September 1, 2017
A Biblical Response to Natural Disasters
Twelve years ago this month, Love Worth Finding’s announcer, Chris Fabry, sat down with Dr. Rogers to talk about the devastation the United States (more specifically, Mississippi and Louisiana) was reeling from just after Hurricane Katrina, which had hit the Gulf Coast only 9 days earlier.
As Chris and Dr. Rogers talked, it was also just before the 4th anniversary of 9/11—not a natural disaster, of course, but one even more costly in loss of life. Then as today, many were asking, “Why?”
Now, in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane/Tropical storm Harvey, it’s important to revisit what Dr. Adrian Rogers said—from Scripture—about disasters like this. His reaction to the horror with which we watched the two tragedies—one in New York, the Pentagon, and Pennsylvania, the other along the Gulf Coast—will help us again as we grapple with the loss of life and property in Texas in recent days.
Open your Bible and turn to Romans chapter 8 as we soon begin our study.
Chris began with, “The question ‘why’ is on the minds of many today.”
Dr. Rogers responded, “I think the word horror is a good word.” When the hurricane hit, his first thought was,
“Where is God, and where should His people be in the midst of all of this? And I was thinking so much from Heaven’s viewpoint as to what our reaction will be to that which we have no control over—especially the reaction of the saints of God. Right away, I had in my heart a desire to share with people from the Word of God concerning this, because, very frankly, there is no other place to turn at a time like this but to the Word of God.”
If you are struggling with these questions, this study will be of great encouragement to you.
Pastor Rogers continued, “In the disaster, we see a manifestation of both ‘Mother Nature’ and human nature. I’ve watched the many reactions of people to horrendous tragedy.
“But I’ve been blessed. There has been an enormous outpouring of love, sacrifice, and personal help, which shows the other side of human nature.
“There are those who’ve asked honest questions: Why? Why did God allow this?
“I’m going to read three verses from Romans chapter 8, and I think these three verses as much as anything I know will speak to Katrina, will speak to tsunamis, will speak to 9/11 and all the other things we have known in recent days.”
We continue with the transcript of their conversation, adapting it into an online study.
1. Turn in your Bible to Romans 8:20-23. Fill in some keywords from Romans 8:20-23.
20 For the ________________ [translated literally: creation, and I’ll read it that way from now on] was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of Him who hath subjected the same in hope,
21 Because the creation itself shall also be delivered from the bondage of corruption” [underscore in your Bible “the bondage of corruption”] into the glorious ______________ of the children of God.
22For we know the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.
23And not only they, but __________________ also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the ______________________ of our __________.
The Amplified Bible version helps make this clearer:
20 For the creation was subjected to frustration and futility, not willingly [because of some intentional fault on its part], but by the will of Him who subjected it, in hope
21 that the creation itself will also be freed from its bondage to decay [and gain entrance] into the glorious freedom of the children of God.
22 For we know that the whole creation has been moaning together as in the pains of childbirth until now.
23 And not only this, but we too, who have the first fruits of the Spirit [a joyful indication of the blessings to come], even we groan inwardly, as we wait eagerly for [the sign of] our adoption as sons—the redemption and transformation of our body [at the resurrection]…
2. You see two “groanings” here in 20-23:
First, There is the groaning of ________________ (v. 22).
Then the groaning of _________________ (v. 23)
3. And then the Bible says that the Holy Spirit Himself is groaning:
26 Likewise the Spirit also ________________our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.
How is the Holy Spirit helping us? By ______________________________________
The word “groan” actually means labor pains, like a woman in labor. When we see these things, some people may ask, “Where’s God? Either God cares and He has no power to do anything about it. Or else He has power but He doesn’t care. Or else there’s no God at all.”
The word “groaning” is mentioned here three times. I really do believe these three unlock the mystery of all of this.
I. THE POWER OF SIN AND THE GROANING OF CREATION
4. What does verse 20 say “the creation was made subject to”?The King James calls it “________________.” The Amplified calls it “___________________.”
Look at this in context with v. 22: “We know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.” We talk lovingly about “Mother Nature,” but Mother Nature is not a kind goddess. As a matter of fact, it’s time for all of those who worship nature to turn from Mother Nature to Father God.
