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Should We Lose Sleep over the Coronavirus?

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Trusting God in the midst of a heart-wrenching situation like the coronavirus outbreak—Is it similar to Peter sleeping soundly while chained between soldiers?

About that time Herod the king laid violent hands on some who belonged to the church. He killed James the brother of John with the sword, and when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. (Acts 12:1–3)

Dear Friends,

Now this may surprise you, but I actually thought about the question “Should I lose sleep over the Coronavirus?” after reading a passage in Acts, where King Herod had killed James the brother of John and then arrested the Apostle Peter. Peter was the most prominent of these Christians—he was their ringleader. As I pondered Herod’s opposition to Christianity, I thought of the many “Herods” we’ve had to deal with over the years at Answers in Genesis (AiG).

The “Herod” Factor

In a way Herod, to me, represents the “broad way”—those who love darkness rather than light (John 3:19).

Herod obviously hated Christianity. But really, it was a hatred of God. In a way Herod, to me, represents the “broad way”—those who love darkness rather than light (John 3:19). And those who seem to have an illogical obsession with going after anything that’s Christian. The world has always been opposed to the Christian message, Christian faith, and the church.

Herod had no real reason to persecute the church. Christians were not harming anybody. They were law abiding and doing a great deal of good in their actions and teachings. But such opposition like that from Herod is always based on nothing but unreasonable prejudice. He was afraid of the Christian faith.

Such people are wicked to the very core: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9).

These people are at war: “For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot” (Romans 8:7).

Anti-Christians cannot discern spiritual truth: “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14).

If you as a Christian lived in Herod’s day, would you lose sleep thinking about his persecution of Christians?

“Herods” and the Creation Museum

When we applied for the re-zoning of a piece of property on which to build the Creation Museum back in 1996, a group of atheists (and others) opposed us. They spread a lot of false information and stirred up so much trouble that the local authorities (the fiscal court) overrode their own zoning and planning committee’s recommendation and voted against us. This opposition gave us sleepless nights. The opponents thought they had won. But when the press (and we got a lot of it!) asked me if we would then give up building the museum, I told them “no”—that God had something better in store for us. WE PRAYED!

Then we continued to search for another piece of property and found one right at an interchange on Interstate 275, where the Creation Museum is located today. It was a far better property. Now, obtaining this land wasn’t easy sailing either. As a result of a local election, the new fiscal court voted to approve the rezoning for this property. One of the new commissioners that people had voted into the new fiscal court ran specifically because of what had happened to us on our first rezoning attempt. He was a total outsider, but surprisingly defeated the incumbent and joined the fiscal court. It was an amazing miracle of the Lord.

But, in 1999 some people got together (including atheists again) and launched a lawsuit against us to stop the rezoning and the museum project. We had to fight this in court and, praise God, we won. It was another hard struggle. Certainly, though, I can say that through all this opposition:

As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. (Genesis 50:20)

Now over the years, those who oppose us (atheist groups, secular media, compromising Christians, including Christian academics, liberal church leaders, and so on) continue to level false accusations against us in various ways. They seek to do all they can to try to undermine our integrity, thinking they may stop the impact of the AiG ministry. But in reality, God has used this opposition to publicize the Creation Museum and AiG ministry even more.

“Herods” and the Ark Encounter

When we launched the Ark Encounter project, we immediately began to feel the opposition from the same groups of people. At one stage, a young reporter with a national news agency wrote a couple of articles against the bond offering, which we were using to help raise significant funding for the Ark project. His articles included a lot of false and misleading information, all obviously meant to harm us.

Because we had officially launched this bond offering just before this reporter’s articles were published, we were not allowed, by law, to respond publicly to these false accusations; we were in what is called a “quiet period” leading up to the sale of the bonds. It’s a long story, but as a result of these misleading articles, our bond offering was in jeopardy as some financial institutions reversed their commitments and would no longer allow their clients (our supporters and others) to purchase the “Ark bonds” through their accounts!

It was miraculous, but 30 minutes before the bond offering was to close, the entire $13 million had all come in!

Consequently, we were $13 million short of the amount needed for the bond with just a week before the bond closing date. Now ,that certainly gave me restless nights! We had to raise $13 million in bond and donations in just a week! WE PRAYED. Then we worked hard to contact foundations and other supporters to explain the situation. It was miraculous, but 30 minutes before the bond offering was to close, the entire $13 million had all come in! We could then launch the construction of Ark project.

Yes, it was easy to lose sleep over this situation.

Atheists, many in the secular media, and others have continued to spread lots of false information about the Ark (and Creation Museum) in their ongoing attempts to stop this attraction from impacting people with the truth of God’s Word and the gospel. Certainly we know what “fake news” is when it comes to many in the secular media. But the number of people visiting the Ark and Creation Museum just continued to grow (except, of course, since we’ve had to close to the public during the current coronavirus situation).

