What To Do About A Vicious Virus

Bible Book: 2 Corinthians  12 : 1-10
Subject: Covid; Virus; Suffering; Hardships; Trusting God; Faith; Prayer; Growth

What To Do About A Vicious Virus

Dr. J. Mike Minnix, Editor, www.pastorlife.com

2 Corinthians 12:1-10

It has been said that the world is always turning over on someone who was sitting on top of the world the day before. How true that is. Life can be rolling along like a sweet song, but then the sour notes appear.

The world has experienced some incredible advances in the last few years; advances that led to a feeling among us of invincibility. We can go to the moon; we can use devices to see and talk to each other around world – devices which we simply hold in our hands. Things people dreamed of in science fiction a few decades ago became reality before our eyes in the lasts few years. As all this, and many other incredible things increased and progressed in the world of communication, transportation, healthcare, and other fields, we became just a bit arrogant and self-centered as a population. “We can do anything,” became our mantra.

Then, just a few months ago a little virus so small that it cannot be seen with the naked eye paid us a visit. The Coronavirus – known as Covid 19 – made is appearance. Within weeks people were dying all over the world, governments were racing to shut down schools, sports, general economic engines within nations, and they were hustling to get materials for use in hospitals and clinics. “How the mighty have fallen.” One day we think our generation is commanding the universe and the next day we are laid low with a tiny virus that uses our nostrils as a roadway to corrupting our lungs.

Paul wrote something in 2 Corinthians 12:1-10 that it would be wise for us to consider once again in our day. What he penned in this passage is a message of humility and faith in the face of painful, agonizing hardship. In the end, he comes to pronounce the terrible thing we must face can be a blessed thing in this life. Can we do that with the pandemic we are facing today? It all depends on what we do about it.

Look with me at three steps that Paul took in his journey from boasting, to burdens to blessings.

So, look with me at the text of 2 Corinthians 12:1-10

“It is doubtless not profitable for me to boast. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord: 2 I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago—whether in the body I do not know, or whether out of the body I do not know, God knows—such a one was caught up to the third heaven. 3 And I know such a man—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows— 4 how he was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter. 5 Of such a one I will boast; yet of myself I will not boast, except in my infirmities. 6 For though I might desire to boast, I will not be a fool; for I will speak the truth. But I refrain, lest anyone should think of me above what he sees me to be or hears from me.

7 And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan tobuffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. 8 Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. 9 And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Note three steps we need to take when facing something terrible – something we can’t understand – something painful or dangerous.

I. Conceited When Blessed (2 Corinthians 12:1-6)

Paul starts out telling about a time when he experienced something so amazing that it would have been quite easy for him to boast about it. It was an experience that rivaled anything he had heard from any other believer and was one of those things that can make one extremely proud. The incident in question involved Paul being taken up to the third heaven to see things which were so incredible that God forbade him to ever say or write any details about it.

What happened that caused this experience? Some think that Paul saw this vision when he was stoned at Lystra, an occasion when his friends thought he was dead. It was surely a near death experience for Paul, and perhaps in that state God had actually revealed some things to Paul not given to any other follower of Christ. What did Paul see? We don’t know – the Lord would not allow him to tell us. But, we do know that he was carried up to the third heaven.

The idea of the third heaven involves understanding nature as people did in Paul’s day. The first heaven was understood to be where the birds fly. The second heaven was up where the stars are located. The third heaven was in the very presence of God. Surely it would be something amazing to get to visit the literal heaven where believers are with God, and that is something that Paul testified happened to him.

Paul admitted that it would be easy for him to boast about this event. In fact, we all know how easy it is to boast when we are especially blessed. I remember a family gathering some years ago, and one group in our family had experienced some rather wonderful financial blessings. Among all the family they began to boast of this thing and that thing they had purchased, and then they talked about the places they were travelling, and onward they went with one elevated tidbit to another. Glancing around the room I could see that others were not too pleased and were becoming a bit irritated by the flaunting of success.

When we are on top of the world, it is tempting to boast, but it is also dangerous. We have all seen the athletes who have everything one day and are crushed the next. History has shown us the leaders who are heralded in their time, but whose statues are pulled down in another generation. One must be careful about boasting, for pride comes right before the fall (Proverbs 11:2).

So, Paul had these wonderful experiences, but he knew that boasting about it was wrong, and in fact God had forbidden it. The Lord even went so far as to help Paul overcome any temptation boast. Note what happened …

II. Crying When Burdened (2 Corinthians 12:7-8)

Paul points out in verses 7 and 8 that God had given him a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan, to buffet him so that he would not be tempted to boast. Now, one thing is for sure, we don’t know what that thorn in the flesh was with which Paul had to deal daily. People have hypothesized on and on about it, but we simply don’t know what it entailed. We do know this much – whatever it was, it was painful, embarrassing, and difficult for Paul.

