Suffering

Why do bad things happen to good people?

Why

I’m sure we have all heard the question, or maybe even asked the question: Why do bad things happen to good people?

This is a question that the world wrestles with,  with some even using this reality (that evil exists, and that good people suffer) as a proof that God doesn’t exist…

But what would you say if I told you that in our world, bad things DON’T happen to good people.

Now, some of you might scratch your head at that. “What do you mean? I know good people that have died before their time. I know good people that suffer. I know good people that experience tragedy. I read or see on TV all the time how good Christians are suffering for their faith! Chris, what do you mean that bad things don’t happen to good people.”

Let me just say, yes…when we compare people to people…yes some are good, and some aren’t. Yes, some people are more evil or wicked than others…

But other people aren’t the standard for comparison. God is the standard. When we compare ANYONE to God, they come up short. The Bible almost seems to go out of its way again and again to make sure we know that there are no good people. (Romans 3:10, 3:23 for instance)

Folks, there is only One who is good, and that is God. And I think this ought to put the problem of evil, and this idea of righteous people perishing while the evil prosper in its proper perspective.

In contemplating this question, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” R.C. Sproul, Jr. answered it like this: “That’s only happened once, and he volunteered for it.”

He’s talking of course about Jesus. There has only ever been one man, one person, who could truly say that He was good. That was Jesus. Jesus, the Son of God who was God Himself, He took on human flesh, became a man and lived a perfect sinless life even though Scripture says he was tempted in all things as we are. Yet, he did it without sin. This One who was the only truly “good” person who has ever lived went to the cross and suffered and died.

Why did He do it? So that you and I, “bad” sinful people might be forgiven of our sin and saved…saved to live forever with God.

Folks, this is the Gospel. The world asks why bad things happen to good people, but the Gospel says that there was only one time a bad thing happened to a good person, and it happened so that good things can happen to bad people.

We are the bad people, we are sinners. But Jesus took the punishment that we deserved so that we might be saved from our sin and the wrath of God that those sins deserve. God is holy, and because He is, He must punish sin. So Jesus, the perfect, spotless, sinless lamb of God took our punishment for us.

The Gospel is very good news for sinners, and that includes everyone reading this.

So, how does this apply to us, and the reality of suffering. Well, we have to keep it in its proper perspective. Yes, bad things happen in this world, but those bad things happen because of sin. We live in a world in which sin is a reality. We live in a world in which we ourselves are sinners. Since this is true, we can’t ever say, “I don’t deserve this!”

This may sound harsh…but what we deserve is hell. So, if God through Jesus has saved us from hell, friends we have much more, and much better than we deserve.

When tragedy comes, we can’t say, “God how could this happen, why did you do this?” We “deserve” much worse.

Suffering, difficulties, tragedy…these things are never fun. We don’t want to go through them. But I believe there is comfort in the Scriptures as we face these realities. I personally find comfort it in a verse that I quote quite often:  Romans 8:28, “All things work together for good, for those who love God and are called according to His purpose.

For the child of God, even the “bad stuff” we go through, God is using for our good. I heard a question this week, and it was a question Pastor James Boice asked his congregation as he suffered from stage 4 cancer some years ago. He asked, (I’m going to paraphrase) “If you could take your suffering and disabilities and difficulties away…would you?”

Most of us would probably say, yes. But, James Boice said if we did, or if we could, it wouldn’t be nearly as good for us as what God is doing for us AND in us through them.

This is hard for us to wrap our mind around, but this is the truth and the meaning behind Romans 8:28, this is why we have to trust in God when we don’t understand what is happening. This is why we have to rest in the Gospel and rest in Jesus.

So if you are reading this, this is my plea to you. Trust in God and trust in Jesus your Savior…

Because this God, and this Savior, Jesus Christ…He is our only hope, our only salvation, and our only goodness. Don’t reject Him, and please don’t try to live apart from Him. Receive Him, trust Him, and rest in Him.

 

Divine Chill Pill

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I’m not sure if anyone uses the term “chill pill” anymore. I’m guessing probably not. So if any of you out there still had any questions, now you know. I am no longer cool. I suppose that’s what 5 kids can do to a guy.(That and a few extra pounds, and a lot less hair.) Well, now that this is confirmed, we can move on the real point of this post. The Divine Chill Pill.

