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VBS 2019 Message

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God is still good when life seems unfair and hard.

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Introduction:
My name is Pastor Alex Hong. Every year we are so encouraged by the volunteers and the children participating, and we just want to extend you a warm welcome to our church if you are a first time visitor and say thank you for allowing our teachers to serve your kids this week. Our staff literally plans months in advance for this week and it always encourages us to see our kids learn more about Jesus.
If you didn’t know, the theme of our VBS this year is Roar: Life is wild, God is still good.
Wherever you lead me, I’m gonna follow. I’m trusting you, God, you are good.
Life will get crazy, wild and amazing.I’m trusting you, God. you are good.
And for our brief time this evening, I would just like to ask question:
How is God good when life seems so unfair?
This made me think of The Problem of Evil. In other words, if there is a loving and good God, why is life unfair sometimes? Why do good people suffer? Why do we still live in a world of disease, disaster, devastation and death?
A question like this have caused many people to disbelieve and reject God or even seek other religions in attempt to resolve this issue.
If you live long enough, you will see that life bring many problems and it will often seem as if God is not there and life is unfair.
But I want to show you this evening that God is still good even when we don’t understand his purposes and we can can trust Him when life seems unfair. And I just want to look at three ways He shows his goodness to us when it seems like life is unfair.
God shows his goodness to us when life seems unfair in
Maturing our faith (vv. 2-4)
Generously providing wisdom (vv. 5-11)
Saving Sinners (vv. 12-18)
Scripture Reading:
James 1:2–18 ESV
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away. For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits. Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.

I. God is still good when life seems unfair because he matures us in difficulties (vv. 2-8)

James 1:2–4 ESV
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
James, the half-brother of Jesus, is writing to Christians probably dealing with persecution. Earlier, he greets the recipients as the twelve tribes in the dispersion. In other words, these were Christians scattered throughout the Roman Empire because of their faith.
And he says to the Christians count it all joy. This refers to our thought life, rather than feeling. We do not rejoice in evil, but in God’s wisdom. That seems so counterintuitive. It is a command. And the word all means that every difficulty should be an occasion for deepening joy. It is not that we rejoice in evil, but we rejoice in knowing that God is a wise Father who knows exactly what He is doing even when we do not.
In a secular and evolutionary world, evil is just a result of accidental, purposeless chance. Life sucks and deal with it.
But in a Christian worldview, evil is a result of living a fallen world, yet there is a Sovereign God behind it that orchestrates every evil for ultimate good and his glory.
My wife recently had to take my son to the Doctor for a four month shot. He did not know why they were going to the doctor and when the nursed poked him, he did not understand why we allowed the nurse to give him shots. He was sad and angry with us the whole day, but we knew that it was for his good.
On a more serious note, a parent who allows his child to go through chemo and subject his body to harmful chemicals or radiation, is actually allowing the harmful substance to try to eradicate the cancer cells.
And like a good Father, God allows us to experience pain and suffering in this world to strengthen our faith in him even when we don’t understand this.
Trials and suffering are the weights in God’s gym that strengthens the muscle of faith.
For the non-Christian, all suffering is bad, and therefore all suffering should be avoided.
But for the Christian, suffering can in fact redemptive in bringing about a greater good and purpose even when we may not understand it.
James 1:3–4 ESV
for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
In this case, it brings about endurance. And endurance brings about maturity. Life’s difficulties are where some of our greatest life lessons are learned. A book I’m reading right now on the brevity of life describes how on one night,
One night in autumn of 1991, in rural Idaho, Gerald Sittser was driving with his wife, his four children, and his mother, when their car was struck by a drunk driver. And in a moment he lost his wife, mother, and four-year old daughter.
He wrote a book entitled Grace Disguised. The man spoke of his unspeakable agony while also how they began to heal and hope again over time. In his preface to his second book, he said,
“rawness and utter bewilderment…have given way to contentment and deep gratitude” and his story turned out to be “redemptive, not only for me and my children, but for others as well”
“As strange as it might sound, I wish that every man could experience what I have, thought without acute suffering”
People who survive castastrophic loss often say that they survive by coming to see, in time, that they somehow had to take the loss into themselves and allow it to enlarge their heart so that their capacity to live well and to enjoy simple things and to know God intimately increased in a way they never thought possible.
Suffering can deepen faith in God.
Expect Trials. Not if, but when.
Consider it as an opportunity to thank and trust God.
When trials come, no longer fear, for in the pain our God draws near, to fire a faith worth more than gold and there his faithfulness is told.

