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Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
April 22, 2007
Dealing with Disaster
This past Monday, April 16, was a hard day for a lot of people. The huge
storm that reached our area on Saturday was still playing havoc throughout New
England and the Mid-Atlantic states causing winter conditions in the northern
and higher elevations and widespread flooding in the southern areas and lower
elevations. Locally, several governments declared states of emergency as
overflowing creeks, streams, rivers and lakes flooded people homes and
business and closed roads. Mudslides and local drainage problems added to the
destruction making life miserable for many and even ending the lives of a few.
Even here at the church, though several of us had checked the water levels
Saturday night, were caught by surprise when we got up in the morning and
found four inches of water in the church. Monday and Tuesday were spent
getting water out and opening up the walls so everything could dry. Several of
you are dealing with similar situations in your own homes.
Far worse than the storm though were the murders of 32 people and wounding
of others at Virginia Polytechnic University. I won’t repeat the name of the
killer because he has already been given enough notoriety, but his evil
actions shock us even though we should not be surprised that there are those
around that will do the bidding of the devil who was a murderer from the
beginning (John 8:44). The January murders of the entire Morey family in
Fishkill are another example of the same evil, but it is still disturbing to
drive by the remains of their home.
Disaster is what occurred on Monday morning, but those are certainly not
the only disasters that have occurred. We read or hear about natural disasters
from around the world every year including earthquakes, hurricanes & typhoons,
fires, flooding, droughts and even volcanoes. Just the December 2004 tsunami
caused by an earthquake off of Sumatra killed over 200,000 and left millions
homeless. The coastal areas of Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi are still
trying to recover from Katrina & Rita.
We also know about the disasters caused by man’s bent to evil. We even live
in a time when terrorism has become worldwide as homicidal Islamic fanatics
not only plant bombs in public locations to try to kill people, but they will
even strap them on themselves and blow themselves up in order to kill people
on buses, trains, subways, in market places, restaurants, schools and any
other places people would gather. All of it in an effort to create terror so
that they can control people and even societies and nations through fear. The
greater tragedy here is that they are too often successful in their goals
because too many do give into their demands which in turn only causes them to
use more terrorism to achieve their next goals.
We must also remember that disaster does not have to be widespread or
involve multiple people to be a disaster. You do not have to have a major
rainstorm to have a flood disaster. All it takes is for a water pipe to break
in your home. A fire does not have to cover hundreds of acres to be a major
catastrophe to an individual. It is a major catastrophe to them when only
their home burns down. A loved one does not have to die because of terrorist
activity or a volcano eruption for it to be a tragedy. It is also a tragedy
when a loved one dies in a car accident or from a disease. Disasters happen
both on large scales and on individual levels. Where do they come from? What
do they mean? How should we respond to them? Those are the questions I would
like to answer today.
WHERE DO DISASTERS COME FROM?
There are four sources of disaster.
MAN. Monday’s disaster at Virginia Polytechnic University came from the
intentional actions of a man. This is very important to point out because
there are some who have an incorrect view of the sovereignty of God that want
to blame Him for it. The problem is that man is sinful and God allows man a
limited amount of freedom in choosing to do evil. This was an act of one evil
man against other people.
Is God sovereign? Yes. No question about it, but God is not the author of
evil or the cause of it. His very attributes such as holiness (1 Pet. 1:16;
Isa. 6:1-7), righteousness (Acts 17:31; Gen. 18:25), love (1 John 4:8; Eph.
2:4-7), goodness (Mark 10:18; Acts 14:7; James 1:7) and truth (Jer. 17:3; Num.
23:19) preclude Him from being the origin of the antithesis of His own being.
It is God’s sovereignty and righteous attributes that restrains evil. His
goodness is demonstrated in the stories of those that survived.
