Let me ask you a question, ‘Have you a giant in your life that needs to be overcome?’
Many would say that the current global pandemic is a giant sized problem, without doubt it is one that is likely to continue, in one way or another, to effect all our lives for a good while yet. But even giant sized problems can be overcome.
The question posed above is one that is sometimes asked by motivational speakers encouraging those facing difficulty to look to the story of David and Goliath for the inspiration necessary to overcome their problems. Undoubtedly there are wonderful things to be learnt from this well known biblical passage, but the mistake that is often made is to imagine that in order to get anywhere in life we all just need to be a bit more like David. And the reason this is a mistake is that, if we are to identify with anyone in the story, it shouldn’t be with David but rather with the terrified Israelites who are quivering in their boots at the prospect of going out to battle the Philistines.
Because David, when he goes out, as Israel’s representative in battle, to fight the Philistine champion Goliath, is not a picture of who we should be but rather a picture of someone who would come after him and who would himself act as the representative of the children of God, somebody who would one day go out to battle their enemy on their behalf. Because David, the shepherd boy who became King is a picture of Jesus, the King of Kings who was, and is, the Good Shepherd who laid down his life for his sheep.
The coronavirus, of course, is not really the biggest problem we face, it is but a manifestation of our biggest problem. Because, although the vast majority of us will not succumb to Covid-19, we will, despite the media’s apparent belief that death is an anomaly, all one day die. Rather than the coronavirus, it is death itself that is our biggest problem.
Death is the last enemy, it is the giant in our life that needs to be defeated. But defeated it has been, not by us, but by Jesus.
Regardless of how it might come about, the reason we all die is because we are all by nature sinful. Just as the chickenpox rash is the evidence of that particular virus being present within us, so too our individual acts of wrongdoing are the evidence of our desperately sick hearts. For sure some of us are more spotty than others but it remains the case that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God [Romans 3:23]. And the wages of sin is death [Romans 6:23].
If death is to be defeated, if it’s power over us is to be taken away, then something has to be done regarding our sin. That is not something we can do ourselves and that is why we should, like those scared Israelites before Goliath, find ourselves quivering with fear before death. Unless of course we have one who can fight the battle for us, a Saviour who can secure the victory we could not. Wonderfully, in Jesus, that is exactly what we do have.
Since the sting of death is sin, if sin is dealt with then death loses its power. But until then, as those who sin, we are, as a consequence, doomed to die. Indeed, so inevitable is our death we could be considered to effectively be dead already.
But here’s the good news! We who were ‘dead in [our] trespasses…God made alive together with [Christ], having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him’ [Colossians 2:13-15]
When Jesus was crucified, he took the punishment for everything that we have done wrong. And with sin dealt with we can ask, as others have before us, ‘O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” [1 Corinthians 15:55].
Whilst the NHS is undoubtedly a means of God’s grace for which we are right to be grateful, it’s apparent deification and the nation’s weekly act of worship on a Thursday evening is somewhat disconcerting, and not a little concerning, not only for me but also a number of my colleagues in the medical profession. There is, of course, a place for a little quiet appreciation, but it seems to me that things have gone some way beyond that. Such ongoing acclaim adds a burden of expectation on the NHS that it simply can not meet. Because the reality is that the NHS has never saved a life, nor will it ever. At best, it has only ever prolonged some. And whilst the search for a vaccine for Covid-19 is a worthy endeavour, it’s development will not greatly perturb death who will continue to find novel ways of ending our lives. Furthermore I am not a #NHSHero, nor am I one who is fighting on the ‘front line’. All is quiet at the front since death is already in retreat, defeated by somebody far braver than I and who has already fought, alone, the decisive battle on our behalf.
So, the coronovirus, is it a giant sized problem? Without doubt it’s large in all our minds but the struggle that we are currently engaged in is in reality no more than a minor skirmish in a war that has already been won. Let’s not forget that God isn’t called the Almighty for nothing and, regardless of how well we might prepare for battle, ‘the victory belongs to the LORD.’ [Proverbs 21:31]
And neither let us be in any doubt, ‘Death [really has been] swallowed up in victory’ [1 Corinthians 15:54]. For whilst ‘the wages of sin is death…the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. [Romans 6:23]. Jesus said ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live’ [John 11:25].
He wasn’t wrong.