In a sermon livestreamed to an empty sanctuary on Sunday, March 15, Pastor Tony Evans addressed the global pandemic, using the last few verses of Hebrews 12 to explain that he believes God is using the crisis to call people back to him.
“God is talking,” said Dr. Evans, “and one of the ways God speaks is through allowing circumstances into our lives and into our world that are not pleasant. He allows those circumstances to get our undivided attention. It’s a wake-up call.”
Pastor Tony Evans Explains What’s Going On
“I want to take just a few moments to answer the question probably on most people’s mind, and that is: what on earth is going on?” said Pastor Tony Evans. To answer that question, he said, we need to recognize “a very important biblical principle…Everything visible and physical is preceded by something invisible and spiritual. So if you want to deal with the physical, visible problem you must identify the invisible, spiritual cause.” Put another way, “If what you see is all you see, you do not see all there is to be seen.”
See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks. If they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, how much less will we, if we turn away from him who warns us from heaven? At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” The words “once more” indicate the removing of what can be shaken—that is, created things—so that what cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our “God is a consuming fire.”
The passage contrasts the visible, created world with the invisible, spiritual realm of God’s kingdom and warns people not to refuse to listen to God when he is speaking to them. From these verses, which describe God shaking the earth, Evans drew the principle that God allows disruptions into our lives in order to get our attention.
God has not been a priority in American society, said the pastor. We have marginalized him and turned to idols instead. When we forget about God, said Evans, “Oftentimes, in the Bible and in the world, God will shake things”—that is, he will allow the normality of our lives to be impacted. We know God is speaking now because our world has been disrupted.
“This pandemic has disrupted our lives, our work, our play, our sports, our travel, our fun,” Evans said. “It has disrupted our gatherings. It has turned what was normal and made it abnormal. In fact, it’s made it, in some sectors, very dangerous. But this is a grand opportunity to return to the God who allowed the shaking to occur.” The opportunity is for us to stop putting our hope in created things, as the Hebrews passage says, and instead to trust in God as citizens of his kingdom, which cannot be disrupted or shaken.
The pastor compared our current suffering from the pandemic to the pain women experience in childbirth. Labor is extremely painful, and no one desires that suffering in and of itself. But when we recognize that new life is the result, that becomes “good news in a bad situation.”
Evans believes there is a lot of good that has come as a result of the pandemic. People in our nation’s capital who were not talking to each other before are talking now, he said, and people across the country are helping one another and trying to be more responsible. Said Evans, “God is forcing us to not just say we’re one nation under God, but to start acting like we’re one nation under God.”
Even though Evans did say the virus “is not chance,” he clarified that he does not believe God is deliberately inflicting suffering on people. God is not causing the virus, but he is allowing it in order to accomplish a spiritual purpose.
Pastor Tony Evans on Living in God’s Kingdom
So what does this mean for those of us who are already part of God’s kingdom? It means, said Evans, that we should 1) give thanks and 2) serve other people. “Did you know you can give thanks right now?” he asked. “You don’t give thanks for the problem—you give thanks in it.”
He noted that we’re being told to wash our hands a lot, and said, “Well, as you wash your hands, I want you to wash somebody else’s feet. I want you to go and serve your neighbor.” Now is not a time for fighting or arguing, he emphasized. Now is a time for serving and showing kindness.
“If you are a Christian, if you’re part of this unshakable kingdom, I want you to give thanks that this pandemic does not own you cause God owns you,” said Evans. “Don’t be a casual Christian. This is a time for full-time Christians, not part-time saints.”