Thursday, March 4, 2010
Earthquakes, Blizzards and Other Disasters – Is This The End and What Should We Do?
I am blessed to be a part of a pastor’s fellowship that meets monthly in a simple and laid back format to share a devotional word, pray and offer encouragement for one another as vocational Christian servants. This morning, we discussed some of the amazing weather-related events that have taken place so far this year and the implications for Christians around the world.
Consider this: In the first quarter of 2010, natural disasters and anomalies have given the media plenty to report and everyday people plenty to talk about. In the last month alone, we’ve seen back to back mega blizzards and back to back earthquakes that have shattered the record books and more significantly shattered countless lives. Whenever people experience the extreme forces of nature at work at such a magnitude, questions arise and issues of eternal and cosmic consequence become part of the daily discussion. Jesus’ words in Matthew 24 come readily to mind:
“Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.”
The looming of the year 2012 and the Mayan Calendar’s purported prediction of that year as The End of All Things begins to cause disquiet in many hearts and stirs up thoughts of “Doomsday” and “The Apocalypse”. The Mayan Calendar not withstanding, there is no doubt that the Bible does indicate that “The End Times” will be characterized by a level of human upheaval unmatched in all of history. Great gains will be accompanied by great pains and there will be no easy solutions or relief from the trouble of those days. These observations bring a very important question to mind, “Are we in the end times?”
Many generations of humans have read the troubles of their times as indications of the immanence of the end of all things. Since the establishment of the New Testament Church, Christians have watched for Jesus’ return at any moment, measuring the experiences of their times against Jesus’ signs and warnings. As I read about the number of cataclysms we are experiencing around the world and the increasing intensity – much like “birthpangs” – the term that Jesus used to describe the troubled times of the end, I consider it a possibility that we could be in the end times. I temper those considerations with awareness that none of us are privileged to have God’s “Cosmic Calendar” on our wall and that as bad as things are, there is still far to go to completely match the level of devastation outlined throughout the Scriptures. Jesus’ complete phrase, “…the beginning of birth pangs” seems most appropriate. This would mean that though “The End” may not be in full swing, the clock is certainly ticking.
In the pastors’ fellowship I mentioned earlier, my friend Jon Nelson shared a well-known passage from 2nd Peter that describes the horrendous world-wide trauma that will be part and parcel of the end, but focuses not so much on the horror as it does the Christian response to the horror. Peter asks simply that as Christians understand the gravity and horror of human suffering that places every person in the shadow of a date with eternity, “What kind of people ought [we] to be?” “How, then, should we live?” With all the cataclysms Peter mentions he does not call Christians to stockpile weapons, food, clothing or to make sure they vote for certain candidates. He does give this specific admonition:
You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.
So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him. Bear in mind that our Lord's patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.
Therefore, dear friends, since you already know this, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of lawless men and fall from your secure position. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Peter is calling Christians to not lose sight of their basic and unwavering goals of holy and godly living, being on guard not to be derailed by enticing distractions, erroneous teachings, or temporary and destructive pleasures. Instead we must grow in grace and grow in our knowledge of the Lord. Practically, this means that as we see others suffering in these most troubled times, we must make it our business to work to minister to their physical pain and, as we comfort them, introduce them to the Lord and His Great News of life-saving salvation and hope. We must also oppose false teaching that uses hard times to manipulate, distort and abuse the pure teaching of God leading to the physical and spiritual destruction of those left vulnerable in their suffering. We must also see the difficult days as opportunities to grow in gracious living and to seek to grow more in knowing Jesus and allowing our knowledge of Him to transform us to be more like Him day by day.
Are we in the end times? Perhaps. Whatever your view on the timing of “The End”, consider this: whenever a person dies, that individual faces “the end of the world” for them in that moment! Daily untold numbers of people face their own personal “consummation of all things.” Therefore, regardless of whether we are in the “Macro” end times of history or the “Micro” end times of individuals, the mission we have been given does not change – To be witnesses for the Lord Jesus here, there and everywhere, letting our light shine before everyone so that they will see the good we do and glorify our Heavenly Father. The end is near for someone, let’s be about our Lord’s Business until He comes again or until He comes for us. Until next time…