II. God is still good when life seems unfair because He generously gives wisdom (vv. 5-11)

James 1:5–8 ESV
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
Trials can often disorient us. We don’t know left from right, or up from down. And we are utterly at loss. When we experience a death of a loved one, or find out some news about a medical diagnosis.
There is another command given by James. We are to ask God for wisdom when life is hard. Biblical wisdom is skilled living. It is knowing how to live in God’s world with God’s wisdom.
And notice God is not a stingy God. He is a generous God. He gives without approach.
But there is a condition: ask in faith. Don’t be a double-minded/double-souled person.
Like a violent and raging wave that is moved back and forth, the person who does not believe God will not receive wisdom to deal with the difficulties because he looks to his own wisdom.
Difficulties in life show us we are not in control.
We are like children building a sandcastle at the beach thinking we are in control, only to find out that the waves and difficulties of life come unexpectandly to wash it away.
Go to God in Prayer in Difficulties
Ask the Lord to give you wisdom to deal with difficulties. Ask the Lord to provide insight from His Word and from godly counselors.
Pray for undivided heart to Trust Him even when you don’t understand things.
Because what seems wise in the world is foolish in God’s eyes, and what seems foolish in the world’s eyes is precious to God.
And James gives us another example of that using the illustration of wealth.
The Trial of Poverty.
James 1:9–11 ESV
Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away. For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits.
James
Some Christians may have faced financial difficulty as a result of following Christ. It is not wrong to have riches, but it is wrong to trust in riches. Because God says riches do not last because the rich and poor all have the same end.
This is the wisdom that God gives. There is a great reversal of values.
Trust God to provide for your needs.
Trust in God, not in wealth.
Transition: God is still good when life is wild and difficult because he matures us in difficulty, he gives wisdom to us if we ask with an undivided heart, and he is good to save sinners.

III. God is good when life seems unfair because of who He is (vv. 13-18)

James 1:13–15 ESV
Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.
When life is unfair, we are tempted to blame God. Trials can turn into temptations to blame God. But do you know that many of our own problems come as a result of our doing. In other words, we get better than many of us deserve.
Financial difficulty comes because we are not content and spend more than we should.
Marital difficulty comes when we look only to our own interests and not interests of our spouses.
Health problems come when we don’t eat right or steward our body well.
I’m not saying that all difficulties come from our own folly and unbelief, but many in fact do.
Sin and suffering are often related and experiencing difficulty comes from living in a fallen world. We sin or we are often sinned against in a fallen world.
And James is saying that God tempts no one. He tempts no one because He is good. It is our own sinful inclinations that lead us to unbelief, sin, and going our own way. And that way is death.
Suffering and punishment are caused by sin.
Suffering can be caused by natural disaster or causes.
The center of history is a a suffering Savior. A Savior who is treated unfairly.
From a secular perspective, everything happense by blind, impersonal, pitiless indifference.
Suffering strengthens character, deepens faith, and exalts the wisdom of our God.

God is good

James 1:
James 1:16–18 ESV
Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.
Don’t be fooled. Every good and every perfect give comes from God. God is a generous giver of gifts. He is the Father of lights, thinking of the stars and his work of creation. But as the sun orbits and the planets move and change, he does not change.
The perfect gift that has been given is His Son.
A. God is Good
All difficulties in life come because we live in a fallen world where things do not go as we thought. And some of those difficulties are caused by our own foolishness and rebellion.
And because God is good and is opposed to all evil, he must be consistent with his own character and must punish sin.
But instead of punishing his sin, the greatest gift he has given is the gift of himself in the person of his Son.
The greatest and perfect gift He has given us is the Son of God who came down from heaven to die on the cross for our sins, and be raised again from the grave to put our sin away and put death away so that we can have salvation.
B. God does not change
James 1:17 ESV
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.
B. God does not change
God never changes. He has always been good and wise and just. And the cross shows us that difficulties and trials and suffering can be redemptive because Jesus endured the cross to show that God does not change and has always been good and just and merciful.
C. God bestows salvation
James 1:18 ESV
Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.
And this is the word of truth that saves us. That makes us born again where we understand suffering and difficulties in a new light.
Summary:
That not all suffering is bad, but can mature us.
That suffering can lead us to depend on God more by asking for his wisdom.
That suffering can show us how good He is that even though we deserved eternal suffering, His Son suffered for us so that we would not have to suffer eteranlly.
Conclusion:
When life is hard, and when it seems unfair, look to Jesus who was treated with the ultimate injustice by dying for you and me, so that God would satisfy his own justice and display mercy who don’t deserve his goodness or his mercy.
We can trust God and believe He is good because of what He has done for us in Jesus Christ.
And we can follow the Lord wherever He leads us, even in pain and difficulty because He is good.
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