Does God Allow Suffering In The World?

BLCF: why_God_allows

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Does God Allow Suffering In The World?’

© October 5, 2014 by Steve Mickelson

Based Upon a Message Originally Shared With BLCF on August 31, 2008

BLCF: Bulletin October 5, 2014

BLCF: why-bad-things-happen

Announcements and Call to Worship:                                                                   

Responsive Reading #650 (Trials and Temptations – from James 1 and 1 Peter 1);  Prayer                                                                                             

 Opening Hymn #410: O What A Wonderful, Wonderful Day; Choruses                                             

 Prayer and Tithing Hymn #572: Praise God from Whom All Blessings

Scripture Verses: Mark 15:34, Genesis 2:16-17, Job 1:1-12, Matthew 3:16-4:17   

                                                                                                                                

BLCF: when-storms-come 

Let us pray…

I would like to begin today’s lesson by reading a couple of recent news articles which were posted online:

The following headline comes from bbc.com, last updated at 08:27 ET on October 2, 2014:  

 

Ebola Outbreak: Five Infected Every Hour in Sierra Leone

BLCF: 2014_ebola_virus_epidemic_in_West_Africa_svg

A leading charity has warned that a rate of five new Ebola Virus Disease (EVD), formerly known as Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever, cases an hour in Sierra Leone means healthcare demands are far outstripping supply.

Save the Children said there were 765 new cases of Ebola reported in the West African state last week, while there are only 327 beds in the country.

Experts and politicians are set to meet in London to debate a global response to the crisis.

It is the world’s worst outbreak of the virus, killing 3,338 people so far. There have been 7,178 confirmed cases, with Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea suffering the most.

Save the Children says Ebola is spreading across Sierra Leone at a “terrifying rate”, with the number of new cases being recorded doubling every few weeks. It said that even as health authorities got on top of the outbreak in one area, it spread to another.

The scale of the disease is also “massively unreported” according to the charity, because “untold numbers of children are dying anonymously at home or in the streets”.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-29453755

The second article published by the Toronto Star online comes from The Canadian Press News Service, published on October 3, 2014:

Toronto Doctors Testing 3 Kids with Muscle Weakness for Enterovirus -D68

BLCF: map-of-paralysis-cases

Three children suffering from muscle weakness are being tested in Toronto to determine whether they’ve been infected with enterovirus – D68.

Dr. Upton Allen, chief of infectious diseases at the Hospital for Sick Children, says they expect to receive the results early next week.

There have been dozens of confirmed cases of enterovirus-D68 in western and central Canada, which usually causes only mild cold symptoms such as fever and runny nose.

But a small number of infected children have developed polio-like symptoms, including one in Hamilton and two in British Columbia.

Doctors in Hamilton are testing three other patients who have displayed similar neurological symptoms to see if enterovirus D68 is the cause.

Alberta health officials say they’re investigating whether four children with respiratory illness coupled with paralytic symptoms are also infected.

http://www.thestar.com/life/health_wellness/2014/10/03/toronto_doctors_testing_3_kids_with_muscle_weakness_for_enterovirus_d68.html

BLCF: God-allows-suffering-pull-quote

Everybody knows of someone or has personally experienced a personal tragedy which has caused us to question our faith. While suffering to the point of death on the cross, Jesus asked a question often spoken by others in the wake of tragic circumstances, Mark 15:34 (ESV):

34 And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

BLCF:Mark15=34

So through his son, God has experienced the human suffering that happens in the world to innocent people. Jesus was innocent of any sin, yet he died a horrific death.

Suffering and pain was not brought to this world by God, but as a result of disobedience to God. In Genesis 2:16-17(ESV), we read:

16 And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat[a] of it you shall surely die.”

Footnotes: a. Genesis 2:17 Or when you eat

 BLCF: forsaken

We know the consequences of the temptation by the serpent and the consequences of disobedience to God is the judgment of death. And that Jesus took upon himself the punishment of death so that we may be good or sanctified unto God, if by faith we accept the  gift of salvation.

This verse from Genesis 2:17, helps us understand the consequences of disobedience to God. But how do we reconcile tragedies which occur to an innocent person or someone who has strong faith in God?

