It’s common to wonder, how can God be good when so many bad things happen in the world? Questions like this can chip away at us over time and lead to doubt, so it’s important to answer this for ourselves. In this message, we learn how Christianity explains how bad things happen and actually points to the fact that God is still good.
All right. Well, here we go. Welcome everyone who is tuning in from around the country. We are so excited. Like JD already said, we're kicking off a brand-new series. I have some friends who are hanging out with me, who you'll probably see me interacting with as we dive in and kick off this series called Fact Check, which is a look at some of the tough questions facing Christianity and just answering some of the key objections people have as it relates to faith.
How're we doing, guys? Everyone have a good Easter? Okay, so, let me bring you guys and everyone listening into the kind of Easter world for me as just a parent with young kids. This past weekend, celebrated Easter, quarantine style. My 4-year-old son was introduced for the very first time to the Easter Bunny. We've probably talked about it, but the older they get, the more they're like, "Oh yeah, I can kind of remember that now."
There are these different holiday mascots. Like you have Santa Claus. You have the Leprechaun for St. Patrick's Day. You have Cupid for Valentine's Day. I would put the Tooth Fairy kind of in that even though it's not a holiday mascot, if you will. But of all of them, probably the more interesting and humorous to me is the Easter Bunny.
I was realizing this as I was talking with my 4-year-old who just has questions like, "Man, there's a bunny who brings us baskets of toys, and he leaves them right where Santa Claus left them on the fireplace? How does he carry?" because he doesn't think bunny like we all think like Bugs Bunny or a big bunny that's a fake bunny; he thinks like an actual rabbit. He's like, "Bunnies, they can't really lift things and carry things. How does he carry all that to every kid out there? How big is this bunny? That had to be a huge bunny."
I'm trying to figure out how do you answer that question. You're like, "He's like the size of your mom," because his mom is the Easter Bunny. "That's about the size he is." He's asking questions that are really understandable questions like, "Why does he bring eggs? What do bunnies have to do with eggs? They don't lay eggs." It's like, "Yeah, he brings eggs because… Yeah, I don't really know why he brings eggs." You think about it. So many of the traditions around this are just funny, and they're really understandable questions that come from him.
At some point in life, if you ever had parents who encouraged you to believe in the Easter Bunny, you get a little bit older, and you begin to realize those questions you had about the Bunny were really understandable, and it seems like you're confronted with the truth to, "Oh, there really isn't an Easter Bunny, and I never got answers to those questions, and it was just some wishful thinking my parents wanted me to believe because that would fun if life really actually had an Easter Bunny involved in it."
The reason I start there is because I think for a lot of people as it relates to God and Christianity and faith, interestingly enough around the same time they're introduced to the Easter Bunny, a lot of us were introduced to the idea of God. Just like the unanswered questions of like, "Why does he bring eggs? How big is he?" and all these things chip away at my ability to believe in the Easter Bunny, and eventually I'm like, "I don't think this is true at all."
A lot of our unanswered and understandable questions about God that never get great answers from people begin to chip away at our ability to believe in God. Just like we're like, "I'm abandoning. I'm not even sure I can believe in the Easter Bunny anymore. I just have too many questions that don't have good answers," that's the journey a lot of us experience with God, where we find ourselves with really understandable questions that never get answered, and it just chips away over time at our ability to believe the God we were told about, and the Christian God, is really true.
So my heart in doing this series, and our heart as a team, is that we would address some of those questions, because there are a lot of understandable questions people wrestle with as it relates to faith, and as it relates to God, and as it relates to, "Is Jesus really the only way? That means billions of people are not going to spend eternity with him? God is love, and yet he sends people to hell? How is that possible? The Bible is actually the words of God, but it was written by men? Can we really trust that it's inspired, that it hasn't been changed?"
And then the topic for tonight, which is a question of, "How can God be good and so much bad, brokenness, evil exist around us?" So that's the question I really want to launch in tonight, and this whole series is just an attempt to give answers to some of those questions that many of us have had for a long time. Maybe we don't wrestle with it in terms of doubt, but we just don't even know how to answer our friends or family members who see these as objections to why they can't put their faith in God, and they can't come to believe it.
So that's our heart behind this series, and tonight I want to jump into probably the biggest objection that people have or the most commonly mentioned one, which is that, "How can God be totally good, totally powerful, and so much around our world is filled with bad tragedy, painful, horrific things?"
