In my lifetime, I cannot recall living in a time as unique as the one in which we are living right now. I’ve never experienced a pandemic, and the “stay at home” mandate is unprecedented for me. I am out of sorts, not in a routine, don’t have a dedicated space to work in my own house, and feel so unproductive, not to mention the isolation I feel from the rest of the world. It’s disconcerting since there are losses I cannot fix or control.
Everyone – Meaning Everyone
But as I reflect upon my own circumstances, I realize that everyone on the planet right now is experiencing loss. At some level, everyone has lost something they cherish. Everyone.
Sometimes we say “everyone” when we really don’t mean “everyone.” For example, a simple statement like “everyone knows that a touchdown is 6 points” seems like it could be true, but when literally applied, not everyone watches or cares about the sport of football, so that statement cannot be true.
Unique and Universal
But when we think about the coronavirus’s impact upon the world, everyone is losing. The loss during this time is truly universal and that makes it unique.
Whether you are rich or poor, located locally or globally, tall or short, etc. you are experiencing a loss. Some losses are severe and permanent, while others are less severe because they are temporary. Many have lost loved ones to the virus, and the worldwide death toll is alarming. Others have lost their jobs and income. Schools have closed along with all of the events associated with them.
On the other end of the spectrum, some have lost the opportunity to go out to eat at their favorite restaurant, to go shopping, to watch their favorite sport team, or to attend church services. At a base level, the loss of freedom and movement impacts our relationships. And it is not just in the United States but worldwide.
A pandemic is defined as a disease that is impacting every continent of the entire world. Other pandemics have occurred in history, but the event that ushered in a universal loss for truly everyone occurred in Genesis 3. In that chapter of recorded human history, mankind made a choice that resulted in the universal curse of sin and death. Now, everyone dies. In addition, everyone is born with a sinful nature. Having a sinful nature simply means each one of us has a desire to please ourselves.
Pleasurable Pursuits and Distractions
So death is universal, and yet we humans typically do our best to try to forget this reality, even if temporarily, by throwing ourselves into our work, our families, our hobbies, our sports, our home projects, our addictions, and anything else we enjoy.
These pursuits for pleasure enable us to escape the felt reality of sin, suffering, pain, and discomfort. However, these pursuits often turn into “addictions” as we practice choosing them instead of God and they eventually enslave us. Unfortunately, these “addictions” only enable us to forget our poverty temporarily since the truth is that when the pleasure wears off, the sin, suffering, pain, and discomfort all return. In reality, they never went away! There is no escape. There is nowhere to run away from this internal “enemy;” it lives within the desires of one’s own heart.
“Healthy at Home”
Our state is calling our shutdown, “healthy at home,” where we all stay in our homes to mitigate the virus from spreading. It is a good plan. But it will never completely isolate us from the potential of the coronavirus since we so heavily rely upon others to live (i.e. grocery stores for food, electricity, running water, Wi-fi connections, police help, fire department help, medical services, etc.)
We truly are not completely isolated from the coronavirus or any sickness for that matter.
That’s not to say that we should not do mitigation behaviors and stay at home as best as we can — we should stay at home because it is working to decrease the numbers and save lives. But the reality is that there is no way to avoid some level of loss during this pandemic. And ultimately there is no way to avoid the end we must all face. Death and loss are universal.
Thankfully, God has given His children a message to share with others that is universal, too. It is the opposite of loss. His message is NOT that He is going to fix our pandemic. God never promises that. But He does offer us a powerful promise in the Gospel message. It is a message of true hope. God’s message to us is great gain.
The Apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 1:21: For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. God’s message to us is to gain the gift of eternal life…
at a great cost…
and with great loss.
But the cost of the great gift was paid for by the Lord Jesus Christ.
The loss was His alone.
The gift is His to give. It is a gift of great gain for those who receive Him – both the afterlife and gain in this life, too. The recipients gain this gift by grace through faith as Ephesians 2:8-10 clearly states:
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
But the recipients are required to repent of their sins after recognizing their great universal loss. Yes, everyone is born into sin with a sinful nature, and everyone commits sin which makes everyone guilty. Yet Romans 5:6-8 reminds us of God’s mercy and grace:
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
The Gospel Message is Good News
The Gospel message communicates great gain after you and I recognize our great sin and the incredible sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ to atone for our wrong-doings. Consider Galatians 2:20:
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
God could not have communicated any more clearly His gift of great love to those willing to repent and to receive it by grace. Since this is a website about all types of “addictions,” that’s one big reason why re-labeling the sin of drunkenness and idolatry into the worldly terms of alcoholism and addiction violently opposes the Gospel message. In other words, the Gospel is a message of hope for the sinner not for the person afflicted with a so-called disease of addiction.
GAIN IN THIS LIFE
Biblically, there are gains in this life according to Philippians 3:7-8:
But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.
The promises of God do not guarantee a pain-free life but a life that is never lived alone as the Holy Spirit takes up residence inside of a believer (see 1 Cor. 3:16; 2 Tim. 1:14). And the Holy Spirit enables a person to be transformed in how they respond to the evil desires that tempt the addicted person from within. Philippians 2:12b-13 verifies this truth by stating:
work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
A New Ability to Choose Obedience
That gift of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit enables the addicted person to say “no” to the desires within that tempt you, and to say “yes” to the Holy Spirit’s new desires. There is great gain and hope in having the new heart and ability to obey God’s commands for His glory.
Living by God’s commands is the best way to live (even though your flesh doubts that is true at times). God knows best and He has provided His own strength to combat your internal, tempting, and addictive heart desires. And the gift of great gain even gets better in this life with the produce that manifests in a follower of Christ’s life:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. (Gal. 5:22-25)
That’s a promise to the transforming addicted person to experience the blessings of the fruit of the Spirit for the purpose of glorifying God.
But godliness with contentment is great gain, 7 for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world.I Timothy 6:6
In a time of unprecedented, universal loss, you and I are reminded of our continual state of loss due to sin, suffering, pain, and discomfort in this life. However, our Savior, Sanctifier, and Creator God has a message of great gain for us to receive in both this life and in the life everlasting. It is an eternal gift that we who believe have already received, and yet we wait for it longingly, while we live obediently in this life by sharing this message of a sure hope with others who have yet to hear and believe it.