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Sermon -The Problem of Pain and Suffering

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The Problem of Pain & Suffering

Compiled by Tom Daugherty

On Aug. 6, 1945, at 8:15 AM, Hiroshima awoke after a restless night of alarms.

  • 9,000 meters above bomb - nicknamed “Fat Boy”—detached from the “Enola Gay” and glided down
  • Forty-three seconds later a purple flash dazzled the city.
  • A 150-meter-wide ball of fire engulfed the center,
  • 9,000 degree centigrade (16,000F+) heat rolled across the city at 4 kilometers per second (8,600+mph),
  • Explosion equal to 20,000 tons of TNT
  • Then the “atomic mushroom” cloud rose above the city, which had already become a desert.
  • Then the “black rain” began to fall.
  • Estimates vary between 100,000 and 200,000 dead at Hiroshima and 30,000 to 70,000 at Nagasaki.      - Thirty afterward, victims of contamination were still falling at the rate of 3,000 per year.[1]

Where is God when?

Natural disasters – Recent tsunami (Thailand-2004), cyclone (Myanmar-‘08), flooding (New Orleans)

Terrorism – twin towers, middle east & Palestine.  Inhumanity – Sudan, Darfur, Rwanda.

Martyrdom – Did you know more Christians martyred in last 100yrs than previous 1900yrs combined?

On a more personal note- Where is God when?


Drug Abuse & Alcoholism - is found to be breaking up marriages, impoverishing families, and displacing children from homes. [Alcoholism] is blamed for 80,000 deaths a year, including half of all traffic fatalities and homicides, and a fourth of all suicides.[2]

Where is God when?

Broken families.

Strife & Bitterness between us…Sometimes till we kill each other! 

OR – Perhaps even worse…

Where is God when we just ignore people and let them die?

Is the Deist right and there is a God but He is distant and doesn’t really care?

Around 300 BC. Epicurius stated the problem of evil:

  1. If an all-good and all-powerful God exists, He would create a world with no evil.
  2. Evil does exist.
  3. Therefore, God does not exist.

How would you answer that? You know, as Christians We should AND NEED to be able to!

   >>Pardon while I go on a hobbyhorse rant here:

Biblical Commands:

1 Pet. 3:15 – “always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you”

2 Tim. 4:2-3 – Be ready (instant) in season and out of season… For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine”

1 Thess. 5:21 – Test all things; hold fast what is good”

Acts 17:11 – Bereans called “more noble” because used minds and searched scriptures to find out truth.

2 Pet. 3:17-18 – “Beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness. But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ...”

The strength of our experience with God goes hand-in-hand with our knowledge of Him.

I’d rather have relationship over knowledge BUT Knowledge makes for a richer experience

EX. – Knowing a person involves knowing about them! Aquaintance vs. friend or spouse.

- Biblical to “know” a woman tied to intimacy of sexual experience.

Do we know our God well enough to rationally answer to the problem of pain & suffering?

1.      The premise (the first part of Epicurious's argument) assumes too much!
The problem is Epicurious claims to know what God "would" do. Self-declaring what is right!

  • Playing God
  • Telling God what is right?                                           

How can we know what God "would" do? He tells us – The BIBLE!!!

How does the Bible answer THE PROBLEM OF PAIN & SUFFERING?

READ: Rm. 8:18-25

  1. How did we get here in the first place? - The tie between freedom and love.
  • Most of our problems are our fault
    Gen. 2:17-“not to eat or you will die” Then Cursed, Kicked out of garden and Death
     … NOT meant to die!
  • But what about natural disasters?

OT Examples: Jer 12:4 – “How long will the land mourn, And the herbs of every field wither? The beasts and birds are consumed, For the wickedness of those who dwell there” (23:10; Hos.4:3)

Vs. 22 - “the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs”

Sin affects more than just man—The whole creation suffers!

Could this be why we have Earthquakes, floods, tsunamis????

