Why does God allow bad things to happen?
ATPCEM Sunday Message
June 26, 1999
Why does God allow bad things to happen?
On April 20, 2 teenagers in Columbine high school killed 13 people and injured 23.
Exactly one month later, a teenager here in Georgia injured 6 students with a 22 rifle at Heritage High School.
Several weeks ago, a young girl was killed by her own school bus on the last day of school as she was getting off the bus.
Why does God allow bad things to happen? Isn't God supposed to be a loving God? Isn't He supposed to be all-powerful? Can't He stop bad things from happening? Isn't He supposed to be all-knowing? How can He allow such things to happen? Does God even care about what goes on?
I'm not going to be able to answer all these question in the next 15 minutes. But, I will try to address some of these questions to help us deal with difficulties that come our way.
Difficulties are a fact of life
Somehow, we Americans believe that life is supposed to be nice, happy and with no pain. We believe that bad things are not supposed to ever happen. If we could just go through with life with no problems at all, then we could say, "Yep, I lived a very normal life."
However, in John 16:33, Jesus destroys that myth. He said, "In this world you will have trouble."
Someone has said that sunshine all the time makes a very dry desert.
Psalm 34:19 says, "Many are the afflictions of the righteous."
2 Corinthians 1:5 gives us this great promise, the "sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance"
In the Bible, there's one problem after another:
Adam committing the first sin
Cain killing Abel
God wiping out the entire earth since it was corrupt
God destroying Sodom and Gomorrah because of their sins
The deception and lies of Abrahan, Issac, and Jacob
Israel complaining to God in the desert
Israel committing idolatry
Kings sinning against God
The prophets warning of peoples' sins
Jesus dealing with the sins and problems of people
The church following false teachings
Martyrdom of the early Christians
The rise of the antichrist
Is it unfair that we have to suffer? That's OK for the murderers and tax evaders to suffer. But I'm a good person, and it's not fair for me to suffer.
But who are we to judge our own goodness? We are prone to evil and to hurt others. Only if we are totally sinless would it be unfair that we have to suffer. The greatest injustice is that the only sinless person on earth suffered with the punishment for all our sins.
Problems are a fact of life. We jam our fingers playing basketball, our parents won't let us drive the Lexus to prom, we miss an A in Calculus class by 1 point, our new $200 Nike basketball shoes gets scratched and the list goes on.
So the question of 'Why does God allow bad things to happen?' isn't really a valid question. We might as well ask, 'Why does God allow life to happen?'
OK, life has bad things that happen. But does God care?
Is God just idly sitting on some celestial rocking chair while ignoring us kids here on earth while we torment, wound, attack, and shoot each other?
I don't think so. Rather, I believe He's here on earth more than we think.
God says in Matthew 25:42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ 44 ‘‘They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ 45 ‘‘He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
Not only does God cares about our problems, He identifies with us in our problems. He is with us and knows what we are going through. He sees all the difficulties and problems. And He says that no matter what you are going through, I am with you and I love you.
Romans 8:35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written: ‘‘For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered." 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
God has a purpose
Problems can do one of two things to us. It can either crush us, or it can build us.
There was this composer during the lowest point of his life. He was in debt and threatened with imprisonment. The right side of his body had become totally paralyzed. He was tempted to give up. But he stuck with it and had composed one of the greatest music ever. His name was Handel and the music he composed was Messiah.
There is nothing like difficulties and problems to build character.
A diamond only forms when coal has lots of pressure applied to it.
In our lives, character is also created by pressure.
2 Corinthians 4:16 Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. 17 For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, 18 while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.
Hebrews 2:10 For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings.
Permits God's grace to be demonstrated
Problems also allow God's grace to be revealed. Every miracle in the Bible was preceded by a problem. The only way for God's power to be demonstrated is through a problem.
The apostle Paul had some sort of constant irritation, which he called a thorn in the flesh. God allowed Paul to have it so that God's grace could be made abundant.
2 Corinthians 12:7 To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, ‘‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
Increases our desire to be in Heaven
When we go through problems, we can be comforted to know that there won't be any sadness in heaven. Our life here on this earth is a breath compared to our life after we die.
God has intervened
You might argue that there are just some things that are so bad that God should intervene and not let it happen.
However, where are we to draw the line of God intervening to ease our suffering? Is God to intervene just before we're about to die of an illness? Or before someone shoots the Pope? Or before a world war starts? Or before the Dow drops 500 points?
Actually, we don't need to decide where to draw the line. God has already drawn the line and He's drawn the line at our eternal destiny. What's most important is not what happens here on earth. But what happens to our eternal life after we die.
God intervened in history and brought Jesus to us before we pass on to eternity without him.
Our life here on earth is only a blink compared to our eternal destiny. Eternal suffering is much worse than earthly suffering. While God has not provided a way to be totally free from earthly suffering, God has provided a way to escape eternal suffering.
How are we to practically deal with difficulties?
Entrust to God for His judgement
When someone hurts us, our natural inclination is to get revenge. One day when I was driving home, there was a Honda that pulled in front of a Volkswagen. The driver in the VW obviously got mad about it. Later, he started tail-gating him and then passed him and pulled in front of him and then slowed down. And to be honest, sometimes I feel like doing that when someone pulls in front of me. Actually, I was thinking of maybe installing a paint gun on my front bumper. So when someone pulls in front of me, I can leave a nice little red mark on his car.
If I wasn't a Christian, I'd probably do that. But, as a Christian, I'm not supposed to. Not because there's a command in the Bible that says I shouldn't install a paint gun on my car to shoot at other cars. But because Jesus set the example of not getting revenge when wronged. When Jesus was attacked and maligned, Jesus could have retaliated, but He didn't. He trusted that God the father would judge rightly.
1 Peter 2:21 For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, 22 who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; 23 and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously;
Stand firm in the faith.
When problems come, we're called to stand firm. Don’t give up and don't give in. We're to put on our spiritual armor and stand firm in the faith.
1 Peter 5:8 Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 9 Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings. 10 And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. 11 To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.
Lastly, we're to be thankful. We easily complain when things go wrong. But do we give thanks when things go well? Fortunately, most of the time, things go well, we just don't notice it. We only really seem to notice when things go bad.
1 Thessalonians 5:18 give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
When we are experiencing difficulties, we can rejoice that God is working in our lives to produce something good.
In life, we see everywhere that the greater good is produced through some sort of difficulty:
Gold is more valuable when it's more refined.
Wine only comes when the grapes have been crushed.
A field can only produce a harvest after it's been tilled.
Bread only comes when wheat has been ground.
A violin string produces no sound until it's been stretched.
A river only produces a sound when it goes over rocks.
An oyster only produces a pearl when a grain of sand enters it.
Let me end by leading us in a prayer. Let's close our eyes and think about something that we consider an irritation or a problem in our life. It could be a parent, a teacher, an enemy, school, work, whatever is giving you a difficult time.
Now in your heart, thank God for the problem.
Thank God for allowing this problem in your life to build your character.
Thank God that God's grace can be demonstrated in the problem.
Thank God that it causes us to be less attached to this world and to desire heaven.
Now give to God whatever problem and let Him take care of it. Let God be the judge of the situation and to handle it.
Now tell God to give you strength to stand firm in the faith and to not let go of Him.
Lord God, we praise you for your goodness and your word. May you continue to change us for your glory.
Return to Oliver Tseng's Bible Study - Messages