Sunday, August 05, 2007

What is the Message of the Bridge Collapse in Minnesota?
...a biblical response

In the midst of such tragic and painful events such as the recent collapse of the bridge in Minnesota this past week, what are the lessons to be learned, what is the message we should take away from such profound tragedy, and what should be our response as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ?

To those important questions I humbly offer the following:

1. Begin with God; He is Sovereign
The sovereignty of God may be defined as the exercise of His supremacy-Being infinitely elevated above the highest creature, He is the Most High, Lord of heaven and earth. Subject to none, influenced by none, absolutely independent; God does as He pleases, only as He pleases always as He pleases. None can thwart Him, none can hinder Him. So His own Word expressly declares: "My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure" (Isaiah 46:10); "He doeth according to His will in the army of heaven, and the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay His hand" (Daniel 4:35).
Consider these verses:

Is. 45:7 The One forming light and creating darkness, causing well-being and creating calamity; I am the LORD who does all these.

Psalm 135:6 Whatsoever the Lord pleased, that did He in heaven, and in earth,
in the seas, and all deep places
Lam. 3:37-40 Who is there who speaks and it comes to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it? Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that both good and ill go forth? ¶ Why should any living mortal, or any man, offer complaint in view of his sins? Let us examine and probe our ways, and let us return to the LORD.
One of the most flagrant sins of this age is irreverence. By irreverence I am not now thinking of open blasphemy, or the taking of God's name in vain. Irreverence is, also, failure to ascribe the glory, which is due the great and dreadful majesty of the Almighty. It is the limiting of His power and actions by our degrading conceptions: it is the bringing of the Lord God down to our level. There are multitudes of those who do not profess to be Christians who deny that God is the omnipotent Creator, and there are multitudes of professing Christians who deny that God is absolute Sovereign. Men boast of their free will, prate of their power, and are proud of their achievements. They know not that their lives are at the sovereign disposal of the Divine Despot.

Even in tragedy such as the bridge giving way this past week, we may rest in the knowledge that God is sovereign over all things, including these kinds and place our confidence in the Lord's providential hand in all things. Suffering is part of our fallen world; trials and tribulations will come; and therefore, as believers in the Lord and His Sovereign control over all His creatures and creation, we find unshakable comfort in the reality that He is working all things for our good and His glory.

God not only created everything, but everything, which He created, is subject to His immediate control. God rules over the works of His hands. God governs the creatures He has made. God reigns with universal dominion.

2. "...weep with those that weep." (Roms. 12:15)
Because we begin with God and His irresistible and absolute sovereignty over all things, then when people are hurting and their lives are devastated by life's unexpected profound events, we are free to adhere to the words of the Apostle Paul when he said, "weep with those that weep." Hurt with them; empathize in their despair and agony.

This was something our Lord did as well. He wept with Mary, Martha and others at the death of His friend Lazarus (John 11:30-37). Christlike compassion does not begin by proclaiming the story of the tower falling killing 18 people (Luke 13:1-4) in the immediate face of disaster to cover our theological assertions. That would not be love, but calloused religious pride.

But if you live in the Minnesota area and know some of the families deeply touched by this tragedy, a powerful ministry to them is to initially identify with them in their tears and crushed hearts. Weep with them; empathize with them; identify with their pain and show compassion to them in their suffering. This is not a call to be emotional, bleeding hearts - but is the physical empathy representative of genuine Christ-honoring love (1 Cor. 13:1-7).

3. "Love your neighbor as yourself" (Matt. 22:39)
This is the second of the two great commandments. Not only should we identify with them in their pain, but continue to walk with them in their needs. What a tremendous opportunity to demonstrate the love and mercy of our Lord to those who have been directly affected by this tragedy. This may manifest itself by providing meals for these dear people; offering others a ride to work or even having your church help get them a new car; if there was the loss of one of the parents, the surviving parent may need help with their children in the weeks and months to come... Many ways to practically assist others. Whatever the case may be, daily care for people during these days can communicate much to them of the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.
"Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation." 1 Pet. 2:12.
4. "pray always..."
Most of us are looking on at a distance at this tragedy and might be asking, "what can we do?" As Christians, one thing we can all do is pray.