Do not blame God for man’s intentional evil against other humans. Neither
should the victims be blamed for the evil actions of the perpetrators. You
will see a lot of that in the coming weeks as so called experts try to analyze
why the murderer committed his crimes. In fact, you will see a lot of blame
placed on all sorts of people instead of the one person who is actually
guilty, the young man that purposefully shot down his classmates and
professors. The same thing is going on in the current war on worldwide
terrorism. There are many that blame America, our society and our military for
the actions of Islamic terrorists. However, the guilt stands alone on them for
their own evil actions.
Islamic Terrorist groups hate America because we are not Islamic and we
give support to Israel. That being true then in reality their wicked actions
are just an expression of Satan’s hatred for God’s chosen people, both Jews
and Christians. They are people who follow the religion of a false god who
loves death instead of the true God that gives and values life.
The murders on Monday are not the only disaster intentionally caused by
man. Israel, among many nations, regularly experiences acts of terrorism
against them. There are also the many wars, both just and unjust, that have
occurred and are currently going on. The genocides in the last century which
include not only the Nazi holocaust, but also those in Armenia, Russia, China,
Cambodia, and what was Yugoslavia. All crimes are intentional acts of evil,
and again, even if it only affects one other person, it is a disaster to them.
Other disasters caused by man are not intentional. There are accidents
which occur because of ignorance, mistakes or neglect. Cars crash, ships sink,
trains wreck, and fires get out of control. Even attempts to help can wrong.
Joni Erickson Tada was paralyzed as a result of the rescue effort to keep her
from drowning after her diving accident.
NATURE. Many disasters occur because nature is taking its course in
following the laws of physics. Earthquakes and volcanoes occur when the
pressures within the earth are released. When the pressure along a fault plane
exceeds the frictional resistance, the rock formations slip and an earthquake
occurs. A lava dome, being less dense that the surrounding rock, will finally
be forced to the surface where its material will burst out in a volcano. The
differences in the heating and cooling of the earth’s surface give rise to
high and low pressure zones and as these pressure zones follow the laws of
physics and equalize themselves, weather patterns develop which give rise to
both drought and flood, blizzards and blistering heat. Most of the worst
disasters that have ever occurred in the history of mankind have occurred
simply because nature follows the laws of physics and man was in its path.
Let’s face it. If you live in Minnesota you have to expect some mighty cold
days. If you live in the North East there will be blizzards on occasion. If
you live in Florida you will have to endure hurricanes periodically. If you
build your house on the flood plain then don’t be surprised when you get water
in your living room. If you live on the side of a volcano someday you may find
lava flowing through your back yard, and if you build on top of a fault then
expect to be shaken out of bed once in awhile.
SATAN. The book of Job tells us that the devil does have power to bring
havoc on man. His power is limited by God, but the devil is the source of some
disasters. In Job we find that he is the instigator of theft, murder and even
a supernatural wind that destroyed the house Job’s children were in resulting
in their deaths. He was also the source of Job’s physical afflictions.
GOD. The Lord Himself also brings about disasters. He can strike an
individual, an entire nation, or the whole world. Miriam grumbled against
Moses and God struck her with leprosy. Korah rebelled against Moses and God
had the earth swallow him and all those who joined in his rebellion. Egypt
refused to let Israel go and God sent 10 plagues against her and then
destroyed her army. The Canaanite tribes allowed themselves to descend into
complete debauchery and utter evil and God destroyed them all to make way for
Israel. The world Noah lived in had become so wicked that the Scripture
describes mankind of that time by saying that "every intent of the thoughts
of his heart was only evil continually." God sent a flood that wiped out
all of mankind except for the eight people God preserved on the Ark.
We find in the Scriptures case after case where God directly intervenes
against man and brings disaster. And since the Scriptures clearly declares the
sovereignty of God in all things we also believe that God has control over and
limits the disasters that come at the hands of nature, men and Satan.
God still is in the business of intervening into the lives of men in the
midst of the various calamities that come. It may come directly from His hand
or by his merciful limiting the calamity caused by nature, evil men, or Satan.