If you look at nature, all creation is marked with sickness, disasters, calamities, storms, fires, earthquakes. And all of creation is moaning, groaning and sighing—pressed down with grief and distress. All nature suffers from the foul breath, the gnawing tooth of decay.
It’s easy to see something is wrong with this whole creation. Why the confusion? Why the frustration? Why the suffering?
I want to say that God is not the Creator of chaos, sin, anguish or pain. When God made this world, He made it perfect. In Genesis, He stepped back and said, "It is good” (Genesis chapters 1 and 2). He made His creatures perfectly free. Because He made them free, He gave them the ability to choose good or to choose evil. This is a very important point.
God can’t just force us to love Him. Forced love is a contradiction in terms. And so the ability to choose evil is necessary for the ability to choose good.
When Adam sinned by his free choice, he dragged the entirety of creation down with him. That’s what the Bible calls “The bondage of corruption” (Romans 8:21).
If you are asking, “Why all the suffering, the pain, the moan, the groan?” I’ll tell you why: It is because of sin.
A CLOSER LOOK AT THE RESULT OF SIN
A great Bible teacher, M. R. DeHaan II, told about a time when an earthquake hit Mexico City in 1985. He was watching live satellite coverage. Devastation was everywhere. At the lower left hand of the television screen they were running this graphic: “Courtesy S.I.N.” The initials stood for “Spanish International Network.”
But DeHaan mused that there was a cryptic message the producers didn’t intend in that: “Here is an earthquake, courtesy of sin.” You can also say, “Here’s a tornado, here’s a hurricane, here’s a flood, here’s a mudslide, courtesy of sin.” It’s the bondage of creation.
When Adam surrendered to Satan the power and authority God had intended for Adam to have, the earth—all creation---fell subject to Satan and became subject to a curse.
5. Turn back to Genesis 3:14-15, back to the time of that surrender:
14 And the Lord God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art _______________ above all __________, and above ___________ __________ of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life:
15 And I will put _________________ between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.
There is a curse on the animal kingdom.
The serpent was cursed, but all of the animal kingdom was cursed.
6. Continue to v. 17.
There’s a curse on the mineral kingdom.
“Cursed is the ______________ for thy sake. It sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life.”
We see deserts and waste places, earthquakes and mudslides, tornadoes, hurricanes and floods.
7. Now v. 18.
There’s a curse on the vegetable kingdom.
“_______________ also and ______________ shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat of herb of the field”.
The world became a garden of weeds. How often have you noticed that a beautiful green yard, smooth as a golf course, left untended, quickly reverts to weeds? These weeds are brought to you “courtesy of SIN.”
8. Why did God put a curse upon creation? Why is there a curse on Mother Nature? You will be surprised at the answer. The Bible explains it in the latter part of verse 17:
“Adam, cursed is the ground _____ _____ ______.”
The worst thing that could ever happen to human beings would be to live in paradise with sinful hearts.
Why, you ask? We would never know anything is wrong. You see, it’s the pain and the fever that tells us our body is sick. It would be foolish simply to deaden the pain without dealing with the disease. And all of this suffering, all of this pain, all of this chaos, all of this misery is God’s reminder there is something desperately wrong with creation and with fallen human nature.
But wait—there is hope.
9. Back to Romans chapter 8:20.
20 For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of Him who hath _______________ the same in ________.,
Now one day there’s going to be a change, and I thank God for that. One day the desert is going to blossom as a rose. One day the lamb and lion will lie down together. One day the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as waters that cover the sea. That will be when Jesus comes, and I’m looking forward to that.
But before then
—and write this upon your heart—
we see the power of sin and the groaning of creation.
II. THE PROBLEM OF SUFFERING AND THE GROANING OF THE CHRISTIAN
10. To v. 23:
“And not only they” [the creatures], “but __________________ also,” [he’s including the Christians now] “which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of the body”.
Every Christian needs to understand that he is not exempt. Being saved does not mean immunity from pain and suffering. There are many godly people on the Gulf coast and other places who have suffered along with these others. Why is that? Because our world has a curse upon it. It’s the world in which we live. The virus of sin and the results of sin—they are everywhere. And our personal bodies also bear the curse of Adam’s sin.
11. You and I are not “in the image of God” precisely. We need to understand this. It was Adam who was “in the image of God.” Turn to Genesis 1:27.
