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The Power of Jesus Christ

John Piper

In July 1995, my wife, Noël, two of our children, and I huddled on the floor, away from all windows, under the direct path of Hurricane Erin in Pensacola, Florida. One magnificent old pine tree sheared off the corner of our bedroom as it fell. During the eye of the storm we walked outside in a perfect calm to see the devastation. Then, about twenty minutes later, we hid again against the backside of the storm as it brought down chimneys and crushed cars under snapped-off oak limbs as thick as hundred-year-old trees. God strolled the beach—Our legs and faces could not bear the piercing, blasting sand. God stepped ashore—Palms waved, scattering branches in his path. God strode inland—Magnolias, pines, and oaks,Who’d stretched one hundred years toward God, Fell to the ground before him. God stood and breathed—While we—in dark, closed closet—Feared to face his glory.

It was a heart-wrenching, worship-filled moment in the face of raw, unstoppable power. The losses were painful, though nothing like the destruction of Hurricane Mitch in Honduras in 1998, which took 10,000 lives—and which in turn was small compared to the cyclone that killed 131,000 in Bangladesh on April 30, 1991, and left nine million homeless. Beneath the wreckage of such wind you have two choices: worship or curse. It was wind that killed Job’s ten children. “A great wind came across the wilderness and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young people, and they are dead” (Job 1:19). When boils were added to that, Job’s wife said, “Curse God and die” (Job 2:9). But Job’s response to the death of his children was different: “Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. And he said . . . ‘The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD’” (Job 1:20-21). And when the boils were added to his grief, he said to his wife: “Shall we indeed receive good from God and not receive adversity?” (Job 2:10, author’s translation).

Both, not just the one, are the work of God and the ground of worship. Later in Job, Elihu says it clearly: “From its chamber comes the whirlwind . . . the clouds scatter [God’s] lightning. They turn around and around by his guidance, to accomplish all that he commands them on the face of the habitable world. Whether for correction . . . or for love, he causes it to happen . . . stop and consider the wondrous works of God” (Job 37:9-14). Psalm 29 considers and celebrates this one wonder: the

thunderstorm. “The God of glory thunders . . . the voice of the LORD is full of majesty. The voice of the LORD breaks the cedars. . . . The voice of the LORD . . . strips the forests bare, and in his temple all cry, ‘Glory!’” (Psalm 29:3-5, 9). It is the glory of God to bare his mighty arm in wind and thunder. “The LORD is great. . . . Whatever the Lord pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth. . . . [He] makes lightnings for the rain and brings forth the wind from his storehouses”

(Psalm 135:5-7). “Praise the LORD from the earth, you great sea creatures and all deeps, fire and hail, snow and mist, stormy wind fulfilling his word” (Psalm 148:7-8). Isaac Watts had his feet on the earth and his head in heaven when he wrote, “Clouds arise, and tempests blow, by order from Thy throne.” Therefore it is not surprising that when Christ came into the world, all nature bowed to his authority. He commanded the wind and it obeyed. And when the disciples saw it they wondered. And then worshiped. “And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat. . . . And [Jesus] awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’ And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. . . . [The disciples] were filled with great fear and said to one another, ‘Who then is this, that even wind and sea obey him?’” (Mark 4:37-41).

Water obeyed Jesus in more ways than one. When he commanded, it became “solid” under his feet, and he walked on it. When the disciples saw this they “worshiped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God’” (Matthew 14:33). Another time, he commanded water, and it became wine at the wedding of Cana. In response, John says, he “manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him” (John 2:11). Wind and water do whatever the Lord Jesus tells them to do. Be still. Bear weight. Become wine. Natural laws were made by Christ and alter at his bidding.

The composition of all things was not only created by Christ (John 1:3; Colossians 1:16; Hebrews 1:2), but is also held in being moment by moment throughout the whole universe by his will. “He . . . upholds the universe by the word of his power” (Hebrews 1:3). “In him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:17). Jesus Christ defines reality in the beginning and gives it form every second. Fatalities, fevers, fish, food, fig trees. Anywhere you turn, Christ is the absolute master over all material substance. With a word he commands the dead to live again. “Lazarus, come out” (John 11:43). “Young man, I say to you, arise” (Luke 7:14). “‘Talitha cumi,’ which means, ‘Little girl . . . arise’” (Mark 5:41). He rebuked a fever and it left Peter’s mother-in-law (Luke 4:39). He planned for a fish to swallow a coin and then get caught with Peter’s hook (Matthew 17:27). He took five loaves and fed five thousand men (Matthew 14:19-21). And he made a fig tree wither with his curse (Mark 11:21).

Now we have a choice. Worship or curse. There was a group at Lazarus’ grave whose facts were right and hearts were wrong. They said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?” (John11:37). The answer to that question is, Yes. Jesus timed his coming to Lazarus’ home so as to let his friend die. He waited two days, then said, “Lazarus has died, and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe” (John 11:14-15). Yes, he could have saved him. Just as he could have saved Job’s children, and ten thousand more in Honduras and Guatemala by commanding Hurricane Mitch to turn out to sea, the way he did in Galilee.

Will we worship or will we curse the One who ru