from our ministry
Trusting God When our World is Shaken?
Earthquakes, Coronavirus, Tornados, to name a few things, are happening all around us — truly, our world is being shaken! Shortly before I wrote this article a news report came that a tornado ripped through a Tennessee town leaving at least twenty-four dead, and hundreds left homeless; a moderate earthquake was recorded off our northern California coast, and, as I write, the Coronavirus is spreading world-wide and the death rate is rising! Lives are being affected significantly — loved ones are dying, homes and properties are being destroyed, the Stock Market is in disarray, businesses are shutting down disrupting the incomes of thousands of people affecting the livelihood of families. People are in fear!
My wife went to the local Wal-mart recently to buy a few things and noticed that many people appeared to be in panic over the Coronavirus — buying hand-sanitizers, masks, cold remedies and anything else they think will prevent them from contracting the virus. People are also asking a lot of hard questions (maybe you are asking them, too): Why is God not stopping these things? Why did God allow these things to happen at all? Is God really sovereign over nature, or has He lost control? How could a God of love allow these things to happen?
In his excellent book, 10 Lies About God, Erwin Lutzer considers the question, Is God in control of natural disaster or not? He wrote, “Every day we see the result of the curse: tidal waves, earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, drought, and floods. In fact, the number of natural disasters is on the increase, with multiplied thousands killed each year in the powerful upheavals of natural forces (and we can include Coronavirus to the list!) Does this mean that God has removed Himself from nature? Does He really have a ‘hands-off’ policy when it comes to these tragedies?” He then goes on to discuss the “immediate cause of these events and their ultimate cause. For example, “the immediate cause of a tornado is wind and temperature pattern, yet the ultimate cause of these events is God. He rules nature either directly or through secondary causes, but either way, He is in charge. After all, He is the Creator, the sustainer of all things.” (10 lies, pg. 102)
Psalms 135:5-7 makes this abundantly clear: “For I know that the LORD is great, and that our Lord is above all gods. Whatever the LORD pleases, He does in heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all deeps. He causes the vapors to ascend from the ends of the earth; Who makes lightnings for the rain, Who brings forth the wind from His treasuries.” He is sovereign over every aspect of nature! Consider Who sent the flood in Noah’s time? (Genesis 6:17) God! Who sent the plagues upon Egypt, i.e., hail, darkness, flies, etc.? (Exodus 7-11) God! Who sent huge hail stones, and caused the sun to “stand still” (Joshua 10:11-13) so a battle could be won? God! Who sent an earthquake upon the sons of Korah and split the earth wide open when they rebelled against Moses? (Numbers 16:31-33) God! Is there any doubt that God is the One who caused and controlled these events? It can be argued that these, for the most part, were acts of judgment, but it is still true that God was the ultimate cause of all of them! Certainly, He is sovereign over every aspect of nature!
Lutzer continues, “If there is still some doubt in your mind that ultimately God has control of nature, let me ask: have you ever prayed for beautiful weather for a wedding? Have you ever prayed for rain at a time of drought? Have you ever prayed for protection during a lightning storm? Many people who do not believe that God controls the weather change their minds when a funnel cloud comes toward them.” He goes on to say, “... if you find a Christian [may I add, anyone] who objects to the idea that God is ultimately in control of the weather, you will see him change his theology in a lightning storm. When he walks outside and feels the sizzle of electricity in the air, he will pray for safety. We can try to distract God from these events, but the moment we bow our heads to pray, we know He is in charge!” (10 Lies, pg. 105)
Of course, many will ask, “How can God be good when He permits (or does) things that seem so destructive and hurtful to human beings?” Surely, if He has the power to bring a natural disaster, then He has the power to withhold it! Yes, He could, but at times He does not! Why? Answer: Because He is God and His ways and His thoughts are far beyond ours! God said to Isaiah, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, declares the LORD. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9). “God always acts from the standpoint of eternity rather than time; He makes all decisions with an infinite perspective . . . and He is not obligated to tell us all that He is up to!” (10 Lies, pg. 111). We as finite beings, cannot, nor should we, judge an infinite Being. It is not necessary for us to see God’s eternal purposes in order for us to believe that He has such a plan and that He knows what He is doing. Although in a different context, the apostle Paul made this point so clear when he wrote, “who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, ‘Why did you make me like this?’, will it? Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use?” (Romans 9:20-21).
