Summary: Trials make us evaluate what matters most. Questions about life and eternity help us center our hearts and minds and focus our hopes in God’s eternal plan.
All of us face trials. The Bible is filled with stories about people undergoing trials and teachings about how to respond when we face trials and troubles in this life.
This past week Boston was shaken by a crisis that we all have surely heard about. I selected four slides from photos that were taken and as we view these, I would ask us to all reflect on the impact of evil in our world today. But also, consider the hand of God and pray for those who are suffering still from this.
Slides: (pics of the explosion, the bloody scene afterward, a woman in prayer and children in candle light devotion afterward).
James opens his little letter of exhortation with instructions on facing trials, and the benefits that they bring us when we respond to them in faithfulness and obedience to God’s will.
Listen again to our reading in James 1:12-18. As I read this once more, pay special attention to the sources of good and evil in this text.
After this Boston bombing event I wrestled with this through a sleepless night.
Those runners in that Marathon came to this event thinking that the race itself was the most important thing of the day. Some had trained for months in advance. Many may have been first time runners and don’t you know the excitement filled their hearts and minds as they poured out their energies and pressed on through mile after mile moving toward that finish line.
Hundreds and thousands of supporting friends, family and just fans of the race all gathered to cheer on these runners. Steve Jett ran the Boston Marathon a few years ago and he told me that as he ran past groups on the sidelines he heard some of them shouting his name and encouraging him on. He found out that some of these sideline supporters get the list of runners and when they see your number they look it up and shout your name. Steve said it did make it a personal encouragement.
But good and evil clashed in an earth-shattering way this past week. Suddenly, the race was not the important matter of the day. Suddenly, all that concern about finishing time or finishing at all, took a back seat to more important matters. Matters of life and death.
Terrible things like this turn our attention to what really matters. They force us to let go of all lessor things and take hold of what counts most.
They also can make us evaluate some of the deepest matters of life.
Things like this raise difficult questions. Theological questions. Life and values questions.
Is God good? Yes or no? Is He?
Jesus said, “No one is good but God alone.” Mark 10:18.
I am absolutely sure that God is good. The very word good comes from the word God. So, yes, God is good. He is the very standard of the meaning of the word good. And that brings up other questions.
Is God the source of all things? Was everything created by God? Is there anything that exists that God did not create?
John’s gospel says, “All things were created by Him and apart from Him nothing was made that has been made.” John 1:3
So, yes, God is the source of all things. He is before all things and in Him all things have their being. Col. 1:17.
You know where I’m going with this, don’t you?
Since God created everything, did God create evil? The answer is, “No.” The next question is: Then were did evil come from?
The Bible shows us that God allows evil, while at the same time He did not create evil. My understanding is that evil does not substantially exist at all, but is, in fact, a sort of anti existence. Evil is like darkness, it is the absence of light, or like death, it is the absence of life, and has no real substance of its own. We use the word evil as a way of expressing the condition and state of being that stands against God. Evil is the absence of good and is allowed by God to have a limited presence.
I don’t know all of God’s purposes for this, but I see what happens when Christians remain faithful under the trials that come. I see how the scriptures teach us to lean on the Lord and find our strength and armor in Him. I trust God. I am convinced that God works all things together for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purposes. Romans 8:28.
Other questions on the heels of that one are: Why does God allow evil to have a presence? Is God not strong enough to remove all evil? If he is, then how can He be good and still allow evil?