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Life Hurts! Where’s God? - Part A

Connect with Skip Heitzig / Skip Heitzig
The Truth Network Radio
August 27, 2023 6:00 am

Life Hurts! Where’s God? - Part A

Connect with Skip Heitzig / Skip Heitzig

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August 27, 2023 6:00 am

"Why is there so much pain in the world?" is the most frequently asked question ever! We hate it when we, or those we love, are in pain. Today we see Jesus confront a hurting world. As we do, consider these words by Elizabeth Elliot (whose husband was murdered): "If God is in charge and loves us, then whatever is given is subject to His control and is meant ultimately for our joy."

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There is thinking even among some believers that I have spoken to that when something bad happens it's like it's probably because of something I did earlier like perhaps the traffic ticket in the afternoon is because I didn't have my devotions in the morning. God's getting back at me because it's a wrong way of thinking. Welcome to Connect with Skip weekend edition. Whenever tragedy strikes the first question we want answered is why? Well today in Connect with Skip weekend edition, Skip Heitzig takes some time to examine them in detail in order to see how the Bible might shed some light on the answers.

But first let's see what's going on in the Connect with Skip Resource Center this month. Josh McDowell has written books that rank among the best-selling Christian works of all time. Now with his son Sean, Josh has released Evidence for Jesus. God gave us our mind and our heart to work in unity.

To what? To glorify him. The Bible I call it fact fiction or fallacy. I want to answer two questions about the Bible.

This is what I struggle with as a non-believer. One, is what we have written down the same as what was written down 2,000 years ago or has it been changed? Second, was what was written down true? In Evidence for Jesus, Josh and Sean McDowell have adapted and updated the Evidence for Jesus section from their classic apologetics book Evidence that Demands a Verdict into a concise readable and accessible resource for those seeking answers about Jesus. This powerful new resource is our thanks for your gift of $50 or more to support the broadcast ministry of Connect with Skip Heitzig.

Josh and Sean McDowell make a powerful team. If you have questions about Jesus or know someone who does, this book is perfect. So get your copy of Evidence for Jesus today when you give a gift of $50 or more. Evidence for Jesus is our thanks for helping us expand the reach of the teachings on Connect with Skip.

Give online securely at connectwithskip.com slash offer or call 800-922-1888. Today we'll start in John chapter 9. So if you turn there in your Bibles, Skip Heitzig gets us started. You know that I love questions that children ask God and I've shared some before, but I found a few more. One child says, Dear God, thank you for my baby brother, but why? What I prayed for was a puppy. That's honest. Dear God, the Bible says you gave us everything or give us everything we ask for, so then why don't we have everything?

I think a little boy wrote that. Dear God, could you put another holiday between Christmas and Easter? There's nothing good there right now. I like this one. Dear God, I went to this wedding and I was wedding and they kissed right in the church.

Is that okay? And finally this one. Dear God, my brothers told me about being born, but it didn't sound right. They are just kidding, aren't they? I suspect we all have a few questions we'd like to ask God. And I suspect those questions would fall along the lines of why is there so much pain and suffering and evil and disease and war in this world? George Barna helps us. He polled the American public and said, if you could ask God any question and you knew that God would give you an answer, what would you ask him?

The large majority of people said those questions. I'd ask him about pain and suffering and hardship. There is pain. There is suffering. There are diseases. In fact, there are so many diseases now doctors cannot even keep up with them.

They're telling us that what's coming down the pike are diseases that they have no treatment for, no way to handle. I stand before you this morning not as somebody who has all the answers. I've questioned myself. I stand before you as your pastor, but as a fellow sufferer. I've had my share of loss, people that I love dearly who have passed away. I've had my share of accusations and misunderstanding. And yet, though I don't understand them, I do believe that God has a plan.

