26 July 2013

Disasters: "God's great blessings in disguise"

Every Friday, to commemorate the stellar contributions to internet apologetics and punditry made by our founder and benefactor, Phil Johnson, the unpaid and overworked staff at TeamPyro presents a "Best of Phil" post to give your weekend that necessary kick.

This post (republished in its entirety) is from the blog back in June 2007. Phil points to the story of Jonah as an example of Romans 8:28.

As usual, the comments are closed.

Sometimes—all the time, if you are a Christian—the worst things that happen turn out to be great blessings in disguise. Whatever disaster befalls you, if you are a believer, you can be certain God will use it for good.

Consider Jonah's experience inside the fish. To the human eye, that whole episode might look like an expression of divine wrath against Jonah: The Lord hurled a great wind at the ship Jonah was using (sinfully) to try to flee the will of God. The whole ship was about to sink, the entire crew's lives were in danger, and finally in desperation (and at Jonah's own behest), they threw him overboard. Every aspect of it might look (to the human eye) like an utter and unmitigated disaster.

But it was not a disaster. There was far more divine love and mercy (rather than divine wrath) evidenced in that storm and the subsequent events. In fact, the goodness of God is a thousand times more profound and lasting than His displeasure—if you see this whole event from His perspective. A tremendous amount of immediate benefits came from the discipline God lovingly meted out to Jonah.

Take, for example, the ship's crew. Not only were their lives spared, but their souls were also saved. They turned to Jehovah in faith (Jonah 1:16).

And Jonah—he was thrown overboard at the very peak of the storm. From the perspective of the sailors, Jonah was a dead man. There's no way a man can survive a raging sea like that. But as soon as Jonah was thrown overboard, the sea was calmed (Jonah 1:15). The sailors sacrificed to God and worshiped. Nothing suggests they saw the fish swallow Jonah. I suppose it's possible that they saw the fish swallow him. But more likely, from their perspective, he just disappeared into the deep. Either way, from where the sailors stood, Jonah was a dead man, a victim of divine wrath.

From Jonah's perspective things looked pretty bleak, too. He knew he had displeased God, and that he fully deserved what was happening to him. If he had been digested by the fish and that had been the end of him, it would have been just.

But the fish turned out to be a vehicle for Jonah's salvation, not his destruction. The fish also returned Jonah to where he should have been, and multitudes in Nineveh were saved because of Jonah's preaching.

Remember those things the next time you feel as if you have been thrown into the sea in the midst of a raging storm—then swallowed by a giant fish and taken even further ionto the depths. Even if your circumstances are the consequences of your own sin; and especially if you are a believer whom God is chastening for your own disobedience: This is all for your good, and that means it is already more of a blessing than a curse. Look beyond the earthly circumstances of the calamity, and you'll probably see it.