You may remember the story of Joseph, a son favored by his father, but seemingly forsaken by his God. Sold into slavery by his jealous brothers, Joseph rose to a position where he could have measured revenge upon his family.

Instead, Joseph showed them compassion and was instrumental in saving the Jewish people at a time of famine. God had a plan for the Jewish nation and it was implemented after Joseph endured much suffering.

 BLCF: He-Understands-Our-Pain

In 1997, I experienced job loss twice within a year. Danka had taken over Kodak Service and my 17-year term of employment was lost to a corporate restructuring. My next employment was a four-month contract, which ended at the term’s end. In our society we often tend to mistakenly identify who we are with what we do. And if our job is lost due a corporate take-over, we may feel that we have no value if our job falls victim to a corporations restructuring.

For me, the next year was a time of personal challenge to my confidence and faith. At this time of challenge, I returned to reading the Book of Job, a man of faith who was tempted and challenged, but who never allowed his circumstances to diminish his faith in God.

BLCF: Keeping-the-Faith-When-Life-Falls-Apart

Job 1:1-12 (ESV) Job’s Character and Wealth

1 There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job, and that man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil. There were born to him seven sons and three daughters. He possessed 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, and 500 female donkeys, and very many servants, so that this man was the greatest of all the people of the east. His sons used to go and hold a feast in the house of each one on his day, and they would send and invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. And when the days of the feast had run their course, Job would send and consecrate them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all. For Job said, “It may be that my children have sinned, and cursed[a] God in their hearts.” Thus Job did continually.

Satan Allowed to Test Job

Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan[b] also came among them. The Lord said to Satan, “From where have you come?” Satan answered the Lord and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.” And the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?” Then Satan answered the Lord and said, “Does Job fear God for no reason? 10 Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. 11 But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.” 12 And the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand.” So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord.

Footnotes: a. Job 1:5 The Hebrew word bless is used euphemistically for curse in 1:5, 11; 2:5, 9 b. Job 1:6 Hebrew the Accuser or the Adversary; so throughout chapters 1–2

Job was tempted over and over by Satan, but Job never renounced his faith in God. Even Jesus was tempted by Satan and Jesus met the challenges with scripture and the power of the Holy Spirit.

BLCF: Sometimes-the-bad-things-that-happen-in-our-lives-put-us-directly-on-the-path-to-the-best-things-that-will-ever-happen-to-us

 

Matthew 3:16-4:17 (ESV)

16 And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him,[a] and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; 17 and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son,[b] with whom I am well pleased.”

The Temptation of Jesus

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4 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written,

“‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, “‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and “‘On their hands they will bear you up,     lest you strike your foot against a stone.’”

Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” 10 Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’”

11 Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.

Jesus Begins His Ministry

BLCF: Jesus_with_disciples

12 Now when he heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee. 13 And leaving Nazareth he went and lived in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, 14 so that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:

15 “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali,     the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles— 16 the people dwelling in darkness     have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death,     on them a light has dawned.”

17 From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

Footnotes: a. Matthew 3:16 Some manuscripts omit to him b. Matthew 3:17 Or my Son, my (or the) Beloved

BLCF: Jesus

 

After a year of searching for employment, a head-hunter found my resume, which led me to getting a job with Deiphax Systems. I remember my dad remarking: ‘Sometimes good things happen to good people.’ This comment spoke volumes to me, as my father had seen that through my suffering I was faithful to my God and, as with Job, He did not allow me to endure more than I could bear.

In the years to follow, I would be personally challenged three times again by corporate restructuring and down-sizing. However, each time I kept my faith and the Lord provided for my needs.

BLCF: Keeping Faith

Harold Kushner authored a book which made popular the phrase my father quoted to me, as Rabbi Yitzchok Kirzner observes in aish.com:

BLCF: When_Bad_Things_Happen_To_Good_People

 

Harold Kushner, a Conservative rabbi, followed precisely such an approach in his best-selling book When Bad Things Happen to Good People. Few “Jewish” books in recent decades have had a greater impact upon those dealing with life’s personal tragedies. Kushner is regularly cited, in both the Jewish and non-Jewish media, as an expert on suffering and a variety of other ethical issues.