27 So God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him; male and female created He them.
But that image of God became marred in Adam when he fell.
Now turn to Genesis 5:3 and fill in some very notable words:
3 And Adam lived an hundred and thirty years, and begat a son ___ _____ _____ likeness, and after _____ __________; and called his name Seth:
Who does “his” in this verse refer to? Adam, or God? _______________
If you said “Adam,” you are right.
Everybody talks about being “made in the image of God,” but to be precise, we’re not. You see, after the fall, we find we’re made in the image of Adam. Adam was made in the image of God, but that image was wrecked and spoiled. Adam brought forth a son in his image. So mankind is now just a reflection of the image that Adam was created to be. We have been born out of a polluted gene pool. And the marks of sin are in our body. And because of that we suffer.
That’s our current state, and we are all born that way. But, oh, what a change there’s going to be someday when we become what our Lord made us to be!
12. For confirmation of that heavenly change, turn over to 1 Corinthians 15:49. It’s one of the sweetest verses in the Bible:
49 And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the _________________.
Now see 2 Corinthians 3:18. If this does not thrill your heart, I don’t know what would:
18 But we all, with open face, beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are _____________ into the _________ image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.
Changed into the image of the Lord Jesus Christ!
Take heart, friend. One day we’re going to be like Him, the second Adam, the last Adam, Jesus Christ from above. We’ve borne the image of the earth long enough. We’re going to bear the image of the heavenly. We’re going to be like the Lord Himself.
13. Now go back to Romans 5:1- 5. Look at this.
“Therefore [one of the greatest “therefores” in the Bible] being ______________ by _________, we have __________ with God [hallelujah!] _______________ our Lord Jesus Christ: 2 By whom also we have ______________ by faith into this __________ wherein we ___________, and rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.”
Now, if it just ended there, we’d love it, but… it doesn’t end there.
3 And not only so, but we glory in [watch this] ____________________ also: knowing that ___________________ worketh patience; 4 And patience, experience; and experience, hope: 5 And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost, which is given unto us”.
Here God says that not only do we have this peace but we also have (v. 3) _____________________. They exist side by side.
A CLOSER LOOK AT TRIBULATION
The word “tribulation” literally means “pressure.” It refers to the crushing of grapes in the wine press and olives in the oil press. And what God is looking for is the oil and the wine of Christian character. Therefore, God allows tribulation.
My friend, it takes pressure to make something beautiful out of a life. And the conflicts that we face, all of us, we need to see them not as obstacles, but as opportunities.
A diamond is a lump of coal that has stayed under pressure.
Now we may not understand all the ways of God, but God is in control.
Take the word “luck” and the word “fate” out of your vocabulary. They don’t belong there. Put the words “faith,” “trust” and “providence” in their places.
There are so many Christians who fail to understand that tribulation is a part of life – whether you are saved or whether you’re lost. We also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan because of this tribulation.
And friend it’s a false gospel that says if we come to Christ there’ll be no adversity, no misfortune, no persecution, or pain.
14. You talk about tribulation—look at what the Apostle Paul endured. In 2nd Corinthians 11:23-28, he listed what he had been through thus far in ministry:
23 …in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft.
24 Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one.
25 Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep;
26 In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren;
27 In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.
28 Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches.
In light of all that, turn to 2 Corinthians 4:8
You cannot handle the tribulation that life brings each one of us eventually, if you do not have what Paul describes that he had, in these verses. Slowly and thoughtfully, consider this:
8 We are _____________on every side, yet not distressed; we are _________________, but not in despair;
9 _________________, but not forsaken; _______ _______, but not destroyed;
10 Always ____________ about in the body the ___________of the Lord Jesus, that the _________ also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body.
11 For we which live are always delivered unto death for Jesus' sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh….
14 Knowing that He which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you.
15 For all things are for your sakes, that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God.
16 For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.
17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;
18 While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.
Paul is saying, “Look there’s trouble on every side.” Here are some key points:
Precious friend, if you’ve been through some kind of tribulation, this storm or anything else, stay true to God. Don’t quit. Endure. Winston Churchill reminded us that a bulldog’s nose is pointed backward so he can continue to breathe while he still holds on.
That’s what I want you to do, and friend, you’re not a failure until you quit.
