Yesterday was the 16th anniversary of 9/11. It was also the day after one of the largest storms in the history of the Atlantic Ocean, which means that today will be a day when people are going to be thinking about suffering, Sovereignty and the strange workings of Divine Providence. Today will be a day for God’s people to weep with those who are weeping and to help those who are hurting. It will also be a day to speak.
The Scriptures tell us to be ready to preach the Word in season and out of season.
Are you ready?
People will be asking questions today that they don’t normally ask. People will be thinking today about things they do not normally contemplate. Your job is to be there and to be ready to guide them.
Towards that end we have prepared a short resource that you can use with your Small Group or Sunday School Class or that can be used simply as a help for your own preparation and study. A brief answer key is also provided.
May God bless you as you serve as salt and light in increasingly dark and uncertain times.
Providence has to do with God’s Sovereign direction of all things towards his own ultimate purpose. Christians use to say that there are two books we must be careful to read – the Bible and the Book of Providence. By that they meant that we should study how God moves in history and in our experiences to accomplish his will and purpose. Sometimes it is hard to see God’s hand; sometimes it takes a long time for God’s will to be accomplished; sometimes there is a lot of watching and waiting before we even begin to understand, but God is always on the throne. Let’s take a look at a few of the Biblical verses that address this topic before addressing the comprehension task that follows.
Deuteronomy 32:39 Job 36:15 Job 37:9-14
Amos 3:6 Luke 13:1-5 John 9:1-3
Romans 8:22-23 Romans 8:28 Psalm 57:1
Consider the 8 statements found below; several are true and a few are false. See if you can sort them out; if you can, correct the false statements so that they read as true. Be prepared to share your reasoning with the rest of the group.
- God didn’t make those storms slam into the United States, but he will make something good come out of it.
- When something bad happens to a particular region it provides definitive evidence that they are notoriously bad sinners and God is judging them.
- There are a variety of potential reasons behind every natural disaster, therefore Christians should be very cautious about saying “this is because of that”.
- In general, it is fair to say that God ordains a certain amount of catastrophe and suffering to remind human beings of their weakness and frailty and their urgent need of redemption.
- When a natural disaster strikes people should be encouraged to consider what God may be saying to them as individuals and as a community.
- Christians should expect to experience fewer natural disasters than unsaved people because the favour of God rests upon us.
- God uses everything – political actions, environmental events, personal suffering – to test human hearts and to give the wicked a chance to repent and the righteous the chance to persevere in faith.
- Jesus is Lord over the storm and Jesus is Lord in the storm. He is God over us and God with us; thanks be to God!
- Does God speak through the natural world? Where would we go in the Bible for an indication of this? How should this be related to what God has said in his Word?
- How should we care for people who have experienced a tragedy or natural disaster? What is the “order of operations”? What should be our first response? When, if ever, should we get to the issues of meaning, lesson, application etc.?
Answer Key For Comprehension Task
- False. See Deuteronomy 32:39 and Job 37:9-13.
- False. See Luke 13:1-5 and John 9:1-3.
- True. See Job 36:15.
- True. See Luke 13:1-5 and Job 37:14.
- False. As long as we are in the world we will share in its tribulations. See John 16:33.
- See Psalm 57:1 and Mark 4:35-41.
To download a PDF of this study, click here: Providence, Suffering and Sovereignty.