Does Everything Happen For A Reason?
Does Everything Happen For A Reason • Sermon • Submitted
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So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.”
Over the next few weeks we will be talking about God’s will: the misunderstandings, the hope, how to discern it, how it works with our own free will. In the bulletin you will find this:
a. God’s intentional will: the original plan for the well-being of his children.
b. God’s circumstantial will: God’s will within the circumstances set up by humankind’s evil.
c. God’s ultimate will: God’s plan is realized not only in spite of what humankind may do, but even using humankind’s own evil to do so.
I also recommend these two books “The Will of God” by Leslie Weatherhead (Brief Description) and “Why? Making Sense of God’s Will” by Adam Hamilton. (Brief Description)
Now let me lay the groundwork here by explaining the types of God’s will that Leslie Weatherhead talks about.
We are looking at Adam and Eve this morning. God’s intentional will was for them to live eternally with him in Eden and to manage the creation as his partner. To bring it to its intended purpose. This is what God intended.
However, they decided they wanted creation for themselves and rebelled against God which resulted in evil entering into God’s good creation. This resulted in humankind not living eternally and a separation between God and humankind with humankind trying to be God. God’s circumstantial will: God’s will within the circumstances set up by humankind’s evil. God is working within these circumstances to accomplish his ultimate will
However, it was God’s ultimate will that God and Humankind would dwell together with humans as God’s regents. Thus, the incarnation, death, resurrection and ascension of God’s Son which defeats evil, redeems the creation from death and decay and will reunite heaven and earth in the new creation which is what God always intended. You can look at the crucifixion as a way in which God used humankind’s evil to accomplish his will. God’s ultimate will: God’s plan is realized not only in spite of what humankind may do, but even using humankind’s own evil to do so.
Let’s take a little closer look at this passage.
We now know that Genesis was most likely written or complied during the Babylonian captivity. This is important for two reasons, first it was to bring hope to the exiles that YHWH was in fact the creator God, the only God, even though the Babylonians claimed their gods to have defeated their God, YHWH. Secondly, although this creation story resembles other creation stories of the ANE there are some important differences. The most important being that God created the universe out of grace and that humankind was created to assist or work as God’s partner. In this story humankind is the centerpiece of God’s creation. In the other ANE creation stories the gods create for themselves, that is the creation was solely for their enjoyment, existence and exploitation. Humans were created for slave labor.
As you can see, the Hebrew creation story laid next to the Babylonian story would be a story of hope and YHWH’s ultimate victory over all other gods.
I picked this text because it demonstrates the origin of our free will. It says that God created us in God’s image. This is very important and an important difference to the other stories of creation, because at the foundation of it, image is a status. We certainly have attributes of God, but this image make us imagers of God.
What does this mean? It means to be human is to image God and it allows for the God’s mandate of subduing and having dominion or ruling over the earth. God intends us to be him on his creation! (Like Bishops and District Superintendents) We are to create more imagers (be fruitful and multiply)in order to be God stewards of God’s creation and to work with God to bring it to His intended fulfillment. (There is that word again intended.)
God created us, put his image in or on us, and put us in charge.
We are pretty special folks! As scholar Walter Brueggemann comments: “We are the only part of creation which discloses to us something about the reality of God.” (Matthew 25)
Hear this: God’s primary way of ruling and acting on this planet is through people. When God set the Israelites free from Pharoah, he sent Moses. When God wanted to comfort the exiles in Babylon God called Jeremiah. He called the apostles to spread the Gospel. God redeemed creation through a human, Jesus of Nazareth.
Now in verse 28 God blesses the humans and he speaks his directions to them directly. This means we have a personal God who wants a relationship with us. He didn’t just create and leave us to fend for ourselves. Even though we have rebelled His ultimate will is for us to be directly reunited and for evil to be defeated.
In his directions to us to subdue and rule over creation we were gifted with free will, an attribute of God. We are free to make our own decisions in regards to how we manage the gift of creation. We had to have this gift either to follow God’s path or turn away from it or we would be nothing but robots incapable of giving and more importantly receiving God’s love.
Therefore, we are responsible for the evil for the turning away from God. Instead of subduing the creation we exploit it. Instead of partnering with God to have dominion, we choose to go our own way. And it has created all sorts of problems. The creation is not as God intended. As Paul wrote in Romans (and we’ll take a closer look at when I conclude): “the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it.”
