If God wills calamities, why should we try to protect ourselves from them?

October 18, 2009 | Speaker: Bro Jurem Ramos

Review

Last week, I shared with you that calamities are acts of God.
  • Isaiah 45:7 I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the LORD, who does all these things.
  • Isaiah 31:2a And yet he is wise and brings disaster; …
  • Amos 3:6 … Does disaster come to a city, unless the LORD has done it?
  To be more specific, are storms created by God? Yes they are according to Scripture.
  • Psalm 135:6-7 Whatever the LORD pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps.  7  He it is who makes the clouds rise at the end of the earth, who makes lightnings for the rain and brings forth the wind from his storehouses.
  • Read Job 36:24—37:13
  I showed you that this is part of what the Bible teaches regarding God’s sovereign rule, maintenance, and control, over all things for the accomplishment of His eternal purpose. This is what Bible theologians call divine providence.   I read to you one of the best descriptions of divine providence in the Heidelberg Catechism written in 16th century:  
  1. Q. What do you understand by the providence of God?
  2. God's providence is His almighty and ever present power, whereby, as with His hand, He still upholds heaven and earth and all creatures, and so governs them that leaf and blade, rain and drought, fruitful and barren years, food and drink, health and sickness, riches and poverty, indeed, all things, come not by chance but by His fatherly hand.
  Here is an additional description of divine providence. This is from the Belgic Confession, which was also written in the 16th century. It comes from Article 13: The Doctrine of God's Providence:   We believe that this good God, after he created all things, did not abandon them to chance or fortune but leads and governs them according to his holy will, in such a way that nothing happens in this world without his orderly arrangement.

Today’s Study

The Bible’s teaching on divine providence is part of God’s sovereignty. The Bible teaches that all things are ultimately under God’s control and directs all things to accomplish His purposes:
  • Isaiah 46:9-10 remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me,  10  declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, 'My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,'
  • Psalm 135:6 Whatever the LORD pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps.
  • Daniel 4:35 all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, "What have you done?"
  • Ephesians 1:11 …[He] works all things according to the counsel of his will,
  The doctrine of God’s providence may cause some people to make wrong conclusions. (It is not unusual for people to make wrong conclusions from the teaching of Scripture. We see often illustrated in the Bible.
  • Romans 3:5-8 But if our unrighteousness serves to show the righteousness of God, what shall we say? That God is unrighteous to inflict wrath on us? (I speak in a human way.)  6  By no means! For then how could God judge the world?  7  But if through my lie God's truth abounds to his glory, why am I still being condemned as a sinner?  8  And why not do evil that good may come?--as some people slanderously charge us with saying. Their condemnation is just.
  • 1 Corinthians 5:9-10 I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people--  10  not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world.
  Here is how the divine providence is misunderstood. Some may think that since divine providence teaches that God directs all things to accomplish His purposes, then this means that there is no need for us to do anything to protect ourselves from calamities or to eradicate diseases.   They think the logic goes like this: If God sovereignly wills all things, including super typhoons, landslides, destructive floods, then we would be striving against God to invest billions of pesos to find a way to protect ourselves from them, or possibly to wipe them away.   I don't want anyone to misunderstand the precious doctrine of divine providence. And so this is what I intend to do today. I am going to show you that the teaching of divine providence does not hinder us from doing good. In fact, those who believed strongly in God’s sovereignty and providence have been among the most aggressive in using means in order to mitigate the effects of curse and sin in this world.   Let me go back to my original question: “If God wills calamities, why should we try to protect ourselves from them?”   I will answer that with these three reasons:
  1. Because of Biblical Logic
  2. Because of Historical Position
  3. Because of Biblical Examples
 

