March 17, 2020 | Silver Spring, Maryland, United States |
Brothers and sisters, today I would like to talk with you about a phenomenon that is sweeping across the world—a situation that is moving so rapidly that people everywhere are wondering what can be done to stop this uninvited, unwelcome, potentially deadly coronavirus, known as COVID-19.
As of March 12, this highly contagious virus has swept around the world, with nearly 128,000 confirmed cases, and more than 4,700 confirmed deaths. The COVID-19 virus has spread incredibly fast, and governments are taking unprecedented actions in closing borders, quarantining large groups of people, and rushing to develop a vaccine against this disease. Financial markets are plummeting, schools have been closed, large conferences cancelled, travel moratoriums set, and the list could go on.
A general unease is blanketing the globe and panic is starting to set in as people rush to buy hand sanitizer, face masks, and other items they believe will protect them from the Coronavirus.
As we look around, we wonder, what is all of this leading to? Could this be the beginning of the end? How should we as Seventh-day Adventists respond, and what is the Church doing in regard to this high-profile, global health crisis?
First, we do not need to panic. Jesus tells us in John 16:33, “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.”
It is not a surprise that bad things happen in this sin-filled world. Sometimes, however, we are surprised at their magnitude or how rapidly things can happen.
And yet, nothing surprises God. While speaking to the disciples about the end-times, Jesus told them, “For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places” (Matthew 24:7).
The word “pestilence,” by the way, is an older word that means “a contagious or infectious epidemic disease that is virulent and devastating.”
While the world has certainly seen epidemic diseases in the past, this one, this “pestilence” seems to have attracted an unusually high amount of global attention and concern. For many, it has become an overwhelming focus.
In such situations, God calls us, His people, to offer calm through the storm. We are to be anchors of stability and pillars of hope in these times of crisis as we point people to the strong foundation of Jesus Christ!
What are some practical ways we can do this? Let me outline 3 important steps:
1. Make sure that you have peace with God.
Confess to Him any sins you may have hidden in your heart and accept the forgiveness He freely offers to all. Trust that your life is fully in His hands, and that He has a wonderful plan for you. “For I know the plans I have for you,” He says in Jeremiah 29:11, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
And we know for certain that God’s future plans for us include living forever with Him in a much better place! “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me,” He tells us in John chapter 14. “In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.”
So, the first step is to make sure that you have peace with God. In Isaiah 26:3 we read, “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.” and in 2 Timothy 1:7 we are told, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”
2. Live a healthy lifestyle.
Not only does God promise a future, better life, but He wants us to enjoy good health here and now. It has been acknowledged by numerous health researchers and professionals that one of the best ways to avoid catching the Coronavirus, or any virus, is by having a healthy immune system built up through health lifestyle habits.
Seventh-day Adventists are known for living healthfully, following the wonderful health principles outlined in the Bible and in the inspired writings of Ellen G. White. Living healthfully includes good nutrition through a well-balanced plant-based diet with lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, nuts, seeds, and whole grains, and avoiding high fats and sugars which tear down the immune system. Getting regular exercise in the fresh air and sunlight is also a very important aspect of good health and can greatly enhance our immune system. Drinking plenty of water is not only refreshing, but vital to maintain good health. Drinking a minimum of 6 to 8 glasses each day is important. Staying away from harmful substances such as alcohol, tobacco, illicit drugs and caffeine is also critical in maintaining good health and fighting disease. One more vital element for good health is getting proper rest, consisting of at least 7 or more hours of sleep each night. Finally, and most importantly, is Trust in God. As we place ourselves fully in His hands, we receive the peace He longs to give, and we can rest fully in His care.
3. Share what you have with others!
While we certainly don’t want to be carriers of the COVID-19 virus, wouldn’t it be wonderful, if we could be agents of hope and healing around the world! Be a witness of spiritual stability and practical hope as you help others to be at peace.
During this time of crisis, as people are panicking, wondering what will happen next, what an opportunity we have to share God’s message with our loved ones, friends and acquaintances, neighbors and co-workers, classmates, and even strangers we meet! This is a time of openness, as people are searching, longing for answers that only God can provide.
I encourage you to practice the health principles in your own life, and then share them with others! Show how living a healthy life can greatly enhance our immune systems and help prevent disease.
Then, even more importantly, God calls us to share His Truth—the Truth about Jesus and His soon return. Offer to study the Bible with them. You might be surprised how many people are interested in what the Bible has to say—especially about prophecy and end-time scenarios.
There are several good resources where you can find excellent Bible studies. One good place to start is with the It Is Written Bible Study guides. These are available for free at: itiswritten.study. That’s itiswritten.study. Another good resource is at Bibleinfo.com. That’s Bibleinfo.com
So again, I encourage you to:
1. Make sure that you have peace with God.
2. Live a healthy lifestyle.
3. Share what you have with others.
I want to assure you that here at the world headquarters of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, we are carefully monitoring the COVID-19 situation and are in touch with your various church leaders around the world. Precautions are being taken in our churches, schools, and other institutions to keep us all as healthy and safe as possible, and I encourage you to follow the instructions given by your local leadership.
In addition, many are wondering whether or not the 2020 General Conference Session will be held as scheduled this summer in Indianapolis, Indiana. At this time, there have been no plans to postpone this Session. However, we are monitoring the situation carefully and discussions are taking place regarding various scenarios. We will keep you informed as the situation develops further.
Finally, I want to encourage you to pray earnestly for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Truly, we are living in the end-times and as we see the events around us, we know that Christ’s coming will be soon. We need the Holy Spirit’s wisdom and power to do the work God has called us to do at this very time in Earth’s history. We are told by the pen of inspiration that “A large number of precious souls are groping in darkness yet longing and weeping and praying for light.” (CWE 65). Now is the time, more than ever, to let our lights shine for Him.
Let’s pray together just now.