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The Problem of Evil and Suffering

The greatest theological challenge Christians face is the problem of evil and suffering. Never have we had a greater demand to think biblically. We must speak the truth with integrity when people are desperate to hear it and no one else seems to know where to look for honest answers.

There is not a day that goes by that we are constantly called upon to minister at senseless accidents, terrible disasters, crimes against innocence, or someone suffering from a devastating disease. People demand some enlightenment. Perhaps the most difficult situations are those when the innocent suffer at the sinful hands of others.

In times of tragedy and crisis pastors are called upon to speak words of comfort and encouragement when no one else has any idea what to say. We are supposed to know what to say when nothing seems appropriate to say. Where do you go for such wisdom and guidance?

Jesus had a way of saying exactly what needed to be said in every situation. In Luke 13:1-8, Jesus was informed of a tragic event. Pontius Pilate perpetuated an atrocity in which innocent Galileans were killed in the Temple precincts in Jerusalem. The blood of the Galileans was mingled with the sacrifices in the Temple and therefore desecrated the Temple. A greater horror cannot be imagined in Jerusalem.

Jesus asked, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than all the Galileans because they suffered this fate?”

What was the thinking of those who came with the horrible news? They assumed that these Galilean victims died because they were greater sinners. Perhaps they thought that they were more righteous because they were alive.

To make His point even clearer Jesus reminded His listeners of the tower that had fallen in Siloam, killing 18 men. Were they greater sinners than those who lived in Jerusalem? Jesus made it very clear, “No.” He said to them, “I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”

In this passage, Jesus dealt with both moral and natural evil. The murder of the innocent Galileans was clearly a moral evil of terrorism by cruel Roman soldiers.

On the other hand, natural evil comes without a moral agent. It happens when a tornado, hurricane, or earthquake wrecks havoc in a city or nation.

Superficial answers to the problem of evil won’t cut it. How could a morally good God allow this tragedy to happen? How can a God of love permit nature’s destruction?

The Hebrew prophet Isaiah said long ago that we will submit our thinking to a sovereign God, or we will try to invent a god of our own imagination. The ancient Romans and Greeks thought God can be good, or He can be all-powerful, but He cannot be good and all-powerful. Modern man seems to think God is somehow limited in His knowledge and power.

However, the Word of God fully declares that God is both omnipotent and omniscient. He is not limited in His knowledge and power. The sovereign Creator rules over all His creation. Not even one atom or molecule of the universe is outside His active rule. The modern humanist wants to do away with the sovereignty of God. But a limited sovereignty is no sovereignty at all. They seem to think you can do away with God and have it any way you want it.

The moral attributes of God make it clear that He is not the author of evil. God is absolutely righteous and good. God defines all good, not man. The Bible does not tell us why God has allowed sin, but we do know that God has demonstrated victory over sin at the cross and the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

To allow evil does not deny the sovereignty of God and His active will. God is sovereign, and He is good. He always has the last word in our lives.

Our problem with good and evil is basically a problem of human sin and depravity. Sin is an attack upon God’s personhood and character. Man is not basically good; he is a sinner. That is not a compliment (Jer. 17:9; Rom. 3:23). It is a statement of fact. Evil is real and it is deadly (Rom. 6:23).

Our sin problem can be solved only by the power of God. We will all stand before the judgment seat of God and give an account of our lives. Unless we are found in Christ, we will spend an eternity in hell separated from the Lord God.

The problem of sin and evil becomes personal because we have all sinned in God’s eyes. Jesus used the news of the falling tower and the tragic murder of the Galileans to call men to repentance. In His grace He calls us to humble ourselves and repent when we suddenly face the tragic events in life.

“Unless you repent, you will likewise perish” is just as true in our day. We, too, are in immediate danger of God’s judgment, but for the grace of God.

Selah!

Message by Wil Pounds (c) 2006

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(c) 2006  Message by Wil Pounds. Anyone is free to use this material and distribute it, but it may not be sold under any circumstances whatsoever without the author's written consent.

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