I mean, not just like viruses that end up costing people jobs and losing lives and livelihoods and all of that, but well before this. I mean, you look around, and you see children daily starving to death. You see people walk into school buildings, and they shoot up their classmates. God could stop all of that, right? I mean, he's God. You see people who have a child who gets cancer, and they don't win the battle to cancer, and they bury their 5-year-old. Where is God in that?
This is a very understandable question, and there are good answers to it. So for the next really 30 minutes we have I want to launch into really giving you two questions I want to talk about as it relates to this idea of God Is Good and Bad Things Happen. That's the fact I want us to check tonight. God Is Good and Bad Things Happen. And in doing so, I want to look at two questions and an explanation about how that can be the case.
Let me preface one more time before we dive in. If you are walking through a season of life where you are in suffering, you're experiencing pain, you're experiencing trial, this is not the message that is going to solve all of those things, but it will give you a framework through which to see some of that pain and experience.
In other words, this is more addressing at a higher level how that can be possible that God is good and bad things exist. But for me to attempt to say this message is going to do away with any pain you're experiencing or anything you're feeling in all you're walking through would be crazy. Yet at the same time, I do want to give us some truth we can look at that gives us some framework for understanding how that can be a true statement.
So I'm going to give you two questions, one explanation. The first question is this. Just a high-level thing we're going to visit about. Do bad things… And by that, I mean bad, I mean evil, I mean pain, I mean anything you need to put in that bucket. Do bad things prove God isn't real? You may have family members. You sit down.
Larry King has said on live television to millions of people, "Hey, here's why I can't believe in God. I just look at the world. There's so much chaos, there's so much hurt, there's so much brokenness all around us. The fact that a God is even out there is hard for me to believe, because he's certainly not in control if that's going on. So I'm not even sure God is real." So do bad things prove God isn't real?
Here's why I would say no. First, let's talk a little bit about even bad things, that idea of us classifying like, "Oh, those are really messed up. That's wrong. That's an injustice. That's bad," anything we put inside of that bucket, because I think for most of us, there are probably things that all of us here, those who are listening at home, I think we'd probably put some things in that bucket if we could, that we'd at least all agree on.
Some of things I wrote down would be murder. I think the vast majority of people would put murder in that bucket. My point is we may disagree on speeding, and some people may be like, "That's such an injustice," and other people would be like, "Eh, you know, I was in a hurry, or I didn't see it, and I'm looking the other way so I don't feel bad about speeding."
But most of us would put certain things like murder. We'd put sexual abuse or rape, terrorism, adultery, slavery, racism. Am I wrong? Am I wrong or am I not wrong? Okay. Most of us would put in that bucket, "Hey, these things are there." I want to ask a crazy question that's going to be so bizarre if you're tuning in. Why? Why would you put that in that bucket? Why are they wrong?
If somebody said, "Hey, look, that's wrong for you. I think murder is okay for me, or adultery is okay for me, or slavery is okay for me. That's just kind of your opinion," I think most of us would go, "No. It's wrong. Period." But why? Why do you have this sense that there are things that are right and things that are wrong? Injustice is a reality.
If you've ever wrestled with the fact that, "Man, I can't believe in God because there's so much messed up in the world. I just can't get over that. I don't even know God is there," I just want to ask you the question before we even launch that second part, "What makes you think, or why are you so certain there's such a thing as right and wrong, as bad and good?" because the Christian explanation would be that that's not an argument against God; that, if anything, is an argument, an evidence for God.
In other words, the Christian explanation is the reason why most of us would universally agree, "Hey, those are wrong, period. There are things that are just straight up evil every time no matter who thinks they're not," because we believe God has given us kind of a moral standard and moral law he has put into the human heart, and that is the reason why no matter what you believe people will find themselves thinking, "I just think that child abuse or beating a child is wrong. I think strapping an explosive vest to yourself and walking into a school and blowing up people is wrong."
The Christian perspective would be the reason why you know that it's wrong in your heart of hearts is because God put it there. A moral standard was placed by a moral Lawgiver, who gave that moral law, and God put that and imprinted it on your heart. Paul, speaking in Romans 2:14-15 says, "For when Gentiles…" That's people who don't know anything about God. "…who do not have the law…" Talking about the Bible. "…by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law."
In other words, when they live and they operate in society, and they're kind to people, and they pay their taxes, and they don't kill people, and they don't commit adultery, they're showing there's something written on their heart that goes, "Ah man, that's not okay. I don't think I'm supposed to do that." He says that's because God put that law on their heart.