This free will allows God’s intentional will to be defeated for the time being. If this is not true, then we wouldn’t really have free will.
Wesley understood that if we did not have this freedom to choose, or liberty as he called it, we would not be capable of virtue or guilt, that is we would not be responsible beings. (Randy Maddox Responsible Grace) That is we would not be able to freely respond to God’s grace. We have to have a choice of responding or not responding to God’s grace or it is not grace.
However, God does not delight in the evil we do and the suffering we bring. But on the other hand if he just decided to do away with it, he would have to do away with all of us, his imagers. Therefore to correct this He must work with and through our free will to accomplish his ultimate will. As Martin Luther King says, suffering becomes redemptive, because God can us that evil for good. Jesus’s passion, crucifixion, death and resurrection is a prime example of this.
This is why everything does not happen for a reason. Does God have a plan, yes! But those plans can be temporarily defeated by our free will. And most events in our lives result for this reason!
If we mistakenly say that everything happens for a reason and everything that happens is part of God’s plan or God’s will, then we are in effect saying that God brought this evil or tragedy upon you.
Let me give you an example from my own life:
Tell about Uncle Lamar’s death and funeral.
How often do we try to comfort people by mistakenly trying to convince them that God controls every little thing that happens, leaving no room for our free will.
If you go to the doctor with a sickness, if it is God’s will, does that not mean that God is fighting the Doctor who is trying to help you? The why even go to the doctor?
If a love one dies from cancer and you say it was God’s will, does that mean God thwarted any attempt by the Doctor to heal your loved one? The why do we even try chemo or surgery?
If everything is planned out in spite of our free will, why wear a seatbelt? Or a motorcycle helmet? or look both ways before you cross the street? I mean if your time is pre ordained, what difference does it make to take any precautions? Or even be concerned with your health?
Now is there cause and effect? Sure there is. I can kinda live with this statement, “Everything happens for a reason and the reason is you made a bad choice.” If you choose to smoke you run the risk of lung cancer. If you chose to use heroin you run the risk of overdosing. If you choose to be promiscuous you run the risk of diseases and/or unplanned pregnancies. These are all cause and effect.
Much of the suffering we experience is caused by human decisions and God cannot take this away because it would mean taking away his image in us! Sometimes even sickness and death are caused by poor human decisions. But also our bodies are susceptible to things, the coronavirus for example.
We have natural disasters or what theologians call natural evil. Our tendency is not to follow God, or even allow God to be our partner, has bought this on. We wanted to rule over creation for ourselves.
Earthquakes result from the movement of the earth’s plates. But this is done to keep the core of the earth from overheating. This is designed to help the planet support life. Monsoons cool the atmosphere. I could go on. Natural disasters are natural occurrences and often we imagers of God get caught in them. But God does not bring them on us for punishment, that’s superstition. However, if God stopped these things our planet could be destroyed.
I like how Adam Hamilton puts this:
Why? Making Sense of God's Will Chapter 1: Why Do the Innocent Suffer?
Knowing that we live on a planet where earthquakes and tsunamis are essential to the planet, our task as human beings is to adapt to these conditions, either by avoiding living in areas prone to the affects of earthquakes and monsoons or by engineering our buildings to withstand these forces. It is when these forces strike areas in which many live in poverty that they bring the greatest devastation. Did God bring such terrible devastation upon poor people? Or was it the distribution of wealth in these places that leads to terrible devastation?
Hear Paul from Romans:
I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
God’s ultimate will is to free the creation from its bondage to decay and I add death. God wants to fix what went wrong and God is fixing what went wrong, and we have hope in Jesus Christ who is the one who died and was raised by God defeating death and decay.
God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.”
God created us, gave us this great creation to manage as partner with him, and he blesses us! He blesses us and unlike any of the other creatures, he speaks to us directly making him immanent to us, available to us. This has never ended even though we have been rebellious. Yes we groan inwardly as we wait for the redemption of our bodies as Paul writes. But the good news is God is with us in the suffering, the sickness, the natural disasters, and yes even in our own choices good and bad.
We can say with Paul:
I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us.