So what exactly is a “Divine Chill Pill?”

Just over a month ago, life was as busy as ever. As I said earlier and as many of you know I have 5 kids. My wife and I both work full time, yet still can’t afford daycare, so we have to alternate our schedules. Between school, work, doctors appointments, and the occasional household disaster, life is tough. Stress is high. It is during these times that it is so easy to lose focus on what is truly important. I know we all have been there. I know I fall into this trap more times that I’d like to admit.

My wife calls me an “all or nothing” type of guy. Whatever I do I throw myself into it completely. Last year after returning to work following being off for about a year, I was excited to get back to the grind. It felt amazing to be back into the swing of things– being productive, doing something I’m good at, and relating to other adults on a regular basis. Slowly, my focus began to shift.(So slowly in fact that I hardly noticed) I had recently left pastoral ministry, a position that afforded me much time for study and prayer. In this new career, this wasn’t quite so easy. In the beginning I made conscious efforts to continue walking faithfully with the Lord. But slowly, after time, my spiritual life became more and more undisciplined. This is hard for me to confess…

As this was happening, things began to get harder. Not so much at work, like I said, I love my work. I’m pretty good at what I do. But at home things were a struggle. Of course, this is always the case, especially with a large family. The question is though, what are you doing in the midst of the struggle. Are you clinging to Christ? Are you keeping him squarely in focus? If you are going through tough times, yet following after Jesus…You are right where you need to be. Sadly, this was not me. My focus on the things of God was nearly gone. Sure I could give God lip service, but that isn’t what he desires.

But the amazing thing about God is this. Even when our hearts are as far as they possibly can be from him. He still wants a relationship with us. He doesn’t leave us in this place. We have a God who never stops pursuing those who are his. And the fact of the matter is, God is very good at doing his job. Though sometimes, we don’t always like his methods.

I spent about a week pouting as God decided to get my attention about a month ago. So how did he do it? I mysteriously tore a muscle in the upper part of my leg. I have no idea how it happened. I just know I woke up in the middle of the night with a cramp like I’ve never had before. For hours I tried to get this cramp to let go of my leg, but nothing I could do would ease the pain. (Now that I type this, this cramp kinda sounds a little bit like God and  his refusal to let go, no matter what I do…) Finally after a few hours, either the cramp eased somewhat, or my leg just grew accustomed to the pain, I had some relief. But, over the following days, the pain kept increasing, to the point that I could hardly walk. I had major bruising all over my leg. I went to the doctor, had an MRI, and they discovered a partially torn muscle.

So, there I was…Stuck on the couch. I could hardly walk. I couldn’t get my own food, could hardly dress myself, or even make it to the bathroom. I couldn’t put my kids to bed, certainly couldn’t work. I was miserable. Like I said, I spent a good week pouting and feeling sorry for myself. Finally, I decided maybe I should get back to reading. My library consists mainly of books on faith, so this is where I went. I also, for the first time in a while spent time deeply studying the Word of God. The natural outflow of this was returning to talking to God in prayer on a regular basis. Finally, I began to see the purpose in everything that was going on.

God was telling me to slow down and focus on Him. He was giving me a “Divine Chill Pill”…

I think God often does this. Usually it isn’t much fun. I’m also well aware that in the grand scheme of things God was really gentle with me. I know many people that have had a “Divine Chill Pill” that I wouldn’t want to swallow. Unfortunately, these pills often taste a whole lot like suffering…But that is the purpose of suffering. To turn our hearts to Christ. While these times aren’t fun, they are certainly necessary. These pills are awfully hard going down, once we grasp the purpose of it all, the benefits are amazing.

“Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways.” Psalm 119:37

 

 

Perspective in Trials: A Gospel Primer

Striving With God

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“More than anything else could ever do, the gospel enables me to embrace my tribulations and thereby position myself to gain full benefit from them. For the gospel is the one great permanent circumstance in which I live and move; and every hardship in my life is allowed by God only because it serves His gospel purposes in me. When I view my circumstances in this light, I realize that the gospel is not just one piece of good news that fits into my life somewhere among all the bad. I realize instead that the gospel makes genuinely good news out of every other aspect of my life, including my severest trials. The good news about my trials is that God is forcing them to bow to His gospel purposes and do good unto me by improving my character and making me more conformed to the image of Christ.

