Sermon Summary (4/19/20) “Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?” (Job (selected); Ro 8:28; Mt 7:24-27) )
It’s not a good time to be a pastor. It’s not a good time to be a lot of things. A mother for one; a spouse for another. I know of those whose children or spouses and in hospice and they cannot be there to hold their hands or to tell them over and over again that they love them. As a pastor, I have people whose hands I want to hold and assurance I was to give. And everyday life goes on. I need to be in living rooms or hospital rooms instead of preaching to a blank wall.
What do think? Why do bad things happen to good people? Millions will be hurt by the coronavirus, if not by the disease, then economically, people we know and love. And life goes on. Cancer that steals life and joy. Accidents that take life and limb. Stroke, heart attack.
And here’s what I bet: you know people who believe that if you are faithful, you will be immune from such pain. You can just pray and the problems will go away. And you know people who have chucked their faith because bad things happen to good people. If God is not going to take care of all my concerns, what is religion for? What’s in it for me?
Let’s make some things clear. God is not our wind up toy. He is not our genie in a bottle to give us untold wishes. God is not our servant. In fact, the opposite is true. We are to serve God. We are to do God’s will, not the other way around.
We’re beginning a new series. Adam Hamilton believes every church needs to hear every year a sermon of series dealing with the problem of pain. The issues of pain, of evil, of unanswered prayer, of discerning the will of God and following him are issues we continually deal with. Today, “The problem of Pain: Why do bad things happen to good people?”
Where do we start with pain? The book of Job. At the same time the writers of Deuteronomy were telling us that God rewards good choices and punishes bad, the writers of Job were just as adamant that injustice exists in the world, that bad things do happen to good people.
The story of Job is a simple one even though it runs for 42 chapters. Job is a good man and God has rewarded him with children, wealth, herds, houses. He loves his family, cares for widows and orphans. He even has made a covenant with his eyes that he will not look at women as objects. Job is a good man.
But then Satan takes it all away. His children are killed, his cattle stolen, his houses destroyed, his health ruined. Even in the midst of this injustice, he remains faithful.
His friends come by. “Job, you have sinned. Admit it, repent, and God will restore your health.” “Job, you may not know it, but you have sinned. Repent.” “Job, your children must have sinned. Pray, repent for them. God will restore you.”
Job is adamant. He has been unjustly accused. If only he could find God and present his case, he would be acquitted. (23:1-7) Finally, God answers Job out of the whirlwind, “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell me if you have understanding.” With great verbosity, God belittles Job but never answers the question. “Job, you just don’t understand the responsibilities of the Creator of the universe.” (38:1ff)
Herman Wouk, War and Remembrance, in words spoken by Aaron Jastrow says God is at fault. That the only hero of the Hebrew Bible is the poor Jew on the ash heap, Job, who remained faithful in suffering. That there is a missing piece to the story of justice in the universe and that missing piece is with God. God is at fault.
As Christians, we know the missing piece, and it did not show up for another 1500 years. Justice would be restored through the mighty acts of God in Jesus Christ. Salvation for those who remain faithful in suffering is the missing piece.
We live in a world that is good. Almost perfect. But floods and earthquakes happen and people are hurt. Our bodies are wonderfully good. Almost perfect. But disease happens, and when we confront animals and machines we are harmed. Why do bad things happen? In part, that is the world we live in.
When we lost our son Jeff at the age of 18, Rosemary was angry with God for the next 10 years. But that means that she believed in a God to be angry with. Good people suffer. But Jesus promises to walk through the suffering with us. “In all things, God works for the good of those who love him.” (Romans 8:28 NIV) God does not cause evil, and Is anguished in the face of evil. But God promises to walk through it with us.
God did not want or cause Jeff to be killed. But he walked through the pain with us. We are here today because of that walk. In that walk we experienced mercy and blessing and grace. He changed our lives completely.
God’s response is to walk with us and to use us. Jesus healed, Jesus fed, Jesus faced down evil. Today God’s response is us. When floods and earthquakes occur, he sends us. When people are hungry, he sends us. When people are victims of cancer or disease, he sends doctors and scientists and asks us to support them. We are God’s response to injustice in the world. “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done.” God sends us.
Jesus ends the Sermon on the Mount with the story of the houses built on the rock and on the sand. They are the stories of our spiritual houses. God can best walk with us through the storms of life if we have built our spiritual houses on a rock. So may it be with all of us. Amen.