"Why Do Good People Suffer?" Page 2 of 3 (series: Teaching Sermons)
by John Lowe
Creation isn’t running right because of sin. One day, creation itself will be fixed and redeemed but for the time being we have to live in an imperfect world where there are storms, accidents, and disease. Don’t blame God: we messed it up. Tony Evans says, “Have you ever cleaned up your house in preparation of receiving guests or visitors and when they arrive, they begin to mess up your house? You know it’s a good house; it’s just been messed up by these visitors. This can be annoying! Now think about how God feels about mankind messing up His perfect Creation!”
2. SUFFERING IS UNRELATED TO GOODNESS.
The question in the minds of Jesus’ audience was, “Did those people suffer and die from Pilate’s cruelty or from the tower falling?” The assumption was, they must have been bad people to suffer like that. There is a tendency for us to look at someone when they are suffering and to think, “Maybe they are just getting what they deserve.”
In John 9, Jesus was walking along when he saw a blind man. His disciples asked Him, “Master who sinned? This man or his parents that he was born blind?” Don’t we sometimes think the same way? What did this person do to deserve their suffering? Pay attention to what Jesus told His disciples, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned that he was born blind, but this happened that the work of God might be displayed in his life.” (John 9:1-3) We still make the same false assumption today. Jesus asks, “Do you think those upon whom the tower fell were worst sinners than you? No!” That kind of thinking attacks our sense of fairness or justice. We think bad people should be the ones to suffer and good people shouldn’t. But that’s not the way it works.
Let’s consider the title of this lesson again: Why do good people suffer? It’s actually not a very good question, because no one is good in the first place! Once a man approached Jesus and called Him “good.” Notice Jesus’ reply in Luke 18:19: “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good–except God alone.”
The Psalmist says, “There is none good–no not one.” (Psalm 14:1) God is good all the time, but I don’t think any of us can claim that designation for ourselves. I’m a sinner saved by grace.
If we want to know why bad things happen to good people; we’re asking the wrong question. The great theologian and writer, R.C. Sproul wrote, “In effect what Jesus was saying was this: “You people are asking the wrong question. You should be asking me, ‘Why didn’t that tower fall on MY head?’” (The Holiness of God, p. 161)
Maybe you’ve pondered the mystery of, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” Have you ever stopped to wonder, “Why do good things happen to bad people–like me?” Suffering is no respecter of persons, at one time everyone will suffer–the good, the bad, the ugly. In fact, the Bible promises those who follow Christ WILL suffer. But the good news is that any suffering we endure in this world is only temporary. The Bible says in Romans 8:17-18, “We share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. I consider that our present sufferings are not worthy to be compared with the glory that will be revealed in us.”
Yes, we will suffer in this life–but this life is not all there is! To understand this better, I’d like to quote the great theologian, Edith Bunker. Some of you remember the 1970s sitcom “All in the Family” that addressed every subject under the sun–and then some. On one episode they even addressed the reality of suffering and belief in God. Here’s the conversation:
Michael: “Tell me, Archie, if there is a God, why is this world messed up?”
Archie: “Why do I always have to give the answers? Edith, tell this dumb Polack why, if God has created the world, it’s in such a mess?”
Edith: “Well, I suppose it’s to make us appreciate heaven better when we
get there.” In the midst of a funny show, the writers actually wrote something profound in the script. Perhaps the writers wanted the audience to think most Christians were simplistic “dingbats” like Edith–but for whatever reason, I say, “good answer” to Edith. There will be NO suffering in heaven.
Do you know for certain you’ll spend eternity there? Here’s how you can be certain.
3. SUFFERING AMPLIFIES GOD’S MESSAGE: “REPENT OR PERISH!”
When asked why Pilate killed the people or why the 18 died when the tower fell, Jesus gave the same reply twice: “unless you repent you will likewise perish.”
Go ahead, ask Him again, “Jesus, why are there terrorists who steal airplanes and bring towers crashing down?” He would tell you, “Wrong question–but unless you repent, you will also perish!” That’s His message: repent or perish!
Every person is born with an instinct to worship, to relate to someone greater and more powerful than the human species. Consequently, man has devised a wide range of gods and deities and worshiped in many different ways. When God sent Jesus, He was sending the final, authoritative revelation of Himself.
Once, Paul was speaking to a group of intellectual giants in Athens. He had seen all their statues and gods–and they had one unnamed shrine that simply said, “to the unknown God.” Paul took it as an opportunity to tell them that the “unknown God” was the true God–and His name is Jesus. He said in Acts 17:29-31: “We should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image made by man’s design and skill. In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now He commands all men everywhere to repent. For He has set a day when He will judge the world by the man He has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising Him from the dead.”
The Resurrection of Jesus was God’s stamp of approval on the Deity of Jesus. To repent means to change your mind, and then change your behavior. It’s a word that means to turn. If you are driving down the highway and a passenger said, “turn right,” you might choose to turn the steering wheel to the right and change direction. That’s a good picture of the Bible word for “repent.” You change your mind about your direction and then you change your direction. To repent means you turn from sin, and you turn to Jesus.
Repentance is not a single action; it is a lifestyle. We must be continually repenting throughout our lives if we want to be right with God. When I read in the Bible that I’m thinking a way the Bible says is wrong, I need to repent immediately. If I read in the Scriptures that I should be doing something I’m not doing, I need to repent and start doing it. Repentance is not easy because the first step in repentance is admitting you are wrong–and that is not a natural human tendency. Most of us have being right down to an art.
God uses many tools to call us to repentance, even our suffering. The great Christian intellectual C.S. Lewis wrote: “Pain insists upon being attended to; God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” (The Problem of Pain, p. 22)
When everything is going wonderful in your life, you may not think you need God. But suffering gets our attention and reminds us that we cannot make it without God. Some of you are suffering right now. You aren’t suffering because you are a worst sinner than the rest of us.And some of you are doing great right now, no complaints. That doesn’t mean you are better than the person sitting next to you who is hurting. Now God doesn’t create evil or suffering, but He will certainly use the suffering that is a part of this fallen world to call you to repent.
Is there something you need to change your mind about today, and then change your behavior? God may be shouting to you, Repent! Repent!” Are you listening? One final thought: