For all Bible-believing Christians, the COVID-19 pandemic demands that we re-examine our priorities and learn the lessons God wants to teach us through this trial. This crisis has sent shock waves through governments, economies, families and countless lives.
But this crisis did not catch God by surprise.
He is using this trial to get the attention of every human being on the planet, including all of us as Christians. Are we listening to what God is saying to us?
In recent years, false teachers have infiltrated evangelical churches, telling God’s people that there are many paths to God, that we should not preach about the cross and the blood of Jesus, that such topics are offensive to people today. Many self-styled “evangelical” leaders have departed from Biblical orthodoxy. They preach the parts of the Bible they like and ignore what makes them uncomfortable. They are so focused on being uplifting and entertaining that they never talk about sin, repentance or salvation.
Some preach that God doesn’t care about sin or morality, that there’s no judgment, no hell. Instead of Biblical truth, these false teachers dispense empty platitudes such as “love wins” and “the cross is false advertising for God” and “conversation, not indoctrination.” Such unbiblical lies cater to fleshly desires and ignorance of the Bible.
We must not be misled by smooth-talking false teachers. They attract huge followings, but they are entertaining their congregations to an eternal death. Like the serpent of Eden, they tempt us to wonder, “Did God really mean what He said in the Bible?”
The Great Falling Away
According to the American Worldview Inventory 2020, vast numbers of people who claim to be Christians have expressed shockingly unbiblical beliefs to pollsters. For example, 44% of self-described “Christians” in America believe that Jesus sinned like any other human being; just 41% believe (as the Bible declares) that He lived a sinless life.
The study, conducted by George Barna of the Cultural Research Center at Arizona Christian University, said, “Tens of millions of Americans consider themselves to be Christian but do not believe that God is really in control or cares what happens to them.” Barna added that over the last three decades, self-identified Christians have shifted from “learning and thinking about God” to becoming “more self-absorbed,” while denying the existence of moral absolutes.
Are we witnessing the great falling away that Paul predicted in 2 Thessalonians 2? Could we be entering the time Jesus spoke of when He said, “At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people”? (Matthew 24:10-11).
I’m not certain. I only know this: When Jesus returns, I want to be found among those who remain faithful to Jesus and His Gospel, even to the point of death.
God is calling us to a renewed commitment to declare His uncompromised Gospel to this dying world. He is calling us to reaffirm that Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life, and the only Way to God the Father, as Jesus Himself told us in John 14:6.
Some have predicted that the COVID-19 pandemic will spark a revival in the church. Well, revival might come to the church—but only if God’s people remove the idols from their lives and get serious about obeying Jesus and staying true to God’s Word.
There will be no revival in the church so long as we remain obsessed with entertaining ourselves, chasing wealth and seeking sinful gratification. There will be no revival in the church so long as we remain focused on worldly political and social agendas instead of the Kingdom agenda of the Lord Jesus Christ. There will be no revival in the church until we begin praying with and for our children while preparing them to stand firm in the troubled days ahead.
In Old Testament times, revival came when the people of Israel destroyed their idols and turned back to God. If we truly want revival, let us confess our sins and ask God to topple the idols in our lives.
A Viral Gospel
For 13 years, from A.D. 249 to 262, the Roman Empire was terrorized by a pandemic known as the Plague of Cyprian. The unknown disease was probably spread by the movement of the Roman army throughout the empire. The plague was named for St. Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage, who encouraged the faithful during the pandemic. At its height, the disease was killing 5,000 people a day in the city of Rome alone.
The plague triggered the so-called “Decian Persecution,” named for the Roman Emperor Decius. He required every citizen to make a sacrifice to the Roman gods. Those who refused would be imprisoned or executed. Many Christians refused to make the pagan sacrifices—and they were blamed for the spread of the plague.
Yes, some Christians yielded to persecution and defected from the faith. But many others remained faithful unto death. The church in that day impacted the world for Christ. Many were driven far from home by persecution—and they shared the Gospel wherever they went. When they encountered sick and dying plague victims, they offered care and the Good News. The Plague of Cyprian spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ and expanded the church into previously unreached corners of the empire.
In our own era, we Christians must find ways to redeem the sufferings caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Let’s ask God to use this event for His glory and for the spread of the Gospel. Let’s boldly share the Good News of Jesus Christ with everyone we meet.
While wearing our masks to prevent the spread of the virus, we can talk to our neighbors, doctors and grocery store clerks about Christ. We can share God’s truth with people on Instagram and Facebook and Zoom. We can speak peace to their fears, and we can love them into the Kingdom of God.
We face difficult times ahead, but we know that our faith shines brightest in the darkness. Be alert to opportunities. Remain faithful to God’s Word. Remove sin and idolatry from your heart.
Then prepare to see God do amazing things through the faithfulness of your life. ©2020 Michael Youssef
The Scripture quotation is taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version.
Michael Youssef is the founder and president of Leading The Way and the founding pastor of The Church of The Apostles in Atlanta. His latest book is “Saving Christianity?: The Danger in Undermining Our Faith—and What You Can Do about It.”