A Letter from John Piper
Introductory note from Terry: Though I teach only one class this semester at Columbia International University, I have been scrambling to find delivery methods and resources for an on-campus class that will necessarily finish the semester online. Except for grading the assignments, the work in setting up the new course format and requirements is finally over. So instead of a blog from me today, I am republishing a letter recently sent out by John Piper on “Coronavirus and Christ.”
He focuses on the difficult, mysterious, yet encouraging truth of God’s sovereignty, even over things like a pandemic. If God isn’t fully in control, I shudder to think who or what is….
At the end of the letter, I refer to a podcast you can find online, an interview with Dr. Piper dealing with the virus and our faith. I hope to send you a new post within a few days. Terry
‘BEHOLD THE KINDNESS AND SEVERITY OF GOD’
It matters little what we think about the coronavirus. But it matters forever what God thinks. He is not silent about what he thinks. Scarcely a page in the Bible is irrelevant for this crisis.
Our voice is grass. His is granite. “The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever” (1 Peter 1:24-25). His words in Scripture “cannot be broken” (John 10:35). What he says is “true, and righteous altogether” (Psalm 19:9). Listening to God, and believing him, is like building your house on a rock, not sand (Matthew 7:24).
His voice is not only true; it is perfectly wise for every situation. “He is wonderful in counsel and excellent in wisdom” (Isaiah 28:29). “His understanding is beyond measure” (Psalm 147:5). When he gives counsel about the coronavirus, it is firm, unshakable, lasting. “The counsel of the Lord stands forever” (Psalm 33:11). “His way is perfect” (2 Samuel 22:31).
God’s words in these times are not only true and wise; they are also precious and sweet. “More to be desired are they than gold . . . sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb” (Psalm 19:10). They are the sweetness of life: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68). And with indestructible life come words of unshakable peace and joy: “Your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart” (Jeremiah 15:16).
And the sweetness is not lost in this moment of bitter providence, not if we have learned the secret of “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing” (2 Corinthians 6:10). The secret is this: Knowing that the same sovereignty that could stop the coronavirus and doesn’t, is the very sovereignty that sustains the soul in it. Indeed, more than sustains, it sweetens with hope that, for those who trust him, his purposes are kind, even in death.
“Behold the kindness and severity of God” (Romans 11:22). His providence is sweet and bitter. Naomi did not sin when she said, “The Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me” (Ruth 1:20). That was true. And it was spoken at the very moment when all her fortunes were about to change.
This is not a season for sentimental views of God. It is a bitter season. And God sent it. We know this, because he “works all things according to the counsel of his will” (Ephesians 1:11). All things. Not a sparrow falls to the ground apart from our heavenly Father (Mathew 10:29).
Nature is not sovereign. Satan is not sovereign. Sinful man is not sovereign. God rules them all (Luke 8:25; Job 1:12, 2:6; Acts 4:27-28). So, we say with Job, “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted” (Job 42:2).
Therefore, God not only comprehends the coronavirus; he has purposes for it. God does nothing, and permits nothing, without wise purposes. Nothing just happens. Everything flows from the eternal counsels of God (Ephesians 1:11). All of it is wisdom. All of it is purposeful. For those who trust Jesus Christ, all of it is kindness. For others, it is a merciful wake-up call: “Let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price” (Revelation 22:17).
Our hope and prayer is that we at Desiring God (desiringgod.org) might be of some help in anchoring your soul in the word of God. That you might see the greatness and beauty and worth of Jesus Christ (Philippians 3:8). That you might treasure him above health and life (Psalm 63:3). And that God would be glorified in you, as you are satisfied in him.
This I call to mind, and therefore I have hope:
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him.” (Lamentations 3:21-24)
Apart from the virus outbreak, what difference should the truth of God’s sovereignty make whenever we experience hardship or disappointment?
You can hear a 16-minute interview with Dr. Piper on how to deal with fear generated by the worldwide outbreak of the virus:
The Bible text that anchors my spirit during this turbulent time is one that I memorized years ago to help me fight bouts of depression: “God is our refuge in strength, a very present help in times of trouble. Therefore, we will not fear, though the earth should change, and though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea” (Psalm 46:1-2).
Is God’s Spirit nudging you to memorize these verses as well?