In the aftermath of the Waldo Canyon fire and the resulting loss of hundreds of homes in Colorado Springs, comments abound about the age-old question about God’s sovereignty and His goodness.
Thousands of professing Christians were praying that this fire would not destroy homes, yet their prayers were not answered. Why, they ask, did God not intervene? Was he not able, or worse, not willing to act to prevent this?
One answer put forth was that God has turned this world over to Satan, and that, in affect, ‘the devil did it’. This seems to relieve God of any culpability in the matter. However, this does not square with the Bible, nor with the God who inspired the Bible.
While the Bible does say that Satan is the ‘god of this world’, this refers to his dominion over the spiritual condition of men’s souls. Everyone is born into this world with the corrupted sinful nature, and as a result, a slave to sin and to Satan. But this is not to say that Satan is without bounds. He, in fact, has no authority to exercise his will beyond God’s sovereign will. So from time to time God overrules Satan by reaching down to certain individuals, granting them the gifts of faith and repentance and frees them from this slavery. Satan has no power to prevent this from happening.
But what about the power over nature? Who’s in control of those things?
On Tuesday June 26th, the fire seemed to be well-defended, as the officials had established two separate lines with crews in place should the fire encroach the city. As the officials in charge were holding a 4PM news conference on the status of their efforts, an unexpected and powerful wind swooped down from the west, blowing the fire past both lines. They immediately ordered a complete evacuation of the area. The much-feared firestorm was on.
2000 years ago, there was another fierce wind that caused much anguish. On the sea of Galilee, Jesus and the disciples were in a fishing boat when a ‘furious squall came up’. Waves broke over the boat and the men were fearing for their lives…well, except for Jesus. He was sound asleep. The disciples woke Him up in a panic. “Don’t you care if we drown?”
Standing up, Jesus rebuked the wind and waves, saying “be still!” Immediately, the winds died down and the sea became completely calm. And the disciples became even more fearful. “Who is this? Even the wind and waves obey Him!”
Jesus, the God-Man, has power over nature. This demonstration of power was performed in part to validate His claim as the prophesied Messiah. Combined with Jesus’ demonstrations of power over disease, over demons, over blindness, even over death, Jesus proved that He was God in the flesh, and omnipotent over all creation.
The principle of His sovereignty over nature holds over all time periods and in all circumstances. This should put to rest any questions about God’s power over the Waldo fire — and the wind that blew it beyond the fire lines.
So, what about God’s goodness and His mercy? If He has the power, why did he not exercise it to prevent the destruction of hundreds of homes, not to mention those who lost their lives? This is a serious charge leveled at the Almighty.
It may be helpful to remember that entire created order has been subjected to God’s curse, due to one man’s rebellious act. Adam sinned, despite God’s warning that in that day of sin ‘you will surely die’. And we were all ‘in’ Adam, so in a very real sense, we all sinned with Adam. We now inherit his sinful nature and come into this world under God’s judicial review.
So death is a supernatural judgment of God. It is not ‘natural‘ — because in the beginning it was not so.
At one point during Jesus’ ministry, a question arose among the Israelites about a disaster that had occurred in Jerusalem. Eighteen people had been killed when a tower collapsed, killing those that happened to be walking by. What was it about these people that God allowed this to happen? Were they particularly sinful, to the point that God ended their lives?
Here was Jesus’ response. “Do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them were worse culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”
This was not the answer that his followers expected. Rather, Jesus explained the universal condition of mankind — we are all culprits. We all face the looming judgment of God for our hostile acts that flow from our rebellious nature. Apart from God’s saving mercy on those who believe in the person and works of Jesus, and repent from their sins, none will escape God’s perfect judgment.
In the Waldo Canyon fire, there was much mercy of God evident. The powerful wind that caused the firestorm did not occur until three days after the fire began. During this time, fire officials had time to amass the men and equipment to defend the city. This mobilization took that amount of time to stage up. Once the fire breached those lines, fire fighters fell back to Centennial Boulevard. There they made their stand, knowing that if the fire breached that line, much of the city would have been lost. They had hundreds of men and a massive amount of equipment at their disposal — because they had three days to prepare. Without that time, much of Colorado Springs would have been lost.
So God did show His mercy in the midst of the fire fight. The city is now safe again. But what will be the response of us citizens. Shall we take heed? Shall we make use of this brief reprieve? Shall we repent and believe?