We are living in biblical times. These are the “last days” foretold in the scriptures. Paul warns Timothy that: “in the last days perilous times will come.” (2 Timothy 3:1-5).
However, what he calls perilous is remarkably different from what we normally regard as perilous.
Paul’s perilous times do not include the current rash of terrorists and suicide bombers. He does not refer to the rampant incidence of armed robbers and kidnappers. He is not concerned about global warming and natural disasters; such as earthquakes, hurricanes, and tsunamis. He does not even pay attention to wars and civil unrest.
Instead, Paul concentrates on the sins of the human heart. For him, perilous times will come because men will be lovers of pleasure, among other evils.
If you would like to wave this off as some inconsequential mumbo jumbo, think again. Take another look at the current coronavirus pandemic and you will discover that it is afflicting lovers of pleasure especially by the millions and killing them by the hundreds of thousands.
For COVID-19 to be contained, there has to be a lockdown for a season, and there has to be social distancing, at least until an effective vaccine is developed. People also need to wear masks in public.
But lovers of pleasure cannot abide by these guidelines. They cannot stay at home. They cannot do social distancing. Neither will they wear masks. They insist on going to the pubs, to the beaches, and parties. As a result, they are infected predominantly by the coronavirus and are dying like flies.
You may well ask: “What is wrong with loving pleasure?”
The truth is that, like money, the love of pleasure is the root of all kinds of evil. You cannot love two masters: if you love pleasure, you cannot love God. (2 Timothy 3:4).
The man who loves God must hate sin. However, sin is pleasurable. Therefore, what is pleasurable is not necessarily of God. James asks: “Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members?” (James 4:1).
Wicked people enjoy their wickedness. But a child of God has been redeemed from the evil pleasures of this world. We must no longer enjoy sin: “For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another.” (Titus 3:3-4).
David says: “In (God’s) presence is fullness of joy; at (His) right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (Psalm 16:11). However, the pleasures of the Lord are completely different from those enjoyed by men. (Isaiah 55:8-9).
What is pleasurable to the flesh has no value whatsoever to the spirit. Therefore, those who want to be close to God must mortify the deeds of the flesh because God is Spirit.
God lovers are debtors: “not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if (we) live according to the flesh (we) will die; but if by the Spirit (we) put to death the deeds of the body, (we) will live.” (Romans 8:12-13).
As a young believer, I had one obsession: to end up in heaven. It was my singular prayer point. But one day, I was playing a videotape of a concert by the gospel singer, Ron Kenoly. Looking at the film, a friend of mine said excitedly: “This is what we are going to be doing when we get to heaven.”
I suddenly discovered that, despite my preoccupation with heaven, I found the whole idea to be entirely disagreeable. I said in my heart: “How boring that would be?” and the Lord heard me. I could not find anything exciting about spending a week singing praise songs non-stop, how much more spending eternity doing so.
So, the Holy Spirit engaged me in my obsession with heaven. “Femi,” he asked. “Why do you want to go to heaven?” I could not answer because the only reason why I wanted to go to heaven was to avoid the afflictions that I was told awaited those who go to hell.
Then He dropped the bombshell. “Femi,” He said, “heaven is not for you. There is nothing in heaven that you like. There is no food in heaven. There is no sex there. None of the material possessions you crave are in heaven. Why would you want to spend eternity in such a boring place?”
I learnt my lesson. Heaven is not for carnal lovers of the pleasures of the flesh. Heaven is for the spiritually-minded who love God.
Jesus says those given to pleasure cannot receive the word of God: “All too quickly the message is crowded out by the cares and riches and pleasures of this life. And so, they never grow into maturity.” (Luke 8:14). Accordingly, Solomon says: “He who loves pleasure will be a poor man; he who loves wine and oil will not be rich.” (Proverbs 21:17).
Without realizing it, we are often confronted with a stark choice: the love of God or the love of pleasure. The love of God entails affliction in the world, while the love of pleasure prescribes sin as a way of escape. Therefore, Elihu cautions: “Beware of turning to evil, which you seem to prefer to affliction.” (Job 36:21).
The scriptures tell us that: “By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward.” (Hebrews 11:24-26).
“Therefore hear this now, you who are given to pleasures, who dwell securely, who say in your heart, ‘I am, and there is no one else besides me; I shall not sit as a widow, nor shall I know the loss of children’; but these two things shall come to you in a moment, in one day: the loss of children, and widowhood.” (Isaiah 47:8-9).
Judgment of God
That is the verdict of the current pandemic. The coronavirus is God’s “great army.” (Joel 2:25). He has sent it to the scornful who despise His ways.
Right now, in the middle of this rampaging coronavirus, 250,000 motorbike riders are having a raucous rally in Sturgis, South Dakota, U.S.A. They are not wearing masks, neither are they observing any social distancing. They are having a good time, dicing with sickness and death.
A reporter asked one of them: “Why are you doing this? Why are you taking this risk?” The man replied: “We just want to have some fun.” He asked another biker: “Are you not afraid of contracting the coronavirus?” “Hell No!” the man replied. “You’re going to get it sooner or later anyway.”
Paul says: “she who lives in pleasure is dead while she lives.” (1 Timothy 5:6). That is why COVID-19 is killing lovers of pleasure by the lorry-load, while lovers of God can take wise precautions. It is the judgment of God.
Isaiah tells God: “When Your judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness.” (Isaiah 26:9).