March 21, 2020
Dear beloved congregation of Provident PRC,
In times like this, the Lord might give opportunities to let our light shine before men by our good works. I pray that your neighbors will notice that you do not fear COVID-19, but you have hope, and that they ask a reason for your hope (I Pet. 3:15). Be ready to give an answer!
We are going through a strange and uncertain moment in our lives! We did not expect the pandemic of COVID-19. Just a few weeks ago, we observed the hand of God in the eruption of Taal Volcano and we had no idea that soon we would be bound to our homes because of a worldwide pestilence. But our almighty God and Father determined this moment before the foundation of the world and works everything according to His perfect plan (Eph. 1:11)! He directed that microscopic coronavirus to infect a human in China. He controlled those tiny viruses as they traveled from one human to another, one nation to another, one continent to another. He sent plagues of disease on Egypt long ago, bringing that mighty nation to its knees, to show His power and declare His name in the earth (Ex.
9:13-16). He has now sent the plague of COVID-19 on a world that continues to oppose Him and serve other gods. He has brought the mighty nations to their knees by a microscopic germ! “Behold, the nations are as a drop of a bucket…. All nations before him are as nothing…” (Is. 40:14-17).
But do not fear, for God is our God for the sake of
Jesus Christ. “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God.” (Is. 40:1-2). What is your only comfort in life and death? That I with body and soul, both in life and death, am not my own, but belong unto my faithful Savior Jesus Christ (Lord’s Day 1)! God has forgiven all your iniquities and healed all your diseases (Ps. 103:34). God is your refuge and strength, a very present help in time of trouble (Ps. 46:1). He is with you in your homes. He is with us in our home too. Although we might feel alone and separated from our church family, we are never alone for God is with us.
Remember that God has no wrath toward us whom He loved and redeemed through the death of His Son.
Though He sends trials into our lives to increase our faith and teach us patience, He does not pour His wrath upon us because He has already done that at the cross. Jesus took your sins and my sins on His shoulders and suffered much worse than the coronavirus to pay our debt. He gave His blessed body to be nailed to the cross and suffered the anguish of all the plagues of God’s eternal wrath for you and me! He finished that suffering. It is all finished. Then He arose from the dead with the victory over death! Do not fear the coronavirus. Say with the courage of faith, O coronavirus, where is thy sting? O COVID-19, where is thy victory?
The providence of God means that “health and sickness…yea, and all things come, not by chance, but by His fatherly hand.” The advantage of knowing this is that “we may be patient in adversity…and place our firm trust in our faithful God and Father, that nothing shall separate us from His love; since all creatures are so in His hand, that without His will they cannot so much as move” (Lord’s Day 10).
Maybe one reason the Lord shut us inside our homes is to give us the good gift of time to read His Word and other good literature, to draw near to God in prayer, to think about spiritual things, and to have fellowship with our families.
Fear not, beloved! For Jesus promised to come again for us. He will make a new heaven and earth, and God will wipe away all tears from our eyes, and there will be no more death, sorrow, or pain, for the former things will pass away (Rev. 21:1-4). Jesus promised that before the end there will be earthquakes, famines, and pestilences in various places (Matt. 24:7). Jesus, who loves us, is fulfilling His own prophecy. He is opening the seals of the book of God’s counsel, including the fourth seal that sends the pale horse with the power to kill with pestilence (Rev. 6:1-8). Jesus is coming for us! He is preparing the world for His final appearing on the clouds of heaven. Remember what He said: Watch, lest coming suddenly I find you sleeping! (Mark 13:36-37).
So, we will have to stay at home and cannot assemble at church for a while. That makes us truly sad. But we must submit to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake (I Pet. 2:13-17). God ordained government for this very purpose to be “the minister of God to thee for good” (Rom. 13:4). We ought to pray for our rulers so that we might “lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty” (I Tim. 2:1-2). The government has imposed an “enhanced community quarantine” so we may not do many of the normal things we do, including assembling for public worship. If the government forbade us to assemble for worship in order to outlaw Christianity or the Reformed faith, we would have to obey God rather than men (Acts 5:29). That would mean persecution and fleeing. But the government has not done that. It has banned mass gatherings of all groups and religions to prevent the virus from spreading. We ought to support that effort to protect our health and the health of others. “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” In love for our families, we will keep them safe at home. In love for our neighbors, let us follow the government guidelines and help those in need. In times like this, the Lord might give opportunities to let our light shine before men by our good works. I pray that your neighbors will notice that you do not fear COVID-19, but you have hope, and that they ask a reason for your hope (I Pet. 3:15). Be ready to give an answer!
We, the Holstege family, are doing fine here at our home in Antipolo. The school our children attend has suspended classes. We are not sure if or when their classes will resume. Sis. Leah and I are taking care of our children at home. We only go outside our gate to get food. We are content with the Lord’s will that we stay at home for a while. We miss all of you. We missed worshiping with you last Sunday and will miss it again tomorrow. I missed our Wednesday Bible study and Saturday catechism class. Lord willing, we will be able to resume church activities in the middle of April. Until then, our souls may sing, “As pants the hart for streams of living water, so longs my soul, O living God, for
Thee; I thirst for Thee, for Thee my heart is yearning; when shall I come Thy gracious face to see?” (Psalter #115, stanza 1).
We hope you are all healthy and well in your homes. Feel free to contact an elder, deacon, or me if you have any concerns. On Sunday, we plan to participate with you by watching the worship services of Zion PRC, as the elders arranged, and by singing together with our children. The pastor of Zion is my brother, Rev. Joe Holstege. We look forward to hearing him because we rarely have that opportunity. He is the bunso (youngest) in my family. I am the kuya (oldest brother).
All things work together for good to us who love God, who are the called according to His purpose. Maybe one reason the Lord shut us inside our homes is to give us the good gift of time to read His Word and other good literature, to draw near to God in prayer, to think about spiritual things, and to have fellowship with our families.
Be not discouraged that we cannot go out as usual. Count it all joy. Rejoice in the Lord. Redeem the time. Soon, Lord willing, the quarantine will be lifted, and life will continue. This will be only a brief moment in the big picture of our lives. God is waking us up, calling us to look away from our normal routines up to Him and the things of heaven. Let us devote this time to Him and rejoice that eternity is drawing closer and closer.
In Christ’s love,
Rev. Dan Holstege