William Barclay has described this kind of endurance and patience in this way:
It is not the patience that can sit down and bow its head and let things descend upon it and passively endure until the storm has passed. It is the spirit that can bear things not simply with resignation, but with blazing hope. It is not the spirit that sits statically enduring in one place, but the spirit that bears things, because it knows that these things are leading to a goal of glory. It is not patience that grimly waits for the end, but patience which radiantly hopes for the dawn.
As a Christian, you’re going to suffer. There’s going to be tribulation, and that’s going to work patience or endurance in your heart and in your life.
I wish I could tell you there’s an easy way, a lazy way, to escape this, but there is none. Jesus said plainly, finally, without a shadow of a doubt, “In this world you will have tribulation.”
Now, what can you do?
You could retreat. You can try to run away. Buy a plane ticket. Take a pill. Turn up a bottle. Stick in the needle. End your life. Drop out. Give up. That’s retreat. Don’t do it.
You could resent. You can complain against God and shake your fist in the face of God. You can become critical, even blaspheme God. But don’t do it.
You could resign. Just throw in the towel and give up. Don’t do it! Don’t give way to discouragement and despondency.
YOU NEED TO RELY. Depend upon the Lord Jesus Christ and say with Job, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.” Remember Romans 8:24 says we are saved by hope.
Thank God there is hope. What is hope?
Hope is faith in the future tense.
In a dark world of despair, there shines the bright star of hope from an empty tomb.
It is Easter that can turn every hurt into a hallelujah,
every tear to a pearl,
every midnight to a sunrise,
and every Calvary to a resurrection.
There is hope.
III. THE PROMISE OF STRENGTH AND THE GROANING OF THE COMFORTER.
15. Turn back to Romans 8 now, and begin reading with verse 26:
26 Likewise the Spirit also ___________ our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the ____________ itself ___________ ___________________ for us [now listen to this] with groanings which cannot be uttered.
27 And He that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because He [the dear Holy Spirit] maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.
Friends, are you listening?
We don’t have to bear our groanings alone. The Spirit within us is actually praying for us in agonizing longings which can never find words.
You see, God enters into our suffering with us. God does not spare us from the furnace of affliction. He joins us in it. But whether He should spare or whether He would share, we know He’s there. And hallelujah for the Holy Spirit of God within my heart and your heart.
Sometimes in tragedy, we don’t know how to pray. We’re almost numb. Sometimes we are inarticulate. We pray until we’re out of breath. All we can do is simply sigh and groan. That’s when God steps in. That’s when the dear Holy Spirit of God says, “He needs help! She needs help!” And He intercedes for us.
A CLOSER LOOK AT HOW HE “HELPS” OUR INFIRMITIES
The word used here in “the Spirit helps”is used only one other time in the Bible.
Remember when Martha complained to the Lord Jesus that Mary wasn’t helping her in the kitchen prepare the meal for Him and His disciples. Martha says, “Jesus, tell Mary to come help me.” That’s the same word used here when the Bible says the Spirit helps our infirmities. It meant, “Tell Mary to bear her part of the load.” I want to tell you, the Holy Spirit of God is there to help you bear that part of the load.
It’s the Holy Spirit that inspires, guides, energizes and sustains our praying. And when we don’t know how to pray, or what to pray for, thank God the Holy Spirit of God is interceding.
Precious friend, if you’ve been through the storm, if you’re in the storm, or going into a storm, thank God there’s one who groans for you, the Comforter.
The word comforter literally means “with strength.”
Com means “with.” Fort means “strength” — like a fortress.
He is there. God is there for you. You say, “Well, I don’t understand it all.” Friend, you don’t have to understand it. He does. We live by promises, and not by explanations.
There is the power of sin and the groaning of creation.
There is the problem of suffering and the groaning of the Christian.
But there is the promise of strength and the groaning of the Spirit.
You can take all of it and arch the rainbow of hope over it and write down Romans 8:28—“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, who are called according to his purpose.”
Now, as I bring this to a conclusion, let me say, friend:
For the curse of those thorns that came after the Garden of Eden, Jesus wore a crown of thorns.
For the curse of the sweat that was on Adam’s brow, Jesus would sweat blood.
For the curse of the dust of death that Adam entered into, Jesus laid down His life in the dust of death for us.
And I can promise you that our dear Savior is not a casual spectator to your trouble. He’s knocking at your heart’s door, and He wants to come in.
