These past two years have been frightening and chaotic for most of us. Convictions have been tested. Family members have died. But can any possible good come from Covid-19?
I first have to tell you that I don’t believe God gives disease or punishes us with misfortune. That would be totally incompatible with His character. But it’s clear from the Bible that God can make good of anything bad.
Covid is an opportunity
To examine ourselves, repent, and get back on God’s path
To evangelize and redeem the reputation of Christianity
To take a second look at end-time prophecy
1. Examine yourselves, repent, and get back on God’s path. You’ve probably heard it said, “in every challenge is an opportunity.” It’s a New Age thought, and one guru may have inadvertently hit the nail on the head: “Every challenge is a disguised opportunity for salvation.” Repeatedly in the Bible God overcomes our personal hells in order to reconcile us to Him. Covid may very well be a push towards salvation.
When God led the Children of Israel through the desert, He fed them heavenly manah. In spite of this, the people complained about the food, Moses, even God’s intentions. They were being ungrateful asps, spreading poison and rebellion. So poetically, a plague of snakes infested the camp. Many died, and the people realized they’d sinned. They begged God to save them. God responded with equal poetry: He told Moses to forge a bronze snake and hold it aloft on a pole. When the people looked at it, they would be healed. They recognized the snake as both the symbol of the Pharoah, who was supposed to manage chaos, and the devil in the form of the serpent in the garden of Eden. This was who they were trusting, who they were worshiping with their complaints and fears. Some may have remembered, too, that when the serpent was cursed, God made a promise – even way back then – to save them and crush the rebellion of the devil. Future Israelites recognized Jesus as the Great Healer, the Savior who hung on the cross instead of us.
Take a look again at
the Egyptian plagues in Exodus 7 and 8
a plague of quail for people complaining about manna in Numbers 11
Miriam’s leprosy in Numbers 12
the plague upon those questioning God’s judgment of Korah’s rebellion in Numbers 16
David’s choice of a plague in II Samuel 24.
God seems to employ epidemics as a last resort to get people’s attention when they’re intent upon going down the wrong path, especially when people dispute God’s sovereignty and leadership. Plague mirrors the infectious nature of rebellion, complaining, and distrust, as if God is saying, “See what you’re doing to harm each other? Just follow Me.” During the lockdowns, weren’t we very much like Miriam, in a kind of social timeout? The opportunity of Covid, especially during lockdown but no less now, is to stop and ask ourselves what path we’re on, individually or even as a nation. Afterall, if we aren’t following God, we are following Satan. There is no grey area. That may be why God says that rebellion is as bad a sin as witchcraft (I Samuel 15:23). Like Job, the trial of Covid may work to test our faith, which, as James encourages, can improve our spiritual lives.
And indeed, Covid seems to be causing a change of heart – or at least reveal it. Over the past few decades, sociologists observed that the entire world has become more secular, more critical of Christianity. Pastors warn that we are vaunting ourselves as wiser and stronger than God, just as they did in the days of Babel and Noah. But, thanks to Covid, there’s been a shaking, a great awakening to the spiritual poverty that afflicts our world, that’s pushed many to reconsider church, seek answers in the Bible, and study prophecy. Churches like ours have grown. And churches that found ways to reopen as soon as possible have had less attrition of membership or attendance. Lockdowns provided a greater audience for The Chosen and proved that there is a real hunger for Christian programming amidst all the online TV shows making heroes of Lucifer, witches, psychopaths and the like. Covid has contributed toward a global revival of Christianity. The lockdowns made us stop…and seek.
2. Evangelize and redeem the reputation of Christianity. There’s no denying that the politics of this disease has divided people, but at least it’s started a catharsis of thought. Conflicts provide a choice to practice what we preach in church, or reinforce habits of bad behavior. If there were any time for Christians to shine and take back the criticisms hurled at us, that time is now. Covid is an opportunity to prove what real Christianity looks like: to show love and kindness; to demonstrate mercy, not judgment; to see value in every person. Imagine the healing if we just listened to each other!
We’re commissioned to love one another the way God loves us. There’s been lots of negative news stories, but there were also inspiring stories of people reaching out to others during this fearful time:
Neighbors brought each other food, medicine, cards. They drove by honking for celebrations, sang from balconies to encourage, shoveled driveways, checked on the elderly or shut-in. Front-line workers were supported for all their sacrifice. Let’s not end that!