You know, it might be said that we're either suffering today or we're between episodes of suffering. I hold my little grandson and I look at him and I got to tell you, he brings me such joy when he does absolutely nothing. He didn't have to do anything at all. He's just there. It's like, wow. But I know he's going to grow up and I know he's going to bring lots of more love and lots of more joy and experience all sorts of wonderful fun times. But I also look at that little child and I recognize that he'll have his share of pain that will scar his life and suffering and tragedy.

It's all a part of being human. John chapter 9, the first 12 verses is about a healing. Five times the New Testament records that Jesus healed the blind. And what a wonderful and miraculous story this is. This man, we discover, is blind from birth.

I read an article this week about this bionic implant they have actually come up with that will hook to the electrodes, hook to nerves in the brain, sending impulses enabling somebody blind to somewhat see. And as wonderful as that is, and we welcome all that technology, that can't hold a candle to real, miraculous healing like this. Once again, Jesus Christ shows what John said he is throughout the book, the God of very gods able to heal even those who are blind. But this morning in our section of John 9, there's four realities about suffering that I want you to notice with me. Number one, suffering always provokes questions.

We find it here. Verse 1, now as Jesus passed by, he saw a man who was blind from birth. And his disciples asked him saying, Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents that he was born blind?

Now, let's get the setting. If you remember, Jesus has been in the temple, right? And he had quite a verbal confrontation with that crowd. And they picked up stones as if to kill him. And the previous verse says Jesus passed through the crowd and went his way. So he's leaving that scene. He's with his disciples.

We don't know where they are. Somewhere in Jerusalem, one of the many corridors that is in that scene, one of the many corridors that is in that city, and he sees a blind man. And the disciples, following suit, seeing the blind man, ask questions. Because suffering provokes questions. Why is this man suffering?

Where did this come from? Why is there evil in the world? Now, we don't know why he was blind. There are all sorts of reasons that people were blind. And by the way, you should know that 2,000 years ago, blindness was very common. It was an occurrence to see people who were blind lining the streets, at the gates, etc. For a number of reasons, unsanitary conditions was one of them. Poverty was another.

Bright, bright, unfiltered sunlight, like we have here, but they didn't have sunglasses back then. And finally, blowing dust and sand, all of those factors contributed to blindness. But there's something I want you to notice that may be the reason for this man's blindness.

Notice that Jesus saw a man who was blind from birth. See those two words, from birth? In the original language, it's ek genetes, literally, out from birth. Or it could be translated, on the occasion of, or by reason of, or out of the birth itself.

Let me explain. One of the most common reasons that people were blind 2,000 years ago was a condition prevalent then, and still very prevalent in parts of Africa and other parts of the world, called ophthalmia neonatorum, aka gonorrhea of the eyes. The bacterium lodged within the birth canal of the woman, unbeknownst to her, and when the baby was born, that bacterium settled in the eyelids, the conjunctiva of the eye, the mucous membrane that lines the eye. And within two or three days, that baby began to form pus pockets around the eye, and within a week or two, the baby was totally blind. And so, because this man was born out of, or blind out of the birth, it could be that the birth itself, that ophthalmia neonatorum, that ophthalmia neonatorum was the cause of this blindness.

We don't know exactly. What we do know is that if you were blind, you were consigned to a miserable existence 2,000 years ago. Because they didn't have welfare system to take care of it, very few families would take care of somebody who was blind throughout their life, and typically, the person would be consigned to a life of begging. And so, no doubt, this person was a beggar.

Hand was out, or there was some apparatus to collect coins, living off the benevolence of those who would pass by. Jesus sees a blind man. They, the disciples, ask the question. Suffering provokes questions. Human suffering, I'll say it, is the number one roadblock for many people when it comes to faith with God, or faith in God. Number one roadblock. It stimulates the most questions.

How can a loving God who's all-powerful and all-knowing allow evil to exist? Everyone struggles with it. Everyone struggles with it.

