God’s, Can’t You Stop the Pain?Vol. 28 No. 6 | Sep-Oct 2018
“Pastor William is dead.” The news came as a sickening blow to Romanian Seventh-day Adventists.
Pastor William was not only a close friend to many church members; but he was also an eloquent preacher, a scholar, and a consecrated evangelist. In times when the outreach of the church in Romania was crippled by communism’s iron grip, he had held evangelistic meetings in churches packed to the walls. One night while the pastor was driving home from such a meeting, a terrible accident took place. The next morning the police pulled his car out from under a large truck. He must have fallen asleep while driving, was the official version of the cause of death. But was there more to this story? How about foul play? Had the secret police been up to their usual antics? Rumors started circulating. Yet the weightiest question on people’s minds was, why had God allowed this to happen?
Someday, if it has not happened already, grief, pain, or catastrophe will touch your life. Loved ones die or suffer lingering illnesses, friends are killed tragically, families are shattered by messy divorces, and our closest friends turn their backs on us.
The reality of suffering haunts our optimism and raises nagging questions about the existence of a loving God. For if there really is Someone out there who is all-powerful and loving, then why doesn’t He put a stop to all the pain and sadness? Why do sincere Christians suffer, while others living in indulgence and crime seem to go through life unscathed? What kind of lopsided justice is that?
The Bible offers concrete answers about who is responsible for death and suffering, and reveals the amazing plan to eradicate these evils from our planet.
I. WHAT IS GOD LIKE?
1. How does the Bible describe God? Psalm 103:8
“The Lord is _______________ and, slow to __________________ , and abounding in ______________________ .”
2. What one word best describes God? 1 John 4:16
3. Who came to reveal to humanity what God is really like? John 1:18; 17:1–8
4. What did God do for humanity through the gift of His Son? John 3:16, 17
The Bible describes a loving God who is even concerned with little sparrows falling to the ground. See Matt. 10:29–31. Through the life of Christ, we see God in action healing the sick, raising the dead, giving sight to the blind, and bringing peace to people’s sin-sick hearts. This picture of God is incompatible with the notion that suffering, death, and evil are somehow God’s fault. How, then, did evil originate?
IV. GOD’S PLAN TO CONQUER EVIL
In His love, God has not left us to misery and eternal doom. The Bible tells us that someday He will restore the peace and harmony that existed before sin and evil entered.
1. God has promised to create ____________________ and ______________________ . Isa. 65:17
2. What does God promise to do for those who are a part of this new kingdom? Rev. 21:4, 7; 22:14
3. What will the inhabitants of the new earth be like? Matt. 5:3, 5, 8–10
The new earth will be a wonderful place to live. But until it comes, we still live on a planet that Satan inhabits. In the meantime, there is a part of God’s kingdom that is already established: the kingdom of grace. In a hostile world, God has set up His kingdom in the hearts of men and women. See Matt. 3:1, 2; John 18:36.
4. What does He promise to do for us until the physical kingdom comes? John 14:27
5. Even though sickness, tragedy, pain, and suffering are around us, what promise can we claim? Rom. 8:28, 35−39
II. UNMASKING THE ENEMY
In the beginning, everything was perfect. God communed face to face with His two children, Adam and Eve. Then Eve was persuaded by a cunning foe, disguised as a serpent, to disregard God’s express commands. Then Adam joined her. The result of this terrible decision was pain, sorrow, and ultimately death for the whole human race. See Gen. 3:16−19.
1. Who does the Bible identify as the deceiver? Rev. 12:9
2. Where did he start his rebellion? Rev. 12:7−8
3. What position did he once occupy in the courts of heaven? Ezek. 28:14
4. What position did this angel covet? Isa. 14:12–14
5. What was it that made this angel feel unhappy with his position and desire more power? Ezek. 28:17
6. Was Satan created with evil? Ezek. 28:15
Nothing is more plainly taught in Scripture than that God was in no way responsible for the entrance of evil. Because all of God’s children, including the angels in heaven, were created with the capacity to choose, it was possible for any of them to rebel against God’s loving authority and government. As a result, Satan chose to oppose God and claimed to find fault with His government. Lucifer’s character became evil and he became unfit for the society of heaven.
Suffering and catastrophes may come simply because we live in a fallen world (like when natural disasters hit), or because of evil committed under Satan’s influence. God at times chooses to intervene on humanity’s behalf. Life-threatening illnesses are healed; miraculous deliverances from violence and bloodshed take place. But God evidently does not intervene in reaction to every pain suffered or every evil committed; otherwise we would not be able to realize the tragic consequences of sin and He would violate human free will. Two extraordinary events recorded in the Scriptures shed further light on why God does allow Satan and his accomplices to murder, maim, or traumatize innocent people, and on the final solution He provided for totally eradicating sin and suffering from the universe, once and for all.
V. THE MAN FROM UZ
1. What accusation did Satan make about Job’s loyalty to God? Job 1:6−11
2. What did God allow Satan to do in order to reveal the depths of Job’s loyalty? Job 1:12−2:10
3. What was Job’s response to these tragedies? Job 23:10−12
God sometimes allows His chosen people to suffer tragedy to demonstrate their loyalty to Him and to refine them to reflect His character even more fully. God, however, has promised His children to bring out good out of evil (Rom. 8:28). Read about the outcome of Job’s sufferings in Job 42:10−17.
III. THE REBELLION SPREADS
1. Who joined Satan in his rebellion? Rev. 12:7
2. What did God finally have to do with Satan and his angels? Rev. 12:8, 9
3. Where does Satan live now? Rev. 12:12, 13
4. How did Jesus identify Satan? John 12:31
As long as Adam and Eve remained faithful to God, their world was under the loving authority and sovereignty of God. But when they chose to believe the lies of God’s enemy, they transferred the rulership of this planet to Satan. He now has set up his kingdom and rules with all the evil inherent in his nature, causing sickness, pain, death, crime, and war.
VI. THE CROSS
1. What did Jesus say would happen to Satan when He, the Son of God, would be lifted up on the cross? What would be the result of Christ’s crucifixion? John 12:31, 32
Satan inspired the Jewish leaders to crucify Jesus, but it was really our sin that caused the death of the Son of God. The cross teaches us that sin brings death, pain, and suffering. Only as sin is removed from the universe will God be able to restore the peace and harmony that once existed, and only as sin is removed from our hearts will we be able to participate in that purified kingdom.
At the cross, the deceiver was completely unmasked to the universe. As we experience suffering and pain today, we can understand the hideous nature of sin. We also can lose sympathy with rebellion against God. Then, we can long to hasten the coming of Jesus Christ, who will put an end to all suffering and death.
Satan, not God, is the author of pain and suffering. God has set up His kingdom of grace on earth. Everyone who is a part of this kingdom may receive the assurance that God will only allow only things that are for our best to happen to us. God is also preparing a kingdom for His children where there will be no pain, suffering, or death.
Today I choose to be part of God’s kingdom on earth and to claim His promise of a new earth free from suffering and pain.
In the Ten Commandments and other Bible passages, why does God portray Himself as a “jealous God”? How can a holy God also be jealous?
I. In the Beginning
II. The Change
III. God’s Solution
V. Will You Come
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