Summary: Why do bad things happen to good people? Suffering gets our attention and reminds us that we cannot make it without God.
Why Do Good People Suffer?
by David O. Dykes
Today, I want to speak to you on “Why Do Good People Suffer?” I’ve preached on suffering before. In fact, one lady wrote me a note reading, “Pastor, I never knew what suffering was until I heard you preach. Now I know.” Some preaching is like suffering. Once a long-winded preacher had been going about an hour and didn’t seem anywhere close to ending. He said, “I’m really on a roll here, and there’s a lot more that I want to say, but Jesus has just told me to stop, so let’s end the service. Jesus has told me to end my message.” The song leader said, “Let’s stand and sing, ‘What a friend we have in Jesus.’”
On a day in which we celebrate the resurrection, you may wonder why I am speaking about suffering. Those of you who come every Sunday know I don’t really choose my sermon topics, because I preach through the Bible verse after verse. God, who wrote the Bible, really gives me my preaching plan. The calendar or my own interests don’t drive my messages. This great passage is next in Luke and I think it’s a perfect Easter topic. If you go into a jewelry store and ask to look at diamonds, the salesperson won’t display the diamonds on the glass case, they will place them on a piece of black cloth or velvet. Against that dark background the brilliance and beauty of the diamond can best be seen. The glory of the resurrection shines more brightly displayed against the dark background of our suffering.
This is a message about terrorists and falling towers. Everybody still talks about that day; it was a day of tragedy and injustice. People were going about their business when they were suddenly and brutally killed. And what about the tower that fell suddenly? Towers remind us of strength and security–and when a tower falls and people are killed, we feel a little less secure. The initial reaction was shock; then we began to ask the inevitable questions: Why were those innocent people killed? Why did the tower fall? Where was God during all of that?
Most of you think I’m talking about 9/11, and everything I’ve said does apply, but I’m really talking about 13:1. Luke 13:1. 2,000 years ago, Jesus talked about some innocent people who died at the hands of what could be called terrorists–and He talked about a tower that fell and killed people. In fact, the similarities between 13:1 and 9/11 are amazing. The same questions people are asking today were being asked 2,000 years ago. But more importantly, the answer Jesus gives is the same answer we need to hear.
Now there were some present at the time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them–do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”
Then he relayed this parable: “A man had a fig tree, planted in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it, but did not find any. So he said to the man who took care for the vineyard, ‘For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found nay. Cut it down! Whey should it use up the soil?’ ‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.’”
The Holy Spirit of Jesus is present with us today, but if He was here in the flesh, we could sit down in front of Him and ask, “Jesus, what about those 254 passengers who were killed on those hijacked airliners? And what about those 3,000 people killed when the World Trade Center was attacked? And while we’re on the subject, what about those 22 people killed in Natanya this week as they were preparing for the Passover meal?” He would look at you with those eyes that you would never forget and say, “Do you suppose those 254 people were worse sinners than anybody else who has ever gotten on an airliner? Or those 3,000 in New York City or those 22 in Natanya–were they worse people than anybody else? NO–but unless you repent, you will perish, too.” You may not like His answer, or His non-answer. You come with a deep, troubling philosophical question, “Why do good people suffer?” and He basically refuses to answer it; instead He turns the question into a statement about your own spiritual condition. A conversation with Jesus is never boring!