Remarks concerning Hurricane Irma: It is really comforting to be here today. It is good to see so many of my brothers and sisters here today. I hope you feel the same way. When Barnabas came to Antioch, the text of Acts 11 tells us he was glad “when he saw the grace of God”. I know the grace he “saw” was the conversion of the Gentiles through the preaching of the gospel. But when I look around after this past week, I am glad because I see the mercy of God. God answered our prayers and protected this congregation. I know many are still suffering from Irma. But we are here today, and that is grace to me.
Thanks to those who prayed and expressed concern during this trying time. Thanks to those who reached out, and are still reaching out to help others in need. This is a time when Christ can shine forth in our lives to those who are not Christians.
Restoring the Power
Intro: Do you think God speaks to you personally when you read your Bible? I was sitting at my desk yesterday and I read Job 26:2 and it was if God was speaking directly to me: But Job answered and said: “How have you helped him who is without power? Upon more careful examination I realized that Job was actually talking to his friend, Bildad, and that it was not an explicit reference to me, but it sure sounded right. Especially since I had experienced the no power thing myself. Electricity is a wonderful blessing. We notice this when it is not available. If that is you, we are praying for you.
A couple of thoughts that I pondered about power (you probably have some of your own.)
I. God’s power is the only real power we possess. What we do depends on our ability to harness and hold on to what God has given us in the first place. Benjamin Franklin did not invent electricity, he simply discovered it. I read an article recently about the power contained in a single cell. Electrons and neutrons being attracted and repelled. What is the power that inhabits the cell – electricity. It is really the stuff that life is made of (at least as far as we can understand it) and we are allowed to simply sample it for our own meager uses.
• Ps 62:5-11 – My soul, wait silently for God alone, For my expectation is from Him. 6 He only is my rock and my salvation; He is my defense; I shall not be moved. 7 In God is my salvation and my glory; The rock of my strength, And my refuge, is in God. 8 Trust in Him at all times, you people; Pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us… 11 God has spoken once, Twice I have heard this: That power belongs to God.
• Isa 40:21-31 – Have you not known? Have you not heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth? 22 It is He who sits above the circle of the earth, And its inhabitants are like grasshoppers, Who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, And spreads them out like a tent to dwell in. 23 He brings the princes to nothing; He makes the judges of the earth useless. 24 Scarcely shall they be planted, Scarcely shall they be sown, Scarcely shall their stock take root in the earth, When He will also blow on them, And they will wither, And the whirlwind will take them away like stubble. 25 “To whom then will you liken Me, Or to whom shall I be equal?” says the Holy One. 26 Lift up your eyes on high, And see who has created these things, Who brings out their host by number; He calls them all by name, By the greatness of His might And the strength of His power; Not one is missing. One thing that crossed my mind this week was that God can put us in the dark pretty quick. Which brings us to…
II. We are powerless before the natural processes of His world. We test, analyze, study and even predict, but we cannot change. In the end, we must submit to what happens. The cone of uncertainty is a paradigm of our lives. I think it is going to go in this direction, but we cannot really be sure. We must wait and see.
A. Many of Jesus’ miracles focused on the natural forces of the world that defined the lives of humanity. Luke 8:22-25 – Now it happened, on a certain day, that He got into a boat with His disciples. And He said to them, “Let us cross over to the other side of the lake.” And they launched out. 23 But as they sailed He fell asleep. And a windstorm came down on the lake, and they were filling with water, and were in jeopardy. 24 And they came to Him and awoke Him, saying, “Master, Master, we are perishing!” Then He arose and rebuked the wind and the raging of the water. And they ceased, and there was a calm. 25 But He said to them, “Where is your faith?” And they were afraid, and marveled, saying to one another, “Who can this be? For He commands even the winds and water, and they obey Him!” He stilled the winds that no man could tame. He produced food in an instant that took men seasons to produce. He opened the eyes of the blind, restored strength to legs that could not walk. These natural forces were constant reminders of the inability of men to control the world they inhabited. We often tell ourselves that we should not mess with mother nature; but the reality is we are absolutely powerless before our Father, the God of the universe.
B. My understanding of God’s word tells me that this impotence toward our environment is because of sin. Not my sin or your personally, but the presence of sin in the human experience. Eden was hurricane free, earthquake free, and suffering free, but that changed. We now live in a cursed world that groans and travails anxiously waiting for its redemption.
