Dealing With Disaster

Bible Book: Luke  13 : 1-9
Subject: Adversity; Disaster;Trouble; Problems

"Jesus asked, Who do men say that I am, Elijah another one of the prophets? Peter says, 'You're the Christ, you're the son of the living God.' Jesus responded and He said, 'Upon this rock I will build my church.'" The solid rock of Jesus Christ: stable, secure, absolute, the same yesterday - today and forever. That rock will not be shattered! Though our world has been shattered, and particularly our United States has gone through disaster at the hand of terrorism, that rock will not be broker. We will build our house upon that rock, not shifting sand. We will discover during these days that not only will we be able to deal with disaster, but also we will be able to rise above it and we will discover that that rock is still solid.

I invite your attention today to the gospel of Luke. Discover with me what this physician wrote of the Christ, who brings healing to our land today. Discover in the 13th chapter of the gospel of Luke through the Bible that you brought or the one that you'll reach out and grab in the pew rack, how God wants to speak to us and to help us, as the Rock, to determine what it means to stand strong for Him. I'm opening my Bible to Luke 13 and I hope you'll discover the same and as you do, let's examine the first nine verses today. This is the Word of God; hear it well. I'll read aloud; you follow along please in your text. Now there were present at that time those and some who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, "Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, No. But unless you repent, you too will all perish." Verse 4: Or these eighteen who died when the tower of Siloam fell on them, do you think that they were guiltier than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you no. But unless you repent you too will all perish."

Then he told this parable: A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard and he went to look for fruit on it but he did not find any so he sent to the man who took care of the vineyard. For three years now I've been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and I haven't found any. Cut it down. Why should it use up the soil? "Sir," the man replied, "leave it alone for one more year and I'll dig around and I'll fertilize it and if it bears fruit next year, fine and it not, cut it down."

It seems to me that a lot of us have taken on the role today that we're not deserving of. The role is that of judge; and we've decided that in the world's activities, and particularly what's happening in the United States in New York and in Washington, D. C. and with the explosions and the devastation that has occurred, that we would become the judge. As I put on this judges robe, I'm reminded of the way that life is in so many households today. We've tried to make sense out of all that is going on. We've tried to determine with our own self-styled judgment what is happening. So we've put the robes on and we've zipped them up and we determinedly decided that this is the way that it is; and we wrap it up into a nice little neat package; and then we bring out the gavel and we lay judgment on so many lives.

We've got to be careful. I believe this text points out to us that we must be extremely careful about the way that we judge. Jesus gathered a group of thousands. He used the pulpit of the Sea of Galilee as a microphone to propel His voice and His message. And He said in Matthew 7:1, "Judge not that you might not be judged," and yet we are filled with those who are making judgment statements today and we've got to be careful. I want to point out three ways from the text that we must careful and I believe that God will speak to us as we're learning to deal with the disasters that have occurred in our lives during these last nearly three weeks.

I. Be Careful Not to Judge the Victims (vv. 1-2).

The first is this; I think that we must be careful not to judge the victims. It's so easy, isn't it? Oh, it's so easy. "Something must have been wrong with their life," we begin to think. "What's wrong with those people in New York; well you know how they live!" Then we begin to rationalize, "Well you know how it is in the military today and maybe they deserved that. Maybe it's their problem. Maybe it's their fault." And then we take out the gavel and we make our judgment.

Friend, I can't keep the robe on for that. It doesn't work that way. Jesus pointed out that we don't deserve to make judgment on the victims. In the first two verses of this particular passage, we discover several things. You've got to remember the context. As he began the word, He opened by saying "Now, Now." And that little word there in the beginning of verse number one literally means, "At this very present time." It was a contemporary, passionate passage. Just like it is for today, at this very present time, right now, God's word is always relevant. Then He goes on to explain that there were Galileans who had come into the temple place and they were doing what you and I are doing. They were worshiping. But the custom and the context were so different because they brought unblemished animals within the temple and as they did you know what happened there. They cut them open and they drained their blood. They placed them on the altar and the Bible says that there were some whose blood was mixed with the sacrifice.

Do you know what that means? They were murdered. Pontius Pilate had some murdered, Galileans, and their blood was mixed there. There's no other spot in history where this is pointed out. But I believe it to be very true because Jesus follows up and He begins to make sense out of all of this senselessness, the tragedy, the devastation, the disaster that had occurred recently in their lives,   just like our own lives. In the middle of that God begins to ask us some questions and He gives answers that are wonderful.

