John 16:27, 33 The Father himself loves you dearly . . . I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.
I woke up this morning to the headline “New Report on 138 Coronavirus Cases Reveals Disturbing Details.” And to an email forwarded by our mission team leader, from a pastor in Wuhan requesting intercession from the global church. Here are excerpts:
Brothers and sisters, peace:
During these past days the Wuhan pneumonia has been at the center of my thoughts and life, always seeking the latest news, always thinking of how our family and the church should face this.
The situation is so critical, yet we trust in the Lord’s promises, that his thoughts toward us are of peace, and not evil (Jer. 29:11). He allows a time of testing, not to destroy us, but to establish us. Therefore, Christians are not only to suffer with the people of this city, but we have a responsibility to pray for the fearful people of this city, and to bring to them the peace of Christ.
Firstly, we are to seek the peace of Christ to reign in their hearts (Heb. 3:15). Christ has already given us his peace, not to remove us from disaster and death, but rather to have peace in the midst of disaster and death, because Christ has already overcome these things (John 14:27, 16:33). Otherwise we have not believed in the gospel of peace (Phil. 6:15), and with the world will be terrified of pestilence, and lose hope in the face of death.
We were all sinners, but Christ, because of faith, took our penalty, and gave us his peace. Christians may with the world face the same tribulations, but such tribulations are no longer punishment, but a new opportunity to grow nearer to the Almighty, to purify our souls, an opportunity to proclaim the Gospel.
In other words, when disaster strikes us, it is but a form of God’s love, and as Paul firmly believed, who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger or sword?… In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loves us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom. 8:35-39).
In words for this day, Wuhan’s pestilence cannot separate us from the love of Christ. These words are so comforting for us. We have a part in his sufferings, and we have a part in his glory. Christ is with us as we face the pestilence in this city. The pestilence cannot harm us. If we die, it is an opportunity to witness to Christ, and even more to enter his glory
Thus, my brothers and sisters, I encourage you to be strong in Christ’s love. If we more deeply experience death in this pestilence, understanding the Gospel, we may more deeply experience Christ’s love, and grow ever nearer to God.
If in reading these truths you still have no peace, I encourage you to diligently read the above cited Scriptures, call on the Lord to give you insight, until the peace of Christ reigns in your heart. You should certainly know, that this is not just a visible disaster, but even more it is a spiritual struggle, and you should firstly be waging battle for your heart, and secondarily battle for the soul of this city.
The tone and even some of the words of this letter (I quoted only a part) are similar to what we hear from pastors inside Venezuela.
I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. John 14:27
P.S. My daughter Rachel brought this article to my attention, about efforts to help here in Pittsburgh: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/06/us/pittsburgh-wuhan-coronavirus.html