We checked in with Pastor Mike Adkins for his answers to some of your most frequent questions.
Do you believe this pandemic is a sign that we are living in the “end times” described in Revelation?
When people ask this question, I think they’re often filled with fear. Is every day a day that’s closer to the end of time? Absolutely. But Revelation also says there will be wars, and rumors of wars, and earthquakes…and when has that not been the case? People throughout the centuries have believed they are living in the end of days — I know that there were those who lived through the World Wars, the Holocaust, the Civil War, and even 9/11 who thought that the return of Jesus was imminent.
There are so many different beliefs regarding the end times, and the Bible tells us Jesus Himself doesn’t know when He’s going to return — only the Father knows that — so in that sense, we need to stop trying waste our gospel efforts and energy on figuring out the end of days and just live faithfully and leave that up to God (Matthew 24:36).
What we need to do is focus on the here and now, and say, “How is my life? Am I trusting in the gospel?” Let’s move our attention from fear that this is the end, to saying, “Our focus is on the gospel now and what the gospel means for me.”
And when Christ does return, it will not be a bad thing! God’s people will be made new and healed of our sin once and for all. Revelation 21 talks about Eden restored, and it’s a beautiful picture that once again we will be with God. If we have to walk through a difficult season to get there, let’s remember two things: first, we focus on the gospel moment by moment, and second, we trust in the future God has for us. Good is ahead.
Why would a good God allow suffering? Do you think this virus is punitive?
When we think of suffering and something being punitive, we often think of a bad father. We’ve all experienced injustice at some point, so we have a tendency to project that back onto God. But it’s important to understand that God’s heart is never punitive toward those who love Him; His heart is corrective. Injustice is not in one particle of who God is. So everything that God does for His people is always for our good and His glory.
Why would a good God allow global suffering? Because He’s doing something. And we can’t be reductionistic in our answer and say, “Here’s the one thing God’s doing.” He could be doing a million different things in a million different people and places. He is infinite and in control of every single thing. In the middle of suffering and struggle and hardship, it’s important to remember that God is at work and He loves us.
How do you personally combat anxiety and discouragement?
I truly believe that our brains are like computers, and we can choose what sort of program to run — whether a good program or a bad one. I talk about this a lot when I counsel people: our thoughts guide our emotions which, in turn, guide our choices.
So for me personally, if I’m feeling anxious or discouraged, I’ve got to put good things in my head. I push back on negative thoughts by remembering, quoting, and meditating on God’s Word. This is what the Bible means when it says, “We take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5).
But I also do specific things that help me push back on anxiety right now. For me, I have to be physical. I’m still exercising and staying active as much as possible. You’ve got to find what works for you. What probably doesn’t work for most of us in the long run is sitting around eating a bunch. Be proactive about your fears.
Some people need to walk around in their backyard, some people need to get on the phone and talk to someone, some people need to turn off all social media, some people need to disconnect from technology, some people need to pop on a good movie. Ask God what He designed you to do.
At the end of the day, though, you could do all those other things, and if you don’t put God’s Word inside your heart, then they’re like dessert with no real nutrients. You won’t be healthy for long. Grace is offering opportunities to connect with God’s word every single day on our social media right now.
Do you have concerns about the future of Grace Church?
God brought Grace into existence when I didn’t even want to be a pastor. When I left my last job, I was thinking about going back to medical school. People literally started leaving letters at our door saying, “Hey, God told me to go with you and plant a church.” It was this really supernatural thing. I was resistant at the very beginning, but over time, God spoke to me and to my wife, and we planted Grace.
I say that to say this: God is the One who started Grace Church, not Mike and Kelly. The Bible teaches us that He who began a good work will bring it to completion (Philippians 1:6). Do I think we’re done? I really don’t. I think we have amazing things ahead of us. God is with us. He’s for us. He loves Grace more than any of us, including Kelly and me.
Any other thoughts on how we should respond to this?
My first advice is that crisis is not a time to make a radical, life-altering decision. This isn’t the time to decide on divorce, move to another state, dump your retirement plan, or anything else wildly reactionary. High emotions equal low IQ. We don’t do our best thinking when we are led by emotions, especially fear. Have patience. Be thoughtful. Seek wisdom.
Second, Christians are called to be the church, and I’m shaping our thoughts around four words in this season: pray, serve, gather, and give. These four things are the historical calling of God on believers throughout the history of the church. We pray and acknowledge that He is the source of all things. We serve because we are called to love our neighbor. We gather in any way we can — online right now — because the church is a community. We give because God is generous and we strive to be like Him. This is your daily recipe for life.
Do you really believe good is still ahead?
100% I do. I really do. At the end of the day the concept of “good is ahead” is not about our comfort. It’s about our healing. It’s rooted in the doctrine of glorification, because one day God is going to heal all the brokenness and the stain of sin that we carry with us forever and ever.
Think about that for a second. You and I have never known one minute of our own existence that hasn’t been tainted by sin. When the Bible says, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived the things God has prepared for those who love Him” I think it’s because we’re going to be fundamentally transformed (I Corinthians 2:9). We’re going to be so completely different because never again will sin be part of the equation in how we think, feel, or act. It’s incredible to think about.
So good is ahead doesn’t just mean that you have a wonderful raise coming down the road, or you’re going to get into the school that you applied for — sometimes God does those things, and it’s a blessing for sure — but the reason I believe good is still ahead is because God does. It’s not based on our circumstances. It’s based upon His promise, and I trust that with all my heart.