This year, I started doing a “Current Events” sermon once per quarter. It’s time for our next one! The way the current events sermons work is that I wait until the week of the sermon to decide what to preach about, because I want the current events topic to actually be current. Last quarter I had a bunch of options, and even in the middle of the week I wasn’t sure what to talk about. You can read the series of blog posts about that sermon starting here. This time the topic was rather apparent.
What have you been hearing about God’s role in the coronavirus pandemic?
Have you heard that God sent the coronavirus to America because our nation needs to be pushed down to its knees? Even if you haven’t heard that, some people have suggested it.
I find that idea troubling. I want to respond with, “Are you telling me that God sent a virus to punish America, and in the process he was okay with the virus killing thousands of people in China, Italy, and many other places around the world? All because he wanted to punish America?”
“Well,” the person might say, “Maybe he is trying to get the attention of the whole world. He started the virus, and he won’t allow it to be eradicated until the virus has accomplished his purposes for it.”
“Wait a minute,” I answer, “God would send a pandemic to kill thousands and thousands of people just to get our attention? Does that sound like God?”
Again the person might suggest, “Well, no, that doesn’t sound like God, and yet if God is in control, isn’t that what is happening?”
Ah, there we have it. Our topic for today: God is in control.
I can’t tell you how many times I have heard the phrase “God is in control” in connection to the virus. There are many similar statements Christians say when we’re going through hard times. Have you heard any of these?
“Through this virus God is taking away our worldly idols – celebrities, sports, entertainment, our money.”
“God never takes away something in your life without replacing it with something better.”
“So thankful that, even though I don’t know why God brought this virus on us, I know I can trust him and he has good lessons for me to learn.”
Do any of these statements represent a healthy way to describe God’s interaction with the world? More importantly, what does the Bible say about God’s involvement in the world? Does the Bible teach that God is in control?
I googled “Does the Bible say that God is in control?” and found that the internet has a lot to say about this topic! One article from Beliefnet lists 8 Bible verses the article claims show that God is in control. The point of the article is to give comfort to those struggling with difficult times, and I love that. But not a single one of the 8 verses listed say that God is in control.
Here are a few the article lists:
- Isaiah 41:10 “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
- Psalm 46:1 “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.”
- Philippians 4:6-7 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Check the other examples yourself: 1 John 4:18, Psalm 94:19, Luke 12:22-26, Psalm 27:1, Revelation 1:17. Every single verse is amazing and truthful, but none of them say the words, “God is in control” or teach something like that. Instead they all say that God is strong, and because he is strong and loving he is with us in the midst of the trouble. While that is true and wonderful, and a needed reminder during this pandemic, it is very different from the idea that God is in control.
So is there anywhere in the Bible that teaches that God is in control? It depends who you talk to. There are biblical scholars who say without a doubt that the Bible clearly teaches that God is in control of all things. And there are biblical scholars who say that the Bible does not teach that God controls all things.
Check in to the next post as we’ll take a look at some of both.