Pray for the pastors and churches and other believers in the Minnesota area for strength, wisdom, and endurance as they daily minister to others and speak to this situation. "With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints," (Eph. 6:19).

Pray also that the Lord will use this as a means by which His gospel is proclaimed and many hearts would be made open to the hope of the gospel. "Brethren, my heart’s desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation." (Roms. 10:1)

5. "give a reason for the hope that is in you"
National tragedies such as this one often provide great opportunity to share our faith. In fact, you will find as I have already, people will approach you and ask you very pointed and penetrating questions concerning suffering, death, God, hope, etc. This bridge collapse is no exception. In the daily conversation with friends, family and coworkers, questions on this will undoubtedly come up.

So be ready beloved, "to give a reason for the hope that is in you." And do so Peter says with "gentleness and reverence." (1 Peter 3:15-16). Longsuffering mixed with grace and respect should be the demeanor of all who name the name of Christ in ministering to others during these days. But when asked, be ready to talk to them about who Jesus is; His finished work on the cross; His bodily resurrection from the grave; His gospel; and what saving faith truly is.

6. "compel them to be reconciled to God"
When you have walked with people in and through their deepest pain, inevitably they will ask you about your faith in Christ and this is a great joy to be able to proclaim to the gospel.

When doing so, humbly but lovingly call them to repentance (Acts 17:30-31); command them to follow Jesus Christ (Matt. 16:24-26); to flee the wrath to come (1 Thess. 1:10); and compel them to be reconciled to God (2 Cor. 5:17-21). And do so in humility, brokenness, tears, and love.

Some well meaning Christians in their zeal to proclaim Christ and His gospel during these kinds of tragic events might "feel led" to just coldly blurt out their theology, rather than patiently wih gentleness explain carefully and compassionately the good news of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Don't minimize the gospel or sentimentalize it; give the whole gospel, but give it graciously.

As we hold up the Law of God it acts as a tutor pointing people to Christ; it shuts the mouths of all people for "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."The Law convicts of sin and prepares the fallow hearts to receive the seed of the gospel. So as we are serving, identifying, walking with, loving, and praying for these dear people and their families, may the Lord give some the opportunity face to face to remind them of the fragility of life; that we are vapor that evaporates so quickly; and that no one knows the moment that their soul will be required of them. Those people traveling across that bridge had no idea that it would soon collapse and end some of their lives. Call them to follow Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of their lives so that in any unexpected moment as this, they do not have to fear death, sin, judgment, and the grave (Heb. 2:14-16).

7. "the fields are white with harvest, but the workers are few"
Lastly, we live not only in a fallen world, but one marked by tragedy almost daily. The days are growing evil beloved and we must not sleep them away.

What is the message of the bridge collapse to the church?

Be urgent about the gospel. Redeem the time; make the most of every opportunity for the days are evil. We are dealing with people's lives for eternity. We should not pass away the days by being consumed with the trivialities of our lives. "Woe is me if I do not preach the gospel..." Paul said. Is that your passion and burden today? Are we marked by an urgency in as witnesses for the Lord Jesus Christ. "Repent and believe" should be on the tongues of all true Christians. When was the last time you explained the gospel to someone, encouraged them to be followers of Jesus Christ and talked with them about eternity?

Today is the day beloved. May we live as if this day were our last with the care, urgency, love and hope in the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

In closing, I have included a lyric to a song that I wrote (along with the help of Isaac Watts) when I went through a very tragic time in my life. May it encourage you all in the person of our God.