A. Biblical Logic

Why should we still protect ourselves from calamities although they are acts of God? First, because this is the logic of the Bible. The Biblical logic says: Act according to God’s revealed “will of command” and not according to his mysterious “will of decree.”   We see these two wills of God in Deuteronomy 29:29:   "The secret things belong to the LORD our God [will of decree], but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law [will of command].   Here’s another example.   Acts 4:27  for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel,   This verse tells us that when Herod, Pilate and other wicked men persecuted and murdered Jesus, they did only what God had decreed or predestined to take place. This is God’s “will of decree.” Now we are not to conclude from this that because it was God’s will for Christ to fall into the hands of wicked men that God wants us to join the mockers and the murderers of Christ. No. The Bible teaches us plainly that we should not betray, ridicule, mock, flog, forsake, pierce, or kill innocent people. That is God’s revealed command or “will of command.”   God’s will of command is what we are to obey and not His “will of decree.” To support this, look at …   Luke 22:22  For the Son of Man goes as it has been determined, but woe to that man by whom he is betrayed!"   In the same way, we do not look at the super typhoons, earthquakes, tsunamis, or Leptospirosis, which are God’s will of decree and conclude that we shouldn’t do anything about it to mitigate the devastating effects.   No. God’s will of command is “Love your neighbor” (Matthew 22:39). “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is God’s will of command (Matthew 7:12). “If your enemy is hungry, feed him” is God’s will of command (Romans 12:20).   I agree with John Piper when he said, “The disasters that God ordains are not aimed at paralyzing his people with indifference, but mobilizing them with compassion.”  

B. Historical Position

The second reason why we should protect ourselves from calamities although they are acts of God is a historical reason: this has been the position of Christians in the past.   Let me read to you from the Second Helvetic Confession (1560s).   Chapter 6 - Of the Providence of God   Means Not To Be Despised. Nevertheless, we do not spurn as useless the means by which divine providence works,  but we teach that we are to adapt ourselves to them in so far as they are recommended to us in the Word of God. Wherefore  we disapprove of the rash statements of those who say that if all things are managed by the providence of God, then our  efforts and endeavours are in vain. It will be sufficient if we leave everything to the governance of divine providence, and we  will not have to worry about anything or do anything. For although Paul understood that he sailed under the providence of  God who had said to him: "You must bear witness also at Rome" (Acts 23:11), and in addition had given him the promise,  "There will be no loss of life among you . . . and not a hair is to perish from the head of any of you" (Acts 27:22, 34), yet  when the sailors were nevertheless thinking about abandoning ship the same Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers:  "Unless these men stay in the ship, you cannot be saved" (Acts 27:31). For God, who has appointed to everything its end,  has ordained the beginning and the means by which it reaches its goal.  

C. Biblical examples

The third and most important reason why we should protect ourselves from calamities although they are acts of God is the Biblical reason. We find so many examples from the Bible that this is how people who believed in divine providence acted.  
  1. In instances when death was almost inevitable believers did not just say, “if it is God’s will for me to die, then so be it.” No. they kept on praying and pleading that God would spare them.
  Psalm 31:14-15  But I trust in you, O LORD; I say, "You are my God."  15  My times are in your hand; rescue me from the hand of my enemies and from my persecutors!  
  1. When people were threatened with God’s sure judgment, they continued to trust in the Lord, hoping that God would be merciful. They did not say, “Well if it is God’s will to judge me and condemn me, then so be it. I can’t do anything about it.” No. Look at what happened to the residents of Nineveh.
  Jonah 3:1-10  Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah the second time, saying,  2  "Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it the message that I tell you."  3  So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the LORD. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, three days' journey in breadth.  4  Jonah began to go into the city, going a day's journey. And he called out, "Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!"  5  And the people of Nineveh believed God. They called for a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them.  6  The word reached the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, removed his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes.  7  And he issued a proclamation and published through Nineveh, "By the decree of the king and his nobles: Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything. Let them not feed or drink water,  8  but let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and let them call out mightily to God. Let everyone turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands.  9  Who knows? God may turn and relent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we may not perish."  10  When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it.  
  1. Even when reason for sickness was God’s judgment, believers kept on praying that God would show mercy.
  • Psalm 41:4 As for me, I said, "O LORD, be gracious to me; heal me, for I have sinned against you!"
  • Psalm 39:7-13 "And now, O Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in you.  8  Deliver me from all my transgressions. Do not make me the scorn of the fool!  9  I am mute; I do not open my mouth, for it is you who have done it.  10  Remove your stroke from me; I am spent by the hostility of your hand.  11  When you discipline a man with rebukes for sin, you consume like a moth what is dear to him; surely all mankind is a mere breath! Selah.  12  "Hear my prayer, O LORD, and give ear to my cry; hold not your peace at my tears! For I am a sojourner with you, a guest, like all my fathers.  13  Look away from me, that I may smile again, before I depart and am no more!"
  • Exodus 4:10-12 But Moses said to the LORD, "Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue."  11  Then the LORD said to him, "Who has made man's mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the LORD?  12  Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak."
 
