The last few weeks have been filled with tragedy. Storms have ripped across America, including parts of our own state, leaving many dead and many more injured or homeless in Oklahoma and several other states. I well remember preaching at Picher, First less than two years ago. That little church was full of life and joy as we gathered to worship and enjoy a fellowship meal. I remember being touched by the spirit of the people who were about to lose their homes, schools and churches because of toxic levels of lead in the area. Now a final blow has come to these sweet people.
Myanmar (Burma) was hit by a devastating cyclone that killed tens of thousands. The military government has refused help for survivors, meaning even more will die. As I write, I hear that just today the first outside aid has arrived in the country. Agencies from many countries are ready to flood Myanmar with assistance and compassion; they are waiting and hoping the dictators will finally give the green light to enter.
China has suffered a very strong earthquake, and, once again, thousands have died.
Forrest Pollock, a great pastor with Oklahoma roots, who was also a personal friend of mine, died along with his 13-year-old son when their plane crashed in the mountains of North Carolina. He leaves behind a grieving wife and five other children.
Gospel singer Dottie Rambo was killed when her bus veered off the road into an embankment. I, like many of you, have sung and enjoyed hearing others sing some of her great songs through the years. Among my favorites are “We Shall Behold Him,” “I Go to the Rock,” “Holy Spirit Thou Art Welcome” and “Behold the Lamb.”
Life is fragile. We often behave as if we will live in this world forever. Weeks like this serve to remind us that in only a few seconds, our world can be turned upside down or come to an end. One out of one of us will die.
As I ponder the events of the past several days, I am filled with mixed feelings. On the one hand, I rejoice that I had the privilege of knowing and being blessed by some of these who have left this world. My heart rejoices that although death stings us down here, for the children of God, that sting is only temporary. Our Savior took the stinger out of death when He burst the bonds of death and hell through His resurrection. To God be the glory, my friends are not gone-just gone on to Glory!
But I am crushed by the thought of the thousands who have entered into a Christless eternity. They are doomed to dwell forever in utter darkness, separated from our Christ. Their families will grieve as people with no hope.
I cannot reflect upon these truths without sensing an urgent call to action. The time is well past for us to pour our lives into the business of carrying the Gospel to the world. I want every Chinese person to have the privilege of hearing the Gospel and responding to it. We must pray down the walls of Myanmar so the flood of the Gospel may flow into that Gospel-starved nation.
At the same time, in the midst of tragedy, we must offer temporal help. I am so thankful that Southern Baptists (Oklahoma Baptists lead the way) stand ready to serve the hurting with compassion and the love of Christ. In every tragedy worldwide, Southern Baptists stand on alert, ready to give our time and money to relieve suffering. In each case, we serve freely and without obligation. But we just as freely offer the Water of Life that will quench the thirst throughout eternity.