Thursday, June 28, 2018

Why Does God Allow Bad Things to Happen to Christians?

I honestly haven’t heard the question posed all that often, but I’ve heard other Christians, especially preachers, say that it is a common question posed by those outside the church. I hear it just as often in the church. Why does God allow bad things to happen to Christians? It’s something worth posing, because we might feel as though God allowing bad things to happen to His own children is contrary to His nature.

However, bad things didn’t originate with God. God created a perfect world and a sinless humanity: 

Lo, this only have I found, that God hath made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions. –Ecclesiastes 7:29 

But, we know how long that lasted. God created man with a free will, and Adam and Eve used that free will to choose to sin. (To not believe in free will would imply that God created them with the purpose of them sinning.) 

It was not God who sinned, but man. And so man also brought the consequences of sin into the world. 

Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned… Romans 5:12 

Why do we have disease? Why do we have hatred? Why do we have addiction? Why do we have death? It all started with the Fall. 

The bad things we experience in life are a consequence of the choice of sin—a choice everyone has made. This was not done at the beckoning of God, but in spite of Him. 

The other reason as to why bad things still happen to Christians can be found in John 6: 

And Jesus took the loaves; and when he had given thanks, he distributed to the disciples, and the disciples to them that were set down; and likewise of the fishes as much as they would. When they were filled… John 6:11-12a 

The day following, when the people which stood on the other side of the sea saw that there was none other boat there, save that one whereinto his disciples were entered, and that Jesus went not with his disciples into the boat, but that his disciples were gone away alone; (Howbeit there came other boats from Tiberias nigh unto the place where they did eat bread, after that the Lord had given thanks:)When the people therefore saw that Jesus was not there, neither his disciples, they also took shipping, and came to Capernaum, seeking for Jesus. And when they had found him on the other side of the sea, they said unto him, Rabbi, when camest thou hither? Jesus answered them and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled. John 6:22-26 

I saw this live in theaters and it did a
great job with answering this question.
There sat probably 15,000 people to listen to Him, and they didn't have food. Jesus miraculously provides for them. When Jesus was footing the bill, it was easy to follow Him. 

But Jesus isn't calling for moochers. He's calling for worshipers. He's calling for people to follow Him because of who He is, not what He can do for them. If the only thing Jesus ever gave us was eternal life and a relationship with Him, it would still be so much more than we deserve. 

So when Jesus sees this crowd come look for Him the next day, He calls them out. "Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled." Jesus then gives the crowd a "hard saying" (v. 60):
I am that bread of life. Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying, How can this man give us his flesh to eat? Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him. John 6:48-56 

Here's what Jesus is saying (and He's not describing the Eucharist): We should be seeking Him, not giveaways and benefits. People love a free lunch, and Jesus could have been the most popular person in the region because He could have always provided one. But that's not what the Kingdom of Heaven is built on. Jesus wants worshipers. We are to hunger after Him. And we see the result of Jesus's teaching: 

From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him. John 6:66 

This validates (as if He needed validation) what Jesus claimed. Most of the crowd was following Him for the handouts. Jesus's generosity and blessings made their lives better. Who wouldn't want to be a Christian with such incentives? 

But, the Bible tells us the reality of what it means to be a Christian: 

Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. Matthew 16:24 

Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God; He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself. After that he poureth water into a bason, and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded. John 13:3-5 

And the multitude rose up together against them: and the magistrates rent off their clothes, and commanded to beat them. And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison, charging the jailor to keep them safely: Who, having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks. Acts 16:22-24 

Now about that time Herod the king stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the church. And he killed James the brother of John with the sword. And because he saw it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to take Peter also. (Then were the days of unleavened bread.) And when he had apprehended him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him; intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people. Peter therefore was kept in prison Acts 12:1-5a 

And she went forth, and said unto her mother, What shall I ask? And she said, The head of John the Baptist. And she came in straightway with haste unto the king, and asked, saying, I will that thou give me by and by in a charger the head of John the Baptist. And the king was exceeding sorry; yet for his oath's sake, and for their sakes which sat with him, he would not reject her. And immediately the king sent an executioner, and commanded his head to be brought: and he went and beheaded him in the prison, And brought his head in a charger, and gave it to the damsel: and the damsel gave it to her mother. Mark 6:24-28 

ISIS execution of Christians
Christianity is a complete denial of oneself and total surrender to God. It is a call to sacrifice and to serve others. It is a call to lay down even one's life. 

Certainly God bestows blessings on His children. Christianity is full of gifts from God. But God has set it up so that we must have the right motive behind it. He gives fair warning in the Bible that following Jesus includes total surrender. No one who is truly aware of what Christianity entails will follow Jesus for the benefits. 

Because that's not what God wants. He wants worshipers. He wants us to examine and find the truth. And when we arrive to the truth of who He is, we follow Him for that reason. We follow Him because He is all-powerful, holy, the Creator, and the One who died for us. Our following is a recognition that He is God and there is no alternative but to submit to Him. God could force everyone to follow Him. He could promise incentives that would cause everyone to follow Him. He doesn't do that. He wants genuine surrender and worship of Him. 

Why do bad things still happen to God's people? It is because the world is fallen and sinful, and in that fallen and sinful world God calls us to genuine faith in and worship of who He is.