 Kushner came to the topic of suffering through a terrible tragedy in his family: He and his wife lost a young son to a particularly perverse degenerative disease – premature aging syndrome. He has thus paid a heavy price for the right to talk about suffering. Though we shall be very critical of Kushner’s conclusions, nothing we say should be seen as a personal criticism of him, or an attempt to in any way diminish the awful suffering he had to bear. It would be contemptible to pass judgment on another’s experience of a tragedy of such magnitude.

If we are critical of Kushner’s ideas, ¡t is only because he has offered his views to the public as a consolation to those suffering emotional distress or pain and as an authentic Jewish response to the problem of suffering. As we shall see, they are neither.

While Kushner is in some sense a believer in God, his own faith was severely tested by the prolonged agony that he and his wife endured. He felt the need to construct a theory that would reconcile his tragedy with Judaism’s belief in God’s benevolence.

 He concluded that to maintain his belief in God he must reject either God’s benevolence or His omnipotence. He chose the latter course. God, in Kushner’s view, created the world and provides the foundation of moral principle. But He cannot quite control the world He created. He hopes for our good and He sympathizes, as it were, with us in our pain, but He is powerless to do anything about it.

 As to why a God Who had the power to create the entire universe in the first place would create one that He is powerless to control, Kushner basically shrugs his shoulders and contents himself with noting that the world is relatively good for most people most of the time. We might designate this theory as “randomness plus God.”

Unable to understand why a good God would allow individuals to suffer, Kushner ends by neatly defining the question away. He cannot even conceive of the possibility of any understanding, and so concludes that we have no answers because there are no answers. Much of what happens ¡s nothing more than random chance. Pain and tragedy are a necessary consequence of a world over which God does not exercise complete control.

http://www.aish.com/sp/ph/why_harold_kushner_is_wrong.html

BLCF: wheres-God?

This illustrates the great danger to Christians who are challenged by personal tragedy and give in to the temptation to feel that they are victims of overwhelming circumstances beyond their control and that God has no power or interest in intervening, as God is aware in tragic circumstances, but content in strictly observing them.

If this were true, God would have not likely created Adam and Eve and would have never intervened through the messages of the prophets and God would have never have chosen to give us Jesus, to die for our circumstances. And further, God would not have allowed Jesus to perform his miracles, the most noteworthy being his resurrection from the grave or the gift of the Holy Spirit. As far as bad things happening to good people, this only happened once and He volunteered! And the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ for our salvation indicates that God, through His Son, Jesus, provides the means for good things (our salvation) to happen to bad people (sinners – all have sinned).

BLCF: Romans_3_23

In his publication, I Wonder Why Bad Things Happen to Good People, posted on the site day1.org, the Reverend Charles D. Reeb comments on the experience of H.G. Spafford:

H.G. Spafford had the following experience. In 1873, his wife and four children sailed from New York to France on an ocean liner. Mr. Spafford was unable to make the voyage with his family because of business commitments in Chicago. He told them goodbye, promising to meet them in France in a few weeks.

At two o’clock on the morning of November 22, 1873, when the luxury liner was several days out, ¡t was hit by another liner. Within two hours, the ship sank. Nine days later when the survivors landed at Wales, Mrs. Spafford cabled her husband these two words, “Saved alone.” When he received her message, he quickly booked passage on a ship to Europe to join his wife. On the way over, the captain called him into his cabin and said, “I believe we are now passing over the place where your family’s liner went down.”

Well, that night in the mid-Atlantic, filled with much pain and sorrow, Mr. Spafford wrote five stanzas,  the first of which contained these lines:

  “When peace like a river attendeth my way,

When sorrows like sea-billows roll,

Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,

 It is well, it is well with my soul!”

 And these words have been a part of one of the most popular hymns in the church today. Little did Spafford know that his words would give comfort to so many people.  God turned his scar into a star.

