What stance should we believers take toward the recent tsunami, its toll on lives, and all the suffering? Some people in that part of the world don’t even want our help, while others around the world say we’re stingy. How do we pray about impending disasters? It’s easy to feel guilty when tragedies hit others after we have prayed that they will miss us.
The Bible shows repeatedly that we have a compassionate God, Who postpones His judgments upon people, giving them opportunities to turn to Him. The Gospels often record the compassion our Lord Jesus had for people concerning their spiritual and physical needs. He forgave the very ones who put Him on the cross. Therefore, part of our stance should be compassion. “Blessed is he who considers the poor” (Psalm 41:1). “If your enemy hungers, feed him; if he thirsts, give him a drink” (Romans 12:20).
Other verses, too, portray the Lord’s compassion: “As we have opportunity; let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10). “If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,’ but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (James 2:15–17).
The latter verses, of course, show us our priority in helping fellow believers (and some of them are victims of the recent Asian disaster). These passages also show us as people of God that we should have the spirit of including everyone in our acts of compassion.
The recent Asian calamity also should cause us to examine our lives and to repent as necessary; Pastor/theologian John Piper wrote an excellent column in the January 15, 2005, World concerning the tsunami, pointing out how people came to Jesus during His earthly ministry with the news that the tower of Siloam had fallen, crushing eighteen people. Jesus responded to those news bearers by telling them that unless they repented, they would perish.
God calls believers and unbelievers alike to get right or stay right with Him. Many people in our society fail to acknowledge the power of God in tragedies. Piper pointed out examples like the man who barely escaped the tsunami’s waves and then proclaimed that he was left with an immense respect for the power of nature.
We must know that it is Almighty God, not mere nature, Who is in control. Nothing is beyond His power. God allows various natural disasters and other events for purposes that we don’t even know. Our duty is to acknowledge Him as both Creator and Savior, receiving His free gift of salvation through the accomplished work of the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross. Our duty as believers is to carry that message to all people. However, looking at the destitute condition of disaster victims, we must recognize it is unthinkable to only present the gospel to people whose stomachs are screaming for something to eat and whose bodies are wracked with pain and disease; we must try to alleviate their physical needs as well.
Whatever we believers do about anything, whether responding to calamity or to suffering or to routine matters in our daily lives, we should do it all as acts of obedience to God. We don’t need to take marching orders from other people. We don’t need to waver in criticism. The examples you cited about some people not wanting our help and others saying we’re stingy are good reminders to follow God regardless of what others say or think. Too often we’re guilty of being swayed or intimidated by people.
We also need to be aware that every day brings us closer to the coming of the Lord and the great end-time events. We may not have much time left. As the song says, “One sweetly solemn thought comes to me o’er and o’er; I am nearer home today than I ever have been before.”
How should we pray? Certainly we can pray for ourselves and God’s protection. We need it. But we must always include, “Your will be done.” Yet calamities like the recent one in Asia should also cause us to enlarge our praying for others. We need to pray that God will use future events to bring people to Himself. We need to pray for missionaries as never before, remembering them in prayer specifically as we get their prayer letters. We need to pray for our own country as evil forces try to legalize sin and simultaneously put down and silence believers in Christ and, what we stand for. The recent jailing of Christians in Philadelphia for proclaiming what the Bible says should convince us all of the spiritual battle we’re in.
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