"They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.)" Paul says, "Hey, the reason why people have that and there's this sense of like, 'Man, that's not okay,' to certain things is because God put that standard onto their heart."
Now let me ask you a question. Without God, who is responsible for deciding what's wrong and what's not? In other words, it becomes very difficult to even say there is such a thing as, "Hey, that's wrong, or that is bad, so I don't believe in you, God." It's hard to even say, "Hey, that's bad," if there is no God because anything you deem as, "Man, that's wrong," is just your opinion. It may be the opinion of millions of people around you or even in society.
It may even be an opinion is evolution developed over time, but without God, there is no objective standard like, "That's actually wrong, and this is actually right." This is why I say, "Do bad things happening in our world disprove God? No." If anything, it is greater evidence for the fact that there is a God, and he put something inside of you that when bad happens you go, "This is not right. It's not supposed to be like this."
C.S. Lewis, who is just a brilliant thinker, maybe one of the most intelligent thinkers and writers in all of Christian history, talked about it. He was an atheist. He was an Oxford professor, and for most of his life he was an atheist. I'm paraphrasing, but he writes about how, "This gnawing fact that I had something inside of me, that although I saw all the bad in the world, I began to go, 'Man, there's so much messed up,' and the fact that I recognized it's messed up is not a problem for my belief in God but a problem for me to not believe in God."
He says this in Mere Christianity, just a well-known book, "My argument against God…" He's speaking of when he was an atheist. "…was that the universe…" The world." "…seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? […] What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust? […] Of course I could have given up my idea of justice by saying it was nothing but a private idea of my own."
You know, my opinion that that's unjust. Not a universal law. "But if I did that, then my argument against God collapsed too—for the argument depended on saying the world was really unjust…" Or messed up. He says, "Consequently, atheism turns out to be too simple." It was a greater problem for his atheism than for his belief in God, and it's ultimately what led him to become a believer in God.
You guys may not know this. I'm going to give a little history lesson on something that further illustrates that as a society we know this is true, and we've pointed to it at different historical moments. Do you guys know what the Nuremberg trials are? No? Okay, all right, history lesson. Everybody, thinking cap on. Here's what we have.
There's something called World War II. It happened after World War I. There's a nation in Europe went a little cray, lot crazy, and they tried to take over the world and did horrific, horrific things (Are you guys familiar? Are you following me?) called the Nazis. The Nazis did a number of different things. Took over countries. They tried to exterminate an entire group of people. I mean, horrific. Some of the greatest atrocities in history took place under that regime.
The war went over. It was won. The Allies conquered, and they went, and they put the chief leaders of the Nazis on trial. Did you guys know this? Dude, this is crazy. So at the Nuremberg trials, they put all the head guys…not the little guy who was there being told to shoot people…like, "Hey, you guys are the master planners of all of this."
They began to put them on trial, and the defense of the Nazis was, "There's no international law. We only did what was legal in any area we conquered. You can't say anything we did was wrong legally," because at that time there wasn't any international law they could've done to. It's a pretty brilliant defense. You would say, "I guess there's some point in that." They argued, "Hey, we're not accountable here because we didn't break any laws. So you can't hold us accountable to anything."
The prosecution, which was the world, said in the opening statements and all throughout it, "You have violated the law of God and nature, and you are held to a higher authority. There is a higher law to which all mankind is subject, and on that we condemn you." Many of them lost their lives. They were put in prison.
But my point is even the world, the global presence, was like, "Hey, no, there isn't an international law that says you cannot take over someone's property and try to exterminate a race. You're right, Nazis, but there's a higher law of God, and you have violated that." And by that they condemned them. My point is this. The idea that bad things happen does not point against the evidence of God; if anything, it points toward him.
The second question I want to ask is much more at the center of tonight's message, and that is…Does bad things happening prove God isn't good? "How do you not stop terrorist acts, school shootings, viruses from exploding all over? God, what are you doing? It's really hard to hold onto the fact that this world is so messed up, so many people lose their life, throughout all of history such horrific things have happened, and you're totally good? You could stop anything and everything you want in a moment, and you don't?"
Doesn't the fact that so much bad happens prove God is not good? I want to attempt as best I can to show you the answer is no. It doesn't prove that. Stay with me. Again, this is more almost a thinking-cap kind of thing. If the question is like, "Hey, God, if you were really good, you would in a moment get rid of all the evil out there that there is. How have you not gotten rid of all the bad and messed-up stuff in our world yet?"