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Perspective in Trials: A Gospel Primer

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“More than anything else could ever do, the gospel enables me to embrace my tribulations and thereby position myself to gain full benefit from them. For the gospel is the one great permanent circumstance in which I live and move; and every hardship in my life is allowed by God only because it serves His gospel purposes in me. When I view my circumstances in this light, I realize that the gospel is not just one piece of good news that fits into my life somewhere among all the bad. I realize instead that the gospel makes genuinely good news out of every other aspect of my life, including my severest trials. The good news about my trials is that God is forcing them to bow to His gospel purposes and do good unto me by improving my character and making me more conformed to the image of Christ.” ~Milton Vincent, A Gospel Primer

As Paul says in Romans 1:16, the Gospel is indeed the power of God for salvation. This being true, we never stop needing the Gospel. We never outgrow the Gospel. In fact we must preach the Gospel to ourselves daily,  lest we lose perspective in our lives. This is never more true than when we are going through trials. As we face the trials of life we must keep our faces turned towards Christ and his Gospel truths, so that we can keep in the forefront of our minds what the purpose of these trials are. Ultimately, trials are for our good.(Romans 8:28) Why so? Because through our trials we are being conformed to the image of Christ.(Romans 8:29)

In regards to preaching the Gospel to ourselves, one of the best tools I’ve found for doing that is A Gospel Primer For Christians. I tell my friends, If they don’t have this little volume in their libraries, they are doing themselves a great disservice. I completely stand by that statement. If you don’t have it, I highly recommend  you run over to Amazon and pick yourself up a copy. Simply click the link below to grab the kindle version for only $7.99!


A Gospel Primer for Christians

We must not be silent…

Please, pray for the people of Syria. I have been.

The silence amongst Christians in relation to the situation in Syria has dumbfounded me. I’m sure many are concerned, I’m sure many have prayed. But I don’t hear it. I spend time on social media… I’ve seen no Christians speaking up about the attrocities going on in Syria nor anyone talking about praying for these poor people who are being targeted and murdered by their own goverment. The world at large has been somewhat quiet…but an outcry from within the body of Christ has not happened…the silence is deafening. The world has an excuse. The church does not.

I think for some, it is confusion. We don’t know exactly what is going on…what we can do…so we say nothing. I admit, the feeling of helplessness is disheartening. I feel the same way. Yet, we can pray. We can raise our voices and speak up. If there is nothing else we can do, at least we can do this. I’m sure there are other things we can do…but as of right now, I don’t know what that is. I’ve looked around on the internet, but didn’t find much. Still, I pray. Still, you can pray.

I think for others, it is simply a lack of caring. It doesn’t affect us, so we have little concern. This is unexcusable. As human beings in general, this would be bad enough. If we are Christians, this is shameful, and a gross misunderstanding of who we are called to be. As Christians we are called to stand up for the oppressed, the powerless, the ones who can’t speak up for themselves. We are called to speak against, and to do what we can to stop the shedding of innocent blood. This is true whether these people are of our ‘tribe’ or not. If we can turn a blind eye to murder…I think it says much about our heart. This is a frightening thought.

I admit. I don’t have many ideas of what we can do. What I can do… We can pray. We can talk about what is going on to the best of our knowledge. We can express our hearts…which is why I am writing this post. In the grand scheme of things it doesn’t seem like much. Yet, we must not be silent. There is no excuse for that.

I acknowledge there are many situations in the world that demand our attention. I know there are people all over the world being oppressed and murdered. I know there are many people in the world suffering and dying of things that are preventable. All of the things I spoke about above are true for these situations as well. We must not be silent…

I am not dismissing any of those things. The situation in Syria though, has really brought to light a major problem in the Church for me. Silence within the body of Christ as regards the suffering of other human beings who were created in the image of God. Tragic. We must not be silent…There is no excuse for our silence.