And if you would, pray this prayer and mean it:
“Lord Jesus, I need You, I want You. Come into my heart. Forgive my sin. Cleanse me. Save me and help me to trust in You through all of this problem. And thank you, dear Spirit of God, that You will make groanings and intercessions for me because I need you so much. Save me, Lord Jesus.”
At the conclusion of this exchange between Chris and Dr. Rogers, Chris asked him about a family he had heard about, affected by the terrible hurricane.
Chris: Pastor Rogers, I’ve heard the story of a family invited to a church to be rescued in the evacuation of their area, and they didn’t want to go to a church because they were upset with God that He would let this happen. They said, “We don’t want any part of this because it was God who did this to us.” Come along side that family. What would you say to them?
Dr. Rogers: Well I think that is tragic, and while I can understand humanly their thinking, it is flawed thinking. They’ve been completely tricked by the devil. If a person does not come to the Lord, they have lined up with the enemy. And why would I line up with the one who has hurt me?
You know, one time Joyce and I had a heartache that was horrendous in our family. We lost a little baby, our first child, who died in a sudden crib death.
I had been visiting the hospital a few days before that and was witnessing to a man. When I came back shortly after the funeral of our baby boy, the man looked at me and said, “What are you doing here? Are you still serving God after what He did to you?”
I said, “Oh friend, I’m serving God all the more, because I’m not lining up with the enemy. The enemy is Satan. God is not the one who hurts us. Jesus said, “The thief comes but to kill to steal and to destroy. But I have come that you might have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). Why would a person line up with the one who has hurt them, the enemy? Satan has a greater foe than he’s ever had before in me. Jesus is the only One who has the answer to sin, sorrow and death. I’m giving my heart to Him in a richer, fuller way than I ever have before.”
I would hope that friends like this would not dishonor the Lord by failing to turn to Him, but use this as an opportunity to come to Him.
I choose God. I’m coming to the Answer, not to the perpetrator. It’s sad that people can be so deceived. But eventually, when they see the love of Christ through Christians, many of them will be changed and will repent.
Chris: You know one of the things I see on television that really hasn’t been highlighted is the response of the church. There are believers all around this country who are getting involved, who are praying and giving and reaching out with God’s love to people who have basically no hope other than someone getting involved.
Dr. Rogers: I agree one hundred percent. Chris, you know, the government has to do what it can do, and therefore in this time of tribulation and trouble, thank God for the government. But one thing government cannot do is make us good. Only God can make us good. Friend, we’re the ones who have the answer, the message of hope and love, and I think this can be the church’s finest hour.
Chris: There are many who say the area will never be the same. And part of me thinks that’s true. I hope it is true, because there need to be changes in our lives and we need to get our priorities straight, don’t we?
Dr. Rogers: Indeed we do. There’s something about a storm like this that humbles us all. We realize in spite of our vaulted ingenuity, our technology, our computers, our philosophers, and our government, here comes a storm—and we cannot stop it. It teaches us that we are not sovereign in this world. Whether or not we like it or think God should allow it, we must come to the bottom line: it is because of sin. We live in a sinful world.
Some people say, “Why should I suffer for Adam’s sin?” Well, forget Adam—you’ve sinned. Is there anybody who hasn’t sinned? We all know we have. By one man, Adam, sin entered into the world. I thank God because—hallelujah—by one Man, Jesus, there is an answer. I don’t mind a one-man condemnation if I can have a one-man salvation.
Chris: There are some who look at situations in our world like this and say, “Well there it is! This proves we’re in the end times.” How do you respond to that?
Dr. Rogers: No, it doesn’t prove we’re in the end times, but it certainly is an indication that we may be. Remember the word groaning is a word for childbirth, labor pains, and we believe something is about to come forth. When labor pains intensify and come more frequently, you know you’re getting closer to the delivery.
That’s what we’re seeing now, the signs of the times, earthquakes, fires, floods, tribulation. We’ve always had those things, but now it seems they are intensified and closer together. I believe we may be very, very, very close to the coming of Jesus.
All of these Scriptures I shared from Romans chapter 8 mention the word hope. Hope, hope, hope. “God subjected the same in hope.” We must never lose sight of the blessed hope, which is the Second Coming of Jesus.