If God is all good and all powerful, why does he allow bad things to happen?
I want to start off by distinguishing between suffering and difficulty. I am talking about suffering today, not difficulty. Just because something is difficult doesn’t mean that you are suffering. You may be straining, you may even be hurting, but that doesn’t always qualify as suffering. Lifting your body weight on a bench press is difficult. You literally have to strain to do so, and you could even say that it hurts to do so. But when you put those weights back on the bar, you’re not suffering, you’re strengthening. You’re growing. Even though you are exhausted after a hard work out, you feel better after the pain than you did before the pain. You are stronger, and you are happier with yourself. When you choose to stay home and give up on that work out routine is when you feel guilt and get depressed. So just because you have difficulties in life doesn’t mean that you are suffering, or at least not for today’s sermon.
When I’m talking about suffering, I’m talking about hardships that cause your inner person, your spirit, your soul, to grieve. You hurt on the inside. The weights are not on a bar, they are on your soul. There is no one here who has not suffered. Everyone here has experienced a differing level of suffering because everyone has walked a different path in life but everyone has suffered. And it’s during suffering that we often want to question God. Why me? Why now? Why like this? And we will begin to take our perception of our reality and begin to use that view to form how we view God Himself. Job did, and that’s where we are today as we are working through the Bible. We will be talking about suffering today and we will not be able to finish today. We will continue this topic next week because it is such a big topic and it is important that we cover the different aspects of it. Today we are talking about Suffering as a follower of Christ. Next week we will focus on general suffering that is not because you are following Christ, such as the loss of a loved one. Suffering brought on by no one, suffering brought on by others, and suffering brought on by yourself. But today we will mainly focus on suffering as a follower of Christ.
So before we jump in let me ask you this question; why is there suffering at all? Why does suffering exist? -- because of sin
Suffering entered into the the world through sin.
12 Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, in this way death spread to all people, because all sinned.
Suffering can always be traced back to sin in one way or another, because in God’s original plan, and in his future promise, suffering did not and will not be a part of our lives. There was not suffering in the garden before Adam and Eve sinned, and there will not be suffering on the new earth when God recreates the heavens and the earth and comes down with his holy city to dwell on it with us for all of eternity.
1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 I also saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared like a bride adorned for her husband. 3 Then I heard a loud voice from the throne: Look, God’s dwelling is with humanity, and he will live with them. They will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them and will be their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; grief, crying, and pain will be no more, because the previous things have passed away.
Sometimes we can easily see how suffering is a direct result of sin, but sometimes it’s harder to see how it is an indirect result of sin. When someone betrays, lies to, steals from, ridicules, takes advantage of, or even kills another person, we can easily see how that person’s suffering is a direct result of sin. Sometimes it’s not as obvious. Sometimes people sin in ways that we don’t know about and we suffer because of it, although God knows. For example, there are many people today suffering from all kinds of illnesses that we have yet to realize why that is. Just go online and search radioactive makeup and you will find that companies were putting Radium in all kinds of products and advertising them as radio-active as a selling point, from make-up to toothpaste to chocolate bars. The suffering that resulted from this was due to our selfish desires to want a dollar more than our desire to want to do the research to make sure the products were safe.
But what about Job? He didn’t do anything wrong, why did he suffer like he did? Well the source of the suffering still goes back to sin. Satan himself was the source of Job’s suffering. See Satan is at war with God, and we are soldiers in that war. We know God has promised a perfect life for us with no pain and suffering one day but many of us go around telling people that they need Jesus as if we were signing them up for a cruise instead of enlisting them in a war. Do we not? “Are you suffering? Are you down and out? Is your life falling apart? Do you want to be blessed? Do you want to be a blessing to others? Do you want your best life now? Well you can have it! You can be well physically, emotionally, and spiritually. All you have to do is speak it and believe it. I am not sick. I do not have cancer. I can walk.” and on and on and on. People get disillusioned because they sign up to follow Jesus and then Jesus heads into the battle field and they get shot at and get hit by shrapnel and they say, “Hold up! I was told we were going on a cruise. I’m out of here!” But Jesus didn’t go around telling his followers that they would suffer less by following him, he told them they would suffer more.
10 Then he told them: “Nation will be raised up against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. 11 There will be violent earthquakes, and famines and plagues in various places, and there will be terrifying sights and great signs from heaven. 12 But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and persecute you. They will hand you over to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name. 13 This will give you an opportunity to bear witness. 14 Therefore make up your minds not to prepare your defense ahead of time, 15 for I will give you such words and a wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict. 16 You will even be betrayed by parents, brothers, relatives, and friends. They will kill some of you. 17 You will be hated by everyone because of my name, 18 but not a hair of your head will be lost.