The Purpose of Suffering

This is a blog post I wrote for a friends blog, Blogging Theologically. It is about a week outdated, as my wife’s grandmother has now passed away, and my mother-in-law’s cancer has actually been diagnosed as a stage 4, and the prognosis is not very encouraging. I think in light of those things, the truths I talk about in this post are even more important to hear. Blessings as you read…

“Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them. The LORD said to Satan, “From where have you come?” Satan answered the LORD and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.” And the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?” Then Satan answered the LORD and said, “Does Job fear God for no reason? Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.” And the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand.” So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD.

            Now there was a day when his sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother’s house, and there came a messenger to Job and said, “The oxen were plowing and the donkeys feeding beside them, and the Sabeans fell upon them and took them and struck down the servants with the edge of the sword, and I alone have escaped to tell you.” While he was yet speaking, there came another and said, “The fire of God fell from heaven and burned up the sheep and the servants and consumed them, and I alone have escaped to tell you.” While he was yet speaking, there came another and said, “The Chaldeans formed three groups and made a raid on the camels and took them and struck down the servants with the edge of the sword, and I alone have escaped to tell you.” While he was yet speaking, there came another and said, “Your sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother’s house, and behold, a great wind came across the wilderness and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young people, and they are dead, and I alone have escaped to tell you.”

            Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.”

            In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.

(Job 1:6-22 ESV)

I have now been a Christian for about 5 years. To be perfectly honest over these 5 years I have been extremely blessed, and have had very few real trials. Like Job at the beginning of this book, I have suffered very little. For many, this is their picture of the Christian life, one of perpetual blessings, whether it be health, wealth, prosperity, etc. I don’t believe as we read the Bible however, that is the perspective we get.  The Christian life and the lives of the people of God are indeed lives filled with suffering. Look at Christ, how much did he suffer? Look at Paul, how much did he suffer? Look at the prophets, read through the Psalms. The Bible is filled with suffering. I’m sure we even know Christians ourselves, who right now are really struggling in some aspect of their life. If not our neighbors, it’s not hard to see how much other Christians are struggling and being persecuted in other parts of the world.

Like I said though, as a whole, and up until now, this has not been my experience. That seems to be changing. This is not a pity party for me. In all honesty, I am very blessed, and my struggles, and my issues, and the issues that my family is going through, while they are very hard things, in comparison to what many others in the world deal with, they are not that bad. Still, suffering of any kind, is not easy. It’s even harder to see those whom you love suffer.

My wife’s grandmother, whom she has always been very close to, is dying. Literally any moment, or any breath, could be her last. She is a Christian, and is ready to go. She has even been praying for the Lord to take her. She is tired, and sick of suffering, she just wants to be with Jesus. I can certainly understand. While I rejoice that her eternity will be glorious, and that she will soon be in the presence of Jesus, it is hard seeing other members of the family suffer. My wife’s mother and aunt especially, they do not grieve well. My wife on the other hand, has an excellent understanding of the sovereignty of God, and the glory that awaits her grandmother, and is joining her grandmother in prayer that the Lord will take her soon. Still I know seeing other members of her family suffering, and grieving, is tough on her. It is tough for me, so I can only imagine what she is dealing with.

To add to that, my wife’s mother, who is already grieving for her mom, has been diagnosed with some form of colon or rectal cancer. At this point they are estimating stage 3, but we won’t know more for a few days. Again, my wife is taking it pretty well, though I know she is suffering, and grieving at seeing her mom weak, and in pain, and frightened at the uncertainty of the treatments that await, not to mention the potential loss of her mother. We are hoping and praying for the best, but we know either way, the next year is going to be a difficult one. We may even be forced to sale our house, in order to move in with her parents, to help care for them. (My wife’s father is also in poor health) We have 4 children, so moving in with her parents will not be easy, if it comes to that, so we will be greatly mourning the loss of our personal space, and time. Still we are eager to help them in any way we can, as they have been such a help to us in raising our family.

I could go on, about all the stuff going on in my life, and the life of my family right now. Let’s just leave it at, life is difficult right now, I have touched on the major issues, but there is much more, which I will spare the readers.

