Coronavirus Updates

If God is real, then how come Christians aren’t protected from COVID-19?

Pastor Rick Toh, Yio Chu Kang Chapel // February 28, 2020, 11:45 pm

Singapore church

The other day, my son overheard a conversation in the barber shop that went like this:

  • Customer: You heard about the spread of the virus happening in the churches?
  • Barber: Oh yes!
  • Customer: Did Christians not boast that Jesus will protect them from sicknesses and diseases? What do they have to say about that now?

The barber giggled in full agreement.

While it was sad to hear non-Christians mock the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, it is even sadder to know that the mockery was due to a misinformed knowledge of Christianity.

Why did they think that Christians believe that they will be immune from sicknesses and diseases? They are not at fault actually.

Regrettably, it seems there have been erroneous teachings in churches.

I know that there is a school of thought which believes that Jesus has come not just to take our sins away but also our sicknesses.

It bases its teaching on Isaiah 53:5 (NIV) which reads: “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.”

This school of thought teaches that believers are therefore immune from viruses and diseases in this world. The lack of faith is blamed for those who suffer from such.

It is indeed true that Jesus has come to take our sins and our sicknesses away.

The removal of sin, evil and suffering in this world will only take place in the second coming of Christ.

But some try to explain “by his wounds we are healed” as a verse referring to spiritual healing and not physical healing. They will have to wrestle with Matthew 8:14-17 wherein Matthew incontestably refers to Jesus’ physical healing ministry as a fulfilment to Isaiah 53:5.

Therefore Isaiah 53:5 does teach us that Jesus has come to give both spiritual and physical healing.

However, the error comes when one fails to understand that Isaiah 53:5 is only fulfilled in part for now. The healing ministry of Christ on earth was just a prelude to what is to come.

The fullness of Isaiah 53:5 will only be experienced when the triumphant Christ returns for His bride, the Church.

If God is real, why doesn’t He end our suffering?

Christ died on the Cross to set us free from the penalty and the power of sin.

Believers have now received the forgiveness of sins and will not suffer eternal condemnation (spiritual death). They are no longer enslaved by sin but enabled by the Holy Spirit to live a life of righteousness unto God.

However, the presence of sin remains in this world and believers continue to battle sin within them (Romans 7).

In addition, the believers will continue to experience suffering on earth caused by sin, and this includes sicknesses, diseases, decay and physical death.

The fullness of Isaiah 53:5 will only be experienced when the triumphant Christ returns for His bride, the church.

The removal of sin, evil and suffering in this world will only take place in the second coming of Christ.

On that day, there will be a new heaven and new earth. Revelation 21:4 declares: “‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

In other words, sicknesses, diseases and physical death will only be abolished on that day, and not now.

Paul points to this ultimate healing that is to come saying: “Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality” (1 Corinthians 15:51-53).

Nevertheless, until that day arrives, God does grant healing in this present age and believers can certainly pray for physical healing.

However, God in His unsearchable wisdom does not always choose to heal and even if He does, all healing before that day arrives is temporal.

We must be reminded that Jesus promises His believers not the absence of suffering on this earth, but peace in the midst of it (John 16:33).

To add, God promises us that there will be joy, hope and purpose in our suffering (Romans 5:3-5), endurance and deliverance when facing temptations (1 Corinthians 10:13), and that He will cause every affliction we face on earth to serve for our eternal good (2 Corinthians 4:17)!

Instead of asking “why God?”, how about “what are you doing God?”

Some may wonder why among all the religious organisations, it was the churches that were first afflicted with the COVID-19 virus.

One possible reason could be that the Christian faith is a communal faith whereby believers gather together for an extended period of time for worship.

Part of this worship exercise includes the element of fellowship where believers minister to one another in prayer and in words of encouragement.

Such close range and extensive inter-exchanges could be the reason why churches are more susceptible to the spread of the virus.

However, I wonder if God has something else in mind.

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Perhaps God is purifying the bride of Christ from the false teachings of the health and wealth “gospel”.

If so, then may this season awake believers from the erroneous belief that Christians are immune from viruses, diseases and sicknesses.

May believers come to the biblical understanding of God’s plan and timeline to eradicate sicknesses and physical death on that day. May believers learn to cling on to the great and wonderful promises of God in times of suffering.

May this season awake believers from the erroneous belief that Christians are immune from viruses, diseases and sicknesses.

Perhaps God is also positioning the Church in this season of great suffering, to be a beacon of hope to the world.

A Christian undergoing suffering can surely glorify God and magnify Christ.

Paul perceives this when he says in 2 Corinthians 4:7-11: “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.

“For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.”

In the face of persecution

“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed” (1 Peter 4:12-13)

As Christ suffered for the glory of the Father, we share in Christ’s sufferings when we suffer for His glory. We share in His sufferings when we suffer for Him (persecution), or when we suffer in Him.

To suffer in Christ is to demonstrate to the world that Christ is enough for us and that He is more than able to keep us in the midst of suffering.

It is to testify that Christ is our eternal hope and that the present suffering is incomparable to what He has prepared for us in glory. By placing our ultimate hope in Christ rather than in the temporary comforts of this world, Christ receives the glory.

It is sad that the customer in the barber shop knows the Church for her wrong theology. May the Church instead be well known for her perseverance, joy, hope, love in Christ and good works in the midst of suffering.

This article was first published on Pastor Rick’s Facebook page and has been republished with permission.

THINK + TALK

  1. Do you struggle with the fact that God heals some and not others?
  2. What are some other misconceptions that people might have towards Christianity? 
  3. How can you lovingly share the truth with those who hold such views?