When I was a teenager I really didn’t like history. I didn’t see how it was helpful and made any difference: all those events happened too long ago to really effect me today. But when I look at the Bible I see a picture of God’s sovereignty which gives meaning to what’s written in yesterday’s history books and today’s newspaper. God is actively at work in our world, do you look for His fingerprints all around you? Here are three events that happened in 2010 that I believe we can learn from.
The earthquake in Haiti shook the country on January 12th. It is estimated that 230,000 people died 300,000 were injured, and 1,000,000 were made homeless. Hospitals and government buildings laid in ruins. But in the midst of these ruins the Haitian people sought salvation in Jesus Christ. Rather than being shaken, their faith was solidified and it became clear that God’s glory was put on display in the midst of their suffering. This doesn’t make the tragedy any less tragic, but it infuses suffering with meaning.
So many of us are tempted to believe God only blesses us when we are comfortable and at peace, but that’s just not what the Bible teaches. Instead, we should be like Job who, after losing his children and wealth and health, said “Shall we accept good from God but not trouble?” (Job 2:10). Likewise, James 1:2-4 encourages us to, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” Faith in Jesus Christ is not a shield to deflect pain and suffering, it provides the strength to endure them. Haiti and Scripture both teach us that God displays his glory in the midst of suffering
Second, a mine collapsed in Chile on August 5th, trapping 33 men almost half a mile underground. People from around the world sat around their televisions on October 12-13 as all 33 men were successfully rescued through a rescue shaft that had been drilled. The Chilean people came together and declared, “This will not be a success unless all the men are rescued.” We were captivated by the national solidarity and the miraculous rescue.
As I watched on tv, God brought Psalm 40:1-4 to mind: “I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the LORD. Blessed is the man who makes the LORD his trust, who does not look to the proud, to those who turn aside to false gods.”
The rescue of these miners is such a wonderful illustration of what God has done for us through Jesus Christ. We were trapped by our own sin and awaiting our death, unable to rescue ourselves from the pit of sin and death. “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved” (Ephesians 2:4–5). Are you relying on the Jesus Christ as your rescuer, or are you trying to dig yourself out in vain?
Finally, I love the foreshadowing provided by the Winter Olympics & World Cup Soccer. The nations come together despite all their differences (language, politics, religion, culture, traditions, etc.) and they focus on what they have in common: Skiing or Figure Skating or Soccer. This is a beautiful picture of what heaven will be like for the people of God – all the peoples coming together and worshipping Jesus Christ together as their common King and Rescuer, Lord and Savior.
We read in the Book of Revelation, “The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it (the New Jerusalem)” (Revelation 21:26). This is a verse many may pass over, but it reminds me that we will still have ethnicity in the New Heavens & New Earth. The glory and honor of our respective cultures will be brought into eternity with us – we will not all be the same (but I do believe the curse of Babel will be reversed, and we’ll all understand each other!). One of my favorite images in all the Bible comes in Revelation 7:9-10: “After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.”
There is no room for racism or discrimination in the Church (and if there is racism in you, get over it… because you’ll be spending A LOT of time with people who don’t look like you after you die). Sending and supporting missionaries is essential to being faithful churches and Christians, but in our American culture today there are great opportunities to do missions without changing your address: Host an exchange student; get involved in an ESL program; befriend your neighbors or coworkers who come from different cultural backgrounds; witness for Christ wherever you’re at (especially if your job leads you to travel a lot).
God is active in our lives and in our world. I hope that you are daily pursuing Him and paying attention so that you may recognize his fingerprints which surround you.