Summary: Sermon on the problem of suffering in the world.
I think we’ve ALL been shocked and horrified by the events that have been unfolding in Kosovo, and the scenes we have witnessed of tens of thousands of refugees pouring into the surrounding countries as a result. People driven from their homes; families separated; stories of widespread murders and destruction.
And this crisis in Kosovo is just the latest in a continual stream of global crisis. So often the news cameras bring into our living rooms pictures of terrible attrocities - whether it be Kosovo, or Rwanda a few years ago - Somalia before that. And on and on. In so MANY places across our globe people live in suffering and hardship because of famine, war, or disaster.
When I was just a teenager I had the eye-opening experience of visiting the third world with my father. Like the missions team that went from our church last year, I stood on the streets of Bombay, India - one of the most indelible memories of my life - seeing the thousands of people (masses of humanity) that live in conditions that we wouldn’t be allowed to keep animals in. Living in sewers. Begging for food. Dying of disease.
I walked the streets of Colombo, Sri Lanka, and saw blind children on the street corners - the only reason they are blind is because when they were babies, their parents bandaged beetles to their eyes which would eat into the sockets. The reason they did that was so that, as blind children, they could beg on the streets and bring some income to the family.
I saw other children there with deformed limbs. Deformed not through birth, but because their parents had repeatedly broken them (again when they were babies) in order to be able to use their children to beg.
We cannot comprehend the degree of suffering that would drive people to doing such things. But that exists in our world today.
In the light of such tragic situations, many people cry out to the church: “WHERE IS YOUR GOD? You say He is a loving, concerned Creator. Then why does He not do something about all this suffering?” People will be saying it now because of the scenes coming out of Kosovo.
And the question is legitimate. What are we to say in response? Do we HAVE an answer?
Well, the only source that we can go to for God’s answer is the place where He has chosen to reveal Himself - His Word - the Bible. You ask me do I have any answers? YES - in the Bible.
I want us to look briefly at this issue today (which IS an important one!) as we ask the question: “What, in the world, is God doing?”
What in the world is God doing?
In our consideration of this question, we firstly need to look at:
1. THE PROBLEM OF SUFFERING.
Have you ever had a toothache? You can do whatever you like to take away the pain - you can stuff cotton wool up in there, take half a dozen Panadol forte, etc. - but though you may find a moments relief, you can’t permanently rid yourself of the ache until you have the offending tooth removed.
I remember when I was about 12 years old, having my appendix out. You know before I went off to the doctor I was having these terrible pains in the stomach, and - as usual when a child has a tummy upset - my mother gave me all the normal remedies. but nothing was going to work was it, because this was no simple ailment caused by eating the wrong food before I went to bed - THERE WAS AN INFECTED, CORRUPTED ORGAN INSIDE ME THAT WAS CAUSING THE PROBLEM! The thing had to be cut out of me. And, boy, am I glad that when I went to the doctor he recognised what it was. He didn’t just give me some medicine to relieve the problem: HE GOT RID OF THE ROOT CAUSE OF THE PROBLEM.
Now, the Bible is clear on the point that we live in a fallen world - a world that has been corrupted and retarded by sin. We read a moment ago of what happened when man rebelled against God by his disobedience in the Garden of Eden; that is the God-authorized account of how sin and evil entered into the world. And all of the suffering and pain which are all about us in this world are the tragic symptoms of this much greater problem - SIN!
The Bible begins, way back in Genesis, with God creating the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1-2). Repeatedly, God’s verdict is that all of His handiwork is “VERY GOOD”. There is no sin and no suffering. The Garden of Eden brings forth food without the sweat of toil being mixed into the earth. BUT the first human rebellion (Genesis 3) marks the onset of suffering, toil, pain, and death (as God had warned). A mere two chapters later (chapter 5) we read the endlessly repeated and hauntingly pitiful refrain, “then he died . . . then he died . . . then he died”.