I’ve been in full-time ministry for 33 years and, in all those years, three clearly stood out as being earth-shaking.
The first was 2001. What happened? 9/11. When those planes struck the World Trade Center in New York City, the world we knew changed forever. And I remember the exact moment I heard the news. Time stopped for me as I watched the horror of those twin towers collapsing.
Life was never going to be the same again. A war followed shortly. Stock markets around the world crashed. Fear was all around. The Middle East was in turmoil. Security ramped up around the world. The new normal was long queues at airports, tight airport security and travel restrictions. But we learned to make adjustments, and live with inconveniences, because life had to go on.
The second year that stood out for me was 2004. On Boxing Day, a 9.3 magnitude earthquake caused a rift in the plates that released tsunami waves of over 100 feet high that led to deaths of over 230,000 people.
And this happened in our backyard. It was by far the worst natural disaster in my lifetime and it took a long time for the world to recover from the tragedy. I saw first-hand the devastation when I visited the countries hit by the tsunami. It was horrific.
The big theological question then was who was responsible for it? Did God orchestrate the tsunami? Was it just an act of nature? Was the devil behind it? People were asking, “If God is a good God, why does He allow something like this to happen?” There wasn’t a conclusive answer. The whole world was shaken, but life just went on.
But nothing came close to what we’ve undergone over the past two years. No one expected 2020 to turn out the way it did, not even in our wildest imaginations. It was a year of upheaval and crisis.
Whole cities and nations were shut down. Travel came to a virtual standstill. Schools, businesses, churches, tourism, beaches, sports, entertainment spots – everything was closed. The bourses crashed and the lockdown affected the whole world. No nation was exempt from its effects.
Once the coronavirus went global, life as we knew it – once again – took a turn for the unexpected. Sports, movies, and even Disneyland struggled for customers. People lost more than their jobs – many lost their lives. To date, the virus has infected over 665 million people with almost 6.7 million deaths.
Ironically, it was on 31 December 2019 that the world was first alerted to the emergence of a new virus. Many people just shrugged it off but, by March 2020, it was declared a pandemic and we’re still reeling from its aftermath.
This reminds me of a man who went to his optician to have his eyes checked. The optician put a contraption on his face and asked him what he saw. He said, “I see empty airports, empty malls, empty pubs, empty restaurants, empty schools.” The optician replied, “Wow, perfect vision!”
2022 saw the invasion of Ukraine by Russia and a missile that hit Poland in November 2022 could have sparked another European war. We’re now witnessing the birth pangs of the nations and, as we approach the finalé, it’ll only get more intense and the contractions will be more rapid.
Let’s get used to it. The world’s trajectory is going downhill. Wars, rumours of wars, famines, massive earthquakes, tsunamis, pestilences, severe climate changes – that’s the new normal, and we’ve to be prepared even more for 2023. So brace yourself for more. It’s not going to get better – but worse.
But the one thing we can look forward to, that just before the End, there’ll be a massive end-time harvest of souls. I’m in no fear of exaggeration to say that the Church will be in full-blown revival. Our Lord Jesus put it this way, “And this Gospel of the Kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come” Matthew 24:14.
We can’t afford to be complacent. All hands on deck, from captain to cook. We must ready, for the harvest is at hand!