It's a question that many times people ask. If you've ever had a conversation with people who doubt or have objections, they'll bring this up. So let me enter into a hypothetical. Let's say I'm in the conversation with Emma. We're talking right here, and she brought that up to me. I was to ask Emma, "Okay, great. You're wondering, 'Hey, why is God…?' because in a moment he could get rid of all the bad things in our world. Why has he not done that yet? Why is he okay with that, and how can he be good?"
Well, let me ask her. If she could in a moment get rid of all the bad that was out there by hitting a button (here's an "Easy" button) and in a moment you could hit a button, and all the evil on the entire planet was gone, would you? I don't know what the answer she would say is, or if she just said, "Sure." Here's why I would think that is a bad idea. A lot of us may think, "Yeah, of course I would. In a moment."
But before you hit that button, you have to think about it honestly. When you say get rid of all the bad out there, what about you? Have you ever done anything bad? What about everyone you know and love? Like your mom, your parents, like even before you ever came along? Do you think they've ever done anything bad in life? If you hit that button, you're not just getting rid of all the bad out there; you're getting rid of the bad in you.
So when you think through that lens, you may go, "Ah man, I don't know if I would hit that button," because God in a moment could. And just like after hearing that, my guess is Emma wouldn't go, "Yeah, I'd for sure want to get rid of me and everyone I love and everything I care about in this life with a moment," because all of those have aspects of bad inside of them.
She has reason because she loves and cares about those people. In the same way, the biblical understanding is that God also has a reason why today he has not hit the button, because he could instantly, and that reason is you and me and people coming into relationship with him. In other words, he's a God who is good, and he allows things that are not good or bad to happen because in his sovereign control there's a good he wants to bring about. There's a good reason why he allows bad things to happen today.
Ultimately, Peter says and the Bible teaches that good reason is you and me and people coming into a relationship with him. One day, he will get rid of all of it, and he will hit that button, but today he is patient, helping more people to escape not just the bad things in our world but a bad eternity apart from him in hell.
Peter, who spent as much time with Jesus as anyone we know of, one of Jesus' closest friends, wrote this in 2 Peter 3. Some of his last words he ever wrote. "Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come…" Scoffers are like mockers or people who are like, "Dude, I can't believe you still believe in God. That's so outdated."
He says, "Those people are going to come, and they'll scoff or mock." "…following their own evil desires. They will say, 'Where is this "coming" he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.'" "You guys are waiting for a Jesus who's not coming back. And they'll mock," he says.
Verse 8: "But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you…" With everyone. "…not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance." Or into a relationship with him.
The Bible teaches that all of the bad and brokenness in our world breaks God's heart way more than it has ever broken yours. He sees everything wrong that has ever taken place. In other words, there's no messed-up action or sin or murder or death or abuse… God sees all of it, and it breaks his heart way more than it breaks any of our hearts. But it teaches that he is patient and he allows it today, these temporary bad things to exist, so as many people as possible would escape eternal bad things or an eternal bad reality that's apart from God.
I think the challenge, or another way of saying it, would be if God was to remove everything bad about this world, he would have to remove me and he'd have to remove you. Christians believe God in the form of Jesus came into the world not to remove you but to forgive you.
That's why God is waiting. Because he wants as many people as possible to experience his forgiveness in this life, and you can trust he's a good God, that even though bad things happen has promised, "I only allow them to happen, and I bring about good through those things, and there's a good reason why I allow or continue to allow anything bad that has happened." The Bible doesn't promise you will have a life free of pain. It promises there will be purpose connected to the pain for those who know God.
Here's where I get stuck and where I get caught up. I assume anything that is painful in my life or anything that's challenging, I'll be able to see and connect the dots to like, "Ah, this is what he was teaching me in that moment, or this is what God was up to then, and man, he's the best!" I assume anytime I walk through a challenging time I'll be able to connect the dots, and I'll see like, "Oh, this is why that happened."
A lot of times, we just can't see it. It doesn't mean it's not there. I'm not smart enough or I'm not able enough, wise enough, to connect the dots of like, "Ah, this was what God was doing all along in his plan and in his will and how he was working things together."
It's like this. I think a lot of times we assume if it was there, we'd see it, and the good news right now about our world is all of us are experiencing a reality where we're confronted with the fact that there are times where something is there even though we can't see it. So for me to assume, "Hey, I can't see anything there, so it must not be there," is just wrong.
