The whole world is trembling right now over the outbreak of terror and calamities happening throughout the earth. Every day we wake up to learn of another disaster. Some observers say we’re witnessing the beginnings of World War III.
First, terrorists blew up trains in Spain, and then masses died in train explosions in India. In Pakistan, a disastrous earthquake devastated entire towns, leaving thousands homeless, hungry and hurting. Multitudes in the Far East are still suffering in the aftermath of the tsunami.
Then came devastating disasters in America. First, record-setting hurricanes slammed repeatedly into Florida — and then Katrina struck. America watched as one of its major metropolitan areas was nearly wiped out, along with other important Gulf coastal cities. In recent weeks, massive fires have swept through the South and West, with thousands of acres burning in Texas, Oklahoma and California.
Never in our history have there been so many consuming fires and raging hurricanes. Yet the upheaval is not just happening here. The earth is experiencing record-breaking heat worldwide, causing massive floods, torrential rains and hurricanes.
Kim Jong Il is racing to produce at least seven nuclear bombs for warheads, while he allows his suffering, oppressed nation to starve to death. The world’s leadership seems baffled as to how to stop this insane man’s threats to other nations.
Meanwhile, another mad, devil-possessed dictator sits in power in Iran, one more nation that’s rushing to produce nuclear bombs. This dictator and his crazed mullahs boast that they’re going to destroy Israel by blasting the entire nation into oblivion. Meanwhile, they issue threats to the rest of the world not to interfere with their nuclear plans, warning they’ll shut off oil supplies to anyone who tries.
Then, most recently, there is the frightening news that Israel has retaliated against Gaza and Lebanon. The conflict there is spreading rapidly, with rockets falling on both sides, killing civilians by the dozens. The whole world holds its breath as it watches the news reports, fearing a full-scale Middle East war.
Israel’s leaders have made it clear they won’t tolerate a nuclear threat from Iran. Their only hope may be to bomb all Iranian nuclear sites. World powers may call for a ceasefire in the region, but it will be short lived, like every other conflict in Israel’s history since 1948. A great conflagration in the Middle East seems inevitable.
As these frightening calamities break out on all sides — wars, terrorism, natural disasters, nuclear threats — there is yet another menacing threat to humankind. Scientists around the world are on pins and needles as they monitor the Avian bird flu. They warn that if this deadly strain mutates to humans, it could cause a worldwide pandemic. (As I write this, some fifteen people have already died.) Experts speculate that such a mutation could wipe out one-fifth of the world’s population. More than a billion people would die.
Non-believers are becoming convinced there are no solutions left, that everything is spinning into chaos because there is no “all-seeing governance.” But God’s people know differently. We know there is no reason to fear, because the Bible reminds us again and again the Lord has everything under control. Nothing happens in the world without his knowledge and governance.
The Psalmist writes, “The kingdom is the Lord’s: and he is the governor among the nations” (Psalm 22:28).Likewise, the prophet Isaiah declares to the world, “Come near, ye nations, to hear; and hearken, ye people: let the earth hear, and all that is therein” (Isaiah 34:1). He’s saying, “Listen, nations, and give me your ear. I want to tell you something important about the Creator of the world.”
Isaiah states that when God’s indignation is aroused against nations and their armies, it is the Lord himself who delivers them to slaughter. “Behold, the nations are as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance…All nations before him are as nothing; and they are counted to him less than nothing…It is he [God] that sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers…To whom then will ye liken me?” (Isaiah 40:15, 17, 22, 25).
Isaiah then speaks to God’s people, who are battered and troubled by world events. He counsels, “Look up to the sky, to the glorious heavens. Behold the millions of stars placed there. Your God created and named every one. Are you not more precious to him than they are? So, fear not.”
We are to know there is a map in heaven, a plan that our Father has outlined for the course of history. And he knows the end from the beginning. As this plan comes to fruition, especially in calamitous times like these, I believe we are to ask ourselves this question: “Where is the Lord’s eye focused in all this?”
Scripture assures us these wild men’s bombs, armies and powers are as nothing to the Lord. He laughs at them as mere specks of dust, and soon he will blow them all away. Consider Isaiah 40:23–24: “It is he…that bringeth the princes to nothing; he maketh the judges of the earth as vanity. Yea, they shall not be planted; yea, they shall not be sown…He shall also blow upon them, and they shall wither, and the whirlwind shall take them away as stubble.”
Isaiah is telling us, “No sooner are these ‘seeds’ planted and take root in the ground, than God blows on them and they wither. The wicked rulers of the earth are caught up in his whirlwind and swept away as chaff. He reduces them to nothing.”
In my own lifetime, I have seen such tyrants “blown away” like chaff. I remember as a child, riding alongside my father in the car when the music on the radio was interrupted by a shocking news report: “Pearl Harbor has just been bombed by the Japanese. Much of the naval fleet has been destroyed, with hundreds killed.”
My father thought, “This is it. It’s the end, as we have been prophesying.” Overnight, the entire American landscape changed, even in our little Pennsylvania town. Mandatory blackouts and emergency sirens became a regular part of our lives. It was a terrifying time, as war had spread throughout the whole world.
Soon after that, the Far East was in flames across the Pacific islands. Hundreds of thousands of soldiers would die in grueling battles and prison camps. Meanwhile, a mad, demon-possessed dictator named Hitler ravaged nations on the other side of the globe. He seemed unstoppable as he invaded and took over countries in Europe. When his Nazi regime dropped bombs on powerful Great Britain, the world looked on in terror. And in his demonic craze, he ordered European Jews rounded up and imprisoned, then gassed and cremated them by the millions.
In Russia, another insane dictator had begun systematically killing millions of his own countrymen. Stalin was a sadistic madman, and communism became a mighty force under his iron rule.
Then one day came the most fearful news ever heard by humankind: an atomic bomb had been dropped. Much of the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki vanished in a moment’s time, as the A-bomb wiped out multitudes. The world knew then that something absolutely dreadful had been unleashed on the earth.
Soon afterward, Japan’s dictator, Hirohito, stood on board a ship — his head bowed in disgrace — and signed documents of surrender. In Europe, with Allied forces closing in, Hitler committed suicide in a fiery underground bunker. When his remains were found, nothing was left but ashes. In Russia, Stalin also suffered a wretched death.
Today, the world sees another demonled dictator, Saddam Hussein, being blown away like chaff. The man who once terrorized his own countrymen and threatened the Arab region now sits awaiting judgment. He may face execution in a very short time.
Ultimately, we see them through the lens of Scripture, and how true are these words: “The Lord blows on them, and they are carried away with the whirlwind.”
Jesus also tells us what we’re to do when we begin to see upheaval in the world:
“There shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken.
“And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh” (Luke 21:25–28).
Notice Christ says, “When you begin to see these things happen, then look up, lift your heads.” This suggests things are going to get worse and become more intense. Therefore, now is the time to set our hearts — to draw near to the Lord — and get grounded in his hope. We’re to anchor our faith in his Word, and grow in solid, unwavering faith.
What is the faith we’re to stand on? It is that the devil can’t hurt us. The most chaotic news can’t hurt us. All demon-led dictators are going to blow away like chaff, and we’re going to see Christ coming in his glory. This is what allows us to say in evil times, “Live or die, I am the Lord’s. He is sovereign over all that’s happening.”
What is God’s great concern in all of this? Is it on the events in the Middle East? No. The Bible tells us God’s vision is trained on his children: “Behold, the eye of the Lord is upon them that fear him, upon them that hope in his mercy” (Psalm 33:18).
Our Lord is aware of every move on the earth, by every living thing. And yet his gaze is focused primarily on the well being of his children. He fixes his eyes on the pains and needs of each member of his spiritual body. Simply put, whatever hurts us concerns him.
To prove this to us, Jesus said, “Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28). Even in the midst of great world wars, God’s primary focus isn’t on the tyrants. His focus is on every circumstance, every detail, in his children’s lives.
Christ says in the very next verse: “Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? And one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father” (10:29). In Christ’s day, sparrows were the meat of the poor, sold two for a penny. On the streets, bird catchers could be seen carrying baskets full of snared sparrows. Yet, Jesus said, “Not one of these small creatures falls to the ground without your Father knowing it.”
According to Bible commentator William Barclay, Jesus’ word “fall” in this verse signifies more than the bird’s death. The Aramaic meaning is “to light upon the ground.” In other words, “fall” here indicates every little wounded hop a tiny bird makes.
Christ is telling us, in essence, “Your Father’s eye is on the sparrow, not just when it dies but even when it lights upon the ground. As a sparrow learns to fly, it falls from the nest and begins to hop along the ground. And God sees every little struggle it has. He’s concerned over every detail of its life.”
Jesus then adds, “Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows” (10:31). Indeed, he says, “The very hairs of your head are all numbered” (10:30). Simply put, the One who made and counted all the stars — who monitored every action of the Roman Empire, who keeps the galaxies in their orbits — has his eye fixed on you. And, Jesus asks, “Are you not worth much more to him?”
Isaiah cried, “Why sayest thou, O Jacob, and speakest, O Israel, My way is hid from the Lord, and my judgment is passed over from my God?” (Isaiah 40:27). God’s people had accused him, “The Lord has overlooked my need. He isn’t answering my prayer. God seems to have turned his eye away from my trial.”
I believe this is the cry of many hurting Christians today. Our ministry receives letters from precious believers who endure trials and sufferings that absolutely stagger the mind. Let me give you a profound example, from a godly pastor who has faced an incredible barrage of trials that seem too painful for anyone to bear.
It began a few years ago, when the pastor laid his five-month-old grandson beside him in bed. He and his wife were babysitting the boy for their daughter, who was at work. The boy was a healthy child and the jewel of his grandpa’s eye. But hours later the pastor woke to find his grandson dead of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome).
The pastor’s daughter — the mother of the dead boy — couldn’t handle the grief of losing her son. A year later, she attempted suicide by a drug overdose. She survived the attempt but was left severely brain damaged. Now the pastor and his wife are their daughter’s full-time caregivers, tending to her needs around the clock.