Other Struggles

Over the years we’ve had so many other struggles, not knowing at the time how AiG could survive them. Once again I had many restless nights. Many people don’t know we were $3 million dollars short in our cash flow to get the Creation Museum opened in 2007. The whole project was in jeopardy. We had two days left before we would need to abandon the opening of the museum. After spending time in prayer, someone who knew of our situation was able, through various circumstances, to line up financing to enable us to have the cash flow until the donations were able to cover it. Another miracle!

“Storms”

We’ve had a number of “storms” to deal with that could have had serious negative impacts on this ministry—but by God’s miraculous hand and his providence, we were able to deal with them. But unknown to us, the biggest “storm” ever was to loom its ugly head in March 2020—the coronavirus. Now more sleepless nights.

Coronavirus Impact

As the AiG leadership has been observing the awful impact of the coronavirus situation on the world and the AiG ministry, I sat down and reflected on many of our past challenges (“storms”).

As the AiG leadership has been observing the awful impact of the coronavirus situation on the world and the AiG ministry, I sat down and reflected on many of our past challenges (“storms”). At the time, humanly speaking, we didn’t see how AiG could move forward. But look at what God has done in building the AiG ministry with the two attractions and in turning AiG into a global outreach, one that impacts tens of millions of people per year! As we deal with the fact that the Ark and Creation Museum are currently closed to the public (as of April 2020), and thus we now have catastrophic loss of income, I again struggle to see how we are going to get out of this. So I need to remind myself of what God has done in the past and remember the miracles only God could (and did!) do. I admit, I have had some restless nights recently.

Tired of the Battle

I must also admit that I sometimes cry out to the Lord that I’m tired of the battle—the ongoing never-ending struggle in ministry. We’ve been battling in creation ministry for over 40 years. Yes, at times, I’m weary of the battle. I’m only human. I often find it hard to sleep, concerned about the staff we had to temporarily lay off recently. I’m concerned regarding how we protect the ministry until we can open our attractions again. It’s so easy to let these issues go over and over in your mind and have restless nights.

“Little by Little”

In some small way, it seems there’s an analogy between the struggles we’ve had over the years and the battles the Israelites had when they were claiming the Promised Land. They had to battle Jericho and Ai. God had given them the land, but they still had to do the physical battle. It’s like the Christian life in general: we are pilgrims battling through this hostile world.

Now God reminded the Israelites they wouldn’t conquer the land all at once: “I will drive them out a little at a time until your population has increased enough to take possession of the land” (Exodus 23:30 NLT). And “The LORD your God will drive those nations out ahead of you little by little. You will not clear them away all at once” (Deuteronomy 7:22 NLT).

In a sense we’ve had to battle our own “Jerichos and Ais.” And I’ve found that, once we’re on the other side of a battle and we can heave a sigh of relief, I think, “Now, what’s the next battle going to be?” Yes, “little by little” over the years we’ve battled, we’ve struggled, we’ve prayed—but we always stand back and rejoice to see what God has done.

And right now, it seems the biggest battle we’ve ever faced is for us to try to do whatever we can to survive the attack of the coronavirus!

And right now, it seems the biggest battle we’ve ever faced is for us to try to do whatever we can to survive the attack of the coronavirus!

“Life Wasn’t Meant to Be Easy”

When I lived in my homeland of Australia, one of our prime ministers used to say, “Life wasn’t meant to be easy.” In a way (and I’m sure the prime minister didn’t realize so when he said it), he was reflecting a Christian worldview. Because of sin, we live in a fallen world. Man’s sin has affected everything. Even the ground was cursed. Life isn’t easy in this fallen world. Romans chapter 8 describes the world we live in and calls it a groaning one:

And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. (Romans 8:23)

First-Century Christians

As I think about those first-century Christians and the opposition from Herod and leaders of the Jews, I also ponder what life must have been like for them 2,000 years ago. Who knows what struggles they had in their everyday life? Did they endure many sleepless nights? Did they struggle to get food and clothing? What diseases did they have to deal with? What kind of suffering did they endure just by living in this world? And on top of that, they were being persecuted to the point of death. And we think we have struggles today?

What lessons can we learn from the early Christians?

What lessons can we learn from the early Christians? How did they respond to difficult situations? What did God do? How should we respond likewise today?

Responsibility and Sovereignty

All through Scripture I see man’s responsibility and God’s sovereignty working hand in hand as believers struggle through this world. I often explain it this way. First, I consider the raising of Lazarus from the dead:

Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” . . . So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.”

