When Disaster Strikes
Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”
(Lk 13:1-5 NIV)
Introduction: After the September 11th attacks, people’s moods have changed, but their lives haven’t. They are fearful, but they keep on living the same lives. Their habits haven’t changed, but their fears are still there.
I. Absorb the Scandal of Disaster
A. Intentional Destruction
- The sense of shock and betrayal are tasted at an early age
- When I was a child it was expressed with indignation as I turned to one of my siblings and pronounced “You did that on purpose.”
B. Incidental Disaster
- We call them natural disasters, but they seem everything but natural to us when they happen.
***When everything has fallen apart around me, it is God, the psalmist says, upon whom we can depend. It is God upon whom we can trust, and it is God upon whom we will call if we die in the middle of the tragedy.
I heard a television interview with a lady who had been in the closet under the stairs during the hurricane. They asked what was she doing as her house fell apart around her. She said, "All we could do was pray."
I saw a video taken by a man and woman during the storm. They got in the bathtub, and he said the thing he wanted to do was hold the trigger down on that video camera, because they both thought they were going to die, and this at least would be a record of the last moments of their lives.
When these tragedies happen, when there is no explanation and no reason beyond what meteorologists will tell us is a natural occurrence, we can only say, "God, you are my rock; you are my fortress. As my house falls apart around me, you are my hope and my strength ."
-- David L. Haun, "The Whys That Have No Answer," Preaching Today, Tape No. 112.
C. Innocent Death
- They didn’t deserve it.
- When people who have done nothing to bring the disaster upon themselves die, we see them as innocent. The Jewish population considered those who died as guilty because of the disaster. It was an indicator of the sin that must have been in their life to bring such judgment upon them. Jesus says that it is not only these people who are sinners, but He brings everyone into the circle of guilt. All will perish unless they repent, because all are guilty.
- The Oklahoma bombing and the many children who died because of Timothy McVeigh comes to mind when we think of these disasters, but in God’s eyes, even the children are not innocent, but they are in need of God’s mercy and the atoning death of Christ, just as Timothy McVeigh is. We may hold Mr. McVeigh more accountable, and he is, but even children, though they may have not reached the age of accountability, need Christ’s atoning death to ensure their safety in the face of disaster.
II. Appreciate the Significance of Disaster
A. It Awakens Us to the Significance of life
*** There's a true story that comes from the sinking of the Titanic. A frightened woman found her place in a lifeboat that was about to be lowered into the raging North Atlantic. She suddenly thought of something she needed, so she asked permission to return to her stateroom before they cast off. She was granted three minutes or they would have to leave without her.
She ran across the deck that was already slanted at a dangerous angle. She raced through the gambling room with all the money that had rolled to one side, ankle deep. She came to her stateroom and quickly pushed aside her diamond rings and expensive bracelets and necklaces as she reached to the shelf above her bed and grabbed three small oranges. She quickly found her way back to the lifeboat and got in.
Now that seems incredible because thirty minutes earlier she would not have chosen a crate of oranges over even the smallest diamond. But death had boarded the Titanic. One blast of its awful breath had transformed all values. Instantaneously, priceless things had become worthless. Worthless things had become priceless. And in that moment she preferred three small oranges to a crate of diamonds.
--James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988), p. 489.
B. It Awakens Us to the Vulnerability of life
- We feel exposed to danger. We no longer feel invincible, like superman, but we feel open to attack.
C. It Awakens Us to the Uncertainty of life
- Pollster George Gallup surveyed Americans to discover how the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, affected their lives:
· 20 percent of Americans knew someone who was missing, hurt, or killed in the attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, or the plane crash in Pennsylvania.
· 58 percent of men and 82 percent of women say they have cried as a result of the terrorist attacks on September 11.
· 49 percent of Americans report being worried about a terrorist attack affecting their family. The current level of concern is lower than the 58 percent who were worried immediately after the attack.
· One-third of Americans will change aspects of their personal lives in order to reduce their chances of becoming a victim of terrorism.
· A majority of Americans favor having Arabs, even those who are U.S. citizens, being subjected to separate, more intensive security procedures at airports. About half of Americans favor requiring Arabs, even those who are citizens of the United States, to carry special identification cards.
