We are living in a time where the uncertainties of life bring fear to many lives. This COVID-19 pandemic has affected the normal course of human life, and has terrified most people on earth. Dreadful helplessness falls upon those who are infected by the disease, and more sorrows upon those whose loved ones have departed because of the disease. In a global crisis like this, believers need to be reminded of the hope we have in God through Christ. We need to encourage one another to persevere with hope and find ways for gospel advancement. John Piper’s new book, Coronavirus and Christ rightfully serves this purpose in the middle of the ongoing pandemic by reminding believers of the Gospel hope and of God from whom that hope comes. The book calls non-believers to that hope by faith in Christ which Piper calls, “The Rock”, and calls “settled Christians” for gospel missions.
The book begins with a brief explanation of when and why Coronavirus and Christ was written. And the main content of the book is divided into two major sections. The first is ‘The God Who Reigns Over The Coronavirus.’ Here, Piper calls his readers to stand on “a Rock of certainty rather than the sand of probabilities” (p.11). He walks through each chapter in this section giving valid biblical reasons for his readers to stand on the Rock—which is solid, righteous and sovereign. Piper also fleshes out a statement which he calls the secret of being “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing”—“knowing that the same sovereignty that could stop the coronavirus, yet doesn’t, is the very sovereignty that sustains the soul in it” (p.23). Moreover, he explains why God’s sovereign reign is good news for Christians who are in the midst of the present pandemic. And even beyond that, for the various sufferings which we may go through in life.
The second section is ‘What Is God Doing Through The Coronavirus?’This is the question being asked by many Christians and even non-Christians. Building on the foundation of the first section, Piper offers six answers to this question. He grounds the answers in the Bible so as to point the readers to the path of biblical truth rather than fallible human opinions. The answers have to do with sin, God’s divine judgment, repentance, Christ’s second coming, living a God-glorifying, God-enjoying Christian life, and the means that God is using for Christian missions to all the nations.
Piper ends his book with a soul-convicting pastoral prayer. He prays for the deliverance from the sorrows of the present pandemic, for the sanctification of believers through the pandemic, for God to be glorified and Christ to be exalted through our lives, and for God may save many to His kingdom through Gospel missions.
John Piper’s conviction of glorifying God by enjoying Him in all of life is evident from the pages of this book. He rightly points readers to God as the Rock to stand on. His pastoral heart of caring for God’s flock is also evident by the way he urges the applications of his biblical convictions to his readers. He applies the gospel-hope amidst the growing fragility of the world in a simple yet convincing manner. The retelling of the story of his personal dependence on God for hope and life through cancer adds more weight to his testimony of God and His Word being the Rock of certainty against the sand of all probabilities. The way Piper shows that all God’s attributes work together without any contradiction is something we need to be reminded of.
The attribute that he highlights and dwells on very clearly is God’s sovereignty over everything in the universe—a humbling thought, which is difficult for most people to understand and accept. I think God’s sovereignty is sometimes viewed as an attribute of God that brings terror. But Piper shows that it actually consoles our troubled hearts because the God who is sovereign is the same God who gave us His only Begotten Son to save us from our sin and the wrath that is to come. And in Christ, His word assures us that He sovereignly works everything for the good of those who love him.
Even while this book serves the purpose of encouraging believers in the dark season of life, it does not hush the reality of human suffering, especially eternal suffering. He offers the answers to the question of the present suffering on the basis of what God has already spoken in His Word—The Bible. All our questions about what God is doing through COVID-19 might not get the answers we desire, but I believe the answers that Piper offers in this book are the most crucial. These answers have to do with our understanding of sin, the eternal suffering of the lost souls, our Christ-treasuring, Christ-awaiting Christian life, and the glory of Jesus’ name throughout all tongues, tribes, and nations through gospel missions. These answers reflect a worldview shaped by the Bible, and teach us how to think about the challenges we face in life in a God-centred way.
This book is a blessing to the Church which will help in reaching out to the lost and also equipping the saints. It has personally helped me to throw myself upon God in complete dependence—during this pandemic and even in the sufferings of life. The wonder of God’s sovereign reign throughout the earth, and the loveliness of God in Christ towards us has renewed my mind to live for God. I have been encouraged to rely on Him more, to grow in godliness, to cherish Christ above all, and to be mindful of the lost souls. I would describe this book as being hope-filled, Word-centred, heart-searching, sin-convicting, gospel-reminding, mission-driven, Christ-magnifying, and God-glorifying. And this is why I hope and pray that many, both believers and non-believers, would read this book so that souls may be saved and lives may be lived for the glory of God alone.
Boboy Nameirakpam Singh is a church planter in Imphal, Manipur