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Martyred for the Gospel

Martyred for the Gospel
The burning of Tharchbishop of Cant. D. Tho. Cranmer in the town dich at Oxford, with his hand first thrust into the fyre, wherwith he subscribed before. [Click on the picture to see Cranmer's last words.]

Collect of the Day

The Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany.
The Collect.

O LORD, we beseech thee to keep thy Church and household continually in thy true religion; that they who do lean only upon the hope of thy heavenly grace may evermore be defended by thy mighty power; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Daily Bible Verse

Friday, September 02, 2005

God's Providence in Nature


The idea that God is in total control of nature is abhorrent to people who wish to imagine that their life is subject only to themselves. In the American culture individualism and individual liberties are so valued that responsibility to one's community and to one's neighbor are neglected often. The implication of this is that society at large often has a deistic view of God's providences. In other words, most who believe in God think that He does not intervene in human affairs or in nature. Basically, their view is that God has created the universe and set things in motion and then watches helplessly as events unfold, including natural disasters.

In the current situation in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama (see http://www.cnn.com/2005/WEATHER/08/29/hurricane.katrina/), thousands of people may have been killed and many are sick and suffering froma lack of food and water because of Hurricane Katrina. Literally 500,000 people have had to evacuate the city of New Orleans, Louisiana, although tens of thousands are still in the process of being evacuated days after the tragedy struck.

Is God in control of natural disasters? Some would say that this is simply a mystery or that God cannot do anything about it. If so, then prayer would be a waste of time. In former times insurance companies referred to such disasters as "acts of God." This expression comes down to us from previous generations who indeed viewed natural disasters as acts of God in His providence.

While we do not always understand God's purposes in sending diseases, plagues, tornadoes, tsunamis, hurricanes, earthquakes and fires, we cannot but acknowledge that God, being omnipotent and omniscient, knows about it and could have prevented it by intervention through natural or supernatural means. To say that God cannot do so would be to make Him less than God.

Furthermore, Holy Scripture seems to justify the view that God controls all things and events by His sovereign will and by His hidden and mysterious ways:

Isaiah 45:6-7 (NIV)6 so that from the rising of the sun to the place of its setting men may know there is none besides me. I am the LORD, and there is no other. 7 I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the LORD, do all these things.

Deuteronomy 29:29 (NIV)29 The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.[1]
[1] The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Although it may be disturbing to us, suffering caused by tsunamis, earthquakes, pestilences, and even famines are part of God's secret will. His eternal plan is hidden from us. But we know that God is omnibenevolent and that He provides for us all without discretion:

Matthew 5:45 (NIV)45 ... He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.[1]
[1] The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Even our Lord Jesus Christ was in control of the wind and the waves and spoke with authority over them:
Mark 4:37-41 (NIV)37 A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 38 Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” 39 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. 40 He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” 41 They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”[1]
[1] The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

We should never forget that suffering and death came into the world because of the curse that Adam and Eve's rebellion brought upon us (Genesis 3:14-19; Romans 5:12-21). God could in all justice wipe out mankind but in His patience and mercy and longsuffering has chosen not to do so. The sign of the rainbow is God's promise to us never to completely destroy mankind through a flood again (see Genesis 8:21-22; Genesis 9:11-17).

Finally, though it is disturbing to see thousands die in natural disasters and the resulting suffering and anarchy, we should never forget that God has His own purposes for such events. As Christians we should learn to trust God no matter what our circumstances and to know that suffering is a part of the Christian walk (Romans 5:1-11; Romans 8:18-39).

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