Photo by Ben White
Does the 2% death rate statistic comfort you? What does the Bible say about comfort during calamity?
Some sources are saying that the mortality rate of COVID-19 looks to be 2%. However, it is too early to say. The percentage will be bigger or smaller depending on various factors (such as the age of the people infected, access to the needed medical treatment, etc.). I think we should acknowledge a few things about the statistic. First, 2% looks like a small number. And it is. At least, relative to a larger number.
Second, to put it into perspective, 2% of the population of the world is around 140 million people. That, as we can see, is a lot of people. COVID-19 could rival the AIDS epidemic. Of course, it seems highly unlikely that everyone in the world will get the virus. But even a fraction of that number is a lot of people. And it’s important for us to see the numbers from this vantage point so that we don’t play the numbers down.
What is the correct response to the coronavirus? Should we have fear or faith?
Well, the answer to that question depends on where you’re coming from and your understanding of this world…
The Bible teaches Christians that through Christ, no matter what we face, we can have faith. We can have hope.
Reflecting on the resurrection of Jesus helps us have faith. It helps us see that we have a solid, untouchable hope.
In Acts chapter 2, Peter refers to Psalm 16 which is a Psalm that king David wrote. Psalm 16:27 says, “For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One see corruption.” In Peter’s message he said: Friends, I can confidently tell you something about king David: He is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us today (Acts 2:29). David is dead and his body rotted.
David did, however, as a prophet tell us that one of his descendants would sit on his throne (v. 30). So, David saw in advance and told us about “the resurrection of the Messiah: ‘His body was not abandoned to the realm of the dead, nor did His body see decay’” (v. 31).
Paul tells us the same thing but he says it a little differently. He says King “David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep and was laid with his fathers and saw corruption” (Acts 13:36). King David saw corruption. His body decomposed. So, David is not the “Holy One” that the Psalm refers to.
Paul goes on to say, “But He whom God raised up did not see corruption” (v. 37). Ding, ding, ding! Jesus is the Holy One! He is the long-awaited Messiah and forever King!
Jesus is the fulfillment of David’s prophecy. Jesus was neither abandoned to the grave nor did His body undergo decay. Peter said that God raised Him up and that he was a witness of that truth (Acts 2:32). And so Peter, the faithless denier, became faithful even to the point of death, and even the death of upside-down crucifixion.
Therefore, Peter’s body, and our bodies can dwell in hope (Ps. 16: 9) even when they are buried six-feet under because of the resurrection of Messiah Jesus! So, when those in Christ die we grieve but not as those with no hope (1 Thess. 4:13). We have hope because of Jesus’ resurrection (v. 14)!
Jesus is the first bodily resurrection in a long line of resurrections. Therefore, no matter what we face—“tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine”—nothing can separate us from the love of Christ (see Rom. 8:31-39).
Therefore, we don’t need to fear famine, we don’t need to panic at the prospect of a pandemic. Why not? Because Jesus says, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore” (Rev. 1:17-18).
I’m not sure what the mortality rate of the coronavirus but the mortality rate for all of us is 100%. Hebrews 9:27 says, “It is appointed for man to die once, and after that the Judgment.”
We will all die so what hope do we have? Jesus! His body did not see corruption! He is the suffering one as promised in Psalm 22 and He is the Holy One as promised in Psalm 16.
Through Jesus we have hope. His body did not see corruption, He rose from the dead. And all those who trust in Him will rise as He was raised. And so, “Fear not” (Rev. 1:17). Jesus is the First and the Last, He is the Living One. He died but behold He is alive forevermore.
 Tradition says that Peter was crucified upside down in Rome under Emperor Nero. See also John 21:18-19.
 This is true of David’s body, Peter’s body, and it’s true of all those in Christ, because Jesus, though crucified, did not see corruption! Jesus rose from the dead and He will bring a large host with Him (Is. 53:11, 12)! 1 Corinthians 15 talks about Jesus being the firstfruits, and there’s a ton of more “fruit” to come (v. 20, 23)!
I woke to the sound of rain drenching everything in its path and my daughters quiet voice asking if the dog can still go out to use the restroom. “Yes, please take the dog out!” was my urgent reply.
I have always loved the rain. The sound it creates as it slaps the ground, rushing along the path it created just moments ago. It is a gift from God. He uses the rain to feed and nourish all His creation. All of our senses are brushed by His creation. We shiver in the dampness, we smell & taste the sweet yet dank rain, we hear and see the chorus of individual drops dissolve.
I’m learning as Christians that we’re all fellow sufferers. We’re all limping and crawling towards the finish line. We all have scars. They’re different but we all have them. I have them, you have them, and no matter what we do our kids will have them. We live in a broken world and we’re sadly broken.
Temptations are plenty, victory feels sparse, and sufferings abound.