Then, a year or so later, the pastor’s youngest son was accused of two murders. One was the killing of a pusher who had supplied the young man’s sister with drugs. That son now sits in prison, awaiting trial and facing the death penalty.
As these agonizing trials mounted, the pastor faced a crisis hour. It came the week before Christmas. This man was in such pain that he retreated to his study, where he wept pitifully while clutching a picture of his dead grandson.
There is more to this story, but I want to stop here to focus on the unbelievable pain of this servant of God.
I can’t imagine what that pastor was going through. He had lost his precious grandson, his daughter was brain-damaged, and now his son was awaiting a death sentence. All he could think was, “Lord, this pain is way over my head. I don’t know how to go on.”
I ask you: Where was God’s eye focused at that moment? Was he busy elsewhere, taking care of a world gone mad? Was he preoccupied with the fear-inducing events taking place? Or, do you think it impossible that God’s eyes were fixed on the hurt and confusion in this one righteous man? The Psalmist gives the answer: “The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and his ears are open unto their cry” (Psalm 34:15).
Imagine, for a moment, a tree outside the window of that pastor’s study. In that tree is a bird’s nest, where a tiny sparrow is trying out its wings, beginning to learn to fly. As the little bird leaps out of the nest and falls to the ground, God takes notice of it.
Now, if you looked out that window and saw this happen, tell me: how could you not believe God had also taken notice of this dear, weeping man’s pain? How could you not believe God was touched by the feelings of his sufferings? How could you not believe God was bottling his every tear, and had set in motion a way for his servant to escape?
The pastor writes: “I can truthfully tell you, Jesus himself walked into my office that day and sat before my desk. The Lord lovingly made me know I had two choices: First, I could give up and quit the fight. If I did that, I could tell every friend my troubles and my reason for quitting, and they would understand. I was free to make that choice, and Jesus would understand and still love me.
“Or, he told me, I could take courage and walk out to face the future because he wasn’t finished with me yet. These were my two and only choices. This wasn’t harshness on the Lord’s part. It was simply the only two choices I had.
“I chose to get up and go on. Before I walked out, I placed the picture of my grandson in my desk drawer. That has been almost a year now. My battles are not over, yet I know his hand is on me. He came to me in my pain and gave me the courage to go on. And in spite of further testing, I’m continuing in the strength of his Word.”
Beloved, this man has an understanding of God’s love as never before in his lifetime. He has laid on Jesus every pain, every grief, every worry — and trusted his life to his plan.
I’m convinced that, most often, it is love that we need in our trials, and not answers. Answers can only go so far when a person is overwhelmed by deep pain. It is the governing love of our Father — and the loving hands of our brothers and sisters, reaching out to us — that serve as his answer in our hardest times. We’re not to measure our faith in such times, because we may not have much left. But we can look and see a sparrow outside our window, and know we are the focus of our Father’s love.
Christ described the last days as a time so troubling and frightful, “Men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth…Upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity” (Luke 21:26, 25).
What did Jesus give us to prepare us for these calamities? What was his antidote to the fear that was going to come?
He gave us the illustration of our Father watching the sparrow, of God numbering the very hairs on our heads. These illustrations become even more meaningful when we consider the context in which Jesus gave them.
He told these illustrations to his twelve disciples, as he sent them out to evangelize the cities and towns of Israel. He had just endowed them with power to cast out demons and heal all manner of sickness and disease. Think of what an exciting moment that had to be for the disciples. They were given power to work miracles and wonders! But then came these fearful warnings from their Master:
“You won’t have any money in your pocket. And you won’t have a home, not even a roof to sleep under. Instead, you’ll be called heretics and devils. You’ll be beaten in synagogues, dragged before judges, thrown into prison. You’ll be hated and despised, betrayed and persecuted. You’ll have to flee from city to city to avoid being stoned.”
Now picture these men wide-eyed as they listen to Jesus. They must have been gripped with fear. I imagine them wondering, “What kind of ministry is this? Is that what the future holds for me? This is the bleakest outlook on life I’ve ever heard.”
Yet, in this very same scene, Jesus told these beloved friends three times: “Fear not!” (Matthew 10:26, 28, 31). And he gave them the antidote to all fear: “The Father’s eye is always on the sparrow. How much more will it always be on you, his beloved ones?” (see 10:29).
Dear saint, here is a profound truth we can lay hold of for the most tumultuous times. Jesus is saying, “When doubts flood in — when you’re at wits’ end, and you think no one sees what you’re going through — here is how to find rest and assurance.
“Look at the little birds outside your window. And run your fingers through your hair. Then remember what I told you: these small creatures are of immense value to your Father. And your hairs are to remind you that you’re of much greater value to him. His eye is always on you. And he who sees and hears your every move is near.”
This is how our Father cares for us in hard times. He is aware of every detail of our lives — our family, our house, our finances, our marriage — and he is concerned over each aspect. We are not to fear! He has promised to make a way of escape.