Vs. 22 (again) - “Birth Pangs” Alludes to pain & JOY of childbirth!

o Why didn't God make a perfect creation without sin?
HE DID! Gn. 1:9, 12, 18, 21, 25 - Good 31 - Very Good.
“you shall surely die” Death was NOT God’s ultimate purpose for us.

Well why didn't God create ONLY those who He knew would follow Him?
Did God give us free will? 

- Adam was given a choice to obey God with Tree of knowledge

- Adam was also given Freedom in his dominion over the earth

Answer: The question [bullit] assumes we are capable of sinless living. The Bible says, "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." - Rm. 3:23. And "there is none righteous, no not one." – Rm. 3:10. 1 Jn. 1:8 – “If we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves” We will all ultimately disobey God. Even worse, Rm. 6:23 tells us "the wages of sin is death".

o Why does God give us free will?
- Otherwise we would be robots, conditioned to do His every whim.

- If this were true, evil would be eradicated from the world indeed!

- BUT choice is a necessary part of experiencing real love. Would real love exist if we didn't have a choice to love or not to love? Stepford Wives Movie

- BUT, with that free will, we choose to disobey God and suffer the consequences.

  1. God's Fullfilled Promises.

o         Well, if we messed up then why wouldn’t a loving God fix it?
HE DID, or at least He will depending on whether your using God's perspective or our human perspective.

Why not fix it immediately 

READ:  Gal. 4:4 – “fullness of time” for payment for sin through Christ.    Eph. 1:10 – “fullness of time” for our inheritance of new creation.

Example:William Hines tells of "a man who had studied the Second World War in depth, that once the Allies landed on the continent of Europe the war was over. I looked at him a little puzzled, so he continued by saying there was no question that the firepower, manpower and military intelligence of the Allies would eventually conquer Hitler and his armies. It was just a matter of going through the process of completing what was bound to happen."
"When Jesus was on earth He spoke of the kingdom of God as being near (Matt. 4:17), as yet to come (Matt. 6:10) and as having already come (Matt. 12:28)."
William Hines, Christianity and Change: Steps to Growth and Healing in Christian Counseling (Ross-shire, GB.: Christian Focus Publications, 1996), 32.

  1. Could suffering be for our benefit?
READ: Rm. 8:28 (Dr. Fink and the definition of "all")

Peter Kreeft, a philosophy professor at Boston College, in an interview in Lee Strobel’s book The Case For Faith, uses this example:

"Look at it this way...Would you agree that the difference between us and God is greater than the difference between us and, say, a bear?" Ask: Who would agree (raise hand)?
"Okay, then, imagine a bear in a trap and a hunter who, out of sympathy, want to liberate him. He tries to win the bear's confidence, but he can't do it, so he has to shoot the bear full of drugs. The bear, however, thinks this is an attack and that the hunter is trying to kill him. He doesn't realize that this is being done out of compassion.
"Then, in order to get the bear out of the trap, the hunter has to push him further into the trap to release the tension on the spring. If the bear were semiconscious at that point, he would be even more convinced that the hunter was his enemy who was out to cause him suffering and pain. But the bear would be wrong. He reaches this incorrect conclusion because he is not a human being."
Lee Strobel, The Case For Faith, 2000, pp. 32

The Scars Of Life
Some years ago, on a hot summer day in south Florida, a little boy decided to go for a swim in the old swimming hold behind his house. In a hurry to dive into the cool water, he ran out the back door, leaving behind his shoes, socks and shirt as he went.
He flew into the water, not realizing that as he swam toward the middle of the lake, an alligator was swimming toward the shore.
His father working in the yard saw the two as they got closer and closer together. In utter fear, he ran toward the water, yelling to his son as loudly as he could.
Hearing his voice, the little boy became alarmed and made a U-turn to swim to his father. It was too late. Just as he reached his father, the alligator reached him. From the dock, the father grabbed his little boy by the arms just as the alligator snatched his legs. That began an incredible tug-of-war between the two. The alligator was much stronger than the father, but the father was much too passionate to let go. A farmer happened to drive by, heard his screams, raced from his truck, took aim and shot the alligator.
Remarkably, after weeks and weeks in the hospital, the little boy survived. His legs were extremely scarred by the vicious attack of the animal. And, on his arms, were deep scratches where his father's fingernails dug into his flesh in his effort to hang on to the son he loved.
The newspaper reporter who interviewed the boy after the trauma, asked if he would show him his scars. The boy lifted his pant legs. And then, with obvious pride, he said to the reporter, "But look at my arms. I have great scars on my arms, too. I have them because my Dad wouldn't let go."