When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.” (John 11:38–44)

Of course Jesus could have moved the stone away himself with one word! He is God. In fact, Jesus could have made the stone disappear in an instant. But humans can also move stones. So Jesus commanded people to move the stone way. But Jesus, by raising Lazarus from the dead, did something humans couldn’t!

I’ve often likened the AiG ministry to this account in John 11. Non-Christians are dead in trespasses and sin (Ephesians 2:1). In fact, my late brother Robert often said that when you preach to a non-Christian, you are preaching to a walking, dead person! We as humans can’t raise a dead person to life. But we can move the stone—including the stumbling blocks of false information, answering tough questions, dealing with doubt and so on, and pointing people to the ONE who does raise the dead.

Yes, we understand there’s man’s responsibility and God’s sovereignty.

Man’s Responsibility

Now consider these passages about our responsibilities as Christians:

But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect. (1 Peter 3:15, emphasis added)
[A]ppealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. (Jude 1:3, emphasis added)
How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” (Romans 10:14–15, emphasis added)

In doing these things, we point people to the Word of God that saves.

God’s Sovereignty

So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. (Romans 10:17)
For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. (Hebrews 4:12 NLT)
[S]o shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it. (Isaiah 55:11)

Yes, man’s responsibility and God’s sovereignty work together.

For an example of this balance between man’s responsibility and God’s sovereignty, consider Nehemiah in the Old Testament.

There are many examples in God’s Word of man’s responsibility and God’s sovereignty working hand in hand that we could point to.

Nehemiah

For an example of this balance between man’s responsibility and God’s sovereignty, consider Nehemiah in the Old Testament. He supervised the rebuilding of the wall of Jerusalem. When he received threats from those opposing the wall’s rebuilding, what did Nehemiah do? Read this passage:

And we prayed to our God and set a guard as a protection against them day and night.

In Judah it was said . . . When our enemies heard that it was known to us and that God had frustrated their plan, we all returned to the wall, each to his work. From that day on, half of my servants worked on construction, and half held the spears, shields, bows, and coats of mail. (Nehemiah 4:9–16)

Nehemiah prayed, but at the same time he armed his workers. He trusted God, but as part of his human responsibility, he made sure his workers were protected.

Peter Arrested

Now back to our passage from Acts:

About that time Herod the king laid violent hands on some who belonged to the church. He killed James the brother of John with the sword, and when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. (Acts 12:1–3)

So Herod killed James and arrested Peter.

What Did God’s People Do?

This was a time when, from a human perspective, the early Christians were helpless. They couldn’t fight the Roman army! And four squads of soldiers (16 of them) were responsible for guarding Peter! After all, these apostles had a reputation for disappearing from prisons!

And when he had seized him, he put him in prison, delivering him over to four squads of soldiers to guard him. (Acts 12:4)
The people organized a prayer meeting at the house of Mary. As part of their human responsibility, that’s what they could do.

The people organized a prayer meeting at the house of Mary. As part of their human responsibility, that’s what they could do. Now, I’m sure they got the word around that there would be a secret prayer meeting and planned the details. Presumably they were risking their own lives doing this. That was their human responsibility. Then they prayed to the only One who could carry out a miracle for Peter.

[E]arnest prayer for him was made to God by the church. (Acts 12:5)

What Did Peter Do?

I’m sure Peter realized that from a human perspective there was no hope for him. He had four squads of soldiers in charge of guarding him. He was chained to two of them. There was no way humanly speaking that he could escape. Peter knew Herod had killed James and intended on killing him. But Herod wouldn’t kill Peter during this time as that would be unlawful.

As Acts 12:3 records: “This was during the days of Unleavened Bread.” Peter was a Jew and knew all about the days of unleavened bread. During those days it was a rule and a custom that no one could be put to death. But Peter knew that when these days of unleavened bread came to an end, the King would put him to death.

I think Peter had resigned himself to believing his time to die had come. So what did Peter do from a perspective of human responsibility and God’s sovereignty? Let’s read this text carefully:

Now when Herod was about to bring him out, on that very night, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries before the door were guarding the prison. (Acts 12:6)

Did you get that?

Read it again below and notice the following section I bolded and ponder it:

Now when Herod was about to bring him out, on that very night, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries before the door were guarding the prison. (Acts 12:6)
I’m sure Peter had spent much time in prayer after being arrested. And I’m sure he witnessed to the guards. But now Peter was sleeping!