We need to walk hand in hand. We need to carry each other’s burdens as it says in Galatians. Who am I to look down on you with your burden and brokenness?! Who am I not to extend a hand of grace when I have stumbled so often and took others?!
Jesus was tempted too, though thankfully He was forever without sin. And Jesus was limping too. In fact, someone had to carry His burden for Him. Someone carried His burden up to the point of His crucifixion. And yet He bore the ultimate burden their.
Jesus is brokenness incarnate. He broke. He wept and wailed. And in His agony sweated great drops of blood.
He broke for us. And He breaks alongside of us. He suffered for us. He suffers with us. He intercedes for us.
He who knows no bounds. He who is beauty, took on woe. He who deserves nothing but highest and infinite praise was broken to the depths. He was sorrowful unto death.
Jesus the Lord, Master, and Creator of all, suffered. How can we, His servants, expect anything less?
Father, by Your Spirit, grant that we may suffer and walk (or limp) well and honor Your Son Messiah Jesus. And haste the day when we shall see You face to face where sorrows shall be no more! And Father, help us Your children to walk this weary life hand in hand, fellow pilgrims on the way to the land of peace and plenty. We trust and we wait as we walk heavenward. Help us we ask in Christ. Amen.
We see through James P. Boyce’s and Charles Spurgeon’s life that they were entrusted with great gifts but we also see through a survey of their biographies that they also suffered great grief. We have much to glean from them. We will see that we are all called to be faithful stewards of what God has entrusted to us. Though it will be difficult to various degrees we can endure what God has called us to by the grace that He grants us.
Hear Spurgeon’s words:
I know you will tell me that the gold must be thrust into the fire, that believers must pass through much tribulation. I answer, Truly it must be so, but when the gold knows why and wherefore it is in the fire, when it understands who placed it there, who watches it while amid the coals, who is sworn to bring it out unhurt, and in what matchless purity it will soon appear, the gold, if it be gold indeed, will thank the Refiner for putting it into the crucible, and will find a sweet satisfaction even in the flames.
Thus, even as we face difficulties we must entrust ourselves to a God, as Spurgeon did. Even in the midst of Spurgeon’s great suffering he “never doubted that his exquisite pain, frequent sicknesses, and even despondency were given him by God for his sanctification in a wise and holy purpose.”
A Great Work At A Great Cost
Spurgeon and Boyce both had great life works but they both suffered great loss in their lives as a result. Boyce, who founded the seminary I went to, said that the seminary may die but that he would die first. He would worked rain or shine for the prosperity of the school. He said that he did not own the seminary but rather it owned him. Boyce kept the seminary alive and fed it with almost his own heart’s blood. Thus we see that Boyce clearly realized that he would have to imitate his Lord’s long-suffering. There was “mammoth energy and sacrifice involved” for Boyce “in setting the seminary securely during the trials of decades.” “Boyce endured the press of ‘anxieties, trials, and labors” during days when the seminary’s future appeared bleak and exerted ‘herculean toils’ to surmount these seemingly invincible difficulties.”
Similarly, Spurgeon was not a martyr, but he chose to die every day. He suffered with gout; he gave his money, his time, and himself completely to the Lord. God used Spurgeon greatly. He wrote over 140 books, penned around 500 letters a week, spoke to thousands of people each week, started an orphanage, started a pastor’s college, and led countless people to Christ, among other things. That was all possible because he gave himself entirely to the Lord. One of Spurgeon’s biographers, Arnold Dallimore, said, “Early in life he had lost all consideration of his own self, and his prayer that he might be hidden behind the cross, that Christ alone might be seen, had expressed his heart’s chief purpose.”
Spurgeon said, “It is our duty and our privilege to exhaust our lives for Jesus.” Boyce, similarly, had an “entire devotion.” Likewise, Paul was greatly used by God because he gave himself unreservedly to Him; even to the point of much affliction. If we are going to be used by God, for His glory, we must unreservedly sacrifice all and He must get all, Christianity is all-encompassing. May our chief boast be Jesus Christ, and Him crucified (Gal. 6:14).
Jesus held the weight of the world on His shoulders, even the sin of the whole world. Yet, Spurgeon and Boyce surely often felt as if the weight of the world was on their shoulders. However, they also felt that their burden was easy (cf. Matt. 11:30), and they knew that through Jesus Christ their reward would be great (2 Cor. 4:17). Both Spurgeon and Boyce knew that the cross came before the crown, trials before the triumphant Kingdom. So, Spurgeon said, for instance, “Good men are promised tribulation in this world, and ministers may expect a larger share than others.”
I would do well to remember the price that godly men and women have paid throughout the centuries when I become discouraged in my work. The writer to the Hebrews wrote about various faithful men and women to encourage the recipients of the letter to endure in the face of persecution (see Heb. 11). I need to remember “the great cloud of witnesses” (Heb. 12:1), including Spurgeon and Boyce, and run on with endurance (cf. v. 1).
