It seems recently there have just been so many worldwide disasters. What’s going on in our world? A tsunami in Asia, hurricanes in the southern United States, a cyclone in Burma (Myanmar), tornadoes in Iowa and then most recently this terrible earthquake in Sichuan province, China.
It makes me think of the words of Jesus about the end of the world. He said that in the last days there would be many wars, earthquakes, famines and diseases (Matthew 24:3, 6-7). And at the end of all of this, the Lord Jesus promised to come back to our world. No one knows exactly when it will take place, but maybe the day when the Lord Jesus will come back to set up His kingdom on the earth is much nearer than we could imagine! Then there will be a world-wide kingdom of peace, since Jesus is the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6). Thank God for that!
But with all of these difficulties and sufferings in our world, our hearts right now are still sad and breaking. As a Christian I am thankful that Jesus is my God. While some ‘gods’ may appear peaceful in their temples (think of Buddha in his temple looking so peaceful and detached from the agonies of the world), and while other ‘gods’ may stay in heaven fighting among themselves (think of the Greek pagan gods), the Lord Jesus is much different. He entered the world where He suffered with us, experiencing the sorrows, hunger and pain common to all humanity. And in the end He endured the brutal and painful death of crucifixion. Imagine in your mind Jesus on the cross, bleeding and broken, and you will see that God cares for you and me.
“Christ suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God” 1Peter 3:18
But now I must come to Zhang Miya, since his story is one of hundreds that show me that it is even possible that something beautiful can come out of something tragic and terrible. He was a mathematics teacher at Yingxiu primary school, and his selfless example of dedication and love has been widely praised. When the earthquake struck and the terrible danger was clear, he extended his arms to hug two students tightly. The rescue worker who discovered his remains with the two dear children below him – alive – said, “He protected his students like an eagle” (Source: xinhuanet.com).
When we think of eagles, we think of majestic strength. I was reminded of some references in the Bible to eagles. According to the Bible, the Jewish people were at one time in slavery in Egypt, possibly around the mid 1200’s BC. At that time God brought a great prophet named Moses to lead them out to their own country. But actually it was God Himself who was working in such a powerful way through these circumstances, because He cared about Israel and He loved them as His people. He said: “I carried you on EAGLES’ wings and brought you to myself” (Exodus 19:4).
These words tell me of an amazing plan that God has for every person. He wants to bring you and me to Himself! When we trust on the Lord Jesus as our Saviour, we are introduced to a new life in Christ – to have a personal relationship with God through Jesus. Often life is difficult and filled with many problems. For the true believer, we have the wonderful promises of God, assuring us of God’s majestic power to take care of us in the way that He thinks is best for us. Here’s one promise from Isaiah 40:31:
“Those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like EAGLES; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”
Mary Stevenson wrote the poem Footprints in 1936. It tells the story of a dream she had of walking with the Lord along the beach, and watching scenes from life flashing across the sky. She notices that sometimes there are two sets of footprints in the sand, while at other times there is only a single set. Furthermore, the most difficult times in her life are the times when there is only one set of footprints! Troubled and thinking perhaps the Lord had not taken care of her, she asks Him about this. The Lord replies: “The times when you have seen only one set of footprints in the sand, is when I carried you.”
But eagles remind us not only of strength, but also of devoted love – like any bird, eagles will defend their own. Tan Guoqiang, the 48-year-old headmaster of Zhang Miya’s primary school, said of him, “Zhang saved his students at the price of his own life.”
Like Zhang, Tan Qianqiu of Sichuan province also protected four students from being crushed by extending both his arms like a great eagle. Teachers and students gave Tan this memorial: “We shall forever remember the eternal moment. Your extending arms carry the full meaning of your profession and great love.”
As I read their touching stories, I cannot help but think of my Lord Jesus. He desired to make you and me into His own children and members of His awesome kingdom. But to do it He needed to deal with the issue of our disobedience to His law (called our sins in the Bible). Since the punishment for these sins was death, He decided to extend His arms on the cross and to die there for us. With the price of His own life, He showed us the full meaning of His great love.
I hope you and I will never forget, and forever remember the preciousness of the Lord’s love for your and me.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16