C. The prophets often depicted God’s judgment on sinful nations as a coming storm or flood that could not be turned back. It is foolish and presumptuous to attach a specific judgment of God to Hurricane Irma, or any other natural calamity today. Not because God cannot or has not used the forces of nature to discipline sinners or bring people to repentance. But when He did there was a prophetic word attached to the event that revealed His intent (Joel – locusts; Noah and the flood).
III. When the power is restored, it is a time for joy and celebration. (Thursday afternoon – moving my refrigerator to plug in a generator and power up a few light bulbs when the little light in the refrigerator suddenly came on… I didn’t do that. There was power in the house! I literally ran out into my yard expecting everyone in the neighborhood would be shouting with joy as well. Nobody was there. I could still hear the generators running. Didn’t they know the good news? I wanted to run from house to house and tell then because I knew how they felt without power, and I knew how this news would be just want they wanted to hear. It was gospel – good news! The power was here. After awhile people began to recognize what had happened. Generators went silent, windows closed. AC units fired up.
A. That evening, the darkness was replaced by the presence of lights on everywhere. It was such a different place. I thought about the value of light over darkness, and what a difference it makes when people can access the power that God provides once again.
IV. Some thoughts and applications:
A. What did you see after the storm? (Always anxious to go look out the window, or drive through the neighborhood for the first time). Devastation; trees down, flooded streets, roofs damaged; maybe worse. But if you looked closely you also saw people helping people. Neighbors showing concern for each other, treating each other with kindness; all kinds of people, white, black, Hispanic, rich poor, etc. Some of these folks were enemies before the storm, not speaking to each other out of spite. What changed? The power was restored. In fact, it never went off, they just found it again.
B. God provides the power to love, forgive, sympathize, persevere in extreme loss, show kindness in the face of adversity. You look around you see that power on display in times like this. It is more impressive and life-changing than a hurricane. When we see it, it is a time to celebrate.
C. The greatest privilege God has ever provided for us, as His creation, is the ability to dwell in His presence. To belong to Him. To be His children. TO BE LIKE HIM. The power that made that possible is the power of His love. 1 John 3:1 – Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! What saddens me is to know that there are so many people who do not know that the power is on. There are 69,000 people in Lee County without power this morning. But that is only the number that do not have electricity in their homes. There are many more who do not have the power of God’s mercy in their lives.
1. [hooking a generator up to your house and flipping the breaker in the box. Never knowing that the power is on… unless you see your neighbor’s lights on.] Many people are living on generators, satisfied with a few lights, when they could access the power of God’s love and forgiveness in their whole life. No physical storm can knock out the power of God’s love.
D. I did a lot of praying this past week. You probably did too. I even prayed for my power to come back on! When I consider what we should pray about, I am drawn to the prayer of Paul for the Colossians. He also prays that they would get the power.
• Col 1:9-14 – For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; 10 that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; 11 strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy; 12 giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light. 13 He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, 14 in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins. We need to pray to be strengthened in His power for longsuffering with joy.
V. Return to Job 26 for one last point – Job counters Bildad’s assessment by describing the character and ability of God. 10 He drew a circular horizon on the face of the waters, At the boundary of light and darkness. 11 The pillars of heaven tremble, And are astonished at His rebuke. 12 He stirs up the sea with His power, And by His understanding He breaks up the storm. 13 By His Spirit He adorned the heavens; His hand pierced the fleeing serpent. 14 Indeed these are the mere edges of His ways, And how small a whisper we hear of Him! But the thunder of His power who can understand?”
A. I was drawn to the words …by His understanding He breaks up the storm. The people in the know are baffled by how Irma lost her punch after coming ashore. She did a lot of damage – not diminishing that – but it was not what they said it would be. He broke it up. We give Him thanks today. And we also realize that what we have seen is just the edge of His power, a mere whisper. But even where the storm unleashed all of its fury …By understanding He can break up the storm in our hearts and minds. Be anxious in nothing.Cast all your care upon Him for He cares for you.
Conclusion: The power of God is awesome to behold. But we will never see it more clearly displayed than at the cross. Jesus died to pay the price for your sin. He rose from the dead to make intercession in your behalf. Submit to that power through faith and obedience.
Put your trust in Him and repent of your sins; confess him before men; be baptized in water for the remission of your sins.
• Rom 1:10 – For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.
• Mark 16:16 – He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.