The declarations of Job, the Psalms and Proverbs are still true. It is God
that sends the snow, the rain, the wind and the storm. Nature may be following
physical laws, but it is God’s hand that guides it all. In addition Romans 1
declares that "the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all
ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in
unrighteousness." God is still in the business of judgement and His wrath
still comes against the ungodly that will not submit in humble obedience to
Him. That is also true for Christians who fail to live properly. 1 Cor. 11:30
tells us that because of some of them were not properly celebrating the Lord’s
Supper, some were sick and some had even died.
Disasters happen and they can arise from different sources, but what do
they tell us? What do they communicate to us?
WHAT DO DISASTERS COMMUNICATE?
MAN IS SINFUL. First, the disasters that man brings upon himself, whether
intentional or unintentional, tell us that man is sinful. Remember that sin
means to "miss the mark." It is the failure to achieve that which is good and
right before God and it includes acts of commission (something you did), and
acts of omission (something you failed to do). We have no problem
understanding that the disasters mankind suffers due to war are the direct
result of the actions of sinful men. We all understand that the actions of
people such as Adolf Hitler, Emperor Hirohito, Mao Tse Tung, Ho Chi Mihn,
Saddam Hussein and Usama Bin-Laden are evil. We all understand that someone
who commits a crime is doing evil. But we also need to understand that the
failure to do right is also a sin. A car crash caused by either a drunk or by
someone who simply went to sleep at the wheel is still the result of sin. One
is more heinous than the other, but both are still sinful.
When we trace disasters to a human origin, we can be sure that we will find
a powerful reminder of man’s sinful nature. Adam’s fall has far reaching
effects in all his offspring which is all of us. The more we are aware of our
fallen nature, whether we are the ones suffering or causing the suffering of
others, the greater should be our desire for redemption from it. Disasters of
human origin communicate the fallen nature of mankind.
NATURE IS CURSED
Natural disasters tell us that the earth is cursed. The neo-pagan
environmentalist that tell you that disasters such as fires, flood,
earthquakes and volcanic eruptions are just nature’s way of renewing itself
have their heads in the sand. When a natural disaster occurs we do not see
"nature renewing itself" in the sense of it is now going to be better because
of the disaster that happened. That is simply idiotic. Instead, it is nature
"renewing" itself in the sense of recovering from all the damage inflicted
upon it. Mount Saint Helens in Oregon blew its top off in May 1980 – 27 years
ago. Even an idiot can compare the pictures of what it was like before and
what it is like now and tell you that the natural world there was in better
shape before the volcanic eruption. I can take you to many, many places in
Southern California that have never recovered from the fires that burned
10,20,30,40,50 years ago. What were once green hills covered with trees,
bushes, grass and flowers are still barren with only the hardy wild flowers
and scrub growing on their slopes. Romans 8:19-22 tells us plainly that nature
itself is cursed and is longing for its own redemption. "For the anxious
longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God.
For the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will, but because
of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set
free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the
children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the
pains of childbirth together until now." Natural disasters tell us that
nature itself is cursed and longing for the day of redemption.
GOD IS POWERFUL
Disasters also communicate the power of God regardless of the origin of the
calamity. Anyone who has ever been in any kind of natural disaster –
earthquake, hurricane, tornado, flood, volcano, severe storm, etc. knows that
there is no denying the power of God in those things. Over and over we find
that Scripture uses the power of what God has created to demonstrate that God
Himself is powerful.
In Job 38-41 we have recorded God Himself declaring His power to Job by
pointing out what He has created and controls. In 38:4-7, 31-33 God speaks of
the vastness of the universe itself and He is the one that set the
constellations in place. In 38:8-11 God declares that He is the one that set
the boundaries of the mighty sea itself. In 38:19-24 & 34-38 God declares
Himself the one that controls the weather – the clouds, the rain, the wind,
the lightning & thunder. God brings the cold of winter and the warmth of
summer. In addition God declares in these chapters the power of the creatures
He has made including the Behemoth and Leviathan. Their descriptions match
those of dinosaurs, and Leviathan a fire breathing one at that. Man is
insignificant by comparison. And yet throughout this whole section, it is not
just His power that God is declaring to Job, but also His mercy, tenderness
and compassion of how God cares for His creation and limits what is done.
