By Steven Chan
1. The world is currently grappling with the threat posed by the Covid-19 disease. On Feb 14, 2020, there were 5,090 new cases in mainland China, including more than 120 additional deaths. The total number of those infected rose to 63,851, and the number of deaths from the disease has increased to 1,380.
2. What is the Christian’s attitude and response to such a threat? What guidance does God’s Word provide? Let us consider the relevant scriptures and biblical principles.
3. Jesus said to His disciples: “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33).
a. Tribulation includes trials, persecutions, threats, pain and sufferings, and such like, including diseases and sicknesses. According to Jesus, the Christian is subject to the tribulations of this life.
i. Paul experienced the same: “persecutions, afflictions, which happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra—what persecutions I endured. And out of them all the Lord delivered me. 12 Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” (2 Tim 3:11-12)
ii. Paul suffered from the “thorn in his flesh”: “And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. 8 Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. 9 And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Cor 12:7-10)
iii. Timothy, the evangelist, also suffered from frequent infirmities (2 Tim 5:23)
b. The Bible approves of Christians praying for good health: “Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers.” (3 John 2)
c. When one is afflicted by ill health, one ought not to always attribute it to sin or its consequences. Jesus clarified concerning the man who was blind from birth: “And His disciples asked Him, saying, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3 Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him.” (John 9:2-3)
d. The afflictions suffered by Job were not the consequences of his sins (although his friends were fully convinced that Job had sinned -Job 1:-6-12; 4:8; 8:6;11:14). God allowed Satan to put Job to the test to show Satan that Job was truly faithful to God – likewise the trying of our faith through the fire of tribulations, afflictions and persecutions would show the genuineness of our faith (James 1:2-4;1 Pet 1:6-7)
4. How ought the Christian to respond to afflictions and diseases?
a. Re-affirm our trust in God just as Job did: ““Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord.” 22 In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong.” (Job 1”21-22)
b. Pray and do not become anxious; rather remember the promise of peace offered by Jesus: “In Me you may have peace”. So we must pray: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4:6-7).
c. Rely on the grace of God to enable us to withstand the affliction: ““My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor 12:9). “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Heb 4:16)
d. Pray for one another that the sick may be healed by the providential workings of God: “Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.16 Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” (James 5:14-16). Note: for the meaning of anointing with oil, you may refer to the explanation here:http://www.housetohouse.com/BibleQuestions.aspx?Letter=all&Question=4209
e. Understand that Christ has overcome the world and under all circumstances the Christian has everything to gain by living for Christ: “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22 But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. 23For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. 24 Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you.”
5. The Christian ought to take care of his personal health and take appropriate medication that will help him to have relief or recovery – as Paul exhorted the evangelist, Timothy: “No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for your stomach’s sake and your frequent infirmities.”
It would be appropriate to follow the advice provided by the medical authorities. Avoid touching your face before you have washed your hands, washing hands with soap and water, be conscious of what you touched in public places, wear a face mask if you are coughing, consult a doctor if fever and cough persist, and keep in good health by proper exercise.
Dr. Sherlita Amler, an adjunct professor of public health at New York Medical College and Commissioner of Health in Westchester County said:
“If I could teach one thing to the public that would prevent most of the diseases that I have to deal with, it would be wash your hands, and teach your children how to wash hands”(https://www.businessinsider.my/how-to-prevent-wuhan-coronavirus-hygiene-hand-washing-2020-2/?r=US&IR=T)
According to a doctor in the same article quoted above: “a good general rule of thumb is you should wash your hands any time you feel that they might be dirty and it’s important that you use soap, lather up vigorously, and make sure you clean under the fingernails, too. It’s the frictional movement of your hands that actually gets the bacteria off”
The Christian ought to show his faith in God (courage in adversity), and love and compassion for his fellow men as he faces the threat of Covid-19 and/or any other diseases and sicknesses.
We look to the promise after His second coming: “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” (Rev 21:4).