Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:4-7
Recent reports have indicated that the coronavirus pandemic has now crossed five million cases around the world with deaths crossing well over 340,000. (As I write this, I’ve come to know some in my own family who have tested positive for the disease.) The shutting down of the world economy, with job losses across most industries, has only added to the misery.
Through these experiences of quarantine and self-isolation, the true need of humanity has been exposed. Even when all material needs are sufficient, man still feels incomplete without the social interaction and daily routine of a normal life, as this is what previously gave them hope and purpose.
How do Christians respond to this situation? Do we find our hope draining away? Are we unable to keep worries at bay? How can we find joy and peace given such chaos?
Paul outlines some helpful truths in Philippians 4:4-7 that can help us glorify Christ — even through this pandemic.
Are you rejoicing or are you mourning? You might ask: what can I possibly rejoice in? Good Friday and Easter have just passed us and they remind us that man’s story is not just about our present situation of global suffering. Underneath our story, there is the even greater story of the resurrection of Christ.
In v.4, Paul reminds us that our joy is not found in our situation — but in the Lord. Sure, there are things that grieve us, and there is a time to mourn the suffering and loss of loved ones — but because Jesus lives today as the vindicated King who has triumphed over death and sin, we can finally rejoice in the hope that this suffering — and even potential death — is not the end.
Underneath our story, there is the even greater story of the resurrection of Christ. Suffering, even death, is not the end
This is why Paul says rejoice: because the Lord is not far off, but is near to us. God is not standing at a distance, observing the story of mankind as it unfolds in misery and death. Rather, He feels for His children’s pain and suffering. It was to remedy that that He decisively dealt the first blow, by fixing the issue of sin and death through the death and resurrection of His only begotten Son, Jesus. In this act of the Son, we now have unfettered access to the Father in a way humanity has never known.
The Old Testament saints cried to God while drowning in the blood of the animals to cover their sin, but Christ made a perfect atonement for us. This is why we have confidence to come to Him who is able to answer our prayers. Have you prayed to God about your sins and fears? Know that He is both near and listening.
If joy and trust is the mode in which we approach God, we will enjoy the peace He gives. A peace that is not a temporary peace, but the eternal peace that focuses our minds and our hearts on Him. God’s peace comes from having our minds set on Him and trusting Him in it (Isaiah 26:3).
When we approach God with joy, trusting that He is good, that all things work for our good and knowing that He is faithfully near to us, every prayer we pray is grounded in peace, knowing that we are not as orphans left to fend for ourselves — but children of the Most High.
We are not as orphans left to fend for ourselves — but children of the Most High
The world will rejoice if there comes a victory over this disease — and we can thank God and rejoice in it too. But Christians are also able to rejoice when things don’t go our way. We can rejoice when we lose jobs or loved ones. We can rejoice even when the number of cases exponentially rise. We can rejoice because what happened on Easter is true. Jesus is the Risen King, the Messiah and God’s anointed One — and He has promised to turn all things right (Revelation 21:4).
Few can face such a deadly disease and still praise God in the midst of such evil. But Christians can. The present situation is an opportunity to praise our sovereign God, the God who is good in all things that He ordains (Isaiah 45:7). Christians can also use it as a means to, as John Piper says, issue a wake-up call that God is giving in order to turn to Him in repentance and faith (Isaiah 45:20-27, Luke 13:2-5).
If we turn in repentance of our sins and trust in His righteousness, we are heirs with Christ in the coming kingdom where there is no sickness or death. The Lord is coming soon. He is coming with the true healing that we need, so stand unshaken in joy and hope.
This story does not end this way. Rejoice!
But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved. Philippians 3:20-4:1
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