If you began your day like me today, you will have got up and then at some point seen or heard of the news flash that 84 people had been killed by a lorry driver in the French city of Nice during celebrations for Bastille Day.
Heureux les affligés, car ils seront consolés! (Matthew 5:4)
Firstly, let us all stop right now (if you haven’t done so already) and pray for the victims, the citizens of Nice and the French Republic. Let us pray—holding this situation up before the throne of grace—out of our deep compassion and love and because it is our Christian duty (1 Tim 2:1). May we also mourn over this great evil (Ro 12:9).
Most people will be asking two questions: why and what’s going on? Both of those are difficult and yet straightforward to answer, and in my attempt to do just that I therefore proceed with great humility.
Many Christians will look at these events through one of two lenses: the sovereignty of God or eschatology (end times belief). Since I am no seer other than some basic things Jesus has told me will happen (He is coming, to live as if His return is imminent, and that we do not know the day or the hour) let me seek to find the answer to WHY? in what the Bible says about the sovereignty of God.
First, if God is not sovereign, the things that happen are either by pure chance or happen because God is not sovereign or almighty or all wise enough to stay the hand of evil. As we will see the Bible clearly tells us this is not who God is.
Secondly, we need to resist the temptation to attribute every evil act to a karma like belief that the 1st century Jews held. That if you sinned you would not prosper, you would be judged. Jesus challenged this belief (Luke 13:1-5 ESV):
There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”
But with that tempering truth in view, if God is sovereign then evil is part of his will (at least indirectly). This is a truth we cannot faithfully shy away from, even if we ought to be slow to attribute all evil acts definitively as judgement.
WHAT’S GOING ON?
Every age has its troubles. In every age some Christian has cried “the end of the world.” Like I said earlier I’ll leave that with the Lord. However, that does not mean we cannot look around today and notice that the Lord is shaking the nations. This is but one instance of that.
A verse from our passage this coming Lord’s Day from Isaiah 22:11b helpfully reminds us:
But you did not look to Him who did it, or see Him who planned it long ago.
While God cannot do evil, in accordance with his will evil men and women can do evil things, and that can be used by and accomplish his greater purposes. So while God cannot do evil, we must acknowledge that in accordance with His sovereignty, nothing can come to us by chance but by His fatherly hand. Hard to swallow at times, perplexing to fathom, but encouraging to know we serve an almighty God. These wake up calls ought to cause us to look to the Lord and not to continue a life without Him.
It would seem that with the rise of Islamic extremism the Lord has been using this to cause many Muslims to become disenchanted with Islam and consider Christ. Indeed, in the last 15 centuries there have been 88 movements of Muslims to Christ (a movement being 1000 Muslims becoming Christians in an area). 72 of those have been in the last century with most in the last 15 years since 9/11. The Lord is doing something amongst the nations.
Shaking Self-reliance and godlessness
The average person, let alone the average French citizen, devoid of trust in God, is fearful. We live in an increasingly uncertain world. Though major international leaders seek to calm these fears, there words are often a smokescreen. Increasingly, as the Lord is at work shaking the nations we are being forced to trust Him or self, divine government or the ruler(s) of this world.
The French president said they had been “badly hit” but was strong, adding “we need to do everything we can to fight against” such attacks…”All of France is under the threat of Islamic terrorism.” Here is a secular state fighting a deeply religious phenomenon and trying to do so temporally! They are trying to do “all they can” ignoring the one thing that is needed. While there are many causes behind Islamic terrorism the spiritual reasons and solutions are discounted as naïve (are the other explanations and tactics working…?). Instead of viewing these events as from the Lord and issuing a call to repent and seek him, the West continues to discount religion and fail to return to the quarry from which they were dug [Christianity; Jesus!] (Isa 51:1).
If the Church in the UK is very small (estimates ranging from 1–4% of the population) then the Church in France is even smaller. Friends of ours recently vacationed in France. They tried to find a church—any church— to worship in. They searched for “evangelical church,” “Protestant church” and finally “Catholic church.” The nearest Mass was 28 miles away. Nominal Christianity aside, figures for the size of the Church [born again] in France estimate it to be around 0.9% of the population. Much of this represents recent growth and immigration of believers from former colonies.
Pray that the people of France would look not to themselves or their government or to hatred for explanations or solutions to resolve these issues, but to Christ! Pray the Church there would be ready. Pray that the French may “return to the Lord,” “look to Him who did it,” and “repent…lest they perish.”
Pray the Lord will continue to shake all nations, as He sees fit, until His will is accomplished and His glory revealed.
Cherchez-moi, et vous vivrez! (Amos 5:4b)
The Lord’s Sweetest Blessings,
 Bastille Day 1789, the beginning of the French Revolution: an age of “liberty” and a quarter century of political turmoil, terror and international conflict (http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/french-revolutionaries-storm-bastille).
 Gospel centred and evangelical, reformed and Lutheran churches and faithful minorities from mainline churches (most studies also . For some introductory reading on Christianity in France see: http://www.christiantoday.com/article/evangelical.churches.in.france.facts.figures.and.home.truths/51674.htm; http://impactfrance.org/evangelical-france/