Today the whole world is in the grip of Coronavirus. In today’s program, I would like to talk about this virus and what we can do as it surrounds our lives. The world has seen many different viruses. Influenza visits us every year. In recent years, we have also seen SARS virus, MERS virus, Ebola virus frightening many nations around the world. But I think there is something unique about Coronavirus, the way it originated in China at the end of the last year and quickly became a global phenomenon, now claiming more than 3000 lives out of over 100,000 infected individuals. It captured our attention and imagination like no other virus did before.
We are seeing the impact of this virus all over the world. The governments of the world are standing on their toes to address this public health emergency. The air traffic has declined to the extent that several airline companies are looking at bankruptcy. The United States put a travel ban on China, Europe and several other nations. Travel ban on Europe…I’ve not seen this before. The nation of Italy is in a complete lockdown. Except vital services, all businesses have been closed. The famous Italian tourist spots like Colosseum in Rome, St.Mark’s Square in Venice, Duomo Cathedral in Milan are empty. Iran is facing a serious health crisis. Even the Vice President and cabinet ministers are infected by Coronavirus. Tehran turned into a ghost town. Hospitals are crowded. Special isolation rooms are under construction. Face masks and hand sanitizers are sold out. Sports tournaments are being cancelled and stadiums are turned into treatment centers for the infected individuals. Schools, colleges and universities are closed indefinitely. People don’t want to shake their hands when they meet. Stock exchanges are collapsing leaving investors in shock. Billionaires are looking in dismay as their wealth melts down quicker than an ice cream cone under a midday sun. Movie stars like Tom Hanks tested positive for the virus, movie productions stalled and movie theatres are empty. Because the virus originiated in China, illogical racial discrimination and bigotry are projected towards the people of Chinese origin. The whole world became a slave to a microbe. A microbe we cannot even see with a naked eye.
British biologist Sir Peter Medawar (1915 – 1987) was awarded Nobel Prize in medicine in 1960. He was an eminent scientist in virology. He called viruses ‘a piece of bad news wrapped up in a protein’. A piece of bad news wrapped up in a protein. And bad news is what we’ve been hearing from morning to evening.
Now, let me tell you a few things about viruses in general. You see, bacteria are small. Viruses are at least 100 times smaller than bacteria. Imagine that. They are 100 times smaller than bacteria. You cannot see them even under the light microscope. Only in 1931, when the electron microscope was invented, did we see the viruses for the first time.
Viruses are life-forms with genetic material. They have either DNA or RNA as the genetic material. They have no cell wall or nucleus. They have no capacity for energy supply. They have no capacity for independent protein synthesis. They are totally dependent on the host cell for their survival. First, the virus attaches to the host cell and enters the cell. The virus takes control of the host cell nucleus and replicates its DNA or RNA using the host cell polymerase enzymes. Then they replicate in a rapid exponential fashion, producing millions and millions of new virus particles. We often use the word ‘hijack’ to describe viruses, because like a group of terrorists who take control of a plane to achieve their objectives, these viruses hijack host cells to grow and replicate.
The question is, how should we live now as this virus engulfs our neighborhoods, even our homes, and frighteningly, even our bodies? Today, I would like to give you 7 things for your consideration.
1.We should not panic:
First of all, we should not panic. Our faith is meaningless if things like Corona shake us in fear. The virus can hijack our bodies, but it should not hijack our hearts and minds. It can take away our health, but it should not take away our peace. It cannot rob us of our hope in Christ. Look at the facts before fear cripples your thinking. The World Health Organization announced that the mortality rate is 3.4 percent. That means more than 96 percent of infected individuals recover from this viral infection. In the 14th century, when the Black Plague hit Europe, one third of its population was obliterated. It is highly unlikely to have that kind of mortality rate in our time. Countries like Israel, United States and India have already started their efforts to create a vaccine to combat this infection. With anxiety unchecked, we will only cripple our immune system. So, do not panic.
- Do not judge:
Secondly, we should not give judgments. I heard some comments like, ‘God is judging China’, ‘God is judging Europe’, ‘God is judging America’. Such conclusions are unwarranted because God has not told anyone why He allowed this virus to roam the earth. It behooves us well if we study the words of Lord Jesus from Luke chapter 13. Let me read from verse 1,
“There were present at that season some that told him of the Galilaeans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.2 And Jesus answering said unto them, Suppose ye that these Galilaeans were sinners above all the Galilaeans, because they suffered such things? 3 I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.4 Or those eighteen, upon whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem?5 I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.”
Here, Lord Jesus is dealing with a perennial problem in philosophy called ‘the problem of evil’. Why is there evil in this world? He described two types of evil: Human evil and Natural evil.