What do I mean by that? Do you guys have Amazon Prime? Yeah? Use it? Yeah, it's amazing. A little slower lately, but it's all good. Amazon Prime. So if you had a package today on your front porch, Kyle, and it came there, and it was dropped off, and there was a package there, and I called you, and I was like, "Hey, Dude, I just want you to know there's an elephant on top of the package outside of your door," you'd be like, "What?"
"No, Bro, I'm telling you. There's an elephant. You have to go look. There's an elephant on the package." This is going somewhere because it's so weird. "Like a real elephant! Like alive. It's like seven feet tall. It's huge. It's on the package outside of your front door." You would very easily be able to go to the front door, open, and see elephant or no elephant. It wouldn't be like, "Hey, I went and looked, and either it went under the package or I just can't see it right now." You would know very clearly if it's there or it's not there.
Now if I called you, and I said, "Hey, there is coronavirus on the package that's outside of your front door," if you called me back and you were like, "Hey, I went to the door, and I looked for it, and I was like, 'Is there any corona on top of this? No, I think we're good,'" and you walked in, it would not be great to conclude you were absolutely right. There still could've been corona there whether or not you could've seen it.
In the same way, we often assume, "Hey, if there's a purpose it's going to be like an elephant. I could see it," versus like a virus I can't always see it's there. The Bible says God is so far above any human mind and any human wisdom that we can't always know what he's doing, how's he at work. We can't always see it, but that doesn't mean it's not present in your life, just like the virus is not present on that package, to use that illustration.
Isaiah 55 says, "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways…" God is speaking. "…higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts." I just want you to ask or address with the question, "Man, why has God not removed all evil and bad today?" because he's going to eventually, and he has promised that.
But if you're wondering, "I just don't that God can be good, and evil or bad things still be so everywhere around me," if you could and you would remove everything bad, where would you start? Answer that question. If somebody you know is wrestling with, "Man, how are things so bad and God claims to be good? I don't know that that can be true," okay, great. If you could remove stuff bad, where would you start? Would you start with the 5-year-old who lied one time to his parents? Is he gone? Or are we just talking about rapists and murderers, they're all gone?
What about the college student who cheated on their exam this past semester? What about the person who had sex before marriage or who looks at pornography? Where would you start and draw the line? The truth is the only way for God to get rid of all the bad things in the world would be to get rid of all of us, and he didn't come to remove us; he came to forgive us. That's what Christians believe.
Finally, I just want to provide an explanation to how Christians have always understood and how Christians think about how God is good and yet bad things happen today. The way we understand it traces through the origin of even evil in our world.
The Christian teaching and understanding of the Bible is that God created the world we're in right now, and it was perfect. There was nothing messed up. There was no death. There was no disease. Nobody ever had a funeral. You never stood next to a loved one who was sick and dying. You never experienced pain. You never experienced grief. You never experienced any of the effects of sin that have entered into our world. It was perfect.
He put Adam and Eve in that garden. The garden of Eden is where they were originally placed. To them, he gave something called free will. He gave the ability to choose. In other words, God didn't want robots. He hasn't created robots. He wanted them to have the ability to choose to have a relationship with him, to choose to love him, and to choose to walk in a relationship. So he gave them free will.
With that free will, the human race decided to reject God and not follow him and not listen to him and not do what he said. In rejecting God, they pushed God away, and into that vacancy or in that space where they pushed him, sin entered, and everything broke. Everything in the natural world broke. Death entered into the world, and everything became fractured.
You may have wondered, "Who invented evil?" It wasn't invented; it was in this moment where they pushed God away, and in that space all of a sudden evil came in because of the absence or the lack of presence directly with God. In other words, evil is not something that was invented. Just like darkness is the absence of light, evil is the absence of God. As you see, as things get darker, it's not because… Darkness is the absence of light. It's not just something that is invented and created there.
So that was the story. When they pushed him away, all of a sudden sin and evil were introduced into the world, and God's response… How did God respond to a rebel human race that ran from him? Did he decide in a moment, "I'm just going to crush them and do away with this"? No. He began a mission that ultimately would send his Son to die on a cross and be crushed for us. Rather than crush Adam and Eve and humanity, he sent his Son to be crushed on our behalf.
Now anyone who puts their faith or accepts the free gift God gave on the cross through Jesus, that, "I'm not a good enough person to experience eternal life with God. You are so good that you came into the world to be a solution for the bad, broken things around me, and you provided that solution by giving your life for me, and you experienced eternal death for me. I know I can have a relationship with you. Not because of how good I am or how bad I'm not, but because of how good you are, so good you gave your life, and you paid for me to have a way to have eternity and eternal life with you."
One day, the Bible teaches, he's going to make everything around us new. There will be no more war. There will be no more disease. There will be no more death. He will make a new heaven and a new earth, and everything remade, and everyone who trusts in him will be a part of that new world. That is what Christians have believed.
We believe we're in a world right now that's not our home. That's why there's brokenness all around us. It has never been a contradiction for Christians to see bad things around us and say, "Ah man, now I'm not sure the Bible's teachings apply." No! Christianity is not in contradiction to the fact that there are bad things. It is the solution to the fact there are bad things all around us in this world.
I mean, listen. We worship a God who is perfect, who is so good, and yet the worst thing possible happened to him. He was crucified and experienced eternal death. Think about that. The idea that bad things could happen to good people is not in contradiction to Christianity. Christianity is the solution for that reality because the worst thing happened to the best person, who is Jesus.
It has never been a contradiction, and Jesus, when he was here, promised, "Don't buy the lie a lot of people are going to tell you maybe that if you just are a good person, good things happen to good people, bad things never happen to good people." He never promised that. He promised you are going to have trouble in this life. It was promised.
In John 16, he's having a conversation with some of his guys. Here's what he says. Jesus speaking. "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." You're going to have trouble in this world. It's not your ultimate home, and Christians have always accepted that.
Here's where it gets really ironic and interesting. Jesus just promised, "I just want everyone to know in this life you're going to have a lot of trouble. It's going to be hard. There are going to be things that come your way. But guarantee it, take it to the bank, there's going to be trouble." Ironically, Christians, when we hit trouble, we're like, "See, this is why I can't trust you."
It would be like this. If you and I were going deep-sea fishing, and we went out on the boat… We're going to go fishing out there. I don't know why we'd be doing that, but let's say we were. We're going fishing, and before we get on the boat, I'm like, "Hey, Colby, I'm just telling you, bro, you're about to get on this boat, and it's going to make you nauseous and really seasick. It's just going to happen. I'm promising you it's going to happen. So let me just tell you. Here's the best way to endure and kind of handle and face the seasickness because it's happening."
You're like, "Ah man, I don't know. Maybe it won't happen." "No, it's happening. I guarantee it's going to happen." Then we get on the boat and all of a sudden, like I said, you become incredibly seasick, and you were to then go, "See, this is why I can't trust you!" after I just told you, "You are going to get seasick. If you get on that boat, it's going to happen. Let me just help you endure it." You would be nuts to go, "Hey, man, you told me that, and this is why I can't trust you."
Ironically, that's what we do in our faith so oftentimes. It's not that it's not understandable that it happens; it's just not in line with what the Bible teaches. Jesus promised. This is not our home, and you will experience pain. Isaiah 43 says, "When you walk through the fire…" Not if you walk through the fire. He hasn't promised life is going to be easy, and some of you, candidly, you have bought a perception of God the Bible doesn't teach, that tonight maybe the best thing you can do is say, "I want to repent and believe in the one true God."
The version of God you've bought is that God is like a Secret Service agent who's constantly protecting you, and he's constantly going to make sure this doesn't happen, and that's not what the Bible teaches. It doesn't teach if you just follow God everything will be easy all the time. The best thing you could do is say, "I'm going to surrender the version of God I've bought, that he's like a Secret Service God." It's just as not true as the Easter Bunny is.
But there is a God who is there who has promised to be the solution for all the pain and all the brokenness and all the bad things in this world. He went to a cross, and he died for you and for me in order to be that solution. One day, he is coming, and he will make everything new. In Revelation 21, some of the last words in the Bible…it's the last two chapters…I want you to see one of the very first actions God does when everything is made new.
Revelation 21:1. John, who wrote this book, was one of Jesus' close friends, like Peter, begins to talk about the future that's coming for Christians in this new world we're headed toward. It says, speaking of this vision God gave him, "Then I saw 'a new heaven and a new earth,' for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away…" That's this one. "…and there was no longer any sea. […] And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, 'Look!'" This throne that's there. All of a sudden, someone on this incredible King's throne begins to speak.
"'Look! God's dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. "He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death" or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.' He who was seated on the throne said, 'I am making everything new!'"
