Gary F, an M in Japan shared this recently in a Facebook post:
CONTAMINATED AIR, FOOD & WATER, AND THE SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD IN THE MIDST OF SUFFERING
Is God REALLY in control? Does He truly rule over the land, the sea, the mountains and their movements? Can we trust in Him (not in our faith in Him but in the Person of God Himself!) when things are chaotic and so out of control in “real life”? Is faith in a higher power just a “pipe dream”?
Many, many sincere and good people lose their faith in God and their trust in “religion” in times of trouble. That is not a judgment but a statement of fact. Believe me, I have been close to it myself some days. I think that is a part of the human condition, isn’t it?
So, what do we do with the most recent news coming down from Tokyo? It is very clear that radiation levels are higher than normal in many parts of the Kanto region wherein the city is nested. Some readings show very high amounts of radiation, others much lower. But, regardless, the fact is that the readings are not normal. What about water? It has been confirmed by numerous sources that tap water is giving evidence of both iodine ( I-131) as well as cesium, both radioactive substances that should not be found in water under any circumstance. The government is saying that these levels are not “immediate health hazards” but what about the long term? Just yesterday, it was confirmed that radioactive readings were found in food products such as spinach, milk and other food in areas as southward as Chiba-prefecture which is latitudinally on the same plane as Tokyo. Finally, just this morning, it was revealed that an opening was discovered on the OUTSIDE of a building that houses a cooling pool at one of the reactors. There is a suspicion, yet to be confirmed, that the pool may have leaked radioactive water into the ocean. But there has been no recent update on that yet.
Let’s put these two realities together. Radioactivity in the food and water chain. Believing that God is sovereign and in control of everything, even nature. Can we put these two together? On the one hand, as a human being and as a parent, yes, I am concerned. As a follower of Jesus, living here, I have to believe God.
This morning, I read the first chapter of the book by John Piper and Justin Taylor called “Suffering and the Sovereignty of God.” In that chapter, John Piper says that this should be our prayer in the midst of suffering, “that God would stand forth and reassert his Creator-rights in our lives, and show to us his crucified and risen Son who has all authority in heaven and on earth, and waken in us the strongest faith in the supremacy of Christ, and the deepest comforts in suffering, and the sweetest fellowship with Jesus that we have ever known.” AMEN!
Piper then goes on the detail 10 relevant points. Each begins with the phrase,
“Let Us Celebrate That God is Sovereign”
1. Over Satan’s Delegated World Rule
2. Over Satan’s Angels (Demons, Evil Spirits)
3. Over Satan’s Hand in Persecution
4. Over Satan’s Life-Taking Power
5. Over Satan’s Hand in Natural Disasters
6. Over Satan’s Sickness-Causing Power
7. Over Satan’s Use of Animals and Plants
8. Over Satan’s Temptations to Sin
9. Over Satan’s Mind-Blinding Power
10. Over Satan’s Spiritual Bondage
Now, for those of you not familiar with the Bible or Christianity, this list might seem a little ridiculous. After all, aren’t Satan and demons a figment of our imagination? Or, you might be thinking so, Gary, the way you’re framing this list are you saying that some of this is happening intentionally? And others might be thinking, so, is this a battle of good versus evil? And who’s winning?
Glad you asked!
To the first question I would say, the greatest and most successful deception of Satan is to make us believe that he does not exist. If not for the teaching of Scripture we would know very little but the Bible is clear that the Satan or the devil is very real. More later when I do a separate note on how Piper develops some of these themes. To the second question, is what’s happening up in Tohoku not an accident, that is, did something cause it? Well, let me take this out of Christianity for a second. The governor of Tokyo made the mistake of calling the earthquake/tsunami that. He said that because of Japan’s egoism this horrific disaster was a “Ten-batsu”, literally, punishment from heaven or “divine retribution” as some news agencies have translated it. In other words, Shintaro Ishihara, a Japanese non-Christian man, said that there was “something behind this”, that it didn’t happen by accident. More on this later, too. To the last question, is this a battle between Satan and God, of good versus evil? Actually, the question should be framed, is this an EQUAL battle between Satan/evil and God/good (to put it in plain terms)? The answer here would be, no. Nothing happens without God’s permission. Satan is under God’s sovereign control even should God allow Satan to cause havoc upon humankind (see Job, chapters one & two). Again, this statement opens up a whole new can of “why” questions or even “how” ones. Again, I can’t answer that here but want to try to address what Piper says on a few of these things.
Let me just quote him and close now. I’ll come back to this later. I need to go out pretty soon.
Signs of “in-breaking of the kingdom of God.” Piper uses this phrase in relation to the impact of Christ healing people. But I think this concept has deep meaning when it is applied to radioactive foods, earthquake relief and human suffering in general. Even in the midst of disaster and tragedy God “breaks in.” He sometimes does it unilaterally on his own but many times He does it through people. For the aforementioned serious issues we’re dealing with here, I am trusting Him for “the in-breaking of His kingdom.”
“God, not Satan, is the final ruler of wind — and the waves.” Here, Piper was referring to the story in the gospels where Jesus literally made the wind and seas stop raging during a storm (see Mark 4:39). But I am applying this to the wind carrying radioactive particles or the water and the waves tainting the water supply. Yes, it is true that things are already beginning to happen here. But, once more, is our faith and what the Bible says about God’s control over nature irrelevant in this circumstance? Or, should we just trust in science to solve it or in our own intuition as we seek to flee from disaster (see my note on Calvin’s viewpoint on this)?
I want you to know that I am not treating this lightly and am not saying that this is all solved. But does my faith relate to any of this or do I just put it to the side and rely on reason, science, the government or other “experts”? It is a measure of all of the above, I think, but I don’t want faith to take a backseat while we trust in “man” and his abilities also (see Zech 4:6).
Finally, do we believe God more than Satan in the midst of this? Because Satan has the power not simply to mislead people but to deceive and “blind” them to all that is true and good. Piper quotes from 2 Corinthians 4:4, and 4:6, to show us “God’s blindness-removing power over against Satan’s blinding power” because this blinding power “is the most deadly weapon in the arsenal of Satan. If he succeeds with a person, the suffering will be endless.” I want to believe God more than Satan, more than even the circumstances I see around me. I choose Christ even as I carefully evaluate the present danger.
God is the king of the universe, creator of nature itself. God is in charge, Satan or “chance” is not. We are often blinded in our disbelief and must allow “the veil to be lifted” from our eyes so that our suffering is not self-fulfilling and endless.
Above all, as we walk with God and trust Him, even against insurmountable odds like the food and water supply we can rejoice in Him, and Him alone, for His glory.
Let Us Celebrate That God is Sovereign.” God is good, God is great. Let us thank Him.