For we know, he writes in verse 22, that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. Even we ourselves as believers groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. We hope for what we do not see. With perseverance, we wait eagerly for it. The world that God originally created and the world that now erupts is a different world system.
Paul would say it's out of joint. The created order is waiting for God to make it right. At the beginning of time, God created a perfect world. We still see the wonder and beauty of the creation, but the perfection is gone. Things have changed dramatically on this planet since the Garden of Eden.
Not only is nature beautiful, but it's incredibly destructive. We experience hurricanes and earthquakes and devastating fires. Today on Wisdom for the Heart, you're going to learn to think biblically about natural disasters. Stephen's taking you to a section from Job and looking at the disasters he faced. This message is called Acts of God, as we consider what Job experienced in the Old Testament. In a crowd that I will preach to this size, I am convinced that there will be hundreds if not a couple of thousand people directly or indirectly involved with someone who has been mistreated, abused, raped, robbed, maybe even killed.
How do you approach people in an attempt to deal with the issue? I've categorized at least four different approaches. There are a lot more. I just ran out of time.
Let me give you them. Number one, the trivial approach, I'd call it. This person shrugs it off and says something like, you know, God wants us to be happy and I guess the devil got in the way. He might go to Job to prove that trivial answer, not taking time to think through the direct causes and the purposes of God in the background. There's the hypocritical approach.
Without meaning it, of course, nobody gets up and says, I think I'll give a hypocritical answer to the sufferings of the world. But they would say something like, you know, it's just the forces of nature at work. God is in control, but he lets nature sort of take its course.
He wound the world up and then he stepped back and he lets it just unwind. The reason I call this hypocritical is because most of these same Christians will pray for rain, right? They'll pray for the rain to come because there's a drought or they'll pray for sunshine because it's my wedding day or whatever. Automatically, intuitively suggesting that God is in control.
There's third sort of a knee jerk answer. It sounds good at first until you think through the theology of its implications. I heard on the news one prominent Christian who was asked, you know, why wasn't God around during such and such a disaster? To which they responded by saying, well, we've been telling God to get out of our classrooms and our schools and political world for some time. Well, now he's gone and he can't blame him.
Sounds good until you think through it. Leaves troubling questions about the character of God. Is God now pouting?
Is he sort of on a pout that we kicked him out of the schools and has he taken his toys and now he's going to leave because legislation ignores him? If that were true and God just sort of got fed up with the planet, what does that have to say about his sovereignty? What does that have to say about his nature? What does that have to say about this dispensation of grace? What does this have to say with the long suffering of God? In an attempt to get God off the hook by telling people that he left us because we've wanted him to, we've actually become sovereign and he has become dependent on our sins, our wishes, our actions, our moods, our legislation, and our policies. It's not the kind of God I follow.
There would be sort of the shallow approach. Third, just kind of ignores the deeper questions about the nature and character of God. One author commented that the church has not been spending its energy in our generation to go deep with the unfathomable God of the Bible. Against the overwhelming weight and seriousness of the Bible, much of the church is now choosing today, this very moment he writes, to become light and shallow and entertainment oriented and therefore it has become, note this, irrelevant while at the same time claiming to be so successful in being relevant.
The truth is, he writes, the popular God of fun church is simply too small to hold a hurricane in his hand. And then lastly, there would be the unwilling response, we just don't want to try and so we don't give an answer and we just sort of feel bad for God who gets the blame. Let me offer several principles to consider as you weigh your answer to those around you.
You will be and you have been and in the future you will be again asked. As you weigh your response in a way that acknowledges the sovereignty of God in the midst of natural disasters, what we would call the acts of God. Principle number one, suffering on earth is more widespread than we usually recognize. The news reports take us to some city or village where people have died in a mudslide or a hurricane or a tornado. We're surrounded by stories of natural disasters and our news media sort of takes us from one crisis to another and we're all wired in and we get the latest.
The truth is asking why people die in natural disasters would be akin to asking simply the broader question and that is why do people die? 6,000 people die every 30 minutes, 12,000 an hour. In fact by the time it takes me to finish this one sentence, 17 people will die. 17 more just died. 17 more. 288,000 people will die today.