Everyone. Philip Yancey writes, honestly, if you pinned them against the wall in a dark, secret moment, many Christians would probably admit that pain was God's one mistake. He really should have worked a little harder and invented a better way of coping with the world's greatest dangers. What makes it worse for us is when we see what we would perceive as innocent people who are suffering. You know, it would be one thing if all the bad guys got sick, and if all the villains and murderers and thieves, they got cancer and they got broken bones and they got Parkinson's disease, but when you see people who are innocent victims or who are good people and they're suffering so intensely. Well, it was what put Asaph almost over the edge. If you remember a few weeks ago in Psalm 73, Asaph looked at it and said, my feet nearly slipped. My steps almost stumbled when I saw that. I almost cashed it in when it comes to following and believing in God. Suffering provokes question.

Second thing I want you to see. Suffering defies explanations. Now, watch the disciples try to explain this man's malady. His disciples asked him saying, Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born this man or his parents, that he was born blind?

It's a weird question. Jesus answered, neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him. The explanation of these disciples is a typical explanation, especially back then. It's the sin explanation. Somebody had to sin. All the rabbis then taught that there was a direct connect between suffering and sin. Somebody had to sin for this to happen. But here's my question. How do you sin and get born blind?

Isn't that a weird question? Who sinned? Was this guy or his parents that he was born blind? Do you know that the Jews 2,000 years ago had a theology of prenatal sin? They said that you can sin in the womb, in the fetal stage and all the way back to the embryonic stage.

I don't know what they do when a child kicks in the womb. Maybe they think, see, rebellion. They taught that. Also, if Jews lived in areas where Greeks populated it, called Hellenistic Jews, they would have around them the philosophy of the Greek world, which believed in the preexistence of the soul. And the Greeks actually taught, and maybe it was influenced into some of the Jews thinking that the soul could do something that was sinful, and you would meet out the consequences of that in the body in which the soul would inhabit. But they asked the question, who sinned, this man or his parents that he is born blind? Maybe, the disciples thought, maybe it was something his parents did that caused the child to be blind.

Now, that's a low blow, isn't it? When you have a child with a malady and you come along and you say, well, you did something wrong because it's your sin that caused your child to be like this. However, again, 2,000 years ago, that was part of the belief system. Some of the Jews took a familiar portion of Scripture and twisted it. When I quote the Scripture, you'll recognize it.

This is how they twisted it. The Scripture is Exodus chapter 20, verse 5. It says, I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generation. Some of them twisted that to mean that if you as a parent sin, your child will have bad things happen to you. Well, that is not at all the context of that passage. God in that passage, Exodus 20 is speaking not personally but nationally. If you nationally do these things, then nationally these things are going to happen.

And it did. The Babylonian captivity and other such examples show the meaning of that. But these disciples had that background of belief system of either prenatal sin or the parents did something that caused these things to happen.

A wrong view. Now, I need to say that sometimes suffering is a direct result of sin or stupidity, errant thinking, errant activity. For instance, a child, if born of promiscuous parents who contracted a venereal disease, those effects can be meted out in the child's future.

If the child is the parents of an alcoholic, there are certain things that can occur as well there. But you can't always tie suffering to sin. Now, there is a false theology that has been very prevalent, the prosperity doctrine, that says basically, yes, there is evil.

Yes, there is sin. Yeah, there's a lot of suffering. But if you're a child of God, hallelujah, you don't have to experience it. You don't have to experience it.

You can drive a Lamborghini and not a neon. You can always be healthy and wealthy and wise. That's the thinking behind it. Now, all of that theology aside, there is thinking even among some believers that I have spoken to, that when something bad happens, it's like, it's probably because of something I did earlier. Like perhaps the traffic ticket in the afternoon is because I didn't have my devotions in the morning. God's getting back at me because of it. It's a wrong way of thinking. Don't assume when people are suffering that they have done something wrong automatically. And the best case study of that is Job himself, right?

Remember his friends came to him and tried to pin this same explanation on him. Well, Job, your kids are dead. Your wife's mad at you.

