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A Believer’s Response to Unprecedented Calamities

By Nelson Thomas Mumbai

Around ten years ago this writer wrote two articles calling upon the readers to consider the unprecedented world events and respond according to God’s word. It was in the context of the devastating hurricanes, flash floods, earthquakes and the Tsunami that destroyed millions of lives as well as the political turmoil in the Middle East resulting in the massacre of innocent lives.

Referring to the radiation from the nuclear reactors due to the tsunami then, one commentator in Japan said, ‘we never imagined a natural calamity of such magnitude, it happens once in thousand years’. Now, due to COVID-19 the world is facing another catastrophe, like no man ever imagined. With all the advanced technology and devices, even the most developed nations struggle to contain the contagion caused by this tiny creature.

Let us pray and support the authorities in every land in their efforts to stop this pandemic. We ought to follow the instructions of the health workers and fulfill our social obligations in all its seriousness.
However, as believers who value and follow the word of God, we have a responsibility to search the scriptures and seek God’s message for us even in times like these.

Basic Reasons

The Bible reveals that the root cause for all the pain and suffering in this world is the sin of man. Ever since man chose to disobey His Creator and rebel against God’s purposes, not only man, even the earth he dwells in became cursed. Genesis 3: 16 – 19.

Apart from this inherent corruption and decay, we see from the days of Noah how God punishes the people for the increased wickedness among them. Gen 6: 6 – 7:
“Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. So the LORD said, "I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them."”

After this global disaster by flood, according to the promise of the Lord we see only localized outpouring of His wrath from time to time. Genesis 8:21; 9:11. The series of plagues in Egypt, the repeated pestilences among the Jewish people, the destruction of the land and their temple in Jerusalem etc., are all attributed to divine chastisement on God’s people for their evil ways. The Bible also refers to the divine wrath that fell on various nations like the Assyrians and the Babylonians etc. Often it was unparalleled and unexpected as far as the population of that time was concerned.
Specific Reasons
However, we can notice certain definite causes that could trigger the displeasure of God and subsequent divine discipline. It is good to consider those things briefly for our self-examination today.

1. Disobedience. Leviticus 26: 14, 15, 25. Cf. Deut. 28:21, 15, 66, etc.

These are warning passages where the Lord clearly warns the people of Israel that breaking God’s holy law will attract appropriate punishments.

2. Unbelief. Numbers 14: 11, 12, 32 etc.

Because of the unbelief and subsequent revolt of the Israelites, all of them had to perish in the way while wandering in the wilderness for forty years.

3. Rebellion against the leadership. Numbers 16: 46, 49

Many consider this sin very casually. They forget the truth that fighting against the divinely appointed leadership is tantamount to agitating against God Himself. He takes it seriously and the incident in Numbers 16 shows that fourteen thousand and seven hundred died before the plague was stopped.

4. An immoral lifestyle Numbers 25:1 – 9

When the Israeli young men failed to resist the inducement of the Moabite women to join with them in their evil ways, twenty-four thousands of them had to give their life. Numbers 31:16. Such compromise and uncontrolled lifestyle always attracted God’s wrath against His people. In Jeremiah 14:10, 12, we see the Lord warns His people against their unrestricted way of life. Cf. Jeremiah 21:6, 14.

God’s people must have a peculiar standard of living; they are different and their ways are different. 1John 3: 1, 2. So many Old Testament passages reveal that failure to maintain this separation always resulted in severe punishment. Numbers 25:1 -- 9

5. Pride. 2Samuel 24: 10, 13, 15, etc.

Another devastating plague destroyed seventy thousand people in Israel due to King David’s thirst for self-glory. Pride can be seen as one of the major reasons for divine indictment against many individuals as well as nations in the past. Isaiah 13:9; 16:6; Jeremiah 48:29; Daniel 5:20; Obadiah 1:3, etc.

6. Defiling God’s sanctuary. Ezekiel. 5:11 - 14

The Temple in the Old Testament was the house of God and its desecration was considered as another serious evil resulting in divine wrath. God is always zealous for His house; He carefully watches over His sanctuary then and now. Disrespectful and unworthy behaviour in the house of God is a serious matter.

These are only some of the prominent explanations that we can glean from the Biblical history when God’s people had to face the chastening hands of God. Of course, we have not listed the reasons for the judgment that fell during the days of Noah and on Sodom and Gomorrah, etc. 2Peter 2:5, 6. Apostle Paul as well as Apostle Peter refer to the past divine judgments and exhort the readers to learn lessons from them. 1Corinthians 10: 1 – 11; 2Peter 2:3ff

However, we should do not be confused: not all untoward incidents in human history are because of any particular sins of man. God the Creator has set certain natural laws for this universe. When that is violated whether in connection with the human beings, animal kingdom or the entire environment, its repercussions are bound to occur.

