How do we understand the problem of evil and its relationship to God’s work in the world? The common perspective is that God causes evil, but Greg offers an alternative view.
This sermon addresses the question of why awful things occur to us in this life, or what is officially called “the problem of evil.” If God is personal and loving, why do we experience so much pain and suffering? Many Christian teachers have taught that such things happen because God wants to teach us a lesson or because God is sovereign and his ways are higher than our ways. But for many, this kind of answer is a reason why they have walked away from the faith. This sermon offers a different perspective.
Tragedies occur in this life. And most, if not all, of us have heard that God is in control of all things and that we cannot understand why things occur as they do. If this is true, then “good” and “bad” have lost all meaning.
Jesus spent his entire ministry dealing with people who were suffering and never once does he attribute their suffering to his Father’s will. To the contrary, Jesus uniformly manifested the Father’s will by having compassion on people and relieving these people of their suffering. Throughout the New Testament, all physical and spiritual suffering is directly or indirectly attributed not to God, but to Satan and other demonic entities. The thief comes only to kill, steal and destroy. The God whom Jesus reveals comes only to give abundant life.
Jesus sometimes said things that directly contradict the common suggestion that we can discern God’s hand behind life’s tragedies. This is seen in Luke 13:1-5, quoted above. If we take all of our cues about what God is like from Jesus, we shouldn’t be suspecting that God is behind things like political leaders murdering people, or towers randomly collapsing on people, or people getting sick, or people experiencing some kind of tragedy. God is not controlling everything, which means that he is not the cause behind the pain and suffering in the world. But this often causes people to question whether God has the ability to win in the end. Greg addresses this by offering four points.
First, God created humans beings as free agents and gave us moral responsibility. In Deuteronomy 30:19, we read, “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live…” Yahweh says: you can choose life by following my precepts or you can choose death by disobeying. People have the freedom to choose and their choices are not controlled or coerced by God.
Secondly, God does not always get his way. Because humans are free agents and they can make choices, they can sin, which is not according to God’s will. Rebellious choices reflect human will, not God’s.
Thirdly, humans are not the only free agents. Scripture speaks of angels, various categories of principalities and powers, and Satan. Like everything and everyone else these cosmic agents sinned by rebelling against God and have now made themselves evil. These agents were given something like free will. Just as the earth and animal kingdom suffer when humans rebel, so there are aspects of nature that have now become corrupted by these rebel cosmic powers.
Finally, in the end, God in his perfect love wins! God wins not because he controls all things, but because God is so smart. He has the infinite ability to respond wisely to every choice of humans and cosmic agents in such a way that he can bring good out of evil. God is a genius who is always working with us to bring good out of evil. Not everything happens for the better, but God works with us to turn all suffering to our advantage. If we’ll yield to the Spirit, God will use everything to further our character development and to further his Kingdom.
Hide Extended Summary