First the Human Evil. See what Pilate did to the protesters from Galilee. Pontius Pilate was a Roman governor ruling over Judea. The Jews were not happy with him. Some Jews from Galilee went to Jerusalem and staged a protest against the Roman governor. Pilate could not stomach their rebellion. He brutally massacred them right in the temple of God in Jerusalem. People were so shocked to see their fellow Jews being murdered on the temple grounds. They thought those Jews must be very wicked sinners to meet such a fate in the hands of Pilate. Lord Jesus told them, ‘they did not die such a horrible death because they were more wicked than others. If you do not repent of your sins, you will also perish’. We have the same kind of false theology in the church and the world today: people who suffer, they suffer because God is judging them. The fact is, we are all sinners living on borrowed time.
In the second incident, Jesus talked about natural evil. A tower fell down in Siloam, which is part of Jerusalem. Eighteen people died in that tragedy. Jesus asked them a poignant question, “Why did these 18 individuals die? Is it because they were more sinful than other people in Jerusalem? Then he answered his own question. No. They did not die because they were more sinful than others. Repent. Unless you repent, you will also perish. We should understand this great truth. Thousands of people have been dying around us as this virus marches on. People who are dying are not dying because they are more sinful than us. We are not alive because we are holier than them. We are alive because God is merciful. We are alive because God is patient.
- We should serve
Thirdly, we should serve. From the beginning, Christians are known for their service to others. In the years between AD 165 – 180, a terrible plague hit the Roman Empire. This pandemic was killing thousands of people. In Rome alone, over 2000 people were dying every single day. Famous Greek physician Galen described this plague and he also did not want to risk his life taking care of infected individuals. He moved to the countryside. But Christians did not run away. Christian nurses and doctors took care of the sick and debilitated. The Roman people glorified God when they witnessed the services of thoseChristians. What is happening in China today? Christian doctors and nurses are taking care of infected individuals. People are saying, ‘their faith is real’.
One college student came to my clinic. He was so worried. He was coughing and fainting. He asked me, ‘Doctor, am I suffering from Corona. Am I going to die?’ I examined him and did some tests. He came positive for influenza. When I told him, ‘this is flu, this is not Corona’, he sighed a relief. This is flu season and we should not worry about Corona whenever someone coughs. Yes, we should be concerned and take preventive measures like wearing face masks and using disinfectants. Above all, we should continue to serve people in need.
- We should pray
Fourthly, we should pray. We should pray on all occasions. We have rampant ‘prayer shaming’ in our culture. This is not new. Back in 1755, a powerful earthquake and tsunami hit the city of Lisbon in Portugal. Hundreds of thousands of people were killed. Many Christians were praying for the victims. French philosopher Voltaire mocked their prayers, ‘Oh, stop your useless prayers. There is no loving God above to hear your prayers’.
Like everywhere else, in America, Coronavirus is weighing heavy on people. Over a thousand people have been infected. US President Donald Trump is under fire. He named Vice President Mike Pence to lead the government’s response to the virus. Pence is a good Christian believer. As he prepared to address this problem, he and his colleagues spent some time in prayer in the White House. That photo became viral in the social media. The critics wasted no time. They railed against the Vice President, ‘Oh, stop your prayers. They help nobody.’ When disasters like this happen, people used to pray. Now they are mocking prayer and God. They forgot their history. Didn’t God help America when George Washington prayed for victory in the War of Independence? Didn’t God help when Lincoln prayed during the Civil War? Didn’t God help when Roosevelt prayed during the Second World War? These critics only expose the blindness of the human heart. They reject God, the only one who could help them in times like this.
But, as believers, we should always pray. We read in Ephesians 6:18,
Pray in the Spirit on all occasions
with all kinds of prayers and requests
Here in the epistle to Ephesians, Apostle Paul tells us that we should pray on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.
- See the Reality
Fifthly, we should see the reality. People who don’t have faith in God, most often, are the same people who have faith in human wisdom and progress. True, we have seen enormous progress in human society in the modern age. Countless inventions changed our lives in hitherto unprecedented ways. But we should never forget that we do not control nature. We are not masters of the natural world.
Who can stop a hurricane?
Who can stop an earthquake?
Who can stop a tsunami?
Who can stop a virus from replicating?
Our strength is limited. We should have humility to accept this truth. Recently Narendra Modi, the Prime Minister of India appeared in a television show entitled Man vs.Wild. He joins the host of the show, Mr.Bear Grylls and treks around Jim Corbett National Park in Uttarakhand, India. As they walk through the forest, at one point, Bear Grylls looks at Modi and says, ‘Mr.Modi, you are Prime Minister of India. You are the most powerful person in the nation. But here in the wilderness, you are by yourself. There are tigers, crocodiles, elephants and snakes. You have to protect yourself.’ Modi replies, ‘Every life depends on God’. I thought those are very humbling words. The two men go through the park for a few days. At the end of their journey, both men conclude their adventure with a prayer. Even a powerful person like Modi realized that the grace of God is essential for human survival.