Wisdom to examine

Wise men always learn from history – past incidents. What triggered an issue, how did the common man face it, and what principles we ought to pick up etc., are points that we have to consider today.
Consider the moral, spiritual state of the society at large today. How do we as God’s people respond to the growing wickedness around us? Have we just copied it or stood against it? Are there any of those six things that we saw above, and even more, prevailing among the people of God today? How do we react to the gross violation of natural justice and moral perversion around us? Should we just close our eyes to the fact that more and more innocent lives have been slaughtered by the modern man?

Will the Creator Lord God Almighty continue to keep silent seeing the tears of the poor people and even the unborn babies from the womb of their mother? What about our behaviour in the House of God? Is it honourable or bringing shame to the Lord of the church?

Whatever may be the root cause of these unprecedented catastrophes in this generation, an introspection in all sincerity will definitely help us.

Divine Mercy in Judgments.

Remember, in all those occasions when God dealt with man according to the demands of divine justice, sufficient warnings were given. Scripture also reveals that there was always a small remnant whom God graciously delivered from those terrible situations. Whoever chose to respond to God’s call for repentances and salvation was saved. Genesis 6:7, 8; Jonah 3: 6 – 10; 2Peter 2: 5 – 7.

God has no pleasure even in the death of the wicked. He wants everyone to turn from their wicked ways and lead a holy, righteous life. Ezekiel 18: 23, 32; Lamentations 3:33; 2Peter 3:9. It’s possible only by acknowledging God’s way of salvation accomplished through the cross of Calvary. Act 4: 12; 17:30, 31; 26:18. It was there the Son of God taking the punishment of mankind became an atoning sacrifice. Hebrews 9:27, 28

But when man in his stubborn and stiff-necked attitude continues in his immoral ways in spite of the repeated exhortations, he has to reap its consequences too. No wonder the Lord Jesus declared, “And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.” John 3:19

The Saint’s Response

What shall we do today as we face unexpected, unfavorable circumstances? Is it enough to be satisfied that we are born again children of God and nothing will happen to us without God’s permission?

It’s not wrong to trust God and hope for His gracious intervention as we face any hostile situation. But that’s only a one-sided remedy. There were occasions when false prophets tried to comfort the people of God with soothing words, the Lord denounced them for it was not from Him. Jeremiah 27:13ff. So the right response in the light of God’s word is imperative.

Seven important lessons are noteworthy here:

1. Introspect sincerely.

We need to seek the Lord’s help in finding out the real cause behind the strange happenings. Joshua failed to seek the root cause for the unexpected defeat at Ai. Joshua 7:7 Isaiah the prophet has done that; “O LORD, why have You made us stray from Your ways, And hardened our heart from Your fear?”. Isaiah 63:17a. The Lord expected the Jewish people to ask similar questions. Jeremiah 5:19. Cf. Psa 10:1; 74:1; 81:14.

Often, we fail to see our own failure. That’s why we need the help of the Lord that He may graciously open our eyes to see our real state. Isaiah 6:5. 1Corinthians 4:4. Of course, it is one of the works of the Holy Spirit. John 16:8 – 10. Let us sincerely pray with the Psalmist, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties; And see if there is any wicked way in me, And lead me in the way everlasting.” Psalm 139: 23, 24.

2. Repent and turn.

The Lord’s words to king Solomon soon after the dedication of the newly built temple in Jerusalem gives clear guidance to our duty in times like these.

“When I shut up heaven and there is no rain, or command the locusts to devour the land, or send pestilence among My people, if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” 2Chronicles 7:13, 14

The Lord assured Solomon that He heard his prayers in relation to the temple in Jerusalem. Yet, very clearly warns him of the possible disciplinary actions because of the evil ways. In such a situation what should they do? It was not enough to turn to God in prayer, but they must be ready to forsake the evil ways and wrong practices.

Sadly many believers have a false impression that repentance has to do with unbelievers only. That’s absolutely wrong; repentance must be an ongoing spiritual exercise of every believer. As the Lord would enlighten us of our unscriptural steps, it’s imperative to acknowledge with all seriousness and take the right turn. Jeremiah 7:3, 5; 26:13; 35:15; In the Lord’s letters to the seven churches in Asia Minor, He repeatedly calls them to repent. Revelation 2: 5, 16, 21 etc. Then alone restoration and reconciliation take place.

3. Sympathize and confess.

Another appropriate response is to sympathize with the suffering people and confess on behalf of them. It’s true; each person must confess their sins to God.

But our attitude should not be to judge all others and project ourselves as the perfect saints. It is sad to notice certain people fight over simple issues even in the midst of such painful situations. Presenting our conviction is one thing and humiliating and discrediting an individual is another thing.

The example set by the godly men in the scriptures is altogether different. When saints like Nehemiah and Daniel saw the terrible state of their land and the people, they wept on behalf of the entire community. Nehemiah 1:6; Daniel 9:6, 18. They took the iniquities of the people as their own. This is exactly what we need to do today. Let our words and deeds be filled with compassion and consideration towards one another.