I quoted the above passage from Job for a couple of reasons. First, it tells us that God is sovereign, even over our suffering. I don’t know about you, but that gives me a lot of comfort. To know that my God, is in control, even in the midst of my suffering, it is very comforting to me. When bad things happen, many Christians tend to want to blame Satan, or think they are being tested or punished. The fact is, Satan too, is under the thumb of God, and can only do what God allows him to. Job was a righteous man, so he wasn’t being punished for anything. As you read through the book of Job, though you’ll discover that God did have a very real purpose to allowing Job to go through these trials. Through his suffering, Job saw that His view of God was too small, and he got a glimpse of the enormity, and the overwhelming power of God. (Job 42:1-6) Secondly, we see from Job an excellent response, and the way all of us ought to respond to suffering and trials. After Job lost all he owned, and his very children, the text says that Job, “fell on the ground and worshiped. And he said, ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”

Job understood God was in control, though I don’t think he fully got it yet, as you’ll see later in the book, still Job knew all he had was from God, and that God could take that away if he so chose. Still Job chose to worship, and praise God even in the midst of this trial. I can’t even imagine losing all I had, and my children. Would I praise God in the midst of that? I would hope so. I would hope my faith would be that strong, I would hope I would have that firm a grasp of who God is. Will I be an example even now, as my family is going through many trials, and will I give God praise even now, in the midst of all we are going through? I don’t see any other option. Even now I must rejoice that I worship a sovereign and loving God.

I will leave us now with a word from the Apostle Peter, in which he tells us what the purpose of suffering is. 1 Peter 1:6-7, “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith-more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire-may be found to result in the praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

All we suffer is for the purpose of making Christ known, and to bring him much praise, honor, and glory. May we all be found faithful in the midst of our trials, Amen…

God, why is there suffering and war?!?

I was looking at a friend of mine’s page today, and read how she was reading a book. Here is a direct quote from her page, if you know who you are, this isn’t meant to be insulting but I do want to make a point. Anyways here is the quote “Currently reading: another one of those history books that depresses because all of humankind are savages be it for the “grace of god” or for food”. This sparked me to want to write a few words on this subject.

She was actually onto a good point, many people today want to toss all of the troubles we have today on God’s doorstep, and some even use it as an argument against the existense of God. The fact is many people don’t realize that the bible tells us exactly why we have suffering. The earth is cursed because of man’s sin. The earth was perfect in the beginning, but because of the evil in man’s heart, suffering came into the world. Look around at some of the things going on everyday, rape, lying, stealing, and even war. These are all the results of what man is doing, not God. Does God allow it to happen? Well obviously yes, He is in control, it is His creation, and everything that does happen has to pass through His hands.

The fact is God gives us a free will, how could a God that loves us not? How could we really love Him, if we didn’t have that free will. You can’t love someone unless you choose to. So if God hadn’t of given us a free will, we would never be able to experience that love that God intended for His creation. True love is never forced, it has to be a choice.

But back to the subject of war, and suffering. It is absolutely true that many have used the name of God to justify wars, and for political gain. Again, this goes back to man and the evil in his heart. We know what God desires for us, it is plain in the bible. He desires that we love our neighbor, and treat everyone with love. It even tells us in the bible to love our enemies. But man, since the beginning has thought he knew more than God, and man wants to reject God in order that he can control His own destiny. But yet when bad things start happening, or he starts to suffer as a result of his own actions what does he do? He cries out,”Why me God? Why have you allowed this to happen?” And instead of falling on his face, asking forgiveness, and turning from his sinful ways. He takes the Lords name in vain, and continues to embrace sin more and more.

The fact is, there is only one way to reconcile ourselves to God, and regain His blessings. That is through repentance, and putting our faith in Jesus Christ. The world can’t even fathom the blessings, and the perfection that God has in store for those who love him. There will be a day with no more pain, no more tears, no suffering, no war. But those promises are only for those who accept Christ as their savior. Friends it is all layed out in the Bible, all you have to do is read. It tells us why we are going through these things, and it tells us how to overcome. Don’t you owe it to yourself to at least check it out?