We can’t control the fact that bad things will happen to us. They just do, and one day we will find out why. But the one thing we can control is how we respond to the bad things that happen to us. We can get bitter or better! We can stay angry at life and at God and never move on, or we can give our pain to God and allow him to do something beautiful with it. Then we’ll be able to say with confidence:

I will be untouched in the midst of fire

I will stand firm in the midst of a storm

I will not crack in the midst of chaos

I will not lose heart when the world is torn

 

I will not fear when the heat blazes

I will not fret when drought comes

I will bear fruit in the midst of all of it

I will march to a different drum

 

I will discover victory in tragedy

I will trust in El Shaddai

I will laugh in the face of death

I will wave evil and pain goodbye

http://day1.org/955-i_wonder_why_bad_things_happen_to_good_people

 

Going back to Jesus’ words cried in pain and anguish atop of the cross in Mark 15:34, which led us to explore why does God allow bad things to happen to good people, perhaps we should ponder why, through the salvation of Jesus, the Lord allowed good things happen to bad people?

BLCF: great-things-happen-from-the-inside

Think about the example of an egg: if it is broken by an outside force, life ends. But if an egg is broken from the inside, life begins. And by faith in the sanctification and the gift of the Holy Spirit inside of us, our new life begins.

BLCF: greater_is_He

 

Let us pray…

 

Communion Observance: Responsive Reading #663 (1 Corinthians 11)  

BLCF: Communion_Sunday                

Closing Hymn # 401: When Peace like A River Attendeth                                     

Benediction – (2 Thessalonians 2:16-17):

Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace,  comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.

BLCF: 1-samuel-16-vs-7

 

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Light In The Darkness: The 34th Crew Member of Copiapo

BLCF" God'shelping_hand

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Light In The Darkness: The 34th Crew Member of Copiapo‘ 

© July 6, 2014 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF: Bulletin July 6, 2014

Originally Published October 31, 2010

BLCF_Christ_with_miners

Announcements and Call to Worship: Responsive Reading # 608 (God’s Omniscience – Psalm 139); Prayer 

Opening Hymn #444: Take Thou My Hand, O Father                                                                                                                                                                

Tithing & Prayer Requests: Hymn #572: Praise God from Whom All Blessings  

Today’s Scriptures: Isaiah 7:11, Colossians 1:13, Psalm 139:1-12 

 

Isaiah 7:11 (NIV)

11 “Ask the LORD your God for a sign, whether in the deepest depths or in the highest heights.”                                                                                  

Colossians 1:13 (ESV)

 13He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son

Psalm 139:1-12 (ESV) Search Me, O God, and Know My Heart

To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David.

139 O Lord, you have searched me and known me!  You know when I sit down and when I rise up;     

you discern my thoughts from afar.  You search out my path and my lying down     

and are acquainted with all my ways.  Even before a word is on my tongue,    

 behold, O Lord, you know it altogether. You hem me in, behind and before,     

and lay your hand upon me.  Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;     

it is high; I cannot attain it.

Where shall I go from your Spirit?     

Or where shall I flee from your presence?  If I ascend to heaven, you are there!    

 If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!   If I take the wings of the morning     

and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,   even there your hand shall lead me,     

and your right hand shall hold me.    If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,    

 and the light about me be night,”    

even the darkness is not dark to you;     

the night is bright as the day,    

 for darkness is as light with you

BLCF: Joe Castillo - Face of Christ 

 

Let us pray…

Welcome to our Praise and Worship Service at, for the first Sunday of July, Communion Sunday at BLCF. This summer, you may want to mark your calendars for a few noteworthy anniversaries. This fall Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship, originally founded as The Crusaders Church of Toronto, will mark our 76th Anniversary. But that is not the subject of today’s lesson.