  1. Even when God revealed to the church that certain things were going to happen, the church did not respond with a fatalistic attitude. They did something.
  • Acts 20:29-31 I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock;  30  and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.  31  Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish everyone with tears.
  • 2 Timothy 4:1-4 I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom:  2  preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.  3  For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions,  4  and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.
 
  1. Even though God had already chosen those who would be saved, the believers still felt the obligation to exert every effort to share the gospel with the elect. They did not think, “well, if God chose these people, even if I don't do anything, they will be saved.”
 
  • 2 Timothy 2:10 Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.
  • Acts 18:9-11 And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, "Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent,  10  for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people."  11  And he stayed a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.
 
  1. God’s will is for some people to be poor but that did not mean that no help should be extended to them since it would be tantamount to going against God’s will.
  • Proverbs 22:2 The rich and the poor meet together; the LORD is the maker of them all.
  • Matthew 26:11  For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me.
  • Proverbs 17:5 Whoever mocks the poor insults his Maker; he who is glad at calamity will not go unpunished.
  • Galatians 2:10  Only, they asked us to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.
  • Galatians 6:10 So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.
 
  1. God already knows what we need even before we pray, but that should not stop us from praying.
  • Matthew 6:7-8 "And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words.  8  Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. … 11  Give us this day our daily bread,
 
  1. Even when we are being punished by God for sin, we are still to pray for relief.
  • Lamentations 3:24-33 "The LORD is my portion," says my soul, "therefore I will hope in him."  25  The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him.  26  It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.  27  It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth.  28  Let him sit alone in silence when it is laid on him;  29  let him put his mouth in the dust-- there may yet be hope;  30  let him give his cheek to the one who strikes, and let him be filled with insults.  31  For the Lord will not cast off forever,  32  but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love;  33  for he does not willingly afflict or grieve the children of men.
  • Lamentations 3:39 Why should a living man complain, a man, about the punishment of his sins?
 
  1. Acts 27 is a great illustration of the response of man to God’s providence. Let’s look at this great chapter.
 

Conclusion

And so, what do we do when calamities, which are acts of God, come? Do we join the ranks of the indifferent and say, “Que sera sera, Whatever will be will be!” This is the biblical response. God calls us to follow his revealed will of command. Leave the will of decree to God.   Here are some of things we can do when calamities strike. These are just some ideas that can stir you up for more concrete and lasting activities:
  • Buy rubber boats
  • Help clean up trash
  • Unclog drainages
  • Clean up rivers
  • Control Leptospirosis
  • Set up dams
  • Clear up esteros
  • Remove fishpens in Laguna de Bay
  • Purchase Early warning devices such as Doppler radars to determine amount of rainfall storms bring
  • Prepare evacuation centers
  • Strengthen National Disaster Coordinating Councils
  • Plant trees
  • As God leads, pursue studies that could lead to solving other problems brought by the calamity.