It isn’t difficult to find out what’s going on with the latest virus fear spreading around the world. Several years ago, fears were being spread (via the media) about the Bird Flu, SARS, West Nile, Swine Flu, etc. Now, it’s 24/7 coverage of Ebola and to a lesser yet significant extent the Enterovirus. These are legitimate virus’ and there is a continual legitimacy to contracting them or any of those previously mentioned, or the common cold, or the flu, or rabies, or cancer, or even getting hit by a bus or struck by lightning. While the odds may not be equal between those, there nevertheless remains a possibility. The problem with turning to the news for information concerning the latest virus to spread is that they can only report and speculate, they cannot control. We can turn to any major news station right now and get the latest headlines on the treatment of those who are stricken with Ebola, the strategies for how to contain it, the blame for not doing enough or doing the wrong things. Watching this, it would be easy to reach the conclusion that Ebola was spinning out of control on its own self-wrought plan to bring civilization to a crippling halt and cease existence as we know it. The problem with that…? Ebola is not in control, nor has it ever been. Neither is, nor has any other virus or for that matter molecule. While we may be able to turn to the news to find out whether this latest virus is spreading to a neighborhood near us and perhaps even the precautions we can take to avoid getting it, we will not hear, dare I say never hear, that Christ reigns supreme over the entire universe, including the spread of Ebola and that it does not operate outside of His sovereign authority. For that we turn not to the media, but to the pages of Scripture that magnify the supremacy of Christ. In that, and in that alone we can rest our fears.
Our sinful natures are naturally bent towards unbelief and one symptom of doubt is fear. The over-information and speculation of the news media simply stokes the coals of doubt and fear that are already existent and causes us to lose focus on Who it is that is in control and upon Whom we should set our trust.
In Hebrews 1:3 we get a glimpse of the supremacy of Christ over the universe, “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.” Of particular interest is the phrase, “He upholds the universe by the word of His power”. What does this mean exactly? I take it to mean that Christ “upholds the universe by the word of His power.” Simple enough. The universe is an all-encompassing statement, such that the extent of Christ’s power is unlimited. Throughout the Gospels we get insight into the supremacy of Christ over nature, the spiritual realm, diseases, and even death. In other words, His supremacy extends throughout the entirety of the universe.
Supremacy over Demons: Mark 1:21-28; 1:37-39; 5:1-20; 7:24-30; 9:14-29
Supremacy over Disease: Mark 1:29-31 (fever); 1:40-45 (leprosy); 2:1-5 (paralysis); 3:1-6 (withered hand); 5:25-34 (issue of blood); 6:53-56 (healings in Gennersaret); 7:31-37 (deafness); 8:22-26 (blindness); 10:46-52 (blindness- Bartimaeus)
Supremacy over Death: Mark 5:35-43 (Jairus’s daughter)
Supremacy over Nature: Mark 4:35-41 (calms the storm/seas); 6:30-44 (feeds the 5000); 6:45-52 (walks on water); 8:1-10 (feeds the 4000);
When we read these passages yet continue in fear, doubting the supremacy of Christ over any aspect of life, we are in sin. Just yesterday I was contemplating the spread of Ebola in light of how God has used pestilence in Scripture and in history as well. I came upon an article discussing the Bubonic Plague that ravished much of London in 1665-66. Of note in this article was the Puritan Thomas Vincent whose congregation was suffering under the grip of the plague. The article stated that 68,000 people had died in the city of London, including seven in Mr. Vincent’s own house as he cared for them and ministered alongside them as they suffered. Yet in all his exposure, the Lord sovereignly protected him every step of the way. The author of the article is quick to point out that Vincent had no guarantee from God that he would not contract the disease, yet he entrusted himself into the sovereign care of God under no obligation that his life would be spared. In his book The True Christian’s Love to the Unseen Christ Vincent writes:
“If you have but little love to Christ, you will be apt to faint in the day of adversity, to shrink when you are called to take up His cross and suffer for His sake. Lesser sufferings will decompose you, greater sufferings will frighten you and amaze you, and you will be in danger of turning into fearful apostates in time of great trials. There is need of great love to Christ, as well as great faith, to carry you through sufferings with courage that you may persevere unto the end” (p. 33).
As in Vincent’s day, Christ’s reigns supreme even now. Like the pestilence in Scripture and the Bubonic Plague in the 1600’s, Ebola is not a rouge virus that is running rampant unchecked in the universe. It is within the sovereignty of Christ. It neither afflicts nor is avoided without Christ’s sovereign ordination. That should be a great comfort for the believer and should put to rest any fears and doubts that may arise, whether stirred up by the media or others. If Christ is so concerned with the details that neither a sparrow falling from the sky nor a hair turning black or white escapes notice, will not He also supremely rule over the most vicious of viruses? Should believers contract it, as the missionary workers in Liberia, we can know that the virus will not run its course nor take a life apart from Christ’s sovereign decree. Should it take a believer’s life, what great consolation there is in knowing that there is therefore now no condemnation in Christ and that upon the conclusion of their suffering, they are ushered into the glorious presence of the Majesty on High to rule and reign with Him for eternity. Does that sound like a worthy prize for the temporal suffering that a virus might bring? I should hope so.
If you are an unbeliever, take special notice. Though Christ is supreme, His arm is not shortened preventing Him from bringing any affliction He desires upon you for the purpose of bringing you to repentance or resigning you to judgment.
Christ will use means, such as Ebola, getting hit by a bus while crossing the street, or simply old age, to either usher believers into the presence of His glory or resign unbelievers to the place of eternal suffering, apart from His glory. Through His death on the cross and resurrection on the 3rd day, He has defeated death. Subsequently, all those who are united to Him by faith will likewise defeat death upon their resurrection. The question is not when or by what method, but who. Who is your faith in? Are you united to Him by faith, or apart from Him by rebellion and unbelief. In either case, Christ reigns supreme and He will get glory out of both the vessels of wrath and the vessels of mercy, but rest assured there is nothing rogue or outside of His dominion. All authority in heaven and on earth is His.