"Why Do Good People Suffer?" Page 3 of 3 (series: Teaching Sermons)

by John Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)


On the surface, you may think the little story about the fig tree is unrelated to what Jesus is saying about suffering and repentance but He uses it as a powerful story to illustrate His point. The owner of the farm is God, and the fig tree is Israel. God is ready to cut the fig tree down, because for three years there is no fruit, but He decides to give it another season to see if it will become fruitful. You can’t miss the point. Jesus had been preaching for three years, and within a few months, He would go to the cross. Israel had not yet become fruitful in accepting the Messiah, so God was giving them a longer period to repent and accept Jesus.

The message is the same to us today. If you haven’t trusted Jesus as your Savior yet, God is giving you another chance to surrender to Him. Some insurance policies have what is called a “grace period.” If you don’t pay your premium on time, the insurance company extends your coverage for a short period of time, hoping you’ll pay the premium. But if you don’t pay the premium, the grace period runs out and the policy will be cancelled.

God has a grace period, too, and you’re in it today. We are living in the age of grace today. Salvation is absolutely free–but there is a limit to your grace period. You are facing a Divine Deadline. It could be one of two deadlines: you could die unexpectedly and that’s the end of your grace period, or Jesus could come suddenly and rapture the church. At that point, your grace period runs out. Like the old country preacher said, “You are either going to meet the undertaker, or the upper-taker, but either way, you’d better be ready to meet God!”

If you are not a Christian, God is giving you an extension to your grace period. He allowed you wake up today. Right now, He can promise you forgiveness and eternal life but He doesn’t promise you another chance tomorrow. You may not live until tomorrow–or Jesus could return at any moment.

People sometimes say, “It’s never too late.” When it comes to accepting God’s grace, it can be too late. You are like the fig tree. God is showing you His grace and patience by giving you another chance to become fruitful in Christ. The Bible says in II Peter 3:9-10: “God isn’t late with

his promise as some measure lateness. He is restraining Himself on account of you, holding back the End because He doesn’t want anyone lost. He’s giving everyone space and time to change. But when the Day of God’s Judgment does come, it will be unannounced, like a thief.” (The Message)

The most important question you’ll ever ask is not “Why do good people suffer?” The most important question is “Am I ready to meet God?” Or “Where will I spend eternity?”

After the 9/11 attack, President Bush declared the following Friday to be a Day of National Prayer and Remembrance and a service was held at the National Cathedral in Washington–and Billy Graham was the main speaker. In His wonderful message, Dr. Graham spoke of the mystery of suffering. He said, “I have been asked hundreds of times in my life why God allows tragedy and suffering. I have to confess that I really do not know the answer totally, even to my own satisfaction. I have to accept, by faith, that God is sovereign, and He’s a God of love and mercy and compassion in the midst of suffering.”

Dr. Graham said next, “For the Christian, the Cross tells us that God understands our sin and suffering, for He took upon Himself in the person of Jesus Christ our sins and our suffering. And from the cross, God declares, ‘I love you. I know the heartaches and the sorrows and the pains that you feel. But I love you.’ The story does not end with the Cross, for beyond the tragedy of the Cross there is the empty tomb. We know the rest of the story, that because of the Resurrection we can have eternal life, for Christ conquered evil and death, and hell.

Yes, there is hope. The message of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is what America needs to hear today! For without the cross and the resurrection of Jesus, suffering has no meaning; it becomes a hopeless encounter with pain. But because Jesus suffered and died and rose victorious over the grave–we have hope! These are difficult days, my hope is not in our military, my security is not in our Homeland Security Agency, my hope and my security is in Jesus alone. And even though it is not politically correct we can stand and proclaim: Because He lives, I can face tomorrow. Because He lives, all fear is gone. Because I know he holds the future and life is worth the living just because he lives!

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