A. Bad Things Happen to God's People

Do you know what's happening? When we begin to blame the victims, we begin to say, "Wait a minute, I'm okay but they're not okay." A Jewish Rabbi, several years ago, wrote a book; it became hugely popular. Its title was, Why Bad Things Happen To Good People. Well I'd like to turn that a little bit and just remind you that bad things happen not only to good people, but also to God's people.

You know why? Because we live in a world that has been tainted with sin. It's not a good world. Oh it's good to live in and God made this world, but there's something that's just not right about our world. The reason is sin. You didn't do it. I didn't do it. We inherited this sin. It happened a long time ago and as the first man and first woman were placed, they became rebellious, disobedient against God and we've inherited that. We picked it up and we're good at promoting it because it keeps on going on. But you know even God's people have bad things happen because we live in a bad world. We live in a world where sin's consequences are all about us. All we've got to do it look around and wake up.

Job went through that. Job asked, "Why me?" Are you asking that these days? Then he got it real personal and spiritual and he said, "Why me, Lord. Why is this happening to me? I'm a righteous man. You've taken my family, you've taken my animals, you've taken my wealth, you've taken my health, why me Lord?" We wonder questions like that. It's never wrong to ask God why, but it is not right to ask Him," Why me?" because He can give you the answer to "Why?" but "Why me?" is saying basically, "I don't deserve this, you don't know what you're doing." What we simply seek to do in many cases is that we shift the blame. "It must be those victims and their lives; what's wrong with them?

What's wrong with those people?"

B. In Right Place - Doing Right Thing

Friends, bad things happen to God's people. They were going about their everyday work-a-day   world. They were going to where they were responsible, where they were living out their lives. Many of them had Christ as their personal Savior. They were people of God. We cannot say that because of who they were and where they were they deserved what they got. That's distorted thinking and poor theology. Folks, they were in the right place doing the right thing.

But you know what, in the context of the Galileans that's exactly what they were doing. Guess what they were doing? What you're doing this morning. They went to worship. They were giving sacrificially. We'll do the same thing. Some of you of time, some of you of talent, some of you of your gift, some of you of your tithes and your offerings, but all of us are doing what we believe is the right thing in the right place right now. Yet, their lives were taken from them.

Can you imagine getting on an airplane and knowing that that was your last flight? Would you get on? Would you even attempt to do that? What would you have done if you saw a terrorist running up and down the aisle of the plane? What would you have done? I don't know, but I know this: even when you're in the right place doing the right thing sometimes horrible, horrid things happen and it's not your fault and it's not theirs.

C. A Great Question:

We cannot place the judgment upon their lives. Jesus asked a great question here. Oh it's a great question because you see the people were already asking it in their soul and in their mind. They were saying, "Hey, I wonder, are they worse sinners than we are?" The disciples surely thought that they had an edge on everybody else and surely those of us who are active and involved in church in a regular basis, we're thinking in terms of, "Our lives are clean and clear; something's wrong with them!" We make judgment. Jesus asked the question before they had the opportunity to do that, because He knows what you are thinking right now. He knows the questions that you have, those that your children have, that we have as a society and He asks a great question. “Hmmmm, are they worse sinners?" Well, what happens here? He answers it, and I'll bring that answer in just a moment. We must be very careful not to bring judgment against the victims.

II. Be Careful Not to Judge God (vv. 3-4).

Then we glance at the scripture once more and verses 3 and 4 we're careful again. We've got to be careful because here's what we do: If we determinately say, "Okay, I can't blame the victims. It's not the people's problem. It's not what they did." Then we put on the judge's robe again, and as we do we begin to say, 'If it's not their problem, and surely it's not MY problem, then it must be that God, you're the one that has the problem.'" So secondly, we've got to be careful not to judge God.

We zip this (robe) up pretty tight and we take out our righteous gavels and we say, "God, how could you have allowed this to happen; maybe it's you that's caused this to happen?"

"You diverted those jets; you put them there; you allowed those Galileans to die; you did that God!" Some of our world is pointing toward Him and they're blaming God. We can't do that.

A. An Even Greater Answer

Jesus gave a great answer, an even greater answer than the question that He asked. Note it with me please in verse number 3. In fact it's echoed again in verse number 5 and He said simply to the question they asked: Are these worse sinners; is it their problem?" He said, "No!" Pretty simple huh? God knows what is best and God says it's not their problem and He's saying plainly here, "It's not my problem."

I can't wear this robe any longer because I can't judge God. I've got to take it off and you've got to take it off too. If you're judging God and if you're saying it's God's fault and what He's done, you have failed to hear His answer. It's not His problem. He has the solution, but He didn't cause it to happen, and the people didn't cause it to happen. So what is He trying to say to us?

