Thursday, October 22, 2009

If God is good, then why is there so much suffering?

Illustration- Hebrews 11:32-38
ESV Hebrews 11:32- And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets-- 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. 35 Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. 36 Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated-- 38 of whom the world was not worthy--wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.

Why would God allow these terrible things to happen? Especially to His people?

1. John 16:33- Jesus came to give us proper perspective
The tragedy of the prosperity gospel is that it sets people up for sorrow & discouragement. It teaches us to have faith, be positive, God wants you to be happy. But this is very different than what Jesus taught.
"I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world."

A. Why did Jesus tell them these things? So that they may have peace. A proper perspective brings peace to the believer. So that when bad things happen, we can say, "Oh yes, Jesus did say this was normal." Instead of, "But I thought I was suppose to have things go my way..."

Illustration- CS Lewis
"Christ said it was difficult for 'the rich' to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, referring, no doubt, to 'riches' in the ordinary sense. But I think it really covers riches in every sense-good fortune, health, popularity and all the things one wants to have. All these things tend-just as money tends- to make you feel independent of God, because if you have them you are happy already and contented in this life. You don't want to turn away to anything more, and so you try to rest in a shadowy happiness as if it could last for ever.
But God wants to give you a real and eternal happiness. Consequently He may have to take all these 'riches' away from you; if He doesn't , you will go on relying on them. It sounds cruel, doesn't it? But I am beginning to find out that what people call the cruel doctrines are really the kindest ones in the long run. I used to think it was a 'cruel' doctrine to say that troubles and sorrows were 'punishments.' But I find in practice that when you are in trouble, the moment you regard it as a 'punishment,' it becomes easier to bear. If you think of this world as a place intended simply for our happiness, you find it quite intolerable; think of it as a place of training and correction and it's not so bad.
Imagine a set of people all living in the same building. Half of them think it is a hotel, the other half think it is a prison. Those who think it a hotel might regard it as quite intolerable, and those who thought it was a prison might decide that it was really surprisingly comfortable. So that what seems the ugly doctrine is one that comforts and strengthens you in the end. The people who try to hold an optimistic view of this world would become pessimists: the people who hold a pretty stern view of it become optimistic." -CS Lewis, "Answers to Questions on Christianity" in Timeless at Heart

B. Some people struggle much with suffering because they have a false understanding of reality. They think that God made it so we would be happy down here. And He most certainly did. However, this creation, this Garden of Eden, was given to frustration because of the sin of Adam (Romans 5:12) & if it were not for his sin, it would of most definitely been ours that did it in.

C. Romans 8:20-23
NAU 20For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. 23 And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body.

1) Because of Adam's sin, God placed creation under futility & slavery to corruption, in hope that it would one day be set free, & it will be set free one day- when the adoption, revealing & redemption of the sons of God takes place (spiritual sons).
2) We suffer because we live in a fallen world. We, together, groan. Both believer & nonbeliever. None are exempt from this groaning.
3) Hope- But for the believer Jesus tells us to, "take heart" because He has overcome the world & has given us hope. The nonbeliever has this same hope, but the benefit of this hope will never be enjoyed unless they receive the promise.

D. We often project our mind, our ideas of the way things ought to be into reality. This can cause great frustration & undue suffering. Consider this passage-
Isaiah 55:9 "As high as the sky is above the earth are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts."

E. Romans 3:23- Much suffering is the result of fallen man.
With this in mind, think of how evil, disastrous this world would be if God didn't choose, out of compassion, passion, & love choose to save us (Romans 5:8). God took the initiative to start the redemption process & every day thousands of people are being redeemed, born again, renewed through faith in Jesus Christ. So God is, has been, and will continue to "save" people from the corruption that comes with fallen humanity.

F. John 10:10- Satan is allowed temporary rule on this earth, and his mission is clear.
NAU John 10:10 "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly."

2. The advantage of suffering?
A. For the believer- James 1:2-4
NLT James 1:2 Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. 3 For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. 4 So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.

It is to help us to grow in endurance & in character. So when we suffer, we can experience joy & peace through it, knowing that it is God who is working in us (Philippians 2:13; Hebrews 12:7) and that it is normal.
Jesus is a carpenter of stone. He takes blocks of raw stone & makes something beautiful out of it (Philippians 1:6).

So, when you suffer with the right perspective, you may say, "Man this is rough, but I know this is a part of my development. God thank you for loving me, even to pieces at times."
If you have the wrong perspective, you may say, "God, why do bad things always happen to me? Do you hate me?" or "Maybe God doesn't exist after all...because why would He ever want me to be unhappy down here?".

B. For the nonbeliever- To lift up Christ
God loves you too much to just allow you to live your life & then to face judgment with failure. He is constantly working in and around you to draw you to Christ. So that you would receive Christ as your savior & lord, so that you may have forgiveness & enjoy the depths of adoption in the family of God.

Consider the following-
1) John 12:32 "As for me, when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself."
2) 1 Timothy 2:4 "He wants all humanity to be delivered and come to full knowledge of the truth."
3) John 16:8 "And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment; concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me; and concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father and you no longer see Me; and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged."

C. Only an evil being would allow someone to believe that everything was okay if it isn't. The fact is that the human race is under the penalty of sin, being lawbreakers. Therefore, we will be found guilty. Because of God's goodness, He often makes things miserable in the hopes that we will cry out to Him for His ever-ready help.

D. Also, one reason why some people suffer at a seemingly young age is because God wants to remind us of the brevity of life. Another, God has His purposes for people (Psalm 139:16). We all, redeemed & unredeemed are the actors in a grand play.

E. When you suffer, it is not "God judging" you. He reserves this judgment for another day.

Closing thought from a righteous man who suffered grievously-
Job's wife told him to give in. To, "Curse God and die." Because life had become miserable to the point of silence. Here is his response-
Job 2:10 But he said to her, "You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?" In all this Job did not sin with his lips.

Suffering is hard for all of us. But with the proper perspective, we may become privileged enough to be able to stand firm as the people did in Hebrews 11, thus becoming people whom the world was not worthy of.

Closing song
This world is not my home, I'm just passing through.
My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue.

Words and Music by Albert E. Brumley
© 1965 - Albert E. Brumley & Sons

In this world, you will have trouble, but Christian take heart, Jesus has overcome the world.

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