You're like losing your health. You must be some kind of bad sinner. Problem with that is God said, have you considered my servant, Job? There's nobody like him in the earth.

He's the best I've got. He's the most righteous one there is. So that's not a good explanation, but that is their explanation, sin. Now, since we're dealing with it, think of a few more explanations people have for the origin of evil. The most common one that unbelievers have whenever they see evil or suffering or pain is this. It's the, there must not be a God then explanation. Here's their thinking. It's usually stated in the form of a syllogism, a series of logical steps.

If you're in a philosophy class, it goes like this. The biblical God is all loving. The biblical God is all knowing. The biblical God is all powerful, but massive evil exists in the world. Therefore, the biblical God cannot exist. Well, there's a problem in that kind of thinking and that kind of statement. As soon as you say there's so much evil, it presupposes you have a notion of ultimate good.

That's the problem with it. You see, if in a classroom one student gets a 90% on the test and another gets a 60 and another gets a 40, it presupposes there's a real standard of what? A hundred percent. So if there's no God, then where did we ever get a standard of goodness by which to measure what is evil?

As C.S. Lewis brilliantly put it, if the world is so bad and the universe is so bad, how did people ever come to attribute it to a good and loving God? Now, there's another explanation of evil, and I don't have time to get into them all, but it's sort of a cross between the two. One includes God a little bit and throws out the rest of it.

And it's this notion. There is a God, and He'd like to help, but He can't. He can't.

He'd like to help, but He can't. It's the deist position. Acknowledges God, and part of that is even in a realm of theology called process theology. Have you heard of process theology? Process theology says that God is in the process of becoming a better God. He's not really capable of handling all the evil in the world, but every year and every generation and every war and every bad thing that happens, and it's all good because God is learning from it. And He'll get it one day.

He just needs to learn a little while longer. Process theology. Well, not only is that not a God that is a biblical God at all, but that is not a God worth believing in at all.

It's like having a big brother who can't do anything when you need him to help. So now what I want you to notice is how Jesus doesn't deal with the philosophical problem of evil. Verse 3, Jesus answered, Neither this man nor his parents sinned. Now, He's not saying He's sinless and His parents are sinless. He's saying that is not the issue here. Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in Him. He's pushing their whole argument of sin and suffering aside and saying you can't always equate sin and suffering directly. And that's really not the point.

The point is I have a plan. Watch. That's what He is saying here. He is in effect saying this man here is a miracle waiting to happen. And his whole life he has been blind, but it has been worth it because he's going to reveal the glory of God. He's going to be healed physically. He'll be able to see, but it's going to be a miracle that attests to who Jesus is. And this man's going to see Jesus face to face, but that he might reveal the glory of God.

Here's the point I want to make. God may allow suffering in your life to affect a greater purpose. Here's a man who is suffering. God's going to affect a greater purpose. God might allow suffering in your life to affect a greater purpose. Well, as you can see, the issue of pain, suffering, and evil in the world and where exactly God fits in when life hurts is a complicated, difficult subject. However, it's not one that the Bible shies away from.

And as we'll see when we resume our study next time, it does offer clear answers to this question. We share these messages to help you connect to God through his word and grow in your relationship with him through intentional study of scripture. And when you support this ministry, you keep these teachings you love available to you and to so many others around the world so they too can grow and connect with God. Just call 800-922-1888 to give a gift today. That's 800-922-1888. Or visit connectwithskip.com slash donate. That's connectwithskip.com slash donate. Thank you. If you'd like a copy of today's message, you can find it at connectwithskip.com. Or you can call us and order one at 1-800-922-1888.

Each copy is just $4 plus shipping. Again, find out more when you call 1-800-922-1888. We'll continue to explore what the Bible has to say about God's presence in times of pain and suffering next time right here in Connect with Skip Weekend Edition, a presentation of Connection Communications. Connecting you to God's never changing truth in ever changing times.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-08-27 06:11:30 / 2023-08-27 06:20:02 / 9

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