As the day draws near...
2 Cor. 4:5-7

The Sovereign Hand
Music by SJ Camp; Lyric by Camp/Watts

1. Behold the Potter and the clay, He forms His vessels as He please
Such is our God and such are we, the subjects of His high decrees
Does not the Workman's power extend, o'er all the mass which part to choose?
And mold it for a nobler end and which to leave for viler use
The Lord is in control
And He brings peace to our troubled soul
Nothing can shake His sovereign hand
He's the beginning and He is the end

2. May not the Sovereign Lord on high, dispense His favors as He will?
Choose some to life while others die and yet be just and gracious still?
What if to make His terror known He let His patience long endure
Suffering rebels to go on and seal their own destruction sure?
The Lord is in control
and His Law convicts our sinful our soul
Yet, He is the sinner's Friend
He's the beginning and He is the end

3. What if He mean to show His grace and His electing love employs
To mark out some of mortal race and form them fit for heavenly joys?
Shall man reply against His Lord and call His Maker's ways unjust?
The thunder of whose dreadful word can crush, a thousand worlds to dust
The Lord is in control
And He brings hope to our desperate soul
Because He lives we face tomorrow again
He's the beginning and He is the end

4. But O, my soul, if truths so bright should dazzle and confound thy sight
Yet still His written will obey and wait the great decisive day
Then shall He make His justice known and the whole world before His throne
With joy or terror shall confess, the glory of His righteousness
The Lord is in control
and He brings grace to our revengeful soul
We're free to forgive the most evil of men
He's the beginning and He is the end

This song can be heard through the online store at AudienceONE Ministries.
It is available in MP3 format from the CD, Desiring God.


cyd said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Paul Prins said...

Dear steve,

I appreciate your thoughts and prayers for the people involved in this collapse but being a native to the twin cities area, and a frequenter of that bridge I can tell you that we as a city are amazingly blessed by this incident. Yes it was under construction, but this only mean that it was fifty cars instead of the usual 180ish+ cars. It happened on the tail end of rush hour instead of 40 minutes earlier when the numbers would have been much higher.

God knew what he was doing as that bridge came down, he had people there who would drop everything to help, and showed his grace and compassion by allowing everyone to live another day. Giving them that much longer to come to faith in Christ.

Even how the bridge collapsed showed his grace, that it stuttered several times on the way down allowing the impact to be minimal (notice the cars on the bridge that are practically undamaged as though they didn't actually fall the 65+ feet). On top of that He has with held the rain to allow the river to be lower so that water wouldn't be over the roadway.

Yes each death out of this accident is tragic, but God has been more then generous in saving those Christ died for. If we as brothers and sisters can't see our world in this light, how will we ever have the compassion in our hearts to share with our friends and strangers.

How will our feet ever be as beautiful as Christ desires them to be.

cyd said...

Dear Steve,

Thank you for this very helpful article. I appreciate the balance you have presented here between the Sovereignty of God and the responsibility of believers to lost, hurting people.

These principles can be applied to any situation, whether it's the neighbor next door or a mass catastrophic event.
Thanks for sharing the article and the the Camp/Watts combo.


BTW Paul, thanks for sharing the eyewitness information -- God is ALWAYS so good, isn't He!

ann said...

Tragedies and deaths and sorrows... And human pride crushed... And the gift of realization that indeed we are not in control, never were, never will be. And that God is our only refuge.

Thank you for the lyrics. BTW: is there any way of getting all the other lyrics to "Desiring God"? I bought it off as mp3...

Unknown said...

Those lyrics for "The Sovereign Hand" aren't the right lyrics for that song.
As for the bridge, I don't believe God wanted the bridge to fall as some kind of judgment. Too many times, Christians will call a tragedy as one of God's judgments, when it's not, imo. The failure of the bridge, imo, comes from builders and planners trying to get by as cheaply as they can, and it came back and bit them, along with a lot of innocent people. Greed and profit is the bottom line in many decisions in business, not safety. -Russ