Some have said the disasters that have occurred in recent years in the
United States are the acts of an angry God demonstrating His wrath against
wicked Americans. Perhaps there is some truth to that idea, however, to
whatever degree that is true we must understand that the message is not just
to the "sinners" immediately affected. Jesus said in Luke 13:4, "Or do you
suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them,
were worse culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem? I tell you, no,
but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish." The point is simply
that all people are deserving of God’s judgement of their sins. Those who
suffer in a disaster are no more wicked than those who do not. It is God’s
mercy that all of us do not suffer His immediate holy wrath because of our
sins. We should marvel as much about God’s mercy and grace as seen in the
stories of survival as we do about His wrath as seen in the disaster itself.
Disasters communicate the evil of man, the curse upon nature and the power
of God in displaying both His wrath & judgement and His mercy and grace.
HOW DO WE RESPOND?
Disasters, both those that are widespread and those that are personal, are
going to happen. They are a fact of human existence. They come from various
sources and they communicate that man is sinful, nature is cursed, and that
God is powerful. The remaining question is how will we respond to them?
A person left to follow his or her natural inclination could respond in a
number of ways. None of them are good.
The response of Pharaoh to the many plagues thrown against him was
resistance. It would not cause him to change his mind and the course of his
life. His resistance eventually ruined his kingdom and cost the lives of many
of his people including his own son.
In 2 Kings 20 we find that King Hezekiah was told by Isaiah the prophet
that the illness he had would kill him. This was a personal disaster.
Hezekiah’s response was one of depression. He turned his face to the wall and
wept bitterly. Though he had seen the Lord do great and marvelous things,
Hezekiah still centered his life in himself and so news of personal disaster
In 1 Samuel we find another response to disaster. King Saul had raised his
first army of 3,000 men, but now the Philistines had come against them with
30,000 chariots, 6,000 horsemen and people "like the sand which is on the
seashore in abundance." As far as they were concerned, disaster was
imminent so they hid in caves, thickets, cliffs, cellars and in pits where
they trembled. They shook with fear. When disaster is upon you or looks
inevitable, fear can control you. I remember being in a store in California
when a 5.3 earthquake hit. That was a pretty good jolt which caused things to
fall of the shelves. I heard quite a few people screaming and running for the
door which was not a good idea since the front of the store was all plate
glass. They were controlled by fear and panicked, and that is another common
response to disaster.
Another common response is bargaining with God. We find an example of that
in the book of Jonah. He had set sail on a ship going to Tarshish and suddenly
there was a great storm upon them. These pagan sailors first became afraid and
started crying out to their gods. Then they threw the cargo overboard. Then
they went down and tried to get all the passengers to cry out to their gods.
They wanted to find some way to appease the right deity to make the trouble go
In the midst of a disaster you may have many sinners making a lot of
desperate promises to God that they soon forget all about once the danger is
past. Such is the story of the shipwreck victim whose promises to God kept
diminishing as he got closer to shore.
At the same time you will find the self-righteous that blame the disaster
on the "sinners" and fail to see any message to themselves. As I mentioned
earlier, that was the reason Jesus spoke about the tower in Siloam that
collapsed and killed 18 people. The self righteous claimed that those killed
had to be great sinners. Jesus rebuked them and stated that they were no more
wicked than anyone else and that unless they repented they would likewise
perish. All are deserving of such judgement and only the mercy and
longsuffering of God withholds it from happening. Repentance should be the
The natural response to disaster can be denial, resistance, anger,
depression, fear, bargaining with God, self righteous condemnation of others
or any combination of these things. But none of these are good. How does God
want us to respond?
