It is a propensity of human nature to be much more interested in the bad news than the good. Hence news media seemed to almost delight in the shock of Australia 'burning'. There were many phenomenal pictures, hysterical headlines and apocalyptic analyses.
In recent days, though, there has been some welcome good news and yet, to a large extent, this is buried away in mid-page columns, if reported at all. I guess 'Australia being blessed by rain', is not as dramatic as 'Australia burning in hell'. Many fires are still ongoing but there have been some remarkable stories and pictures of the effect of the much prayed for rain.
I thought I would share with the readers of Christian Today some of this good news. After all, we are those who are interested in good news. Isn't it interesting how the miserable 'end is nigh' doomsayers are now the 'progressive secularists'? We have a better story.
Russell Crowe for example tweeted this remarkable picture of his own burnt property. It is an extraordinary image of renewal.
My place 10 weeks ago after the fire had gone through, and this morning after a big weekend of rain. pic.twitter.com/oOWz0gG5hp— Russell Crowe (@russellcrowe) January 19, 2020
The town of Gloucester in New South Wales not so long ago ran out of water, after four years of drought. In the past seven days, there has been over 100mm of water. The effect has been dramatic. What appeared to be dead and barren has sprung to life with what one farmer called 'rapid growth'.
Today I was out visiting Pitt Town Anglican church in north-western Sydney. The last time it was dry and brown. Today there was clear evidence of green growth. The rains had worked their transforming power – what was latent in the ground had become patent.
It is in this context that all those verses about drought and the Lord sending rain become much more meaningful. Here are just a few
In Acts 14:17, Paul tells us that the rain and the resultant growth is the testimony of God: "Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy."
Jeremiah tells us in Jeremiah 14:22 that only the Lord brings rain.
Do any of the worthless idols of the nations bring rain?
Do the skies themselves send down showers?
No, it is you, LORD our God.
Therefore our hope is in you,
for you are the one who does all this."
And Job adds - Job 37:5-6 – that God gives mighty downpours. "God's voice thunders in marvelous ways;
he does great things beyond our understanding.
He says to the snow, 'Fall on the earth,'
and to the rain shower, 'Be a mighty downpour.'
I exulted in that as I drove back from Canberra in a thunderous downpour yesterday.
The experts solemnly assured us that we could not expect rain until at least late March and April. But for many areas the rain has arrived. Not all areas, so keep praying. Of course, the idea that prayer has anything to do with this is widely mocked – especially by those who think that it is they who have the power to control the wind and the waves. But that is not how the Bible sees it. As James, the brother of Jesus, reminds us, the prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. So keep praying; don't give up just because the headlines have disappeared.
James 5:17-18 tells us: "Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops."
But there is another side to this, a greater need. As I survey the church scene in the UK, the US and Australia I feel that there is a famine - a famine of hearing the words of the Lord. There is a spiritual dryness and barrenness. It's time for us to heed the words of the prophet Hosea and plead for the Lord to send spiritual showers. Imagine the dramatic growth and renewal as dead churches come to life, and sleepy Christians are awakened!
Hosea 10:12 –
Sow righteousness for yourselves,
reap the fruit of unfailing love,
and break up your unplowed ground;
for it is time to seek the LORD,
until he comes
and showers his righteousness on you.
How will that come about? Through the proclamation of the Word of God in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Isaiah 55:10 –
As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
Ultimately that spiritual dryness will only be overcome when we have a renewed sense of the presence of Christ in our midst. As Psalm 72:6 tells us: "May he be like rain falling on a mown field, like showers watering the earth."
And to adapt Graeme Kendrick: 'rain, Jesus, rain!'
David Robertson is director of Third Space in Sydney and blogs at www.theweeflea.com