I would like to talk about the anniversary of an event that was observed by hundreds of millions of people around the world. Some of you may speculate that the event being the anniversary of the moon landing.  After all, it was it some 45 years ago this month, on July 20, 1969, that American Astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first to land on the moon. This event was widely watched. According to foxnews.com:

Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, on July 20, 1969, viewed by an estimated half a billion television viewers–at that time, the largest audience ever-watched. 

http://www.foxnews.com/story/2009/07/19/16-fast-facts-apollo-11-historic-moon-landing/

The event which is the topic of today’s message, had a larger audience and is some regards had a more profound impact to viewers around the world. It was just four years ago this coming October 13, 2010, that 33 Chilean Miners were rescued from their underground mine, where they were trapped on August 7, 2010, some 69 days previous. Wikepedia.org indicates that twice as many people observed the rescue operation than the moon landing:

After winching the last trapped miner to the surface, the mine rescue paramedics, the best available drawn from multiple national agencies and military services, all still underground, held up a sign for the TV cameras reading “Misión cumplida Chile” (English: ““Mission accomplished Chile”), which was seen by a TV/Web audience estimated at more than 1 billion viewers around the world watching the rescue live.                                                                                               

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2010_Copiap%C3%B3_mining_accident

 

BLCF: Miner_Miracle

 

The lesson I would like to share with you this morning has several elements that are important to the Christian walk: trusting God in times of danger and adversity; faith in the Scriptures when tempted by Satan; and why God allows believers to be placed in harm’s way in order to convict others in faith.

It is interesting that that as with Job in the Old Testament, God allowed Jesus to be tempted by Satan, an account recorded in Luke 4:1-13.

 

BLCF: the_temptation_of_Jesus

Luke 4:1-13(ESV) The Temptation of Jesus

And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing during those days. And when they were ended, he was hungry. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone.'” And the devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, and said to him, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” And Jesus answered him, “It is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.'”

 And he took him to Jerusalem and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written, “‘He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you,’ and “‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.'”

And Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.'” And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time.

We studied this verse last Sunday, when we spoke of temptation, where I highlighted several aspects of the story of Jesus temptation and comparing it to what we may face today. You may recall that Jesus, having been baptized by John, known as John the Baptist, received the Holy Spirit, and was led by the Spirit to a place in the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. When you think about it, this is not quite the path or journey you would expect one who has just received the Holy Spirit.

When Satan tempted Jesus, he appealed to three things: the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life.

First he challenged Jesus, after a 40-day fast, to use his powers to make food and satisfy His needs of the flesh. Then he challenged Jesus to look at the world from a high place and offered Him dominion over all He saw. Finally, he tempted Jesus to throw Himself down from a tower, saying that surely, as God’s son, He would be saved – an appeal to pride. We find to each challenge, not only did Jesus resist Satan, that in fact Jesus rebuked the devil with the Holy Scripture.

Interesting enough, we read in Luke 4:13 that the devil departed from tempting Jesus until an opportune time, indicating that Satan would return again when he had the opportunity. We see that even the Son of God may be subject to temptation and testing by Satan. Just like Jesus, we may defeat the devil by way of a determined faith and the appropriate use of Scripture. We must trust that nothing can separate us from the love of God.

 

BLCF: creation-of-33

Romans 8:38-39 

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.    

The 33 miners were rescued in the middle of the month of October, just a couple of weeks before the eve of Dia de los Muertos or des los Difuntos in Hispanic countries, known as Dia de Finados in those that speak Portuguese. In English we translate both as Day of the Dead. Because this day happens to occur on the calendar shortly after Halloween or All Hallows Eve, many mistakenly believe the two are similar or related, while the two have little in common. The Day of the Dead is a time of celebration, where partying and eating are common. In Spain, there are festivals and parades and, at the end of the day, people gather in cemeteries and pray for their dead loved ones. Catholic, Anglican and Eastern Orthodox Christian churches observe the day as All Souls’ Day, though the Eastern Orthodox celebrate it on a Saturday because of Jesus’ resting in the tomb on the Saturday. In Lebanon, Israel and Syria, the observance is called Yom el Maouta. Unlike its Hollywood portrayal, Day of the Dead is a day to commemorate departed loved ones, and pray for the day of the Rapture when all believers will be reunited.

