Four years ago, our Nation was rocked to its very core as we sat transfixed on the image of the mighty World Trade Center crumbling to the ground, killing thousands of people and doing millions in economic loss. In recent weeks, we have faced a similar crisis as Hurricanes Katrina and Rita have devastated the U.S. Gulf Coast. During a time like this, it is only natural to ask some probing questions to both ourselves, and to God.
What is God’s purpose in the midst of these horrible tragedies? Excessive speculation would be spiritually irresponsible, so we must trust Him to reveal that in His own time. Nonetheless, these sorts of catastrophes prompt us to look within ourselves in ways we normally might not. We are graphically reminded of how brief and fragile life really is. A Catholic Priest was recently interviewed on a news program and stated that several of his parishioners had asked them if this could be Armageddon. Of course, the answer to this is no. Armageddon is a future end times battle which will take place in the city of Megiddo which is located in the Jezreel Valley in Israel (see Revelation 16:12-16). Is judgment coming? Absolutely, but keep in mind that God’s wrath is not simply a random act. His wrath is reserved for His enemies (Nahum 1:2), not for His own people (1Thessalonians 5:9).
Throughout the Bible, we see a consistent pattern of God removing His own before He pours out His wrath. He was willing to spare the wicked cities of Sodom and Gomorrah if even ten righteous people were found there (Genesis 18:32), and He would not allow the city to be destroyed until Lot and his family were safely out (Genesis 19:1-20). In the Great flood, God would not allow one drop of rain to fall until Noah and his family were inside the ark (Genesis 7:6-12). Similarly, Christians will be removed from the Earth before the future Great Tribulation (I Thessalonians 4:14-18, 5:9). Since this has obviously not happened yet, we must not jump to hasty conclusions about what does, and does not, constitute an act of God’s judgement . (1)
Even if these events were not direct acts of God’s judgment that does not mean that they do not have spiritual significance. On one hand, hurricanes and other natural disasters are simply an unfortunate part of living in a fallen world. At the same time, God can certainly use these events as wake-up calls. In Matthew 24:4-8, Jesus describes the season of His return as a time of “pestilences, and earthquakes in various places.” In other words, one of the signs of His second coming would be upheavals in weather patterns. Could the dramatic increases in hurricanes and other natural disasters be giving us warnings about the prophetic hour we live in? This should prompt us to evaluate more than ever what is truly important in our lives, especially regarding our relationship with God.
Writing to Christians, the Apostle Paul reminds us: “Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.” (1 Corinthians 10:7, KJV). The Greek word rendered “play” is “paizo” (Strong’s # 3816). This means, among other things, to give way to hilarity, especially by joking singing, or dancing. We are reminded of the “hurricane parties” that were held on the evening before Katrina hit. This is chillingly similar to the people’s cavalier attitudes which predated the Great Flood recorded in Genesis 6 and 7. Christ Himself compares His second coming to the days of Noah, as well (Matthew 24: 37-39).
In the meantime, life does go on, and for the affected regions, the rebuilding process will be slow and difficult. At the same time, keep in mind that we serve the God of the impossible. There was a time when it was “impossible” for people to talk to people without looking at them. There was a time when it was “impossible” for men to fly. It used to be “impossible” to go into outer space, or do any number of other things. Nonetheless, without a genuine turning to God, even the best laid plans will ultimately be in vain. 2 Chronicles 7:14 says it all: “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. ”
This is not the time for politicizing and finger-pointing. No government leader has all of the answers. When nations invade each other, they take tanks, ships, guns, soldiers, and all the other implements of war. This was NOT the way God invaded the world. He invaded the world with a Baby, and this Baby grew up and the 13 of them (Jesus and the 12 Apostles) quite literally transformed the world. Similarly, He awaits now to use His people to bring His transforming love to those who are devastated by this horrible tragedy. There are numerous Christian relief organizations which are reaching out and offering aid to the victims.
These dark times provide an opportunity for Christians to show what being a Christian is all about. Our faith is one of optimism. We must believe that God will turn this into good. The church’s mission remains unchanged, and the Great Commission to preach the Gospel must still be carried out. In these dangerous times, the only real stability can be found in a relationship with Jesus Christ. If you do not have this relationship, then now is the time to enter into it. Our final thought for this message is one expressed by the great American journalist Edward R. Murrow during the dark days of the Second World War: Courage.
“Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the LORD thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.” Joshua 1:9, KJV.
NOTES & BIBLIOGRAPHY:
1. For more on this, see Dave’s article A Guided Tour of the End Times