Now I’m sure Peter had spent much time in prayer after being arrested. And I’m sure he witnessed to the guards. But now Peter was sleeping! Tell me: If you were in prison chained to two guards and knew that in the morning you were to be taken to be killed, would you be sleeping peacefully? Peter was sleeping so soundly, he had to be awakened by an angel. I believe Peter so trusted His Lord, that he had come to grips with the situation and was ready to die and be with His Lord. He was at peace about it. Face to face with death, Peter slept soundly. And God gave him this blessing of sleep. His human responsibility was to trust what he knew a Christian should do: “[Cast] all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).

And as Christians, we know God’s Word teaches us this:

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:7)

When King David was surrounded by his enemies, we read the following: “I lay down and slept . . . I will not be afraid” (Psalm 3:5, 6). And “in peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety” (Psalm 4:8).

Back to the Coronavirus Situation

When the severity of the coronavirus situation suddenly changed in America and the world, we knew that we at AiG had another battle to fight. How should we respond? Well, once again we had to think through the question of man’s responsibility and God’s sovereignty.

First of all, we prayed. And we continue to pray. Note God’s Word doesn’t say “if you pray”—no, it states “WHEN you pray.” Matthew 6:5–7 uses three phases: And when you pray . . . But when you pray . . . And when you pray.

Prayer is the ultimate weapon of the Christian faith.

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6–8)

We pray, continue to pray, and act.

  1. We prayed. We obeyed those in authority over us—we closed the Creation Museum and Ark Encounter to the public.
  2. We prayed. We earnestly prayed to seek direction at what we should do with greatly reduced income.
  3. We prayed. We had no option but to make responsible decisions, so we had to temporarily lay off the majority of the staff. But our leadership worked hard to help them and give them all the information we possessed so they could receive financial assistance and medical coverage. We are all one big family and are so burdened for our family.
  4. We prayed. Other staff volunteered to greatly reduce their pay or go unpaid to help others and the ministry. Other salaries were reduced.
  5. We prayed. We cut costs and stopped as much spending as possible.
  6. We prayed. We called donors to ask if they would re-designate some of their restricted donations to help the ministry survive this time of shutdown.
  7. We prayed. We sent letters and emails to our supporters telling them of our financial need to protect the ministry. Some of our staff began calling supporters to let them know of our dilemma.
  8. We prayed. We devised new ways through social media and other avenues to continue teaching the truth of God’s Word and the gospel, to reach as many people as possible with biblical truths. We began doing new Facebook Live and YouTube programs for kids and adults.
  9. We prayed. We continue to meet daily and pray for the Lord to protect our staff, the ministry, and allow us to reopen as soon as possible.
  10. We prayed. We rest in the knowledge that we’re doing all we can from our human responsibility. Now we trust the Lord in his sovereignty will impart a burden in people to pray for us and support us financially.

We Bear One Another’s Burdens

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:2)
If one member suffers, all suffer together. (1 Corinthians 12:26)
We pray for our supporters. We pray for America and other nations. We pray for the church. We pray for each other. We help each other in many and varied ways.

We pray for our supporters. We pray for America and other nations. We pray for the church. We pray for each other. We help each other in many and varied ways.

But Should We Lose Sleep?

Can we be like Peter and sleep at a such a time? I try to put myself in Peter’s place. Would I have the faith and trust in the Lord as Peter did and sleep peacefully, believing you will be killed by one of the enemies of God the next day? If he can do that, can’t I trust God enough in this storm we’re in right now and sleep peacefully?

To be honest it’s very hard! I admit I’ve failed at this. But if we truly trust Christ and recognize AiG is his ministry, that we are just stewards of it, and we’ve done the very best we can to make the right decisions as we’ve cried out to him during this difficult time—shouldn’t we sleep peacefully? Won’t God give us this blessing of sleep?

And regarding those staff (and their families), friends, and supporters who are now struggling financially and in other ways: I know it’s so easy for me to say this, but do we trust Christ enough to be at peace in the situation we’re in so we can sleep soundly? Now, that doesn’t mean you sit back and do nothing. Many will have to fill out certain forms. You will have to work out strict budgets. You may have to make changes in your lifestyle and in your priorities in many areas.

Yes, thinking about what’s happening to all of us and the ministry of AiG can keep me up at night. I admit that. But we all need to look at the lesson God is teaching us through Peter’s example. Let’s try to sleep soundly in the knowledge that the One who numbers the hairs of our head and even knows what you’re going to say before you say it is watching over you.

But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. (Matthew 10:30)
Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it altogether. (Psalm 139:4)

Remember

But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? (Matthew 6:30)

Sleep Soundly

I pray we will all will sleep more soundly tonight, recalling: “Now when Herod was about to bring him out, on that very night, Peter was sleeping” Acts 12:6.

May each one of us learn to trust our Savior more every day, as we look to him more than we’ve ever done. And may God grant us that blessing of sleep.

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