6-Week Series: Against All Odds


Summary: This is a lesson 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.


Why Do Good People Suffer?

Luke 13:1-13:9


Today, I want to speak to you on “Why Do Good People Suffer?” I’ve taught on suffering before. In fact, one lady told me, “Preacher, I never knew what suffering was until I heard you preach. Now I know.” Some preaching and some teaching 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.’” The preaching must have been really bad for Jesus to tell the preacher to quit.

This is a lesson 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? You may 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! Why 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? 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–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! It’s okay to ask the question about suffering. Christianity and the Bible can easily endure the light of honest intellectual scrutiny; it has for 200 centuries. So, you don’t have to check your brain at the door when you come to church.

This idea of suffering has puzzled us for centuries. There is an entire theological or philosophical study called theodicy. It asks the simple question: If God is entirely good, and entirely powerful–why is there suffering? Some people look at what the Bible says about God and then look around in the world and say, “The character of God and the reality of suffering contradict each other!” What’s the answer?

I used to read a lot more than I do now, and occasionally I read some of the great literary classics. One of my favorites is Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe. It is a deeply spiritual book because Defoe was a committed Christian who wrote hymns and Christian poetry. When Defoe’s character, Robinson Crusoe, is shipwrecked on an island, he discovers a native and names him Friday. He teaches him to speak English and He teaches Him about God and about the importance of trusting Jesus Christ for salvation. In one of their theological discussions, the following dialogue occurs: Friday to Robinson Crusoe: “But if God much strong, much more than devil, why God no kill the devil so make him no more do evil?” Crusoe’s reply: “You may as well ask, why God no kill you and me when we do wicked things” That short conversation provides both the question and a good response to the question of, “How can a loving, powerful God allow evil?”

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Lewis Perry

commented on Mar 19, 2019

Very good sermon on a very tough subject.

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