Martin Luther talked about the theology of the cross. I think both Spurgeon and Boyce had a clear understanding of this theology. In fact, I think Spurgeon could have written his own tome on it. Both Spurgeon and Boyce lived a life of strenuous endeavor, to borrow Theodore Roosevelt’s words. Yet, they did not box as one beating the air (1 Cor. 9:26). Rather, they knew for what they labored, they labored for the Lord, and thus knew their labor was not in vain (1 Cor. 15:58). Spurgeon, as he loved Bunyan’s great work and read it around one hundred times, certainly would have agreed with Lloyd-Jones’s observation: “The great truth in Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress is not that Christian endured great hardships on his way to the eternal city, but that Christian thought it to be worth his while to endure those hardships.”
Spurgeon and Boyce ironically suffered with some of the same physical bodily afflictions. They both suffered with bouts of gout, for instance. Gout is typically the worst when body temperature is lower. Gout very often targets the big toe but can also cause joint pain in wrists and fingers as well as fatigue. Symptoms from gout can actually be so intense that the weight of a sheet can be unbearable. However, the physical pain was multiplied for these great men when you consider all that they were incapable of doing when they were laid up because of their pain. Though they sought to make the best of this time, surely they often felt anxiety and perhaps guilt over what they were unable to accomplish during these bouts.
Yet, their great enemy, to borrow the words of Spurgeon, was also a great teacher. We see in Spurgeon’s biography that his great suffering enabled him to better relate to people (cf. 2 Cor. 1:4). Suffering taught both Spurgeon and Boyce humble reliance on the Lord. This brings to mind Paul’s thorn in the flesh (2 Cor. 12:7). Even as Boyce and Spurgeon were writhing in pain I am sure they thought (1) that God was sufficient to use frail jars of clay (2 Cor. 4:7), (2) that God is sovereign and when they weep He still reigns and cares for His Church, and (3) that though they were indeed experiencing great suffering it was nothing compared to the eternal wrath that the suffering of the Son of God had averted for them. Thus, though these great men knew great suffering, they both grew instead of grumbling. Their gout was a rod that dished out sanctification.
I would do well to look at these men’s example and hear again, “Good men are promised tribulation in this world, and ministers may expect a larger share than others.” I may or may not deal with the physical pain that they dealt with but I can certainly learn from their patience in the midst of it. I must also remember “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master” (Matt. 10:24). If Jesus my Master suffered then I can expect nothing less.
During one of Spurgeon’s bouts with depression he said, “I could weep by the hour like a child, and yet I knew not what I wept for.” Not only did Spurgeon have a natural disposition to depression but the weight of his position and responsibilities also was heavy upon him. He said,
Our work, when earnestly undertaken, lays us open to attacks in the direction of depression. Who can bear the weight of souls without sometimes sinking to the dust? Passionate longings after men’s conversion, if not fully satisfied (and when are they?), consume the soul with anxiety and disappointment… The kingdom comes not as we would, the reverend name is not hallowed as we desire, and for this we must weep… How often, on Lord’s-day evening, do we feel as if life were completely washed out of us!
Thus we see that Spurgeon, “the prince of preacher,” was sometimes even depressed about his sermon on Monday or even as he walked down from the pulpit on Sunday. He said these words to a group of ministers, “We come out of the pulpit, at times, feeling that we are less fit than ever for the holy work. Our last sermon we judge to be our worst.” “We experience dreary intervals of fruitless toil, and then it is no wonder that a man’s spirit faints within him.”
Psalm 22 has an amazing amount of parallels with Jesus’ experience on the cross on Good Friday. It says he is surrounded by rough enemies that want to harm him (v. 12), he is attacked by their words (v. 13), he is exhausted and close to death (v. 14), he experiences fatal dehydration (v. 15), his hands and feet are pierced (v. 16), his bony frame is exposed (v. 17), and his garments are divided and cast lots for (v. 18 cf. Matt. 27:35).
Reading this Psalm you almost expect David to say something close to “Father, forgive them” because the account of Jesus’ crucifixion is foreshadowed so many times (see also Ps. 69:4, 9, 21). Instead, in somewhat of a parallel passage to this Psalm and in great contrast to Jesus, David calls for God’s burning anger to overtake his enemies (69:24), he pleads that God would “add to them punishment upon punishment” (v. 27), and that they would be “blotted out of the book of the living” and “not be enrolled among the righteous” (v. 28).
Messiah Jesus instead Himself receives punishment upon punishment, His life is blotted out, and He joins the unrighteous on a cursed cross (see Is. 53:9 and Matt. 27:38) to save His enemies, those who are far from Him. Jesus is the perfect lamb of God, the lamb without blemish, that takes away the sin of the world (Jn. 1:29; 1 Pet. 1:19).