Summary: Pastor Lee Strobel commissioned a national survey and asked people what question they’d ask if they could only ask God one thing. The Number One response was: “Why is there suffering in the world?” Why does God allow the righteous to suffer? I mean, I’m
WHEN BAD THINGS HAPPEN TO GOOD PEOPLE
INTRODUCTION: Pastor Lee Strobel commissioned a national survey and asked people what question they’d ask if they could only ask God one thing. The Number One response was: “Why is there suffering in the world?” Why does God allow the righteous to suffer? I mean, I’m a Christian; I’m one of his children so why do I have to deal with this unjust suffering? Let’s see if we can get some answers to that question today.
1) Why does God allow suffering?
• To test our faith. 1st Pet. 1:6-7. We don’t know how reliable something is until it’s been tested. Our faith is no different. The validity of our faith is determined through the testing of it. Isaiah 48:10, “See, I have refined you, though not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.” We need to be tested to see where we are strong and where we are weak. Warren Wiersbe said, “A faith that can’t be tested can’t be trusted.” James 1:2-4. We should actually rejoice that our faith gets tested because of what it produces. How we respond to suffering is a test of our faith. Will we react in anger and defeatism or will we react with rejoicing and triumph? Will we become bitter or will we become better? Ill. book-pg. 743, ‘which verse’. We need to have the right response to our suffering. Job was the epitome of unjust suffering. He lost everything. Yet this was his response: Job 1:21-22. If we are going to persevere through adversity we need to have the right response to it. F. B. Meyer said, “Unbelief puts circumstances between us and God, but faith puts God between us and our circumstances.”
• To build character. Rom. 5:3-4, “Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” Perseverance character and hope are godly blessings that are derived from the ability to rejoice in our sufferings. The ABC’s of spiritual growth-Adversity Builds Character. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” Going through trials will shape us and cause us to grow. African proverb, “Smooth seas do not make skillful sailors.” Rough seas and adverse conditions build character and make for accomplished workers.
• To bless us. 1st Pet. 4:12-14. Godly sufferings produce godly blessings. Rejoice that we may participate in the sufferings of Christ and consequently be blessed. Peter was speaking from experience. In Acts 5 Peter and John got in trouble for preaching about Jesus. The Sanhedrin had them flogged. In verse 41 it says that Peter and John left rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer for the Name. Malcolm Muggeridge said, “Contrary to what might be expected, I look back on experiences that at the time seemed especially desolating and painful, with particular satisfaction. Indeed, I can say with complete truthfulness that everything I have learned in my 75 years in this world, everything that has truly enhanced and enlightened my experience, has been through affliction and not through happiness.” Psalm 119:71, “It is good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees.” David said that affliction was a blessing for him because it allowed him to learn God’s commands. Suffering is a blessing.
• To bring us closer to Jesus. Phil. 3:10, “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.” We can relate to someone who has gone through adversity better when we’ve been through it ourselves. We feel what they feel. We have a special common bond. So when we suffer hardship similar to what Jesus went through we identify with him on a deeper level, thus growing closer to him. Suffering helps us to intimately know more of the Lord’s attributes through a closer identification with His sufferings. Through suffering Satan wants us to move away from God. He wants us to blame him, be angry with him, etc. God’s purpose in our suffering is to draw us nearer to him. He wants us to seek him, to depend on him; to know him. Satan wants to drive a wedge; God wants to form a bond. Through suffering we can grow closer to Jesus.
• To show his power. John 9:1-7. Sin was not responsible. That was the underlying thought that if there is suffering there was sin. That’s what Job’s three friends thought. But, here we see that God had allowed the man to be born blind to demonstrate miraculous power. The blindness was needed in order for the miracle to occur and the testimony that followed. And we see that Jesus used a motivator to get the man to obey. If there was no mud on his eyes the man would not have wanted or needed to go to the pool. Jesus could have just healed him or he could’ve just told the man to go wash without the mud, but he didn’t, he instead used a process. Why? The mud was an incentive, a motivator for his obedience. I mean, who would want to walk around with mud covering their eyes? I would want to get it off as soon as I could. I’m sure the man went right away to the pool to wash it off. Sometimes God might need to put some messy, uncomfortable mud on our eyes in order to motivate us. Motivate us to move quickly to the healing place so that we could see. Sufferings come so that God’s greater purposes can be accomplished in and through our lives. Think about what things have to go through in order for them to be used according to their designed purpose. The nail is useless unless the hammer strikes it. The rubber band is useless until it’s been stretched. Steel cannot be shaped into a useful tool until it is placed under intense heat that it may become pliable. Can we truly be purposeful to God unless we go through such change? If not, then let’s embrace such challenges that we may become God’s instrument. Could salvation have been accomplished without suffering? Jesus asked if it could when he was in the garden but the Father’s answer was, ‘no’. God wants us to see that he is enough. 2nd Cor. 12:7-10. Paul could’ve been confused as to why Jesus hadn’t taken away this torment. But Jesus showed him that his grace was enough. He was weak but Jesus was strong.