If you will, just look to the gospel of John for a moment. If you go deeper into your New Testament, you'll discover in the 9th chapter, the first three verses and I just want to read them to you (John 9:1- 3), because you see this is not the only place that people were struggling with why bad things happen to godly people. Here's what Jesus said about a blind man: As He went along He saw a blind man from birth and his disciples asked Him, "Rabbi who sinned, this man or his parents that he was born blind?" Jesus said (verse 3) "Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happened (watch this) so that the work of God might be displayed in his life." How's God working in your life because of the recent disaster? Oh God is all around us! Oh, the devastating difference just a day made - on September 11, 2001.

On that Monday there were people fighting against praying in schools; on Tuesday the 12th you might have been hard pressed to find a school where someone was not praying!

On that Monday there were people who were trying to separate each other by race, by sex, by color, by creed; on that Tuesday they were all holding hands.

On Monday we thought that we were secure; on Tuesday we learned better.

On Monday we were talking about the heroes as being our athletes; on Tuesday we were re-learning what hero really meant.

On Monday people went to work at the World Trade Center as usual; on Tuesday they died.

On Monday people were fighting the Ten Commandments on government property; on Tuesday the same people said, "God help us" while they were thinking, "Thou shalt not kill."

On Monday people picked up McDonalds for dinner; on Tuesday they stayed home.

On Monday people were upset that their dry cleaning was not ready on time; on Tuesday they were lining up to give blood for the dying.

On Monday the President was going to Florida to read to children; on Tuesday he returned to Washington to protect our children.

On Monday we e-mailed jokes; on Tuesday we did not.

B. Repentance is God's Call for All

It's all a matter of perspective. It's all a matter of what happens. It's all a matter of saying, "What will we do with what we're doing and what has happened here?"

Jesus gives an answer, and it's not God's fault. He gives an answer though as to how we can respond so that God can get even more glory, according to what we read in John, chapter 9. It simply is this: it's repentance and it's God's call for all. It really is and some of us don't like that word repent, but it's a biblical word. All it simply means is to turn around and go a different direction. It's a military term actually. It means an about face. If you're marching one direction and you're going the wrong direction, you get a command from the commander and he says, "About face," and you make that turn and you turn. To be honest with you, some of us have been headed the wrong direction for a long time. We've been going away from the things of God and this has drawn us back or it needs to.

I've never seen more signs in all of my life and as one of your missionaries traveling across the state, I preached in Columbus last Sunday morning. I missed being with you, but from my trip there 500 miles plus round trip, I didn't go through a city, through a town that I didn't see some hamburger place or some dry cleaners or some kind of car dealership that didn't say something about God bless America! What a changed time it is. It's a matter of perspective isn't it?

My friend I want you to hear me well at this point. God has blessed America and God needs to bless America, but above the blessing of God we need the mercy of God! We do. Because quite frankly many of us have not turned; we're walking and we're hoping that things will just get back to normal. Please God let the stock market rise again! Please God don't let the military entanglement be too long! Please God, change things; make them the way they used to be. Well the truth is they'll never be the way they used to be, not altogether the same. That's not bad news; that's good news because God is calling His world back to Himself and He's asking every one of us to be willing to make that turn with Him.

John the Baptist said it in Luke 3:8, "Repent! Turn around!" Jesus had said it earlier personally in chapter 5 of Luke, the 23rd verse and the entire book of Acts, the story about the early church so close to God at that time, is filled with God's call to turn and to change and to become partners with Him. That's what He's wanting to do. He's calling to you and to me to be a partner with Him in all that's going on in the world.

C. Disasters Multiplied - Temple x Siloam x Jerusalem

But you see the truth of the matter is that the disasters were multiplied. What Jesus pointed out here is simple. He said that something has happened in the temple (note this please) the disasters will multiply. It happened first in the temple and then He said you know those 18 that died when the wall of Jerusalem crumbled around Siloam? It happened there too around the Pool of Siloam. Then in 70 AD at Jerusalem the temple was destroyed and much of the city of Jerusalem was destroyed. Then it happened for us in New York and it happened in D.C. and then I put a question mark on the screen because it could happen again. We don't know where. We don't know when. I don't say that to be fear giving, but so that we might be people of faith. Disasters will be multiplied and we cannot blame them on God. It just happens and we need His protection and we need His direction in our lives.

III. Be Care to Honestly Judge Yourself (vv. 5-9).

I believe we need to be careful to honestly judge ourselves. We can do this. It's okay. God has given us permission to look at our own lives during this period in time and to examine where we're going and who we are and whose we are and where we're going to end up ultimately and as well as where we are today.