Tiny Libraries increased and added food and toiletries to their boxes for those needing help. In spite of tighter budgets, charity donations continued in 2020, church tithe even increased through online giving.
Families spent (tons of) time together. Parents learned what their teachers were or weren’t teaching their children (and often gained a better appreciation of both their kids and their teachers). The interest in private and home-schooling grew. This is good news for parochial schools! Skyview’s enrollment has soared with 70% of their students coming from non-Adventist homes. What a wonderful testimony to running a school according to Ellen G. White’s methods!
The prospect of dying has pushed people to mend relationships and end feuds.
What has been your focus? Has it been restoration, comfort, agreement, and peace, as Paul exhorts us in II Corinthians 13:11?
We’re also commissioned to trust God. It seems odd that Christians can’t agree on how far to trust His protection, but some have made the news. In Pennsylvania, one Amish community apparently achieved herd immunity in 2021, the first group in the world. Together, they agreed early on in the pandemic to face the virus head-on. In a Charlie Kirk interview, Amish Mennonite, Calvin Lapp explained, “To shut down and say we can’t go to church, we can’t get together with family, we can’t see our own people in the hospital, we can’t keep working, it’s going completely against everything we believe.” They stopped locking down and went along, business as usual. As a result, Covid swept through their community. They did lose people, especially during the Delta wave. But within months they appear to be the first group in the world to have natural immunity - and their economy thrived. It’s given the secular world something to think about.
What would have happened if the entire Christian world had banded together and said we’re going to put our faith in God? What kind of testimony would that have? What would happen if we promoted astounding stories of the power of prayer and repentance? The rewards that come from obeying God give testimony to His morality.
God may be speaking through Covid – “Who are you listening to? Where do you look for Truth?” If the pandemic makes us learn to hear God, it may be all worth it. If it emboldens our trust in God and shows others that we are fearless in Him, it may be the whole reason for it.
Even the mandates, whatever you think of them, give a rare opportunity to evangelize. For the first time in decades, employees are able to express their religious views at work through writing religious exemption letters. Imagine how many people are reached by this rare witness! Most of us, out of politeness or HR policies, won’t talk about our religious views on faith, health, abortion, the Holy Spirit or, especially, Bible prophecy. For many of us, this may be the first time we’ve given serious thought toward what we believe, and that in itself is a blessing! Our God loves us enough to allow us to come together and reason out what we believe, to taste and see that God is good, and even, as in Job’s case, ask hard questions.
3. Take a second look at end-time prophecy. Our church is founded on End Time beliefs, and Covid has given us a receptive stage to explain prophecy. Historically Adventists have been fierce advocates of the separation of Church and State, as well as freedom of religion. When we’ve come into conflict with the government, we found ways to maintain our obedience to God. For example, we fought the draft with a military compromise in the form of “conscientious objectors.” Mrs. White warns that in the Last Days, a global authority will “[trample] on the rights of conscience.” “Liberty of conscience” is in the public mind right now, so it’s the perfect time to explain the dangers of the Mark of the Beast. Why has there been so little discussion on this issue? Especially since - for now - we have a chance to express what we believe. If we continue to stay silent, that may quickly disappear.
It’s alarming that our Church has officially acquiesced on all fronts. Publicly and through policy they’ve stood firm that
church is not an “essential service”
the vaccine, which uses aborted fetal tissue and corrupts DNA, is not a moral issue
people should listen to their individual conscience, except when it comes to Covid
losing one’s job is an acceptable “choice” not a sign of the Beast (in spite of its similarities), and the Church will not endorse religious exemptions
We, of all Christians, should consider what it means to discard religious freedom or God’s laws for any reason! Is it loving to protect others during a pandemic? Of course! But the vaccine is not the only way to do so. Does Christ tell us to obey the government? Certainly! But God’s laws always supersede any of man’s laws. There are times when we must peacefully disobey. Whether or not this is that moment, you must listen for the voice of the Shepherd to guide you. We’ve been given a window to spiritually prepare before the Time of Trouble, to get to know God so well that we won’t be deceived by Satan’s twisting of words and values.
If we can’t stand up for our beliefs now under threat of shame, cancellation, job loss—or support those who do stand—how will we ever stand up when things truly worsen, as Revelation predicts? And how many souls do we lose along the way because of our vacillation or silence? Covid is a spiritual dress rehearsal for an imminent return of Jesus Christ and the resurrection of our loved ones. And that is an uplifting thought!