Have you read the little book of Philippians lately? Written to a small community of believers over 1900 years ago, it’s incredibly relevant to us today. Get out your Bible and read these four short chapters in light of our current circumstances. I’m calling it “Paul’s Pandemic Prescription!”
I don’t know about you, but over the past few months, I’ve found myself frustrated at inconveniences, irritated at the hypocrisy and bad decisions of the people in charge, and pretty much not thinking of anything else but when Jesus is going to come and take us home. I haven’t been fearful, as I’m firmly convinced our days are ordained by God and we cannot die one second earlier than He’s already determined. However, my attitude hasn’t always been what it should be.
I see four key admonitions from Paul in Philippians (one from each chapter) that are both convicting and encouraging as we try to navigate the unusual conditions of our changing world with the right perspective.
#1 – Let the exaltation of Christ and the furtherance of the gospel be our daily goal.
Now I want you to know, brethren, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel, so that my imprisonment in the cause of Christ has become well known through the whole praetorian guard and to everyone else, and that most of the brethren, trusting in the Lord because of my imprisonment, have far more courage to speak the word of God without fear. … What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice. … According to my earnest expectation and hope, that I will not be put to shame in anything, but that with all boldness, Christ will even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. (1:12-14, 18, 20)
Paul really was unconcerned about the fact he was sitting in prison. He kept his focus on the real goal of his life, to proclaim the gospel. As he saw the gospel spread because of and in spite of the uncomfortable realities of his current situation, he was thrilled. I believe the same thing is happening today. We know all the pieces of God’s prophetic plans are coming together, and because of it, we should be even more emboldened to share the gospel and speak about the hope and faith we have in Christ.
#2 – Be humble, don’t complain, and don’t argue.
Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. … Do all things without grumbling or disputing; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world. (2;3-4, 14-15)
Ouch. So convicting. I confess I’ve used the word “stupid” a lot lately. Stupid masks. Stupid that stores are closed. Stupid stay-at-home rules. Stupid power-hungry, hypocritical politicians. Paul reminds us that life is not fair, and evil things happen in the world, but that we have a perfect example in Jesus on how to respond. He humbled Himself and was willing to give up His life, trusting the Father to make things right in the end. He did, by the way, and every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord one day. Jesus didn’t get a fair trial. He was manipulated by power-hungry politicians and hypocritical religious people. He set aside His own needs and looked out for our interests. And as Isaiah prophesied, He didn’t open His mouth. Not complaining or arguing doesn’t mean we agree with what’s going on. It just helps us navigate through it and keep our testimony to the world.
#3 – Live as a citizen of the Kingdom.
For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself. … More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ. (3:20-21, 8)
I listed those verses “out of order” because here’s the truth. Unless we know that we are citizens of another kingdom, we will be unwilling to let go of the things of this world. The Bible tells us things are going to get worse, not better. We are going to lose more of what we call “normal,” and if Jesus tarries, we will suffer even more as the birth pangs of the end of the age grow stronger. Paul reminds us that we don’t belong here. We are strangers, aliens. We are just visiting, just traveling through. Don’t expect to be able to hold on to all your stuff, all your freedom, all your physical blessings. The world is going to fall apart for everyone. Remember, your inheritance is in heaven, where moths and rust do not corrupt, and where no thief can ever steal it. Suffering serves one purpose alone for the believer: we know Christ more personally and intimately, in anticipation of our face-to-face meeting that is just ahead.
#4 – Trust God to take care of you.
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. … Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. … I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. … And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. (4:6-7,11,13,19)
Are you terrified you’re going to catch the COVID? Are you fearful that your retirement fund is going to dwindle if the stock market crashes? Are you afraid you won’t be able to stand firm in the face of persecution? That you’ll compromise if things get worse? Are you overwhelmed with all the changes, ready to just give up?
Stop it. God will take care of you. Tell Him your concerns; He promises peace. He will give you the strength you need for whatever you face, and He has obligated Himself to provide for your every need. Trust God; He is trustworthy. You serve the all-powerful, all-sufficient, all-knowing, sovereign ruler and creator. He’s got this.
There you have it: Paul’s pandemic prescription. Take all four pills daily. You’ll be immune to the enemy’s strategies, and be spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and physically healthy until Jesus comes to get us.