You and I can identify with that little boy. We have scars, too. No, not from an alligator, but the scars of a painful past. Some of those scars are unsightly and have caused us deep regret. But, some wounds, my friend, are because God has refused to let go. In the midst of your struggle, He's been there holding on to you.
The Scripture teaches that God loves you. You are a child of God. He wants to protect you and provide for you in every way But sometimes we foolishly wade into dangerous situations, not knowing what lies ahead. The swimming hole of life is filled with peril - and we forget that the enemy is waiting to attack. That's when the tug-of-war begins - and if you have the scars of His love on your arms, be very, very grateful. He did not and will not ever let you go.

Story: It's like the man who walking in his sleep falls into a deep pit. The poor man starts wondering how in the world he ended up in the pit. His wife hearing the comotion comes running and puts down a ladder. All the while the man will not come out because he is so confused about how he ended up there in the first place. Finally, his wife says, "Stop asking how you fell in and get yourself out!" Jesus Christ wants to give us the eternal life that was intended for us to begin with. We may, in our foolishness, want a full explanation from Him as to why He permitted us to fall in the first place...But what really matters is He is here to save us!

Story: A preacher and an atheist barber were once walking through the city slums. Said the atheist barber to the preacher: "This is why I cannot believe in a God of love. If God was as kind as you say, He would not permit all this poverty, disease, and squalor. He would not allow these poor bums to be addicted to dope and other character-destroying habits. No, I cannot believe in a God who permits these things." The minister was silent until they met a man who was especially unkempt and filthy. His hair was hanging down his neck and he had a half-inch of stubble on his face. Said the minister, "You cannot be a very good barber or you would not permit a man like that to continue living in this neighborhood without a haircut or a shave." Indignantly the barber answered: "Why blame me for that man's condition. I cannot help it that he is like that. He has never come in my shop; I could fix him up and make him look like a gentleman!" Giving the barber a penetrating look, the minister said: "Then do not blame God for allowing these people to continue in their evil ways, when He is constantly inviting them to come and be saved. The reason these people are slaves to sin and evil habits is that they refuse the One who died to save and deliver them."

Story: Do you know the legend of the Cherokee Indian youth's rite of passage? His dad would take him into the forest blindfolded, and leave him - alone.

He was required to sit on a stump the whole night...and not take off the blindfold until a ray of sun shone through it. He would be all by himself. He could not cry out for help to anyone. Once he survived the night he would be a MAN... He could not tell the other boys of this experience. Each lad must come into his own manhood.

The boy was terrified...could hear all kinds of noise. Beasts were all around him. Maybe even some human would hurt him. The wind blew the grass and earth, and it shook his stump. But he sat stoically, never removing the blindfold. It would be the only way he could be a man. Finally, after a horrific night, the sun appeared and he removed his blindfold. It was then that he saw his father - sitting on the stump next to him - at watch the entire night.

We are never alone..... Even when we do not know it, our Father is protecting us. He is sitting on the stump beside us.

-----Submitted by Barbara J. Weymouth


[1]Paul Lee Tan, Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations: A Treasury of Illustrations, Anecdotes, Facts and Quotations for Pastors, Teachers and Christian Workers (Garland TX: Bible Communications, 1996, c1979).

[2]Paul Lee Tan, Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations: A Treasury of Illustrations, Anecdotes, Facts and Quotations for Pastors, Teachers and Christian Workers (Garland TX: Bible Communications, 1996, c1979).

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