For many Christians, even the rest of us who were fortunate enough to not taste the bitterness of the after-shock, this is both a genuine test of faith and a wake up call. As one quipped, “How do we make sense of God in times when all that had happened did not make sense?”
A group of Christian university students that meet regularly to put their thoughts over issues that matter, (called Christ Seminar) saw the timely need to respond to the challenging questions which arose thereafter, but at the same time; they realize that they should not attempt to bundle the answers in a neat and convenient package. Hence, a discussion was held, aptly titled,
Emergency: Our Response
The aims of the discussion were:
1. To have a clearer theological understanding of “Another Earthquake”
2. To discuss practical measures to take in response to the event
3. To produce a paper on the discussions and share the thoughts with others
So, is God in control?
For our God to be King of the universe, he must be king overall, exerting his sovereignty in every department of the Creation. Certainly there is not a single square inch of our lives that Christ does not claim, “That is mine!” (Abraham Kuyper). The Scripture has recorded for the assurance of our faith, in many many instances, that everything takes place by the permission of God. This is where we must begin our search, in fact this is the foundation of our faith, that our God is not frail, he is not helpless, he is not unable, he is not weak; our God, he must not at all be thought to be a small god. The sovereign and almighty God was, is and will always be in control.
And if God was in control and the earthquake did not take him by surprise.
Below is an excerpt from Dr. John Piper’s sermon “Tsunami, Sovereignty and Mercy”, laden with biblical evidences, which helped us to understand and grasp God’s sovereignty: -
God claims power over tsunamis in Job 38:8 when he asks Job rhetorically, “Who shut in the sea with doors when it burst out from the womb . . . and said, ‘Thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stayed’?”
“O Lord . . . you rule the raging of the sea; when its waves rise, you still them.” Psalm 89:8-9
And Jesus himself has the same control today as he once did over the deadly threats of waves: “He . . . rebuked the wind and the raging waves, and they ceased, and there was a calm” Luke 8:24.
It is important to establish God’s power and involvement in the earthquakes as we must have a clear presupposition that God is ultimate, not Satan.
Why would God do such a thing?
God’s purpose is always good, though not always simple. No matter how great and horrible the suffering and death it seemed, God always meant it for good. Job, for instance; was a godly man and his miseries were not God’s punishment (Job 1:1, 8). Their design was purifying not punishment (Job 42:6). But we do not know the spiritual condition of Job’s children. Job was certainly concerned about them (Job 1:5). God may have taken their life in judgment. If that is true, then the same calamity proved in the end to be mercy for Job and judgment on his children. This is true of all calamities. They mingle judgment and mercy. They are both punishment and purification. Suffering, and even death, can be both judgment and mercy at the same time.
The clearest illustration of this is the death of Jesus. It was both judgment and mercy. It was judgment on Jesus because he bore our sins (not his own), and it was mercy toward us who trust him to bear our punishment (Galatians 3:13; 1 Peter 2:24) and be our righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21). Another example is the curse that lies on this fallen earth. Those who do not believe in Christ experience it as judgment, but believers experience it as, merciful, though painful, preparation for glory. “The creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope” (Romans 8:20). This is God’s subjection. This is why there are tsunamis.
Who suffers from this fallen world of natural disasters? All of us, Christians included: “Not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (Romans 8:23). For those who cast themselves on the mercy of Christ these afflictions are “preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Corinthians 4:17). And when death comes, it is a door to paradise. But for those who do not treasure Christ, suffering and death are God’s judgment. “It is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” (1 Peter 4:17)
However, we must also be careful not to give answers hastily and try to quickly rationalize the reason to why the earthquakes happened. It is fundamentally, the prerogative of the sovereign God. As we prepare ourselves to give theological response to those who enquire, we must also begin to “weep with those who weep" (Romans 12:15).
A Call to Wake Up
Two observations were made: -
1. Nobody was prepared to face the second earthquake which came in just 3 months after the first.
2. Both earthquakes happened a day after significant Christian events- namely the first, after Christmas and the second, after Easter.
See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less shall we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven. His voice then shook the earth; but now he has promised, "Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heaven." This phrase, "Yet once more," indicates the removal of what is shaken, as of what has been made, in order that what cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe; for our God is a consuming fire. Hebrews 12:25-29
Although we do not know precisely when the end times will arrive, we must take note that the Bible does contain prophecies concerning the end times.
Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heaven.. Haggai 2:6
The foundations of the earth tremble. The earth is utterly broken, the earth is rent asunder, the earth is violently shaken. The earth staggers like a drunken man, it sways like a hut; its transgression lies heavy upon it, and it falls, and will not rise again. Isaiah 24:18-20
I looked and behold, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth, the full moon became like blood . . . The sky vanished like a scroll that is rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place. Then the kings of the earth and the great men and the generals and the rich and the strong, and every one, slave and free, hid in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, calling to the mountains and rocks, 'Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand before it?’ Revelation 6:12-17
A loud voice came out of the temple, from the throne, saying, 'It is done!' And there were flashes of lightning, voices, peals of thunder, and a great earthquake such as had never been since men were on the earth, so great was that earthquake. The great city was split into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell, and God remembered great Babylon, to make her drain the cup of the fury of his wrath. Revelation 16:17-19
Now what you have here is a Biblical prophecy that there is coming a day in which there will be such a violent shaking in creation that the world as we know it will be removed. It will not be anymore. There will come a new heaven and a new earth on which righteousness dwells, but this world is going to come to a cataclysmic end some day and there will be a removal of the world as we know it and what cannot be shaken will remain; which is the Kingdom of God. John Piper
At the same time, we see an urgent need to call for others to repent as well. The tragedies caused by the earthquakes served as an important platform for us to share the Gospel. For many of us who are usually timid, it is time that we gather courage to ask questions and get feedback from our family and friends who have yet to know Christ. This is also the time when we have to be equipped with the Word of God. We can no longer afford to slack if we are serious in evangelizing. In order for us to give theological responses to the world, we must first be prepared and thoroughly equipped; a greater degree of biblical literacy must be pursued. Perhaps, it is even timelier than ever that Christians should take more interests to study eschatology so to be able to understand the signs of time and educate and warn others.
Indeed, sharing the Gospel we must, but let us also be mindful of the Scripture portion of “with meekness and fear”. Sharing the Gospel with our best intentions for the other person whom the Gospel is being shared to requires effective communication skills, which are both speaking and listening to each other. The communication is considered failed when we are more than willing to share and speak of our faith, but also just as unwilling to listen to what others have to say according to their beliefs respectively. All the more we must emphasize on not merely sharing the Gospel, but sharing the Gospel with humility and love. “With humility” means that we are willing to listen to other views and respond to the questions posed with high sensitivity towards the different belief systems that different people hold. To condemn and be too swift to pass judgments are unnecessary and unwise, even so would be a turn-off to people. We would then be shutting the doors of evangelism after us. It must come to our realization that people need the Lord just as much as we do, whether or not they are Indonesian Muslims, Thai Buddhists or Sri Lankan Hindus. And they will not know Him unless we extend our arms to reach out to them. For us to reach out to them, we must first demonstrate Christ’s love for them through our care and concern for them. In moments of distress, there is nothing as comforting as the touch of a hand, the words of encouragement spoken, the shoulder to cry and grief on and the warmth of an embrace from one to another. Being compassionate and loving one another is not merely a virtue, it is a commandment!
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another” John 13:34
And what greater love can we shower each other than by being there for our brothers and sisters, bringing them not only comfort but also hope in our Lord- through mission and relief. We do not hesitate to pray and give away our clothes or money and for that, we have much to be joyful of, but this is also the time when we begin to take that extra step forward by reaching out to them personally. Perhaps, having a taste of the realism that surround us when we are actually in the tragic scene itself would help us to fully realize how much the world needed God. It is during times like this, we see God’s mercies extended to Man comprehensively and His glory being manifested through the good works of people, Christians in particular.
Becoming World Christians
Giving God all the Glory
Without God, we can do absolutely nothing. Therefore, we should take heart that we are after all been bestowed with sovereign grace that we may be in missionary service to others.
Let us not take pride in ourselves even so as we serve others.
We pray for you always, that our God will . . . fulfill every desire for goodness and the work of faith with power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus will be glorified in you." 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12
Christ gets the glory when it is manifest that God enables us to fulfill our good resolves through him.
"Now the God of peace . . . equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen." Hebrews 13:20-21
The giver gets the glory. Because God is the one who enables us to "serve" him, he gets the credit for the service.
Christian attitudes and behaviors are the fruit of the Spirit, not ultimately the fruit of our own efforts. Our efforts are essential, but not finally decisive.
What About Our Own Backyard?
“Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming” Matthew 24:42
However, there is reason for hope. Therefore, let us not be downcast as we look forward to the promise that He has given us through His sovereign grace that is to make us heirs of the world.
Reported by Yennie