Summary: A small church far away from Hurricane Katrina damage - what do we need to hear? It seems that Jesus would tell us to repent.
Luke 13:1-5 - A Little Less Conversation, a Little More Action
Some of this sermon may sound familiar to you, and there’s good reason for it. Much of what I’m about to say, I preached after September 11, 2001. I felt it was time to dust it off and say it again. A pastor friend of mine, Denn Guptill, says the most useful bit of information he ever got about preaching was this: If it’s not good enough to preach twice, it wasn’t good enough to preach once.
Turn with me to Luke 13:1-8. This is a story of people coming to Jesus and giving Him the news of the day. It was as if they wondered if Jesus knew about the stuff going on in the world. Some wonder that same thing today. They wonder if He knows what’s going, if He’s at all concerned with how life is turning out. They cry and plead and fuss, figuring that if God indeed does know, why doesn’t He care? Why isn’t He doing something?
Life is full of questions. Why does an executioner rub alcohol on the arm of a person about to have a lethal injection? Why do they call the time of the day when traffic moves the slowest “rush hour”? And why is freight moved by a boat called “cargo”, while freight moved on wheels “shipment”? There are no real good answers to these questions.
Ah, but these aren’t the questions that people really struggle with. No, it’s the biggie: “WHY?” Why is there evil? Why is there suffering? Why is God not doing anything about it all?
Now, we’ve looked at these issues before, but I feel they are worth re-visiting. I believe that the issue of WHY is the number-one intellectual reason why people don’t turn to God. There are others, yes, but I really believe people get hung up on this one more than any other. In our culture, where science and reasoning and rationale rule supreme, unanswered questions are very difficult. If people can’t get answers, then they throw out everything. Knowledge and information have their drawbacks.
But what really annoys others is the simple pat answers. Even well-respected Christians dare jump into regions where God remains silent. For example, Henry Blackaby, author of the life-changing book, Experiencing God, seems pretty confident that the Asian tsunami back in December was an act of divine judgement. He said in a pastors’ conference back in January that he didn’t fully appreciate the significance of the widespread destruction until he saw a map published by the Voice of the Martyrs depicting the most intense regions of Christian martyrdom worldwide.
He said he noticed that the tsunami hit many of those same regions. He told a workshop audience that most Christians don’t realize that 400,000 to 450,000 believers are killed annually for their faith, and that many regions of persecution shown the map "match to the T" the tsunami’s path of destruction.
But what about Thailand, which lost over 4800 people? It doesn’t persecute believers at all. Although the Thai church is hardly thriving, they are still allowed all rights and privileges as other religions too. So if the tsunami were a judgement of God on misbehaving nations, why would Thailand be swept up into that as well?
And then there’s India. Compassion International is a Christian program that exists to break the cycle of poverty for children. They provide food, shelter, clothing, education, healthcare and Christian training to poor kids around the world.
And I read that in India, more than 25 fathers of Compassion-assisted children were lost at sea. There was also one project in India that all the homes in the project - representing over 400 families - were swept away. I have a hard time believing that it was God’s will to cause all this death and destruction to happen.
If the simple truth of 1 Thess.5:9 is true, “For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,” then who are these people to blindly wipe the whole thing with easy answers?
I don’t believe that the Asian tsunami had easy answers. Nor does the flooding in Louisiana and Mississippi, from which perhaps thousands of people will meet their Maker. In fact, the Bible doesn’t always answer the questions either. The Bible shows different reasons why bad things happen.
Deuteronomy 29:29 says, “The secret things belong to the LORD our God.” I think it’s foolish to expose publicly what God intends as a secret. Job 1:8-12 says that horrible things may happen because of God letting Satan do them. But does that mean everything? Isaiah 10:6-7 says that sometimes God uses countries to punish other ones. But is it always the case? Is that the cause of every war? Irag? Afghanistan? 9-11? The War of 1812? The Civil War? The Revolutionary War?