4. Be humble and yield.

Seeing such calamities and nature’s fury, even the unbelievers acknowledge the truth that God alone is all powerful and mighty. Often it has been found that God’s own people, as the recipients of divine grace and mercy through their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, take the glory and greatness of God granted. Isaiah 40: 12 -- 26

We should never forget that it is He who protects and provides for us. We must yield to His sovereign will and be at His feet. We are simply nothing. The wealth we have accumulated, the technological advancement we have achieved do not really guarantee our safety in times like these. It is time to acknowledge this ‘emptiness’ of man and God’s greatness. This will make us humble and submissive.

Our safety does not depend on our wisdom or ability. Not only God protects us from the dangers and even through it, His promise is, “Fear not I have redeemed you…..When you pass through the waters I will be with you, and through the rivers they shall not overflow you, when you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you.” Isaiah 43:1b – 3.

5. Love and Serve.

Such a devastating state of affairs also makes us to realize literally we all are in the same boat! The rich, poor, educated and the illiterate are all equally affected. Everyone, irrespective of class, creed or caste, fears for their life and seek relief. What specialty does anyone have? We all need each other.

If the people of this world can forget all the differences and help one another during such calamities, how much more the people of God must be prepared to serve one another. How can we keep boundaries for our love and fellowship? It is time to forgive, forget and serve one another in Christ’s love.

Notice Paul’s admonition, “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.” Galatians 6:10. This is the best occasion for the lovers of Christ to share His love and care among our fellow being. Doing good and serving others should be considered as our utmost Christian obligation. Ephesians 2:10

Many believers view Matthew 25: 35 – 45 only in the prophetical point and neglect the principle found there. In spite of the dispensational aspect, we should take note of the fact that the Lord has concern for His brethren always. Consider His words which are applicable to all of us at any time:'Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.' Matthew 25:40

6. Give out and utilize.

You cannot keep on accumulating anything. It is time to loosen our hands on our belongings. There is no benefit in holding on to our material possessions. A flash flood and earth quake or a wild fire can take away all what we have selfishly accumulated. Even we ourselves may not be there tomorrow to enjoy all that we have kept safely.

Even the unbelievers have begun to share their wealth with the poor and needy. Some have even given away their land for the homeless and destitute. Yet very few believers consider it seriously. Many work hard to display their wealth and indulge in the pleasures of this world, yet never show a token of generosity to the poor and needy. Oh, how foolish it is; is it not the time to share, give away, than to be taken away!

Remember, we can utilize our resources only today. There will be a time even when we desire to use what we have, but we may not be able to do so due to various reasons. Physically and mentally we may become weak, or the political and social circumstances may not be suitable for that. More than that there is a particular period of time when one needs our assistance, and later they may not need it. Their adverse situations will be over and they even might have left the scene. We will regret for life that we could not help them in their hour of need. Romans 12:13; Ephesians 4:28; 1Timothy 6:18

7. Renew our hope.

Of course, there are much more lessons we can learn from these unprecedented natural catastrophes. As we seriously contemplate on the above mentioned six lessons, let us also pay attention to what our blessed Lord said in connection with the end of the age and His return.

The Lord Jesus spoke of number of events that will take place by the end of the present dispensation. Luke 21:11. Increased immorality and unprecedented natural calamities including pandemics are part of it. He was responding to the disciple’s question, “Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?". Matthew 24:3 – 8, 37

Eschatological experts repeatedly expound these end time signs in the light of the present scenario. But the truth of the matter is that many are eager to hear the prophetical topics only to satisfy their curiosity, while vast majorities fail to apply their practical lessons.As we are witnessing these signs more than any other generation in the known history, is it not wisdom to take the words of the Lord Jesus seriously? He exhorts three things to His people related to the end time events.

a. Not to be troubled. Matthew 24:6 “See that you are not troubled… the end is not yet.”. None of these

b. Know the time. Matthew 24:33 “So you also, when you see all these things, know that it is near—at the doors!” Be aware of the divine program from eternity to eternity and it’s unfolding in time.

c. Be watchful. Matthew 24: 42. “Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming.”

In short, the summary of Christ’s reference to the end time signs is that His followers should always be ready for His coming. We don’t need to be anxious about anything, for our God has well-designed future purposes, and nothing happens against His permission. Our foremost responsibility today is to communicate this Biblical truth to all around us, so that they too will be ready.

As the people of this world are worried and confused about various unforeseen issues, let us make known the truth of the word of God which man seldom pays attention. Apostle John exhorts, “The world is passing away and the lust of it, but he who does the will of God abides forever.”1John 2:17.

William Macdonald has put it interestingly, “When a bank is breaking smart people do not deposit in it; when the foundation is tottering intelligent builders do not proceed. Concentrating on this world is like re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. So, wise people do not live for a world that is passing away.”

If we to fail to make use of this time for our spiritual examination, rejuvenation and revitalization, when are we going to experience it? If we could use these troublesome period for our spiritual benefit and God’s glory, not only God will be pleased, we will definitely see a spiritual awakening among the people of God.





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