You see there is a war going on and we have been dropped in the middle of it by being born on this earth. You don’t choose to join the war by becoming a Christian, you are in the war because you live on earth. The whole earth is the battlefield, and outer space too for the astronauts that are on the international space station. So Satan declared war against God and managed to convince a third of the angels to join his side and they are roaming around on this earth looking for who they can devour. And every one of us are their targets and so we have a choice to make. We can pretend that we are not really in a war and we can dig an in-ground pool and put out some lounge chairs and tell everyone how if you want to live the blessed life then you won’t put on all that heavy military gear and go out there where you can get shot and killed, you will instead lay in your lounge chair and declare as loud as you can, “I am not in a war. I am safe. The enemy can not touch me because I am inside God’s camp.” Let me ask you something. Was Paul inside God’s camp? Did he suffer harm for the sake of the gospel? What’s worse is when a mortar lands inside the area where the people are lounging around and someone gets hurt the guy with the microphone tells them, “Well the only reason you got hurt was because you didn’t have enough faith. You should have declared that you were safe in faith, not with doubt, because if you doubt then you can’t expect to receive anything.”
Can anyone see the problem here? The problem was not with what Jesus said when he asked us to follow him. He told us we were going to suffer and get hurt precisely because we are following him. When he told the parable of the four soils he said about those who would suffer because of him:
21 But he has no root and is short-lived. When distress or persecution comes because of the word, immediately he falls away.
When telling his followers what to expect after they kill him he said:
9 “Then they will hand you over to be persecuted, and they will kill you. You will be hated by all nations because of my name.
Paul said to the Philippian believers:
29 For it has been granted to you on Christ’s behalf not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him,
And in case you think I am going too far with the war analogy. Paul told Timothy, his protege:
3 Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.
So put yourself back in the war situation. What are our brave men and women who are putting their lives on the line thinking when they are out there? Are they thinking man I love getting shot at? No! They are thinking, one about each other, two about their mission, but if asked what they want out of this, they will tell you that I am putting my life on the line to keep my country safe, so that my family has a place to live free, and so hopefully one day when my time has been served I will have a place that I can come back to and live free while the next generation takes up that grave responsibility to keep us free. What keeps me going is knowing our place of safety, our home, our country, would no longer be safe if we quit putting our lives on the line, and thinking about those people that I get to come home to. Now you are at base camp, you look around you and there are men and women in uniform training and mobilizing and going into battle and keeping a watch on base for enemy attacks and then there is this group of people over here who are just chilling by the pool, getting a tan, doing nothing. You know that Jesus Himself, in the flesh, the real live man, who is very much alive in his body right now by the way, He has called you into battle and He is leading the envoys that are headed out to the enemies camp. Do you have this video playing in your mind. You come face to face with your Savior and He calls you to battle, and by the way, he says that if you are not willing to suffer and follow me, you will not be allowed to enter this kingdom that He is setting up.
27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.
17 and if children, also heirs—heirs of God and coheirs with Christ—if indeed we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.
So now it’s your choice. You think about the war that is going on. You think about the kingdom that he has promised to establish, no more pain, no more suffering, no more violence. And you think about how you are convinced that He is going to win this war. He has already won the war. Satan had his chance, he killed Jesus and Jesus got back up and said ok that didn’t work, what is your plan now. Jesus can’t be killed, and he can’t be outsmarted, and he can’t be beaten. You know he is waiting to give everyone a chance to chose their side and when that day comes he will put an end to all of this and he said that only those who choose to follow him will enter his kingdom. So what’s your choice? Will you ignore his call and try to enjoy this base life as much as you can for the extremely short time that you are here, or are you going to get trained, get equipped, and follow Jesus into battle and know that you made him proud.
For Christ suffered for us, we must be willing to suffer for him.
8 So don’t be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, or of me his prisoner. Instead, share in suffering for the gospel, relying on the power of God.
And we will finish by running through some verses written by the Apostle Peter
21 For you were called to this, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.
18 For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit,
1 Therefore, since Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same understanding—because the one who suffers in the flesh is finished with sin—
13 Instead, rejoice as you share in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may also rejoice with great joy when his glory is revealed.
10 The God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, establish, strengthen, and support you after you have suffered a little while.
These verses were written by Peter, who denied Jesus three times, but Jesus did not deny him. He gave him another chance, and God is giving you another chance. Take it.