Who's behind that? Most of them will die by virtue of some disease, crime, many from suicide, many from starvation and natural disasters. In fact more little children will die from starvation in the course of this day than all the victims of the last several hurricanes that slammed into our coasts. The reality is and maybe we'd just rather ignore it but suffering and death is happening at a rate that would boggle our mind.
We just tend to see the news report and it condenses it and it does enlarge it. It intensifies the occurrence of death and so it brings the question to our mind. But the truth is during this hour you spend in worship nearly 15,000 people will die. Principle number two, the suffering world today is not the same world God created. Paul wrote to the Romans in chapter 8. You remember that book?
Let's go back for just a moment. Verse 19, for the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. That is creation can't wait for its redemption. For we know, he writes in verse 22, that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. Even we ourselves as believers groan within ourselves waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body, the glorification that is of our body.
We hope for what we do not see with perseverance, we wait eagerly for it. You see in this paragraph Paul makes a direct connection between the fall of man in sin and the curse of creation, the fall of nature. The world that God originally created and the world that now erupts with volcanoes and earthquakes and mudslides is a different world system.
Paul would say it's out of joint. It's cursed, literally. The created order is waiting for God to make it right. One author wrote that nature is cursed because man is cursed.
We know that's true. Natural evil and brutality, just watch, you know, the animal station or whatever, watch how evil and brutal it is. It is a reflection of moral evil in that both are savage, ruthless and damaging. Nature is a mirror in which we see ourselves. It could lead us to some sort of fatalistic view without the Lord certainly it would like Voltaire the French skeptic who wrote, we are insects living for a few seconds on atoms of mud.
It's encouraging. The truth is without the revealed Word of God we would have no answer to pain or suffering at all. In fact there would be no hand behind it. There would be no comfort in the middle of it. William James would be right when he said that we would all be like dogs left in a library.
We would be able to see the print, but we wouldn't be able to read the words. Mankind according to the Word of God has fallen and nature with him, but neither has fallen out of the sovereign purpose and plan and will of God. God has not walked away from the day to day control of his creation. He upholds it by the power of his word Paul writes.
He sustains it with his hand. He holds it all together he writes to the Colossians. While he certainly established physical laws by which he governs the forces of nature, those laws continuously operate according to his sovereign will.
You see Job will hear that loud and clear later on in the book. David will write in Psalm 147 he covers the sky with clouds. He supplies the earth with rain and makes grass grow on the hills. He spreads the snow like wool and scatters the frost like ashes.
We like that part. David goes on to say he hurls down his hail like pebbles. Who can withstand his icy blast? He sends his word and melts them. He stirs up the wind and the waters follow. The prophet Amos includes God's own testimony where God says I withheld rain from you when the harvest was still three months away. I sent rain on one town but withheld it from another.
One field has rain another had none and dried up. See the truth is all expressions of nature all occurrences of weather whether it is a devastating tornado or a gentle rain on a spring day they are all acts of God. Ultimately God controls all the forces of nature both destructive and productive on a continuous moment by moment basis which means by the way no believer is ever a victim to the powers of nature. Though it may seem that the immediate cause of their suffering is nature.
The messenger to Job whether he understood it or not was telling the truth. Fire fell from God. Immediate cause was Satan who was given delegated authority but God ordained what Satan would do and he rules him even to this day. So there is no such thing as fate or chance. The immediate cause of our death or suffering might be nature or violence but the direct cause behind it all is the plan and purpose of God. Jesus Christ in the Sermon on the Mount said the father causes his son to rise on the evil and the good and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.
He attributed to God the father the right and will and power to determine whether it would be cloudy and raining or bright and sunny. Nothing one theologian wrote absolutely nothing no evil thing or evil person or natural painful event falls outside God's ordaining will. Nothing arises.
Nothing exists. Nothing endures independently of God's will. So when even the worst of evils befall us they do not ultimately come from anywhere other than the hand of God. You know what in the church we do we tend to sing these theological truths and and we forget we're singing them or we don't think about them. How about this great hymn from Isaac Watts who wrote I sing the mighty power of God and that a good one. Here are the lyrics that made the mountains rise that spread the flowing seas abroad and built the lofty skies. I sing the wisdom that ordained the sun to rule the day the moon shines full at his command and all the stars obey.
