Faithlife Sermons

The Problem of Evil (Part 2)

Seeking Truth In a World of Counterfeits  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  1:03:22
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I don’t think it comes as a surprise to anyone that evil exists in our world today. We turn on the news, we hear of tragedy, we read of the horrors perpetuated from one person to another. And we think, “How can God let this happen?”
Last week we began looking at the problem of evil, the problem of where did it come from, what possible reason could there be for God to allow it, and couldn’t have God created a world without it.
We determined, that Scripture clearly tells us that God did not create evil, and that though God did not create it within the created universe there was clearly room for it. In measuring things like cold and darkness, we don’t have a measurement for these, only for heat and light. Much like the absence of heat we call cold, and the absence of light we call darkness; similarly it is the absence of goodness we call evil.
We experience the absence of goodness in the pain of everyday life. And if God is the ultimate goodness then, if we’re honest, we also feel the absence of God in the pain of everyday life. I shared with you this quote from C.S. Lewis last week,
“God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
Yet it is in our pain, in the midst of those dark times that most people I’ve been with have the most difficulty seeing, hearing, or feeling anything of God’s presence. We cry out, “Where are you?” We cry out, “Why?”
We can look out at the majesty of the mountains that surround us here and say, “God is so good!” We can be set in awe at a sunset, in fact I want to share this photo a friend took just the other night,
Photo credit to my friend Tom Speckhardt. He calls this one of the top ten sunsets he’s seen. That is just stunning. We see such colors and its easy to praise God.
These are faith in a distant God, not a personal God. When we live our lives of faith it is personal. You have to wonder, “Where is God...”
when you hear of a friend’s death.
What about when you’ve really tried to live your life honoring to God and your boss tells you, “we have to let you go.”
What do you say to the couple who after years of trying and finally getting pregnant, has another miscarriage?
Or when that irritation the doctor told you was nothing, turns out is something and it’s cancer.
We pray, or at least try to…, but It feels like we’re talking to the ceiling, or to the wall. Where are you God? Why?
When we speak of God, most us desire a God who is on our side. We want a God who is going to be there, a God who is present.
700 years before Jesus walked the earth lived a prophet named Isaiah. He reminded the people then and you and I now that God’s power for his people is always active. He writes: Isaiah 51:9
Isaiah 51:9 (ESV)
Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the Lord; awake, as in days of old, the generations of long ago.
He reminds the people of the past they have had with Him. I’ve often said that when we forget the works of God in the past we will have difficulty trusting in the future. Isaiah saw that. He asks God to roll up his sleeves and act as He did in the past. and God responds:
Isaiah 51:15–16 ESV
I am the Lord your God, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar— the Lord of hosts is his name. And I have put my words in your mouth and covered you in the shadow of my hand, establishing the heavens and laying the foundations of the earth, and saying to Zion, ‘You are my people.’ ”
The prophet here in the greater context, is actually prophesying that hard times will come on God’s people, but that God will continue to be there. These people are going to go into exile, their enemies are going to triumph over them…for a while. But that’s not the end of the story.
And isn’t that true in our lives as well. Whatever you’re facing right now, whatever is holding you down, whatever is causing you to be angry, hurt, frustrated, tired, or defeated - whatever it is, it’s not the end of the story. This is where our faith meets the reality of life.
Unfortunately, too many, and perhaps you as you listen to this message right now, when you have not felt God’s presence in those difficult times it’s shaken your faith, and perhaps even feels like it’s extinguished it. St. John of the Cross referred to it as, “The dark night of the soul.”
That is a perfect description of the difficulties of life when God can feel so distant. King David no doubt had some experience with this,
David wrote in Psalm 23:4
Psalm 23:4 ESV
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
God is with us in that valley. There’s a story told in recovery circles of a man who finds himself deep down in a dark hole. People pass by the hole and shout down to the man various pieces of advice on how to get out, and continue on their way. He tries them, but in vain. Finally a man comes along and he jumps down in the hole with him.
“What are you doing?” the first man asks, “now you’re down in this wretched hole with me!”
“Yes, but I’ve been here before and I know the way out.”
In Isaiah 53, we read, Isaiah 53:1-6
Isaiah 53:1–6 ESV
Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
We often read these verses during the season of Lent. Perhaps we feel overwhelmed by evil in this world because we think of this earthly life as all there is.
The Apostle Paul wrote:
2 Corinthians 4:8–10 ESV
We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.
All of us must be reminded again and again this world is not all there is.
2 Corinthians 4:17–18 ESV
For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
God walks with us in the midst of all of our trials. That doesn’t mean our trials are not difficult, it doesn’t mean that we don’t experience pain, it doesn’t mean that everything is going to be perfect in our lives or that we won’t suffer in any way.
The paragraph of 2 Cor 4 I’ve been quoting begins with vs. 7 which reads
2 Corinthians 4:7 ESV
But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.
In the age of clay jars those jars would often crack, and would be of no use. Those that were able would take a metal that was malleable and could be melted and poured into those cracks to make the jar useable again. It is said that gold was often used. Ironically, then, it was the cracks and their repairs that made those vessels more valuable.
Evil is real.
We’ve defined it as the absence of God’s goodness.
It brings pain into our lives. Pain, as has often been said, is the beginning of healing. We must be able to recognize that we are wounded to seek the healing we need. Not simply to cover the wound, but to allow it to heal. And in so doing it becomes stronger, and perhaps because of that, more valuable.

The Problem of Evil (Part 2)

Let me pray for you:
Father God, creator of our innermost being, You alone understand how we are made. You alone understand our physical bodies and our mental and emotional make-ups. We are indeed fearfully and wonderfully made. God as we wrestle with the evil that we see around us, help us turn our eyes to you. God give us ability to think eternally instead of temporally.
And God as we seek your holiness it only reminds us of those parts of us that are less than pure - our thoughts, our inclinations, our desires, that are not holy like yours. Grant us Lord courage to let those go and to seek after You alone. We desire God to be eternally yours, for your glory, we pray. AMEN.
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