When your world shakes, turn to Jesus
Earthquakes have a way of shaking you up. One hits and everything is upended. The people of Haiti will never forget Jan. 12, 2010, when a 7.0 magnitude earthquake turned their world upside down. Already the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere, the quake left over 200,000 people dead and some 895,000 Haitians homeless.
It left Evans Monsignac buried for 27 days. A dirt-poor slum dweller — married with two children — Evans had gone to a market to sell rice that day and had just finished selling his last batch when it hit. Suddenly things were flying all around him and he found himself pinned underneath rubble. Unable to move to the left or right, he could only lay straight. He heard the screams of others but said those only lasted a day.
For 27 days he had no food. The only source of drink he had was by sipping sewage that trickled underneath the rubble where he was buried. He said that no one else was involved in his great struggle for survival; just himself and God.
Maybe you have not experienced the kind of earthquake that Evans did. But you’ve had them. You get a note in the mail that your doctor sent advising you to see an oncologist. One quake was what he told you. That one was followed by how he told you. Another recession hits and your company decides it needs to trim its employee base. You’ve been with the company longer which means you have a higher salary which makes you a target for the trimming. You come home one day to find that one who promised to love you forever has decided that forever is too long and is leaving you for someone else.
Maybe you’ve felt them. You feel the tremors of a world changing at a break-neck pace. In our post-modern day, not everyone believes our Western way is the only way. Truth has become relative. Everyone is an expert with the click of a mouse. And everyone decides their own meaning for the written text. When you pause your pace long enough, you feel some instability yourself. If so, you might find some solid ground in the ancient city of Colossae.
The people there were not immune to earthquakes. The city was originally built on a major trade route in the Roman province of Asia Minor (think southwest corner of modern day Turkey). They were known for manufacturing a beautiful, dark red wool cloth. In fact, they became famous for it. Then in 100 BC an earthquake hit. At least a figurative one did. The trade route changed and left Colossae stranded. The city went from important to insignificant quickly.
Then in 17 CE a real earthquake hit and destroyed Colossae, Laodicea, and Hierapolis. Colossae and the other cities were rebuilt but the damage lingered in their memories until another earthquake hit in 61 or 64 CE during the reign of Nero and destroyed the city. Colossae was rebuilt again, but it never regained its place of prominence. By 400 the city no longer existed.
Paul understood how life can hit you like an earthquake. He had climbed the religious ladder of his day having studied under Gamaliel, one of the great rabbis. He was, as he would later say in his letter to the church in Philippi, a “Hebrew of Hebrews.” This could mean that he knew what tribe he was from - the tribe of Benjamin - in a day when many Jews could not name their ancestral tribe. He could also speak Hebrew at home where others did not. And there was no Gentile blood in his linage.
He upheld his Jewish heritage with passion. So when Peter and John and Stephen started preaching about Jesus and his resurrection and causing a stir, Paul felt compelled to take action to preserve all things Hebrew. He started arresting these Jesus followers, throwing some in jail, and watching with consent as Stephen was stoned to death.
That’s when it hit. On his way to Damascus to arrest any in the synagogue there who were following the “Way,” he was blinded by a great light. The light was followed by a great voice, the voice of Jesus. During three days of blindness he came to see that Jesus was the Messiah he and his ancestors had looked and longed for.
That “quake” changed the course of his life. Before, it was all about stifling the story of Jesus. After, it was all about sharing the story of Jesus. For Paul, it was all Jesus. Period.
Jesus gave Paul a solid place to stand when his world shook. Not Jesus Plus. Just Jesus Period. And so when others were telling the church in Colossae they needed something more and shaking their solid footing up, Paul told them to turn to Jesus. Period. He’d tell you the same.
When your world quakes, do what Evans did. When he could not turn left or right, he turned to Jesus.