One of the very first actions we're told in the Bible God is going to do in the new earth and the new heavens is he's going to reach out, and he's going to wipe away from every tear from every eye. Think about the intimacy of that action. That's a very intimate action if you think about it. In other words, if Anthony was over here crying, and I was like, "Hey, just got something right there," it would be a total invasion, especially in quarantine of social distancing, but also an invasion regardless of the time of personal space.
I don't even honestly do that with my wife. When she's crying, I'm not like, "Let me get that mascara right there." It's a weird thing. Do you know the only people I do that with? My kids. It's incredibly intimate. Whenever they're crying, my daughter is crying about something, my son is crying, I put them on my knee, I kiss their head, and I wipe away their tears. It's incredibly intimate.
This is the picture God paints of his relationship with every believer. There's going to come a day in the midst of all the pain all of you are walking through and will face for the rest of your life where's he's going to go, and so he puts you on his knee, and he wipes away every tear from your eye like a father or a mother would to their child. That's how intimate God's first action toward his people is and welcomes into a world where death never exists anymore.
Here's the challenge of this message. It is not emotionally satisfying. In other words, the idea that, "Well, I guess bad things happen. That doesn't disprove God. I guess if I was God, I don't know that I would hit the button to remove evil. He's going to eventually. And Christianity, I guess it makes sense that God is the solution for all the bad things, but it just doesn't sit right to me that so much evil is taking place around the world, that so many girls are sold into sex slavery. How do you reconcile that? That people are abused domestically by their spouse. That sickness happens. Cancer seems random. None of that sits okay. There's no answer that makes me emotionally satisfied."
Here's the truth, and I need you to hear this, because some of you have never heard this before. There is no emotionally satisfying answer to the problem of pain and evil and brokenness in our world. It doesn't exist. Here's why. This is really important in case you tuned out. Because you were made regardless of what you believe, regardless of your religion, regardless of your upbringing…
Every person listening right now, you were made in the image of God, and there is still enough image of God inside of you, despite the fact that when sin entered it broke the reflection of God inside of us, but it didn't totally do away with it. There's enough image of God inside of you that will never be okay with horrific evil taking place. In other words, there's no sermon…
Sometimes as pastors, we're like, "Dude, I'm about to give this sermon. It's going to change everyone's life. You're going to hear an answer that you're like, 'Oh whoa!'" That's something you hope to do, but emotionally, there is no sermon, there's no sentence, there's no clip you can watch on the Internet that's going to make you like, "You know, I really had a problem with domestic abuse, and then I saw this, and I was like, 'Ah! That's great. I'm okay with it now because God is up there and it's…'"
You're never going to be okay with that. There's no emotionally satisfying answer because you were made in the image of God, and God is not emotionally satisfied with all the brokenness in our world. He hates it. He grieves over it. His heart breaks over it more than any of ours do, and he gave his life, and in doing so he shows that. He's not okay with all the horrific pain. One day, he has promised, "I will do away with it, and today I wait patiently so more people for all of eternity will have a relationship with me." His heart breaks over it.
We see inside of John's gospel this interaction that just shows the incredible tenderness and emotional compassion of God. It's from John 11, and I'll summarize it. We're about to close here. In John 11, we're told Jesus has these three sibling friends. There are three friends who are all siblings together. Their names are Lazarus, Martha, and Mary. They're like good buddies with Jesus. How cool would that be? Your family is tight with Jesus.
We're told that one of them, Lazarus, gets really sick, and his sisters send word to Jesus. They're like, "Lazarus, the one you love, is sick." Jesus, we're told, eventually shows up at their house. He comes to them. While they're there, he is told Lazarus died. He's not alive anymore. Jesus goes to the tomb. I just want to read what happens next. He shows up, and he goes to the burial place.
John 11:34 says, "'Where have you laid him?' he asked." Where have you put Lazarus? Thirty-something, maybe 20-something-year-old kid. Where did you bury him?" "Come and see, Lord." They show up. Outside the tomb we see, "Jesus wept." He begins crying and weeping. "Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. 'Take away the stone,' he said."
When Jesus shows up…he missed the funeral…and they're like, "Jesus, we can't take away the stone." She says, "'By this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.' Then Jesus said, 'Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?' So they took away the stone.
Then Jesus looked up and said, 'Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.' When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, 'Lazarus, come out!' The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, 'Take off the grave clothes and let him go.'"