There's not a plant or flower below but makes thy glories known. Note this and clouds arise and tempests blow by order from thy throne while all that borrows life from thee is ever in thy care and everywhere that man can be thou God art present there. Great theology that mirrors the word of God. The suffering on earth is more widespread than we usually recognize. Number two the suffering world today is not the same world God created. Principle number three the character and work of God on earth is different than we imagined. Dear friends of the Bible's revelation of God is that he is absolutely sovereign and he is ultimately responsible.
When you watch someone sifting through the rubble of their home which response would give the most comfort. The open theists who today would say well you know God kind of learned that that would happen too late. He loves you but he's he's he's growing in this in this management issue. Give him time and be patient or I don't know why you know but God evidently didn't have the power to stop it or this was allowed by God. He is in control even of this and is worthy of your trust. He does what is right and wise and good. One day he will make his purposes clear.
Now let me help you rebuild your home. Nahum introduces us to a mysterious God who was in the whirlwind and in the storm named three verse one. David writes of our God who gives an account to no one but our God is in the heavens he does whatever he pleases. Isaiah agrees as I have planned God speaks through him so shall it be and as I have purpose so shall it stand. Isaiah 14. Further in Isaiah 45 or 7 God says an even more shocking thing when he declares I form the light and create darkness.
I bring prosperity and create disaster. I the Lord do all these things you see while the church is running today around somehow trying to let God off the hook. God is taking responsibility. It appears that we are more concerned with God's reputation than he is. He is responsible and these natural disasters are previews of a judgment to come and we should respond more like Christ.
When one came to him there were several when he preached the tower had fallen over and unexpectedly killed 18 people and they they had on their minds why would God allow that and Jesus responded by pulling that incident up and he said here's what I have to say about it. Repent. It could have been you.
Wouldn't it be something if somebody got on the national media and was asked the question where was God when that happened and for them to respond. You know Mr. King repent it could be you. The world needs to repent. The judgment of God is coming. This is his universe.
My life and yours is his. He can do whatever he pleases. He can bring prosperity. He can bring disaster.
This is his. The heavens declare the glory of God David wrote. The works of nature reveal God's attributes of power and strength in fact the demonstrations of his power will hold the entire world one day without excuse. Whether they heard the gospel of Christ or not the fact that they saw the gospel and creation and they said you know it isn't God it's something else. God will say I gave you demonstrations of my power. You refuse to listen.
You'll be held accountable to that gospel which you rejected and mankind Romans 1 says will be without excuse. Well if God has power and the kind of power we're talking about why not keep everything sunshine and roses. Well before I get to six very quick reasons let me hold the horses just a little longer and reintroduce you to an uncomfortable God. A God David wrote in Psalm 50 who is all together unlike us and that's part of our problem. His thoughts are beyond ours. We'd like to think that we're sort of close.
We're not. His ways are all together different than our ways. He is all together different than we are. See it isn't so much like a dad trying to explain to his son how the banking industry works.
It would be more like me going out and finding an aunt and trying to explain Wall Street. We happen to believe we're a lot closer to the thoughts of God than we really are. And so when we read texts like these we're left confused where Solomon wrote it is the glory of God to conceal a matter. Isaiah wrote truly you are a God who hides himself. Deuteronomy 29 says the secret things belong to the Lord our God.
This is the God whose word to us might more often than not simply be this be still and know that I am God. I have plans. I have purposes. My way will be accomplished. There's comfort in that.
C.S. Lewis said that God actually speaks loudest to us when we suffer. Have you noticed that? Lewis wrote God whispers to us in our pleasures speaks to us in our conscience but shouts in our pain. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world. What is the record of Job's life thus far and the perspective of scripture as God has revealed himself. Tell us about the purposes of suffering and these acts of God. Number one these acts of God are first a reminder of true values in life.
We sort of covered that last time anyway. Saint Augustine once wrote God would give us something but does not because our hands are full. These difficulties have a way of stripping our hands bare don't they and reminding us of how important God is. I found it interesting to read that after Hurricane Katrina hit Louisiana governor this is the governor of the state Kathleen Blanco called for a statewide day of prayer saying quote we need to turn to God for strength hope and comfort. Does it occur to you when you hear that that had she said that a few days before the hurricane struck she would be unemployed calling her state to a day of prayer to turn to God.
