s sovereign purposes were being fulfilled through this COVID-19 pandemic. I list those areas below in italics and then follow with my own thoughts.
1. A Graphic Picture of Sin. God is giving the world … a physical picture of the moral horror and spiritual ugliness of God-belittling sin.
Perhaps God is giving us a physical object lesson in this pandemic to drive home the fact that all sin is a serious matter to Him. We talk about “little sins” or “white lies,” and sometimes we joke about certain sins. But what we laugh at, we will later find very hard to take seriously. We downplay God’s holiness when we downplay sin. We deceive ourselves if we ignore our sin (1 John 1:8). We’re all infected with sin through Adam (Genesis 3, Romans 5:12). God says if we commit one sin, we are guilty of all (James 2:10). God calls His children to be holy for He is holy (1 Peter 1:16). Our sinful actions start with thoughts in our hearts, so we must always guard our thinking (James 1:14-15; Jeremiah 17:9; Proverbs 23:7a).
2. Judgment for Some. Some people will be infected with the coronavirus as a specific judgment from God because of their sinful attitudes and actions.
This fact is certainly true in some cases. There are many biblical examples of people reaping the consequences of their sin. God judged the whole nation of Israel for its sin and spiritual adultery. Others examples are King David due to his adulterous and murderous behavior (2 Samuel 11:1-12:12), King Herod’s pride (Acts 12:21-23), and those who commit homosexual sin (Romans 1:18,27). But in the book of Job we have a very clear example where Job’s friends were wrong to claim that his calamity was due to his sin.
We know the virus originated in China and there is clear evidence that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) withheld information and failed to take proper steps to prevent the worldwide pandemic. More and more countries are holding the CCP culpable. For 70 years the CCP has controlled, oppressed and murdered millions of its own people, particularly people of faith. In the last few decades the CCP has been infiltrating nations, businesses, universities, the media, and other organizations for its nefarious ends. People are now waking up to the CCP’s agenda of domination. Perhaps God is using this pandemic as judgment against the CCP and those who have supported and enabled it over the years. Those wise to the CCP’s ways, and who took early action (Hong Kongers and Taiwanese), have been mercifully spared. As of May 10th, out of a total population of over 31 million people, they have a combined death toll of 10.
3. A Precursor for the Second Coming of Christ. The coronavirus is a God-given wake-up call to be ready for the second coming of Christ.
Scripture tells us we should be watching and ready for our Savior’s return (Matthew 24:42,44) – that we should be redeeming the time because the days are evil (Ephesians 5:16). This pandemic could certainly be a precursor to the coming tribulation calamities associated with Christ’s return. As Christians, we have more insight and are not in darkness (1 Thessalonians 5:4). We know “how the story ends.” The book of Revelation describes “Great Tribulation” to come. Jesus said the end times will be characterized as the days of Noah when people were complacent going about their everyday business. He was particularly warning His fellow Jews, that some will be taken in judgment because of their unbelief, and some left during the 7-year tribulation (Matthew 24:37-42). Although I believe the Bible teaches a pre-tribulation rapture, it also teaches that leading up to the end there will be precursory calamities – “…the end is not yet …there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes …the beginning of sorrows” (Matthew 24:6-8).
With this pandemic we also see the tendency of some political leaders to grab more freedom-suppressing power and the dangers of a world that is too centralized and globalized. Many citizens have been willing to submit to draconian measures – trading freedom for security. These things will characterize the end times as leaders push for and people become more used to authoritarian governance. Also, when men press for global unity, they develop prideful attitudes, which are rooted in opposition to God and His people (Genesis 9:1, 11:1-4). This was true at the Tower of Babel and is true today when we view the actions of the United Nations. However, when God scattered mankind at Babel, He countered this one-world, “globalist” mindset as He divided nations and set boundaries (Genesis 10:32, 11:5-9, Acts 17:26).
4. A Call to Reflection and Repentance. The coronavirus is God’s thunderclap call for all of us to repent and realign our lives with the infinite worth of Christ.
We need to align our thinking biblically (2 Corinthians 10:5), and set our minds on things above (Colossians 3:2). During this pandemic, many families have been driven to reassess their priorities – to consider the importance of relationships over riches and spiritual matters over temporal. Jesus taught that when we see evil and calamities, not to simply chalk it up to God’s judgment for sin, but to use it as a reflective time to consider our own relationship with our Creator God, and our own sin, and to repent (Luke 13:1-5). For many, this pandemic has been a time to “Selah.” Selah is a word used 74 times in the Old Testament, 71 times in the Psalms. Its first mention is in Psalm 3. In three verses in that psalm the word is used after the Psalmist David cries out to God for help and reflects on His salvation and blessings. This reflective theme is carried with this word. Our worship pastor says, “Selah is a verb which basically means, Stop and Listen (to God).” Just like the “still small voice” (1 Kings 19:11-13) that God uses to get our attention, maybe this time He is using a “still small microbe” to get us to stop, listen to Him, and reflect on what is important in life.
5. An Opportunity to Love our Neighbor. The coronavirus is God’s call to His people to overcome self-pity and fear, and with courageous joy, to do the good works of love that glorify Him.
This pandemic also has given Christians opportunities to practice their faith – an opportunity to let our light shine and glorify God (Matthew 5:16). There are innumerable incidents across the globe where churches, Christian organizations, and individual Christians have reached out to their neighbors in need. Significant emotions that grip many at this time are worry and fear. As Christians, we should not worry (Philippians 4:6,7; 1 Peter 5:7) or fear our circumstances because we know Who controls those circumstances (Exodus 14:13; Isaiah 41:10; Matthew 10:31; Romans 8:28; Proverbs 3:5,6). We should encourage others with faith and hope. Christians risked their lives to help others in the past when pandemics affected the Roman Empire and when the Bubonic plague scourged Europe during the Middle Ages.
6. A Shakeup to Spread the Gospel. In the coronavirus, God is loosening the roots of settled Christians … to send them with the Gospel of Christ to the unreached peoples of the world.
God has a way of shaking up the status quo to accomplish His purposes. He did this to the church in Jerusalem when they were delaying to obey His instructions to be witnesses to the end of the earth (Acts 1:8). The ensuing persecution after Stephen’s martyrdom got Christians moving (Acts 8:1-4). We have been watching this unfold in the last decade and a half where upheavals in the Middle East have created unrivaled opportunities for large groups of Muslims to be ministered to and reached with the Gospel. Today, churches are having to hold their services online. But there are many people who are tuning in even though they would unlikely attend church. People are coming to Christ as a result.
Through this COVID-19 pandemic, we should help and pray for those who are undergoing personal loss and actively share with them and others the love and hope we have in Christ. We should be thankful for the many medical personnel, first responders, food service workers, and transportation workers who have been on the front line during this time. But we can rest in the sovereignty of God and the fact that His purposes (suggested above) are good and righteous, and will never be thwarted. May our leaders have wisdom and may we come through this trying time stronger in and through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
 Piper, John, Coronavirus and Christ, 2020, Crossway, Wheaton, IL