The message on January 1 looked back at one of the worst natural disasters in the U.S. during 2011, the monster tornado that flattened Joplin, Missouri last May. Many people lost everything they possessed when the storm winds ripped their homes to shreds. What does the Bible have to say to people after tornados, or other disasters, shatter their lives?

The Bible teaches us about God and about real life. God doesn’t promise a simple and easy life. In Isaiah 43:1-7, the prophet warns us to expect floods, fires and hard trials in life, “When you pass through deep waters, I will be with you; your troubles will not overwhelm you. When you pass through fire, you will not be burnt; the hard trials that come will not hurt you. For I am the LORD your God, the holy God of Israel, who saves you.”

So what does God promise? First, he promises, I will be with you in the midst of the storms, the floodwaters and fires of life. God promises that through our experience of trouble we will learn how much he loves us. We will learn to turn our eyes away from the things of this world and see the glory of God. In this beatific vision, we will experience God’s love, and find spiritual strength to continue, after we pass through hard times.

Second, God promises he’ll save us from ultimate disaster. We are created for something bigger and better than tragedy. The Lord says, “You are precious to me…[you] are my own people, and I created [you] to bring me glory.” “I will bring [you] home.” God did bring his people home to thrive in the Promised Land once again. But God’s promise to save goes deeper than simply restoring Israel to her homeland.

The decisive fulfillment of this promise comes in the Gospel passage from Matthew 1. Here God explains both how he will be with us always, and how he will ultimately save: by the power of the Holy Spirit working through Jesus.

The angel told Joseph, “do not be afraid to take Mary to be your wife. For it is by the Holy Spirit that she has conceived. She will have a son, and you will name him Jesus—because he will save his people from their sins. … this happened in order to make what the Lord had said through the prophet come true, ‘A virgin will become pregnant and have a son, and he will be called Immanuel’ (which means, ‘God is with us’).”

So Jesus Christ is Immanuel, God with us, the fulfillment of all God’s promises. The angel also told Joseph to name the baby “Jesus” because that name means “Savior”. Think of it this way: the angel told Joseph to name his son Savior because he will save his people from their sins.

You need to know that God’s promise to save us extends beyond life in this world. God’s promise finds its final fulfillment in our eternal existence. But how can God continue to save us after we eventually die? The answer is simple: through faith in Jesus, who is both God with us and our Savior from sin. Sin is what separates us from God, so by freeing us from our sins, Jesus makes it possible for us to be together with God forever in heaven, after we die in this world.

Back in Isaiah 43, God calls us to trust him. “Do not be afraid”, he insists, for I am bigger than all life’s storms and floods and fires. Christian faith looks beyond this material world to what is eternal and spiritual, and by faith we see God in Jesus. This week I pray you will learn deeper faith in God’s word, and by faith you will walk in his light and know the joy of the Savior he provides.