Who does she think she is an evangelist or a politician. Acts of God remind us that we need to turn to him. Second of all acts of God release our claim on the expectations of life.
What we thought we had a right to disappeared bankruptcy sickness. That accident reminded us that our expectation and the only expectation that will ever be fulfilled is the expectation that we have in him. Number three acts of God give us a realistic perspective on the brevity of life.
See that could have been you in that news story right. You could be tonight's six o'clock news when things go well we come under the delusion that life is a given it's a sure thing and then our chest squeezes in pain and the next thing you know we're hooked up to a dozen wires and the doctor is saying you just barely made it. The truth is whether we're aware of it or not this could be our last day on this earth like this as we know it. Fourth disasters have a way of of warning us about eternal judgment for all of life. Nature reflects God's gracious attributes. They also reflect his wrath and justice. These things that happen are previews in fact go to the book of Revelation and read a natural quote unquote disasters that will torment the planet that we could never imagine.
Imagine the things that will occur then. These are foretastes of the unleashed power of God who brings all things to fulfill his purpose. They illustrate for us that fallen mankind will one day either be released from suffering forever in glory or begin to suffer like never before for all of eternity.
Fifth this principle would then follow. Number five disasters are an invitation to walk with God through life. He does not promise us the absence of storms. He promises us his presence in the storm.
The best place to be when you're in the middle of a storm is next to the Lord. So as Warren Wiersbe once wrote we don't grow bitter we grow better. Unlike that man I read about recently rather funny response to painful experience. He'd been bitten by a dog and was later informed by his physician that he had indeed gotten rabies. Upon hearing this the patient immediately pulled out a pad and pencil and began to write. Thinking the man was making out his last will and testament his doctor said listen this doesn't mean you're going to die. There's a cure for rabies.
I know that said the man. I'm making out a list of people I'm going to bite. I'm going to take advantage of this thing. Disaster strikes. It is the megaphone of God and it is calling out walk with me. That's your source of comfort and hope.
One more. Disasters in life are a reminder that suffering for the believer will one day be replaced with incredible everlasting joy. Paul writes all I can tell you is that this present suffering cannot be compared to the glory yet to come. We have all heard many stories about the Titanic when it went down. Let me give you a scene that you may have not heard about. About a thousand people nearly fifteen hundred went to their watery graves. Now from what we've been reminded today the immediate causes would have been human error. An iceberg. An insufficient number of lifeboats.
Frigid water. The ultimate cause was the purpose of God who had determined for them their days on earth were completed. After the news of the Titanic's tragedy reached the world this article said the challenge was how to inform the relatives whether their loved ones were among the dead or the living. So a plan was devised and at the White Star Line's office in Liverpool, England a huge board was set up. On one side was a cardboard scrap sort of serving as a heading and it read known to be saved. And on the other side of the board with a piece of cardboard serving as a heading were the words written on it known to be lost.
The article went on that hundreds of people gathered to intently watch the updates when a messenger brought new information those waiting held their breath wondering to which side the messenger would write and what name would be added to the growing list. Although the travelers on the Titanic were either first-class or second-class or third-class passengers after the ship went down there were only two categories known to be saved known to be lost. I couldn't help but think ladies and gentlemen that on the days of judgment that will come which will make any and all natural disasters seem so small there will only be two categories that matter no matter if you travel through life first class second class third class in fact no matter how you died how long you lived it will only be those two known to be saved known to be lost.
The universe belongs to God he created it he sustains it and is sovereign over it and friend you can trust him. This is Wisdom for the Heart with Stephen Davey. January is almost over along with your opportunity to receive Stephen's gift to you this month. The Apostle Paul encouraged us to be content even in the midst of difficulty but Paul was also human like you and me he had unfulfilled hopes. Stephen has a resource called Resolution. He explores a time when Paul openly expressed his disappointment. By looking at Paul Stephen helps you confront and deal with your disappointment. Request your free copy at wisdomonline.org then join us next time for more Wisdom for the Hearts.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-01-30 00:06:35 / 2023-01-30 00:15:52 / 9