In the world of nature, the devastating tsunami in the Indian Ocean caused havoc to many nations and countless people. In our own land we have recently experienced a hurricane, and unprecedented rainfall.
Someone told me the other day that in Skye we have not had a fully dry day for six months! The meteorologists put such phenomena down to ‘global warming’ and, of course, there are always natural explanations for natural events.
But is there something far more profound at work? After all, God has many times used natural events to bring about his supernatural purposes – a strong wind at the Red Sea and an earthquake at Philippi!
Wars and diseases
Among the nations there are fearful wars and dreadful diseases. I read in the past month how AIDS is devastating sub-Saharan Africa. In South Africa alone 700 people a day are dying of AIDS-related illnesses. We are aware, too, of continuing unrest in Africa and the Middle East, together with the constant threat of terrorism worldwide.
Then again, terrible things are happening in our own society. A headline in a daily newspaper this week said that 25% of youths in the UK are ‘revealed to be criminals’. The headline was referring to 14 to 17 year olds.
Besides this, Scotland is said to have the highest rates of sexually transmitted infections and teenage pregnancies in the western world. This, of course, is a spin-off from an amoral – and largely unchurched – society.
How to respond?
How can we respond to this? Can we develop early warning systems to protect ourselves from nature’s convulsions in earthquake and storm? How can we guard against disasters both man-made and natural? What are we to make of it all?
There is a passage in Christ’s teaching which points the way. Jesus indicates the sort of situation that will prevail across the world prior to his own Second Coming: ‘There will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring; men’s hearts failing them for fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth, for the powers of heaven will be shaken’ (Luke 21:25-26).
Here is the ultimate explanation for the escalating sense of crisis, fear and hopelessness that reaches into the hearts of so many in our world. ‘Man’s inhumanity to man’; the ensuing tragedy and cruelty; and the seemingly unconnected natural disasters – these are but God’s ‘early warning system’.
It is a system more accurate and potent than anything man could devise to predict disturbances in the earth’s crust!
Preparing for eternity
By such signs God is telling us that Jesus Christ is coming again – and it may be very soon (v. 27). ‘Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near’. We are reminded that ‘heaven and earth will pass away: but [says Jesus] my words will by no means pass away’ (Luke 21:31-33).
We are warned that ‘it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgement’ (Hebrews 9:27). Consequently, we are encouraged to draw near to God through Christ (Hebrews 10:22); to hold fast not just our hope but the confessionof our hope (v.23); to stir up in each other love and good works (v.24); and to worship God (v.25) – and do all this ‘so much the more as you see the Day approaching’.
That is the only way to be right in life and prepared for death and eternity