By all expert calculations, in Chile’s northern Atacama desert, near the town Copiapo, the Day of the Dead should have been a day of mourning for 33 miners trapped 700 meters, 2300 feet below the surface, about 5 kilometers or 3 miles from the entrance of the San Jose, an old gold and copper mine. For two massive cave-in’s had seemed to seal the fate of any survivor. All that could be done was to pray for the 33 lost souls. Chile is a mineral-rich country, approximately the size of  the U.S. state if California in North America, Chile stretches along the western portion of the South American continent, bordered by mountains to the east and the Pacific Ocean on the west. And like California, Chile is located on an active earthquake belt.

Unlike Chile’s larger, newer mines, the San Jose Mine where the miners were trapped was very old having been opened in 1889 and lacked many of the safety features of more modern mines, such as an alternate entrance which could allow a means of escape for those surviving a cave-in. Since the year 2,000, about 34 miners die each year in Chilean mines. In the past 12 years, 8 miners had lost their lives at the San Jose mine. Chile is the world’s leading copper suppliers. Because of the demands for copper by emerging industrialized nations such as China, such mines as the San Jose were kept open and offered an appealing livelihood in an otherwise sluggish world economy. Several of the miners trapped in the San Jose had migrated from other regions after losing jobs in a worldwide recession. In spite of the risks, the San Jose offered the miners the means to put food on the table and a better life. That is until that fateful day in August when the miner’s world literally collapsed.

On the surface, news of the disaster and the fact that the miners were 700 meters below the surface seem to indicate that the fate of any survivors was sealed, as a ventilation shaft viewed as the only means of rescue had collapsed in a second cave-in. No rescue from such a depth had ever been contemplated, let alone attempted. It seemed that the 2010 Day of the Dead observances would include a visit to the San Jose tomb of the lost 33 miners.

This is where the tale took a turn. In their moment of profound loss and in spite of any real hope of rescue, the families of the 33 miners, showed uncommon strength of purpose; demanded that the Chilean government recover the bodies of their lost loved ones. This is where next surprise occurred, as the government bowed to the families’ demands and began drilling pilot holes to locate the miners’ bodies. Over the next 17 days, seven 700 meter-deep holes were drilled without any success. On the eighth attempt, according to one report, the drill bit was deflected by some hard rock strata and then penetrated into a cavity deep beneath the earth.

“It was 75% engineering and 25% a miracle,” said topographer Macarena Valdes.

Ms. Valdes was speaking of her own role in the rescue, as she augmented science with a touch of gut instinct to help guide rescuers’ probe drills into the rock, in hopes of finding survivors, in the days after the miners’ disappearance.

Her method paid off after more than two weeks, when searchers sent one of their narrow probe drills down through the rock, punched it into the chamber where the men had taken refuge and, from more than 2,000 feet above, and felt someone tap back. Even more astonishing was the note attached to the retracted drill bit to which a piece of paper was attached with the message:

“Estamos bien en el refugio los 33” (English: “We are well in the shelter, the 33 [of us]”).

BLCF: message los 33

 

It was a miracle beyond belief that all of the 33 missing miners were alive, but would anyone dare to hope for a rescue? No miners were ever rescued from 700 meters. Trapped miners had been rescued from a cave in Pennsylvania, but they were only one tenth the depths of the 33 in the San Jose. For 17 days the miners has survived on meager rations of two spoonfuls of tuna and half a glass of milk every 48 hours.

While still trapped in the mine, there emerged several stories of faith in God and how He sustained the entombed 33. In a letter to his brother, miner Jorge Galeguillos says he believes a white butterfly saved his life the day the mine caved. Mining consultant Miguel Fortt is not given to flights of fancy. He says white butterflies flutter around purple flowers that blossom in the desert early in the morning, but they rarely fly deep into a mineshaft. He says the two miners slowed down to observe the butterfly and that saved them from driving into rock falls triggered by the first cave-in. Fortt says:

“People who are religious would call this a miracle. From a scientific perspective the butterfly may have flown into the mine on air currents. You can draw your own conclusions but that butterfly saved lives,”

Galeguillos’ brother, who is also a miner, can’t explain how a butterfly flew more than 500 meters deep into the mine. But like most of the miners there, he believes the butterfly was protecting his older brother’s life. The butterfly was a sign from God.