Psalms 20:7-8; Proverbs 14:15-17; John 16:33; 2 Corinthians 1:3-7
Citation: George Gallup, "Impact on Americans," Gallup Tuesday Briefing, (9-25-01)
III. Assure the survival of Disaster
A. Take Seriously the Menace of Sin
*** A writer in the Edinburgh Review said, "A Swiss traveler describes a village situated on the slope of a great mountain. Huge crags, directly overhanging the village, and massive enough to sweep the whole of it into the torrent below, have become separated from the main body of the mountain in the course of ages by great fissures and now barely adhere to it. When they give way, the village must perish; it is only a question of time, and the catastrophe may happen any day. The villagers, for more than one generation, have been aware of their danger. They have been encouraged to move, yet they live on in their doomed dwellings, from year to year, fortified against the ultimate certainty and daily probability of destruction by the common sentiment, 'Things may last their time and longer.'"
Like the dwellers in this doomed village, the world's inhabitants have grown careless and secure in sin. The scoffers of the last days are around us, saying, "Where is the promise of his coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation." But in saying this, they are too confident. Nothing is permanent that has sin about it, nothing secure that has wrath above it, and flames of fire beneath it. Sin has once deluged the world with water, it shall deluge it again with waves of fire. Sodom and Gomorrah are the types that foreshadow the doom of those that live ungodly in these latter times, and he who can walk this reeling world unmoved by all the tokens of its fiery doom, must either have a rock of refuge where his soul may rest secure, or else must have fallen into a strange carelessness, and a sad forgetfulness of God.
-- Charles Haddon Spurgeon, The Quotable Spurgeon, (Wheaton: Harold Shaw Publishers, Inc, 1990)
*** Peradventure some sinner will say, "perceive nor feel any weight in myself, do I ever so many sins." To whom we answer that if a dog having a great stone bound about his neck is cast down from a high tower, he feels no weight of that stone as long as he is falling down, but when he is once fallen to the ground he is burst all to pieces by the reason of that weight.
-- from a sermon preached by John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester (ca. 1508). Christianity Today, Vol. 31, no. 3.
See: Pr 11:19; Ecc 8:11; Ro 6:23.
B. Take Solemnly the Medicine of Repentance
- We hear sorrow and empathy for the wickedness of the act , but not for personal wickedness. I’m sorry that happened, but not for the wickedness in MY heart. God goes to the root of all wickedness, and demands we start in our own back yard.
*** "Most people repent their sins by thanking God they ain't so
wicked as their neighbors."
- Josh Billings
- _Instant Quotation Dictionary_, p. 255.
*** Cheap grace is the deadly enemy of our church. Cheap grace means grace sold on the market like cheapjack's wares. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, without church discipline, communion without confession, absolution without personal confession.
-- Dietrich Bonhoeffer in The Cost of Discipleship. Christianity Today, Vol. 36, no. 3.
C. Take Sincerely the Mercy of God
- We admire the firefighters and rescue personnel of New York City and call them angels of mercy, but when God comes to rescue us, how many shrink back from the hand of mercy, and seal their fate.
*** A friend said mournfully the other day that he'd lived his life like the Professor on "Gilligan's Island." While he found time to fashion generators out of palm fronds, vaccines out of algae, he never got around to fixing that huge hole in the boat so he could go home. How many people actually do?
In a recent interview, Aerosmith's lead singer, Steven Tyler, confesses, "We need to go back to the way it was 30 years ago, when everybody had Grandma and Grandpa, and we were willing to pass moral judgments about right and wrong."
Tyler is aware his comments are shocking, coming from someone who has partied with the best of them. "But [September 11] brought me to my knees," he says. "It made me change. When that second airplane hit the building, we all changed. We need to get back to some serious thinking."
Luke 13:1-5; Romans 13:11-14
Citation: Steve Beard, "Rock Goes Spiritual," RelevantMagazine.com (2-20-02); submitted by Mike Herman, Glen Ellyn, Illinois
Unless Your Repent, you too will all perish!
Save yourselves. Save Others. Rescue the perishing!