Various parts of our fragile planet have been left reeling in recent times as a result of “inclement” weather. I use the word “inclement” as a euphemism for the simple reason that through the proliferation of news casts recently focusing on the many storms that have thrust themselves upon us, other expressions which render a more succinct descriptive of current events have become rather hackneyed with overuse. So “inclement” I thought enables you, the reader, to insert your own more appropriate word perhaps based on your own experience.
Floods, snow, ice, wind and drought have ravaged many communities across the globe, in all continents and in all hemispheres. Many see these seemingly increasingly devastating events as somehow portentous of even greater catastrophes to come, culminating in a global disaster so overwhelming as to end all life as we know it. This sense of impending disaster is further exacerbated by the many movies, books and documentaries that the entertainment industry is pleased to bless us with. We are all well aware of the numerous groups and organizations dedicated to the investigation of climate change, and its impact on the future security of the planet and its resources, and there is much discussion on the internet revolving around what the future may bring to mankind. Prophecy, from many sources, plays no small role in such discussions, especially of late the well documented Mayan calendar which according to scholars predicts the end of the world in 2012.
In the midst of all this publicity, and if we are to believe the predictions from various sources which in general terms all seem to agree that something unusual is happening to our planet,there is precious little space given to real solutions. Why? Because, and let us be brutally honest here, according to those very same predictions, there aren’t any solutions. The Mayan calendar for example doesn’t offer an alternative road that the world may travel down to avoid the end. Scientists the world over have offered very little by way of real answers to the environmental problems facing the world in coming years, even the greatest of them looking to emigrating to other planets as the only viable solution. Put simply, the prophecies and predictions of science and the ‘seers’ of our age offer no plan B.
Except for one. One lone source of prophetic utterance, despite its honest portrayal of impending disaster for the world, is redolent with hope. The Bible, agreeing with the general tenet of society that there is danger looming over mankind on many fronts, is yet extremely positive about the future of man. So positive in fact, that it reveals to its readers that what God has in store for mankind is so far above and beyond what this world has thus far offered that no man can possibly even imagine what God has in store for him.
Jesus said “And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; men’s hearts failing them for fear and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth for the powers of heaven shall be shaken…” (Luke 21:26,26.)
Because there is so little or no positive news when it comes to prophecies such as the Mayan calendar, many people throughout the world must be in fear not just for their own lives but for those of loved ones and neighbours. There is no hope offered to the world in the face of impending global disaster. Fear of the future, Jesus says, is the cause of heart failure throughout the world at this time. A cursory study of medical statistics and health news over the past months would testify that Jesus words are being borne out in reality. Stress over the future is leading thousands to early graves. Jesus however, does not leave us with a future of gloom without an answer. He goes further in His prophetic words of our day and says, “…And then shall they see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. And when these things come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads, for your redemption draweth nigh”. (Luke 21: 27,28.)
Jesus is here telling us that the disasters and great cataclysmic events that are coming upon the earth, which we are witnessing the beginnings of now, are pointers or signposts to an even greater event that is in itself actually good news! That despite the fact that the nations of the world will be in ‘perplexity’, which means bewilderment or baffled, and that they literally see no way out, there is hope, there is good news! And that good news friend is His second coming. Why is it good news? It is good news because the reason for His coming is to rescue as many people as possible who would take advantage of His offer of redemption, and to take them home where they belong. To remove His people from amidst the storms and crisis that ravage the planet; to finally meet face to face with those for whom He died; to release them from the pain, anguish, and sorrow that this world had been inflicting upon them throughout their lifetimes.
I am reminded of a couple of incidents we read about in the gospels. The disciples on two separate occasions were in a boat upon the sea, and a storm arose that threatened their lives on both of these occasions. On the first occasion the disciples had been sent out onto the water by Jesus to go to the other side of the lake where Jesus would meet them later. In the meantime Jesus was to disperse the crowds who had just been miraculously fed and to go and pray to His Father alone on a mountain. On the other occasion Jesus was with the disciples in the boat, and on this occasion even more so than the former, the disciples were in fear for their lives, despite the presence of their Lord.
Inside those boats was Jesus’ entire church. Those boats on both occasions were transporting God’s hope for the future salvation of mankind. Here were the foundation stones of the New Testament church, in mortal peril of storms that threatened to end the church before it had barely begun. Imagine the fear of ones such as Matthew who we would designate as a ‘pen-pusher’ or ‘townie’. Having possibly no or little experience on the sea, much less likely to be able to swim, you can believe that Matthew was a very worried little ex tax collector. If the fishermen themselves such as John Peter and Andrew were afraid, it would be rather unlikely that any of the others were offering encouraging scripture texts to bolster confidence. Yet it was in the midst of these crises that Jesus demonstrated His power to save.
It will be the same in these last days. Regardless of the intensity of the storms and tempests of whatever nature, whether climate or financial or social or even religious, Jesus is coming and His promise is that He will take us home where no more will we have to endure anything that will ever again threaten or hurt us. It is essential however that we realize that Jesus never promises that we would not have to endure storms in this life. The disciples did not avoid the storms, but it was necessary they negotiate their way through them and by faith in the Son of God come out the other side victorious in faith and hope. This is the lesson Jesus would have had them learn. For the Christian there is no promise of a life devoid of difficulty, of a life without hardship and sorrow. The promise lies in the hope and peace that comes from our confidence in God to be with us throughout. As the Lord was with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the fiery furnace, so also is he with the Christian who with faith and trust endures the trials and tribulations and storms that this life offer.
And the coming crisis is not going to be of such a magnitude that it will negate the power of God to save. As Noah endured the storm and the flood, as Israel endured the plagues of Egypt, so God’s end-time church will endure the final plagues that are to come upon the earth before Jesus second coming, but they will be protected through it, and saved from it. That is hope my friend, not just for the Christian, but also for the unbeliever who fears for his future. The Christian message my friend is a message of hope. The person outside the faith community will be constantly hearing of and seeing problems that are perplexing even governments; he will be seeing and hearing of climate events that overwhelm communities all around him; he will be afraid of global financial collapse due to overspending by millions creating a credit crisis; he will be fearful of the violence and crime that pervades all the great cities of the nations as we have seen recently in the Middle East such as Cairo and Beirut; and he will see no way out.
The news casts on the television and in the newspapers do not provide promise of hope. That is not their work. It is the church’s work to preach a full message of gospel truth that not only is honest about the future destruction of this planet just as in the days of Noah, only this time by fire, but also honest about the promise of salvation and deliverance for all those who trust in Jesus Christ; who trust in the atoning benefits of His shed blood; who trust in the offer of forgiveness found in the life, death, and resurrection of the Son of God as revealed in the gospels. And that message of hope, that message of promise, is for the Christian to share on every occasion and to every one who is willing to hear. We are all called to witness to the grace, love, and mercy and power of our Saviour and Lord. We are all called, whether pastor, priest, or layman, to share the good news of Christ’s soon coming to all who would listen. And let us not dwell too long on the subject of the coming storm or crisis, but let us more reassure those who are fearful and perplexed, that there is a way out. There is a solution. There is an answer. He is the Creator, the mighty God and Prince of peace, the only God and Saviour, our Lord Jesus Christ.