C-19: GOD’S GLOBAL SHAKING

COVID-19 wreaks havoc around the globe, turning life as we know it on its head. Pain, suffering, and death fill our news each day with the devastation of the virus. We just celebrated an Easter weekend like none we have ever experienced! God is shaking our world. He did not cause the virus. Disease, war, earthquakes, tsunamis, and other calamities are the result of natural causes in a fallen world. When God pulls back his restraining hand, we experience the natural consequences of a sin-dominated world. However, God uses those natural results to shake the world like a virus filled snow globe.

WORLD WAR 1

One Sunday in 1916, G. Campbell Morgan stood in the pulpit of Westminster Chapel in London to deliver his sermon. World War I had been raging for two years, killing and maiming countless soldiers and shattering the prosperity of Europe and America. Death and suffering were everywhere. Morgan preached a sermon entitled “Things Shaken – Things Not Shaken” from Hebrews 12:27. He said, “If we have learned nothing else, surely we have seen our smug self-confidence rocked to the center by the hand of God.”

God’s voice shook the earth saying, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth, but also heaven. This expression, ‘yet once more’ denotes the removing of those things which can be shaken, as of created things, so that those things which cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe; for our God is a consuming fire” (Heb. 12:26-29).

The author of Hebrews quotes from the prophet Haggai who went on to say that God “will shake all the nations” who will bring their wealth to God for “the silver is mine, and the gold is mine, says the Lord of Hosts” (Hag. 2:6-8). God rules the nations of this world, and God owns the wealth of this world. No president, king, or dictator exists outside the reign of God. COVID-19, like all shakings of God, levels the playing field by rocking our smug self-confidence in our resources, abilities, and aspirations apart from God.

THINGS THAT ARE SHAKEN

The things that can be shaken in our world are the things that can be removed (Heb. 12:27). They are the non-essentials of life – the false faiths of human experience. God shakes our feelings of self-sufficiency through a pandemic. An invisible virus shocks the notion of a self-made human who can control a self-constructed world. The idea that we don’t need one another collapses in social distancing loneliness. Our myth of rugged individualism permeates our imaginations with visions of selfish success only to be nullified by a submicroscopic infectious agent. It turns out that we need each other because we are social beings who are not immune to the infections of loneliness and isolation.

Our false faith in money and materialism needs to be removed. The virus shakes the idea that economic prosperity shields us from suffering and death. A callous view of life that prioritizes money over people must go. Our bank accounts and 401ks will not protect us from the virus storm. After all, we can’t even find toilet paper! God shakes the false conception that our government can protect us from all enemies. All governments, including America, were unprepared for an invisible enemy that has already killed three times more people in New York than all who died by the terrorist attack on 9/11. God rocks the notion that one nation is superior to another by an infection that ravages all nations. We isolate ourselves in a bubble of nationalism only to find out that the virus which infected us came from Europe after its inception in China. Humanity is global.

THINGS THAT ARE NOT SHAKEN

Our faith in God’s rule cannot be shaken by a virus. The author of Hebrews wrote, “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1). God’s got this! He is still on His throne. We may not see it, but we can believe it. No natural calamity can remove true faith in God’s sovereignty. Faith rests in truth we cannot see. We have received a “kingdom that cannot be shaken” (Heb. 12:28). Our faith in human nations and political kingdoms can be shaken, but not our faith in the kingdom of God. Human governments fail us. God’s kingdom will last forever. We hope, with a hope that is not wishful but sound, in Christ’s return and the culmination of His kingdom. Our hope in Christ cannot be shaken.

Love for others in need cannot be shaken by a virus. In fact, the events of this past month have put human compassion on full display. We’ve seen the videos of Italians on their balconies serenading each other with songs in the face of death. Nurses singing “Amazing Grace” in hospitals filled with death lift our spirits. The little acts of kindness as people shared food with those in need and delivered groceries to those shut in by sickness encourage us. Firefighters lined the streets to applaud nurses, and doctors risk their health to help the sick in hospitals around our country. We’ve watched images of children enjoying a human car parade to celebrate a birthday and people sharing tender moments with loved ones through nursing home windows because they cannot be together.

 THANKS FOR THE SHAKING!

The greatest need of all is the need for the gospel. The message of the cross and the empty tomb resonate in our world today because of the pandemic. People need the Lord. That truth has not changed because of a virus. If anything, COVID-19 makes the need for the Lord more acute than ever before.

G. Campbell Morgan closed his sermon that war-ravaged Sunday with these words:

“For every shaking of the earth the man of faith thanks God. Only the things which are not vital can be shaken; only the transient can be destroyed. The real things of life abide; faith, love, and hope. Through the shaking these are manifested. Or, as Haggai said, … by this shaking comes the desire of the nations which is Christ Himself. … May He direct our hearts into that patient waiting for Him that is born of our sense that the shaking of all things is of God, and that only that which can be shaken can be destroyed.”