Faith & Insight: Time out
Unless you live in a cave, your world is being rocked by the novel coronavirus pandemic. Behind the advancing illness itself follows a wake of fear, anger and uncertainty. Many fear for the health and safety of their loved ones, particularly if they serve in one of the front-line professions. Others express anger and frustration at the upending of all that is normal. All of us feel uncertain about our finances, our jobs, or our future.
The uncertainty and fear make us feel out of control of our lives. That’s why many who haven’t given God a thought in a long while are doing so now. But simply thinking about God doesn’t bring much comfort: we long to know what he is up to. Why would he allow this illness? Is he punishing us?
The question is a good one, for it explores God’s relationship to us, and we to him. Is God a capricious, angry being looking for creatures on whom to vent?
The Bible presents quite a different view: it is here we can discover who God is and what he is doing. Jesus Christ once said: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
Jesus first reveals a monumental fact: God loves us! His love motivates him to act, and he loved us enough to give his only son, Jesus.
For what purpose was Jesus given to us? The apostle Paul provides a succinct answer in another passage: “Christ died for our sins according to the scripture” (1 Corinthians 15:3). Our sins are the thoughts, words, actions and attitudes we know are not right in God’s sight. Each of us have sinned, no matter how much of a good person we think we are.
If God were in the business of punishing us, Charles Swindoll once noted that each of us could easily become “smoking crisps.” But he’s doing the opposite!
Jesus never sinned, yet he took the penalty for my sin — and yours — on himself when he died on the cross. God actually punished his son for our sins so we might be right with him. Amazing!
In the very next verse, Jesus explains what God is doing in our world today: “For God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 3:17 NIV) God isn’t judging us; rather, he punished his own son in our place so that we might receive forgiveness and a new life now through faith in Jesus. To know you are right with God through faith in Jesus is to be saved.
But why the pandemic? We can’t know for certain, but one thing is sure: the pause button has been hit on all our busy lives. We live in a fallen world where diseases like this virus can abound; however, God is able to work in any circumstance and use it for good. If this collective “time out” becomes a chance for us to reflect on our relationship with God and respond to his love by placing faith in Jesus, then it will be time well spent.
Don Baumann is outreach pastor at Hilltop Community Church.