We just saw from Luke 13 that we cannot be self righteous, but must be
humble and repentant ourselves. Homosexual AIDS victims do reap the just
consequences of their actions according to God’s warning in Romans 1:27, but
the godly response to them is not condemnation, but sincere praise to God for
His mercy to you while having compassion and caring for them while also
calling them to repentance to receive God’s gift of forgiveness of sin in
I also need not fear, resist, be angry or depressed about any disaster I
may face during my life. Why? Because the godly response recognizes that my
life is totally in the Lord’s hands to use as He sees fit. My life here is
unimportant except in how it is used for the glory of my Creator. I died with
Christ and the life I now life is His life. I can expect tribulation to come
for Jesus said it would, but in Him I can have peace because He has overcome
the world (John 16:33). This is accordance with the very nature of being a
Christian which is following Christ. The more your life is marked by
Christlikeness the more you will respond with godliness to any disaster that
comes in your life. Instead of fear there will be peace. Instead of depression
their will be joy. Instead of anger there will by grace. Instead of seeking
revenge, you will seek forgiveness. Instead of tragedy you will find triumph.
The definition of a successful Christian is "a person who has been saved
from their sins by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ, and as an
adopted child of God is bringing glory to His name by being conformed into the
image of Jesus by submitting themselves to the will of God in faithfully
pursuing holiness and blamelessness along with serving the Lord in doing the
good works He has prepared before hand."
The person who is successfully living the Christian life does this even in
the midst of disaster. What really matters in your life? Don’t wait for some
disaster to come before you find out. Set out now to make sure your living for
eternity. Take the admonishment in Hebrews 12:1,2 to heart . . . "lay aside
every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run
with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the
author and perfecter of faith . . .".
The basis of this is learning to trust the Lord in all circumstances. The
prophet Jeremiah understood this and so could deal with disaster. After the
destruction of Jerusalem Jeremiah wrote 5 poems concerning it which we call
Lamentations. As he looked over the ruins of the city he wrote in 3:22-25,
"The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never
fail. 23 [They] are new every morning; Great is Thy faithfulness. 24 "The Lord
is my portion," says my soul, "Therefore I have hope in Him." 25 The Lord is
good to those who wait for Him, To the person who seeks Him"
The hymn writer paraphrased it this way.
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
His mercies never come to an end.
They are new every morning, new every morning;
Great is Thy faithfulness, O Lord,
Great is Thy faithfulness.
Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives.
Here is some help. Young Children – draw a picture about something you
hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch.
Older Children – Do one or more of the following: 1) How many times is the
word "disaster" is mentioned? 2) Talk with your parents about the reasons for
disasters and how we should respond to them
THINK ABOUT IT!
Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others.
What have been your thoughts when you have seen tragedies unfold? How do
they effect you personally? What kinds of general disasters have you
experienced? What kinds of personal tragedies have you experienced? What
evidences have you seen of man’s sinful nature? Of your own? If God is
sovereign, then why isn’t He to blame for disasters? What stories are you
aware of that show God’s mercy and grace in the midst of disasters? How can
man unintentionally cause tragedy? Why do natural disasters happen? How could
man avoid many of these? What do disasters communicate about man? What do
disasters communicate about the nature? What do disasters communicate about
God? What are the natural ways that people respond to disasters? What was
wrong about the responses of Pharaoh? Hezekiah? Saul? Why can’t you bargain
with God? Are those who suffer in a disaster more wicked than those that do
not? Why or why not? What responses does God want us to have? What must change
so that you do so?
Sermon Notes – April 22, 2007
Dealing With Disaster – Selected Scriptures
Sources of Disaster
What Do Disasters Communicate?
Man is Sinful
Nature is Cursed
God is Powerful
How Should We Respond to Disasters?
The Successful Christian is: "a person who has been saved from their
sins by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ, and as an adopted child of
God is bringing glory to His name by being conformed into the image of Jesus
by submitting themselves to the will of God in faithfully pursuing holiness
and blamelessness along with serving the Lord in doing the good works He has
prepared before hand."
Do this even in the midst of disaster to be truly successful.
For comments, please e-mail