I agree with Lutzer when he said, “We cannot pretend to understand all that God has in mind when tragedies come to a country or, for that matter, to a single family or person. But natural disaster are God’s megaphone, shouting to us messages that we should be quick to learn.” (10 Lies, pg. 113) What should we learn? Lutzer lists a few things:
- Death is inevitable! Natural disasters are a reminder of our mortality. Christian writer, C.S. Lewis pointed out that natural disasters do not increase death; all the victims of these disasters would have to die by virtue of old age! He is right! We must be reminded that death is inevitable and we must live in light of that truth!
- Natural disasters remind us that judgment is coming! No one can read the book of The Revelation or Matthew 24 and not come to that conclusion! (see Matthew 24:7-8 and Revelation 6:12-17 as examples). Consider this, “The God of liberal theology, the God who seeks the happiness of His creation to the best of His ability, the God who would never judge us for our sins or commit sinners to hell — such a God does not exist in the Bible and is contradicted by the natural disaster in the world. He does not delight in human suffering, but He does delight in the triumph of truth and justice and the completion of His hidden purposes!” (10 Lies, pg. 115) Beloved, what we see happening in our world today is a precursor of what is going to come in greater magnitude when God pours out His wrath upon the earth.
- We can escape coming judgment by repentance! Or said in another way, “We can escape the coming judgment through Jesus Christ alone!” Jesus’ words ring so clear here, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that the one’s continually believing in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Paul’s declaration in Romans 8:1 brings comfort to those who put their faith in Christ alone; he wrote, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus!”
I believe for those who have a relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ, there are a few thoughts that should guide them through the Coronavirus and natural disasters. Please consider these:
- We should worship God, not question Him! Job is our example! Job knew the tragedy that natural disasters and illness bring (see Job 1:13-19), and he had a wife, unable to bear his suffering, suggested that he “curse God and die” (Job 2:9)! Yet Job, as a God-loving, God-fearing man responded in worship of God! Listen to the account, “Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head, and he fell to the ground and worshiped ... the Lord gave and the Lord has taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord.” (1:20-21). Later he said to his wife, “Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity? In all this Job did not sin with his lips.” (2:10).
We should exult and trust God, not reject Him! Habakkuk is our example! God told Habakkuk that He was going to bring very hard times upon His people, Israel (1:1-17); so terrible that if God told him what He was going to do, Habakkuk “would not believe it!” (1:5) In light of this, Habakkuk did two things:
- He reaffirmed his recognition of God’s sovereignty and character! He recognized the eternality and holiness of God! Read his words, “Art Thou not from everlasting O Lord, my God, my Holy One? . . . Thou, O Lord, hast appointed then to judge; and Thou, O Rock, hast established them to correct. Thine eyes are to pure to approve evil, and Thou can’t not look on wickedness with favor ...” (1:12-13).
- He reaffirmed his trust in God’s care! There is no doubt that Habakkuk, knowing what was going to come, was fearful (3:16), BUT instead of turning from God, he reaffirmed his trust in God’s care. He said, “Though the fig tree should not blossom, and there be no fruit on the vines, thought the yield of the olive should fail, and the fields produce no food, though the flock should be cut off from the fold, and there be no cattle in the stalls, YET I WILL EXULT in the Lord, I WILL REJOICE in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is MY STRENGTH, and He has made my feet like hinds’ feet, and makes me walk on my high places.” Please notice the words, “I will ...”. Habakkuk made a CHOICE. He had two options: to panic or trust! He CHOSE to TRUST! Are we?
I close with these final words from Lutzer — they are too good to miss!
“Can we trust a God who controls nature? Yes, for unless He does, we would be subject to the whims of impersonal fate. I find no consolation in accepting the premise that God is not the ultimate cause of natural disasters [including Coronavirus] . . . If the weather is His to route, then I rest with the confidence that my life is ordered according to His will and plan. If nature is out of God’s hands, then my life is also out of His hands! Far from discouraging faith, God’s control of nature encourages it! If God is sovereign, then we can have the confidence that ‘all things work together for good to those who love God ...’ (Romans 8:28). We do not believe in fate, but in a specific purpose ordained by an all-wise God. ... When the earth shakes under your feet, or when a tornado crosses your street, you take cover, but ultimately you must flee into the arms of the only One who is able to shelter you. No matter how many things move in this world, we can always find ... solid ground, in the consolation of the Almighty!
Beloved, I trust these thoughts will help and comfort you during these God-ordained times!
Take a minute to read Psalm 46 and be comforted!
For the love of God’s people, Pastor Ron Finch (retired)