I have written a little about the coronavirus in my letter for the church’s Annual Report which you should receive shortly. However, it seems appropriate to say more about the virus in this letter.
It is astounding how the virus has spread so rapidly around the world and the number of cases is escalating. Fortunately there is plenty of advice on what precautions to take and much of it is very simple. Good hygiene is of paramount importance and easily implemented. Many churches have cancelled midweek activities and, at the time of writing this letter, some of our own organisations have decided to cancel their meetings until further notice. The Kirk Session will be meeting to consider further action we can take.
In the letter for the Annual Report I made the point that the virus is one more reminder to us that true happiness will never be found in this world or in this life. Ever since Adam sinned against the Lord, the world has been spoiled and all the troubles and sorrows or this life remind us that things are not the way they were meant to be. The good news of the gospel is that for the sake of Christ who died for sinners, God is willing to pardon our sins and to give us eternal life in the new and better world to come. In that world, the former things of this life will have passed away and God’s people will enjoy perfect peace and rest. That is our hope and that is why we must all trust in the Lord Jesus for forgiveness.
But God’s people also know we can trust in him for his help in this life. Psalm 46 declares to us: ‘God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.’ Psalm 62 says to us: ‘Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us.’ And the reason we’re able to trust in the Lord at all times is because our times are in his hand (Psalm 31). I could go on, quoting from other psalms and other passages of Scripture, but these are enough to remind you that you can go to the Lord in prayer, trusting in him to help you.
The Heidelberg Catechism, which is similar to our church’s Shorter Catechism, is helpful at times like these. Question 26 asks: ‘What do you believe when you say, “I believe in God the Father almighty, Maker of heaven and earth”?’ And it gives this answer:
That the eternal Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who out of nothing created heaven and earth and all that is in them, who also upholds and governs them by his eternal counsel and providence, is for the sake of Christ his Son my God and my Father. I trust in him so completely that I have no doubt that he will provide me with all things necessary for body and soul. Moreover, whatever evil he sends upon me in this troubled life he will turn to my good, for he is able to do it, being almighty God, and is determined to do it, being a faithful Father.
Then, in question 27, the Catechism asks: ‘What do you understand by the providence of God?’ And the answer is as follows:
The almighty and ever-present power of God whereby he still upholds, as it were by his own hand, heaven and earth together with all creatures, and rules in such a way that leaves and grass, rain and drought, fruitful and unfruitful years, food and drink, health and sickness, riches and poverty, and everything else, come to us not by chance but by his fatherly hand.
And then, in question 28, it asks: ‘What advantage comes from acknowledging God’s creation and providence?’ Here’s the answer:
We learn that we are to be patient in adversity, grateful in the midst of blessing, and to trust our faithful God and Father for the future, assured that no creature shall separate us from his love, since all creatures are so completely in his hand that without his will they cannot even move.
So, believers can be patient in adversity, because we know that our Heavenly Father has sent it for our good. And we can trust our faithful Father for the future, because all things are in his hands and there is absolutely nothing which is able to separate us from God’s love for us in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:38–39).
And finally, whereas those who don’t believe are afraid to die, believers know that, for them, the grave is not to be feared, because it’s the doorway into the presence of our God who loved us and who sent his Son to save us.