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                        "WHEN DISASTER STRIKES"


INTRODUCTION

1. In recent years, natural disasters have struck different regions of
   the world...
   a. Tsunami in Asia (2004)
   b. Hurricane Katrina (2005)
   c. Cyclone in Myanmar (2008)
   d. Earthquake in Haiti (2010)

2. When disasters like these strike, people often raise questions...
   a. Why did it happen?  Did God cause it?  If not, why did He allow it
      to happen?
   b. What can I do?  Does it do any good?

[Since the Ethiopian famine in 1985, I have often thought about such
questions.  With the most recent disaster fresh on our minds, let's
attempt to provide some answers...]

I. WHY DID IT HAPPEN?

   A. DID GOD CAUSE IT...?
      1. It is common to call such natural disasters "acts of God"
      2. Perhaps because God has used natural disasters in the past; for
         example:
         a. The flood - Gen 6:6-7,11-13,17
         b. Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah - Gen 18:20; 19:24-25
         c. Famine, drought, pestilence, plague, war, earthquake,
            against Israel - Am 4:6-12
      3. But it would be a mistake to attribute all disasters to the
         hand of God
         a. Disasters are part of a natural process in a planet's
            evolution and ecology
         b. Sometimes God simply allows such events to run their course
            according to "time and chance", and so many experience
            tragedies due to no fault of their own - Ec 9:11
         c. Some disasters are man-made (Chernobyl, Bhopal, bridge
            collapses, forest fires)
         d. Suffering often comes upon the innocent - Job 1:8-22; 2Co
            11:23-27
         e. Thus we should not make the mistake of Job's friends,
            presuming guilt on those who suffer tragedy - Job 42:7
      -- Without divine revelation, there is no way we can know if "God
         caused it"

   B. THEN WHY DOES GOD ALLOW IT...?
      1. If God didn't cause it, why does He even allow it to happen?
      2. This relates to the overall problem of suffering, which God may
         allow for several reasons
         a. It keeps this world from becoming too attractive,
            encouraging us to seek something better - Mt 6:19-21; He
            13:14
         b. It can bring out the best in people (patience, generosity)
            - Ro 5:3-4; Jm 1:2-4
         c. It encourages people to think of God, to draw near to Him in
            repentance
      3. Whenever the innocent and righteous die, we should bear in
         mind:
         a. The death of the righteous is precious in the sight of God
            - Ps 116:15
         b. The death of the righteous removes them from all suffering
            and evil - Isa 57:1-2
         c. The death of the righteous is truly a blessing! - Re 14:13
         d. Even the innocent young are delivered from much heartache
            and sorrow!
      -- Whether caused by God or not, disasters can result in much
         good!

[Which leads to our next question, which often comes from those
responding to disaster and suffering...]

II. WHAT CAN I DO?

   A. AS WE HAVE OPPORTUNITY...
      1. As we have opportunity, we are to do good - Ga 6:10
      2. What we can do depends on what we are able to do
         a. Our skills, our resources
         b. Whether we are nearby or far off
      3. If the need is nearby, we may be able to help directly
         a. With skills like medical aid, trash cleanup
         b. With resources like medicines, food, clothing, shelter
      4. If the need is far off, we can help indirectly
         a. Supporting those with skills who desire to go
         b. Supporting charitable organizations (NGOs)
      5. Thoughts about charitable giving
         a. Give to established charities with experience in the
            affected area
         b. Use guides like Charity Navigator to find one you can trust
         c. Send cash, not food, clothing, etc.
      6. While donating tangible items might make you feel better,
         giving cash is almost always a better option - to understand
         why, read these two articles:
         a. Cash Is Best - Center For International Disaster Information
         b. What's the absolute best way to help after a natural
            disaster abroad? - Slate.com
      -- Again, what we should do depends upon our opportunity

   B. DO GOOD TO ALL...
      1. As we have opportunity, we are to do good to all men - Ga 6:10
      2. Like the Good Samaritan - Lk 10:30-37
      3. Non-sectarian, charitable organization are especially good for
         this, for example:
         a. Doctors Without Borders (especially good for immediate help)
         b. Mercy Corps (especially good for long term help)
      4. I prefer non-sectarian instead of faith-based organization for
         general charity, because many of the latter teach false
         doctrine while they seek to help - cf. 2Jn 1:9-11
      -- We should not hesitate to help those who may not be Christians

   C. ESPECIALLY THE HOUSEHOLD OF FAITH...
      1. As we have opportunity, we are to especially help our brethren
         - Ga 6:10
      2. Like Gentile Christians did for their Jewish brethren in Christ
         - Ro 15:25-26; 2Co 8:1-4
      3. Churches can certainly send aid directly to such Christians
         - 1Co 16:1-4
      4. Individuals can sometimes use other channels - e.g., Open
         Hearts, Helping Hands
      -- When we know of Christians in need, we should not hesitate to
         help

   D. FINALLY, WE SHOULD PRAY...!
      1. It is our duty as Christians to pray for all men - 1Ti 2:1-2
      2. We should pray for those directly afflicted, and their loved
         ones
      3. We should pray for those providing relief (governments, NGOs,
         individuals)
      -- The prayers of the righteous can accomplish much good - cf. Jm
         5:16

CONCLUSION

1. Disasters are terrible, but they can be occasions for much good in
   this world...
   a. The wicked can turn to God
   b. The righteous can draw closer to God
   c. People can become more charitable, foes can become friends

2. With faith in God and love for our fellow man, we can make the best
   of the situation...
   a. Strengthening bonds between brethren
   b. Bringing communities together
   c. Appreciating what is really important in life

So in times of calamity, trust in God and reach out to aid your fellow
man...!
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