Yesterday, I went to a Toyota store. Toyota is a Japanese automotive manufacturer. Every year it produces over 10 million vehicles. It has been recognized as an industry leader in manufacturing and production. They have huge production lines. They use the Andon cord system to address the problems they face in the assembly line. When a worker finds a defect or a malfunction or a safety problem, he or she will pull the cord and the production comes to a halt. The manager comes to the spot, they discuss the problem, find a solution and the work resumes. When natural disasters happen, we should pull the cord and ask God for help. Our modern life is highly ordered, systematized like an assembly line in a car factory, and we often forget that we live in a fallen world.
Yes, this is a fallen world. People often ask, ‘If God is good, why is a tiny virus killing so many people?’ We have answers in the Bible. When Adam and Eve sinned against God, nature lost its perfection. We call it the Original Sin of the Fall. When sin entered this world, nature came under the curse. The Bible never says that we live in a perfect world. This world is still under the curse. That is why we see evil all around us. Hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis, famines, floods, epidemics and pandemics wreak havoc all over the world in one place or the other. We pull the cord and ask God for help.
Now, unbelievers do not even acknowledge God’s ownership and sovereignty over nature, let alone ask His help in trouble. They never thank God, never worship him, never obey his commandments. God will judge them at the end. This will happen during the Tribulation Period, the seven years of great torment that will be unleashed on this world. Author David Jeremiah describes the Tribulation in these words,
“Great wars will ravage the world as nations rise up, lusting for conquest.
All peace will end, and rampant slaughter will bloody the earth.
Hail and fire will burn up the earth’s grass and destroy a third of all trees.
Intense famine will dry up food supplies.
Rivers and seas will become too polluted to sustain life.
Many rivers will dry up entirely.
The sun will scorch the earth and its inhabitants like fire.
A quarter of the world’s population will die from war, starvation, and beastly predators.
Giant earthquakes, accompanied by thunder and lightning, will destroy cities.
Mountains will crash into the seas, killing a third of the fish.
Tidal waves from the cataclysm will sink a third of all the world’s ships.
A massive meteor shower will strike the earth.
Ashes and smoke rising from its devastation will hide the sun and moon.
Swarms of demonic insects will darken the sun and inflict painful stings.
Rampant, epidemic plagues will kill one-third of all mankind.
Everyone, from national leaders to servants and slaves, will flee the cities to hide in caves and under rocks (Revelation 6:2-17;8:8-13; 9:1-20; 16:1-21)
(Is this the End? Signs of God’s Providence in a Disturbing New World by David Jeremiah)
If this does not frighten you and lead you to repentance and salvation, what will? Note those words: rampant, epidemic plagues will kill one-third of all mankind. Compared to those plagues, what we are seeing today due to Coronavirus, will be insignificant.
- Have hope in Jesus.
Sixthly, you can have hope even in the midst of this chaos because God is still in control. The believers in Christ will not go through the Tribulation Period. They will be removed from this world before the Tribulation Period. We look forward to meeting a Savior, not a virus. A virus might take away our health and life, but it cannot take away our hope in Christ.
- Believe the Gospel.
Seventhly, preach the gospel. If you are a believer, preach the gospel. If you are an unbeliever, believe the gospel. As we near the Tribulation Period, the only hope we have is the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Sin is like a virus. The Coronavirus started with one individual in China and encircled the whole humanity. In the same way, sin started with one human being, Adam, and transmitted to all human beings. The virus does not care your race, religion, region or language. In the same way, there is no difference when it comes to sin. The Bible says, ‘All have sinned and come short of the glory of God’ (Romans 3:23). Without Christ, you are a sinner waiting for the judgment of God.
The cruise ship Diamond Princess was carrying over 3000 tourists. The Corona infected one of them. It started with person. They did not know that. They were having fun. The ship was going through the pleasant waters of the ocean. They were drinking, gambling and playing games. They were having dinners and dance parties. The coronavirus was spreading among them and they could not even realize their condition. They started to get sick and die. They imagined a great time but that is not how it turned out. Jesus portrayed a similar picture when he compared our society to the society that existed before the Great Flood which destroyed the whole world.
He told us in Matthew 24:37-39,
“But as the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.”
Before the Flood came, people ignored God completely. They were eating and drinking, playing and partying and their end came suddenly. Today our world is just the world before the Flood, completely ignorant of it’s true condition.
Your true condition, my friend, is you are a lost sinner. You should come to the cross repent of your sins, and believe that Lord Jesus died in your place and rose again from the dead on the third day. When you believe that truth and invite him into your life, you will be saved. Saved forever. Saved for eternity. You will join the great crowd of believers who will be removed from this world before the Tribulation Period starts. You will be saved from the wrath of God. You will become a child of God, forever blessed in Christ. I hope you will come to this saving faith today. Let us pray.
“Lord Jesus, we pray that you show your mercy to this world. We pray that you give wisdom to scientists to develop a powerful vaccine to suppress Coronavirus. We pray that you open the hearts of unbelievers to see you as their Savior and Lord. We pray that you give comfort to the hearts of believers who are disheartened. In your precious name, we pray, Amen”.