So I can put this robe on and I could say, "Guilty", or I can say, "Not guilty." It all depends on who you are and where you are and what you're doing. You see it all points to you. Note with me please in the text as we highlight verses 5-9, in verse number 5 the personal pronoun you is used three different times. Jesus said, "I tell you no but unless you repent you too will all perish." Now this is God's signal of security. He loves us and He opens His arms and He welcomes us and He asks us to judge own lives and determine where we are and what we need to do and where we need to go.

A. Where's the Fruit

You know, Jesus knew that there were disciples who were hearing what he had to say, but they just still didn't get it. So He did what we often times do and that is that He told a story to illustrate what He was trying to say. We call them parables. In the telling of this parable, He tells of a gardener who goes back to the garden that he owns and he speaks to the caretaker and he sees that fig tree there that he's looked at for three years and he said, "There's a problem with that tree," and he asked this question, "Where's the fruit?" "Where's the fruit?" "I mean that tree is supposed to produce, where's the fruit?" You see the fig tree is representative of the nation of Israel. I believe it's also representative of the nation of the United States.

God looks at our tree and He looks at our tree of our nation and He looks at the tree of our lives. He looks at the tree of our individual families and He's asking this question, "Where's the fruit?" Outward appearances look good: buildings, budgets, success, houses, land. Where's the fruit? Where are   we America? "Where are you Warren Baptist Church," God asks. Where's the fruit.

B. There's Still Time

The one who has been tending to the garden for at least three years comes back to the owner and he says, "Could you give me a little more time? I mean this is what I'm going to do for you; I'm going to dig around there, I'm going to cultivate the ground, I'm going to fertilize it and as I do that if there's no fruit after one year you can cut it down. Go ahead, you can cut it down then; but give me a chance."

And you know what I believe God is saying to us through this? That there's still time. There's still time America. There's still time people of God. There's still time for those who are still resistant to God's ways. He's giving us another chance so we've got to judge our own lives and we've got to look inside our own hearts and we've got to discover where we are and who we are and where we're going and He's saying to us, "America, yes I will bless you!" "America, yes I will put my hand of mercy upon you; but America I'm giving you a certain amount of time."

What will you do with what you know? How will you respond to the destruction and the devastation? You must judge yourselves.


I want to give you four ways to cope. Take a look at them. I think there are four ways that we can cope through disaster and through times of trouble.

Four Ways to Cope

i. We Can GROPE Our Way Through

The first is this: We can simply grope our way through. And to be honest with you, many of you are groping right now. Those who are groping are asking the same question that Job asked: "Why me Lord; why is this happening to my life? Why do I have to feel this way; why am I so discouraged? Why me, Lord? I'm a good person; I'm a God person. Why me?"

ii. We Can MOPE Our Way Through

Some of us have moved out of the groping stage and we've moved into what I think is called the moping stage. Instead of saying, "Why me?" we say, "Woe is me! I mean I'm in a bad fix." Self-pity just overwhelms us. My friend let me give you a definition of self-pity that I've written down here. It's easily the most destructive, non-pharmaceutical narcotic of our time. It is addictive. It brings momentary pleasure, but it separates us from others and it separates us from reality. And if you're moping around, if you're saying, "Woe is me" during these days, I'm just telling you that there's another way to cope and we're going to get to it.

iii. We Can DOPE Our Way Through

Then there are those who say that we'll just dope our way through this thing, okay? We'll just become so anesthetized, so numb, we'll get deeper into drugs, alcohol, into plainly just hoping that it'll go away. Somehow or another we think that if we just get separated enough from it, it'll just straighten itself out.

iv. We Can HOPE Our Way Through

Friend, that's not the answer. Then what is the answer? Here it is, don't miss this: We can hope our way through and hope is founded in Jesus Christ the solid rock and in Him alone. We build our lives and if you've never come to trust Him as your personal Savior, you have no hope, you're still groping, you're still moping, you may be doping. I don't know; but you have no hope. In Christ alone there is hope and His call is for you today to turn around and to come back to Him.

Yes, it's good that our nation has returned toward God's favoritism. But it' even better when God sees it happen in your life.

Some of you are still trusting and hoping that you'll find the perfect place and the perfect pastor and the perfect preaching and the perfect everything. It won't happen this side of heaven! But God may be saying to you today that He wants you to become a part of our ministry here at Warren Baptist. What are you looking for? If you're looking for Jesus, He's here and He invites you to become a partner with us. If you're stumbling today and need to spend the time and moment up at the alter place during the invitation, you just come - wherever you are - in the top balcony, the main floor, the choir loft - just spend a moment with the Lord. You don't need to come to me; you can come to Him and then return back to your seat. But I believe that if we're going to deal with disaster, we've got to look to the divine, for He is our only hope.