So what did he do about this matter? Paul cried out to God - he took the problem to God in prayer on three separate occasions. I believe that means that Paul spent three prolonged periods of time praying for God to remove this awful thing from him, but God would have none of it! No, Paul was going to have to deal with this issue – it would not be taken away from him.

Now, let me stop for a moment here and share something with you about what we are going through right now – specifically what we are going through in the churches with the awful virus having invaded our land, our area and our homes. I have noticed that people are very much divided on how to respond to this matter. For example, some say that the entire virus issue is a government plan to take over our lives. Others believe that it is extremely dangerous and must be dealt with very carefully. Others argue that we must go on as usual because we are to trust God and believe that He will take care of us. Fights have broken out in stores over whether a person should be wearing a face covering when shopping. Even churches have experienced controversies boarding on yelling matches about how to deal with worship and Bible study. Some groups seeking to take advantage of this situation are working to tear down our government through this awful time. Now, listen to me carefully here. The greatest danger in this circumstance is to think that you know everything. Pride, boasting and arrogance are as great a danger as the virus itself.

Here is what we are to do – PRAY! Cry out to God. That is what Paul did. He fell on his knees and said, “God, you know what is going on here. You know that the devil is beating me up. Lord you know that what I am going through right now his uncomfortable, embarrassing, and painful. O Lord, please remove it!”

What did God say t9 Paul's prayer? “NO!” That's right - God said "No" to Paul's request, but God did answer Him. In other words, God revealed to Paul that He had a plan and Paul's idea was not the way forward. It is okay to pray for what we think is right, but it is wise to admit that only God knows what is best.

I want you to understand that God was not caught by surprise when this virus broke out around the world. Just as God used the painful hardship that Paul was going through in his day, God can use this pandemic in our day. We must be humble, pray, and watch what God will do. He has a plan that you and I can’t see. We don’t know it all, and you can see from watching our government officials at every level and from every side that they have no idea what to do either. God knows! Do you hear me? God knows! We must pray.

Paul prayed about his situation and note what happened.

III. Contented when Believing (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)

Verses 9 and 10 tell us that Paul believed that God was at work and he was convinced that his thorn in the flesh was a divine blessing for him. Strange? Yes. True? Yes. Look what that accomplished in his life. Paul became content, even when his request was denied. Paul learned that the Lord always knows what is best for us and for His Kingdom.

God is at work in your burdens as much as He is in your blessings. In James 1:2 we read, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds.” Now that is not something we will do without faith. I mean, think about - you are told to count it pure joy when you are suffering all manner of hardships. Well, how about that? “Pure Joy!" That is what we are told to have when facing trials.

I have to admit it, I don’t like trials. I don’t even like waiting too long at a stop light, much less facing real trials. I don't like it that over half of the Atlanta Braves baseball season has been cancelled. Sure, I know that is not a big deal but James did mention all types of trials and that is a hardship for some of us.

God tells us to count such as pure joy when things aren't going our way. Why? James went on to say that our perseverance in trials will finish its work and then we will be absolutely, totally, spiritually mature. He even went so far as to say that persevering properly in trials will leave us lacking nothing. Wow! How about that. Do you and I face trials with the attitude that God requires? We usually don’t, but right now we certainly need to. The world needs to see that Christians have a joy and peace not regulated by circumstances.

This pandemic is something God can use. Either we will fret and fight, and allow the world to use this to further the cause of Satan, or we will pray and trust God, and then we will see what only God can do.

Paul went on to say in 2 Corinthians 12:9 that God’s grace was sufficient and God's strength was made perfect in Paul’s weakness. Paul then said, “I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” That has to be the peak of maturity - to take pleasure in infirmities, reproaches, needs, persecuti9ns, and distresses. Doing this requires trust and spiritual growth.

Paul found contentment, meaning and strength in learning to trust God through all sorts of problems and trials. We can do that, too.


How much time are we spending in prayer regarding the Coronavirus? Personally, how much time are we spending in reflection concerning what God is teaching us at this time? How much time have we spent praying for our leaders to turn to God for direction? Have you prayed for God's grace to be sufficient in this crisis?

God has called me to Himself in this time, revealing anew that technology is not the answer, medicine is not the answer, and education is not the answer to people’s needs. All those things can be part of the blessing we need, but they cannot meet bring peace when life is falling apart. No, the answer can only be found when we turn to God through Christ and then live in faith right where we are.

Dear Christian, use this time to get before God, and watch how He will use you to speak to the hearts and minds of people who are frightened and gripped with doubt about tomorrow. Let us know, as Paul did, that we can delight in hardship because that is when God reveals His great grace and mighty power in and through our lives.