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Isaiah 7:11

“Ask the LORD your God for a sign, whether in the deepest depths or in the highest heights.”

It is interesting that the butterfly is often used to represent the resurrected Christ freed from the chrysalis tomb.

 

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2 Corinthians 5:17

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”

 Above the miners, a rescue planned was formed, though chances of a successful rescue of the miners alive were calculated at a meager 2%. I would speculate that no politician in North America would even consider embarking upon planning any action that had a 98% chance of failure. I give kudos to president of Chile for bold and compassionate action of initiating a rescue plan. Three separate rescue holes were drilled, using technologies from Germany and the U.S.A.  NASA scientists were consulted and a rescue capsule designed by engineers of the Chilean Navy.

The world watched, prayed and waited as the drama of the trapped 33 unfolded. And more stories of God’s presence. Miners acknowledge that they survived thanks to a 34th member of the crew.

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 Mario Sepulveda, the second miner rescued said: “I was with God, and I was with the devil,” he said through a translator. “But God won, I held onto God’s hand, the best hand, and at no point in time … did I doubt that God wouldn’t get me out of there.”

It was Sepulveda’s faith in God that assured him of his rescue. Satan used temptation and  was defeated. And who other than the Son of God could understand and support those who are tested by temptation by Satan.

 

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Hebrews 2:18

For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

 Miner Ricardo Villaroel describes the incident as a moment of faith renewal:

 “I never use to pray. Here I learned to pray. I got closer to God.”

 

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Romans 8:38-39

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.                            

Nineteen-year-old miner Jimmy Sanchez wrote in a letter sent up prior to his rescue:

 “There are actually 34 of us, because God has never left us down there.”

 

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Isaiah 41:10

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

It was reported that while trapped underground, three of the miners and one of the miner’s wives accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour.

 

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Isaiah 41:13

For I, the LORD your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Fear not, I am the one who helps you.”

Finally, the main drill punched through and one by one the 33 were brought out to safety. Faith is also a major theme of the national rhetoric. At the beginning of the rescue Chilean President Sebastian Pinera stated, “When the first miner emerges safe and sound, I hope all the bells of all the churches of Chile ring out forcefully, with joy and hope. Faith has moved mountains.”The first action of several, as they emerged, immediately gave thanks to God for being delivered from the shadow of death.

 

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Colossians 1:13

He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son.

There are a number of similarities between the plight of the 33 Chilean miners and Jesus’ temptation described in Luke 4. Both involved a confrontation between God and the devil, while taking place in an isolated desert place. Both are examples of courage and faith in the face of adversity, where the devil tempted and was defeated. Finally, both teach Christian believers valuable lessons in the power of faith and trust in God and His Holy Word.

The Chilean story shows how God may allow the devil to tempt believers and how faith can defeat temptation. Without trust and faith all of the miners would have perished. One can only ponder many aspects of this story which indicate God was the 34th Crew Member in the mine.

What if those drilling who sought the miners had given up after only seven attempts? What if on the eighth try, the bit wasn’t deflected by a stone, which how it reached the miners? What if President Pinera had decided not to attempt a rescue with 2% odds? What if the miners had given up after the cave in and not rationed food in the darkness and allowed death and Satin to have their way?

We know from Christ’s example, that as Christian believers, we will be tempted by Satan and that God will battle the devil on our behalf. I believe that the story of the faith and courage of the trapped miners is meant to show us all that the devil will tempt us and faith and trust in God will deliver us.

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Miner Mario Gomez’s wife, Lilianett Gomez, said her emotions had changed dramatically. She said, though, that people here had shown that they have the strength to weather the crisis, and now the whole world knows it:

“God put these 33 miners together,” she said. “It must have been for something, perhaps to send a message to the world.”

Perhaps God’s message that Lilianett Gomez alluded to can be found in the Scriptures, particularly in Hebrews 13:5 (NIV):

“Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said,”Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.

Let Us Pray…

 

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Closing Hymn #322: The Lord’s Our Rock, in Him We Hide

Communion: Responsive Reading #663 (Communion Observance – 1 Corinthians 11)

Benediction (Psalm 51:11-12): Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.   

 

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