He comes out, and he says, "Take the stone away," and Lazarus comes out at Jesus' invitation, looking like a mummy. He's like, "Take the linens and all the cloths off of him." Here's what's so crazy to me about that story. "Why are you weeping? Jesus, you know all things! You knew you were going to heal him. You knew exactly what was going to take place. You weren't surprised by like, 'Oh yeah, whoa! I have the ability to raise people from the dead.' You knew everything you were going to do. You knew you were about to raise this person from the dead, and you show up and you begin to weep as you see the pain death had created in the people around you?"
The reason he's weeping outside is because unlike any other person Jesus knew more fully what it was like to experience a world that is free of sin and death. He's the only person who has ever known a world where there wasn't the presence of death. He's the only person who knows deeper than anyone will ever understand you were not made to die.
Our world was not made to experience death. People were not made to bury their 25-year-old brother. He looks at this group, and he's heartbroken. He knows he's about to raise him from the dead, but he sees, and he knows. This was never meant to be this way. The tenderness of Jesus pours out.
Whatever you're walking through, whatever you think about the God who's there, he's not distant. He's not uncaring. He's compassionate in everything you're facing. Just like the sisters of Mary and Martha saw… I mean, how much would that mess with you? "You just raised him from the dead, and you were crying over the pain in our life."
Whatever you're walking through, whatever pain is there, God is not apathetic to you. Whatever you think about him, you cannot conclude he doesn't care. He cares. He's a God who sits out of tombs he knows he's about to raise, and he cries. He's a God who cared so much he gave his life for you on the cross. He's the solution for everything bad in our world. It doesn't emotionally sit right because you're made in the image of that God who cares deeply when people hurt, and he cares through whatever you're walking through right now. He was the best person who experienced the worst thing happening to him, eternal death, so that you wouldn't have to.
If you're listening right now, and you've never had a moment… Every week, we get people who write in and just say, "I've never put my faith in Christ before, but I believe. I'm starting to believe Jesus is who he says he is. He's alive. I'm experiencing that change in my life."
I want to invite you to do what so many have done, which is begin to put your faith in Christ, to begin to ask Jesus, "I want to have a relationship with God. I'm a sinner. I'm a bad person. I don't deserve to go spend eternity with God, but if what you say is true, that if I trust in what you did for me on the cross and your burial and your resurrection, then I'll be forgiven forever? Then I receive that, and I believe that, and I accept that. Come be the Lord of my life. Forgive me, Lord. Be my Savior and my God. I believe."
Tonight is your night, wherever you are, and it's just expressing to God, "I'm a sinner. I don't deserve a relationship with you, but I, by faith, accept the free gift you've given me." Tonight, you could know that you're going to experience a world that will have no bad ever be a part of it, and no more pain, no more death, and you don't have to wonder where you stand with God.
If you are walking through a situation or a scenario, I just want to pray for the last group as we transition to a worship song, have a chance for Q&A. Those of you who are listening who are just in a really hard spot, and you're walking through the reality that your job is not coming back, your mom may not make it, you may have been diagnosed with a sickness or an autoimmune disease, or something in your own life, you have parents who their marriage is falling apart, or a loved one who maybe has walked away from Christ, or whatever you're experiencing, maybe it's a cancer that you were praying, "God, please take it away," and it's back, I just want to pray for you and pray over you as we walk through this and just ask for God, in a way that I honestly don't even know fully how to ask for, to raise and heighten your awareness that he's not far.
He's not apathetic. He's not angry. He loves you, and his heart breaks over the pain in our world and in your life. Just that he would raise your senses and your awareness of his nearness to you even in this moment. So let me just pray, and we'll transition into worship.
Father, I do pray for anyone who's currently walking through pain. Somebody recently died in their life. The story they hoped you would write of the job or career, marriage, or their life is not going to go the way they hoped it would. They have people around them who are running from you. Just whatever they're facing and walking through, God, I do pray you would supernaturally right now in this moment raise their awareness of your nearness to them.
You would comfort them. You're the God of comfort. You would enlarge our hope. That is not in this world. It's not in our health. It's not in a person; it's in our God and our Savior, who is so good he gave his life for us. Would you help us, God? Because in the pains of our life, our emotions can make us question everything and anything around us. So help us, God.
Ground us in truth, and ground us in your Word. Be near to us. We know you are. So raise our awareness and our confidence of that and the truth that you're a God who one day will do away with all evil, and today, you've allowed it so more would come to know you. We worship you in song. Amen.