Last week  our nation suffered a tragic natural disaster that has affected multiplied thousands. We were over on Great Barrier

Looking down two of Christchurch's main streets

Island at the time and could get some internet access to see photos but had no tv or tv by internet access so it was a few days until we saw the real extent of the damage that had been done. While there I wrote this article for our newsletter…

Writing this, I’m sitting in a lecture room on Great Barrier Island at the Inflame School of Prophetic Worship. But my heart is caught up  with the momentous news of Christchurch’s latest earthquake.

Like most of New Zealand I guess I am a bit in shock as I consider the disaster that has come upon the nation. So many lives have been affected or lost in the disaster. Many have no homes and little hope; and for many, much counselling will be needed for them to recover from this tragedy. How do we as the church in this nation respond in times like this?

For some the automatic response is to go to prayer and intercede for those affected. For others it is to go into a social action mode and begin to formulate help and resources. Both are equally valid responses, but prayer without the miracle working power of God being released into people’s situations in practical ways, with love, will not do what’s needed. Social action without prayer and the power of God being released alongside it will not do it. It is a time for the church to become “Jesus with skin on” in our nation right now. Now is the time to shine as lights in the darkness, to dispel the darkness in every way we can, both in practical ways and in the spirit realm.

One of the many churches that were destroyed by the quake

How do we actually do that in the spirit? We do it, not by railing at the principalities and powers but by going before the Throne of Grace, hearing God’s heart for the people, towns and cities affected and beginning to pray and release that over those places; by asking Him for His strategy and then implementing the strategy that He gives us, both in prayer and practically.

Now is not the time to say things like, “This is God’s judgement on them for their sin”. Statements like that are both insensitive and unnecessary. But let’s look at that statement. Did God cause this tragedy and is it judgement on people for their sins or is it just a fact that we live in a world where natural disasters happen?

Jesus himself was questioned on a similar issue. In Luke 13 He is asked questions relating to two situations. In the first, someone asks Him a question relating to the death of some Gallileans at Pilate’s orders and the other question relates to the death of some people when a tower fell on them. In both situations the question was, “Was it because of their sin that they were killed?” Jesus’s answer for both situations was interesting – He said “No”, then He basically said, “Their sin is not the issue – yours is. Have you dealt with it?” In other words don’t look at other people’s lives and blame their circumstances on the judgement of God. Use the situation to do a spiritual check up on yourself!

Jesus is saying that neither the issue nor the answer here is that a single person’s sin or corporate sins caused this calamity. The lesson is that all people will perish if they do not repent.

Rescuers look for victims in one of the collapsed buildings

It’s interesting, isn’t it, how often our perspective can be that when someone else has a disaster hit them, then it is God’s judgment, but when we have the disaster we call it a wake‐up call or a time of testing. We can be quick to recognize others’ sins and yet ignore our own. We can be quick to claim that God is judging others but is not judging us. The cause of their perishing, whether by natural death or disaster, is not ours to know and judge. Our part is to check out where we stand and become the physical representation of God to those in the situation, bringing healing, compassion, help and spiritual support during this time.

Let’s recognise this for what it undoubtedly is – a natural disaster in which both sinners and righteous have been affected or have even died. And let’s be those that love as Jesus does and do all that we can to bring aid, both practical and spiritual, to those who are suffering at this time. Let’s be a light in the present darkness.