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If God is All Powerful, Why Does He Allow Suffering?

Core Christianity / Adriel Sanchez and Bill Maier
The Truth Network Radio
December 28, 2020 1:00 am

If God is All Powerful, Why Does He Allow Suffering?

Core Christianity / Adriel Sanchez and Bill Maier

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December 28, 2020 1:00 am

Episode 607 | Adriel Sanchez and Bill Maier answer caller questions.

CoreChristianity.com

 

Show Notes

 

1. When I remember bible verses, can I trust that that is God’s voice talking to me? Is that what the bible refers to as the “still small voice”?

2. Who made God?

3. After reading a parable that Jesus told in Luke 19:11-27, I found myself a little confused about what it means. What is Jesus wanting us to understand here?

4. I don’t know if you saw that movie Batman v. Superman that came out a few years ago, but in that movie, the villain, Lex Luthor, makes a comment about God. He says that God allows evil because he either doesn’t care, or is not powerful enough to stop it. I know this is a movie but this seems like a good point, especially when you think of senseless suffering, like with children dying. How would you answer Lex Luthor’s question?

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If God is all powerful, why does he allow so much suffering in our world? That's just one of the questions we'll be answering on today's edition of CORE Christianity. Hi, this is Bill Meyer, along with Pastor Adriel Sanchez, and this is the radio program where we answer your questions about the Bible and the Christian life every day. You can call us right now with your question at 833-THE-CORE.

That's 1-833-843-2673. You can also post your question on our Facebook or Instagram accounts, and you can email us at questionsatcorechristianity.com. We'd love to hear from you. First up today, if you love bacon, you will definitely like this. The Hormel Meat Company is offering fans of bacon the chance to enjoy the scent of their favorite breakfast meat anytime they want with a bacon scented face mask. Yes, Hormel says the Black Label Breathable Bacon Mask uses the latest in bacon smell technology to give you the experience of smelling bacon anytime you don your COVID-19 mask. Bacon fans can also enter a contest to win a bacon scented mask, and Hormel says that for every person who enters, they will donate one meal to the Feeding America food banks. Are you a big bacon fan, Adriel? Yeah, I am, but I don't know if I'm that much of a bacon fan. I feel like there's an easier way. You could just cook some bacon and put it inside your mask when you wear it. So that's another way to think if you want the bacon smell, the real deal. Exactly.

Oh, man. Well, let's get to our first question of the day. This is a call that we received from Elias. What an excellent question, Elias, and thank you for calling in with that question. The language of the Still Small Voice comes from the book of Kings, 1 Kings chapter 19, where God is speaking to the prophet Elijah. And the text says that God spoke to him in a low whisper in a still small voice. So Christians have taken that and said, you know, gotten this idea from this passage that that's how the Lord is speaking to people today. I really like that you talked about how God speaks in the scriptures and how, yeah, when we read God's word, God is speaking to us.

I don't know that I would say, well, that's the still small voice. But then you brought in another passage that Jesus gives to his disciples in the Gospel of John, where he talked about his sheep hearing his voice. I think that the way we're supposed to understand this is that the Spirit of God uses the word of God in our lives. So God uses his word to speak to us, to apply the word to us by the power of the Holy Spirit, so that the Holy Spirit grants us understanding, so that we recognize that this isn't just the word of man, but this is the word of God. This is Christ speaking to us in the scriptures.

And so it's really important that we recognize that, that we recognize that the Spirit of God is the one who works in this, and that it's the scriptures where we hear God's voice. Some time ago, my daughter, we were taking a walk, this was probably a couple years ago, I'm guessing she was probably four, three maybe, and she asked a question. It just sort of stopped me.

It was in the middle of a walk, stopped me right there in my tracks. She said, Papa, how come God don't talk? It was interesting, because for her at least, she had heard us talk to God quite a bit.

We'd pray before meals, we'd pray before bed, we'd pray at various times in the day. We would talk to God all the time, and she wanted to know, how come God hasn't given us an answer yet? Where's that still small voice, or that booming voice from heaven? Papa, how come God don't talk?

And I think a lot of people, it's a child's question, but it's also the question of many others, grownups. God, why aren't you speaking to me, or where is it that I can hear your voice? Is it that still small voice? Is it that sense that we get, that feeling that we get when something just pops into our mind? Well, maybe sometimes God can use his word providentially in that way, but I think we need to make sure, Elias, that we're studying the scriptures, that we're understanding them in their context, and that we're letting the Spirit, praying that the Spirit, frankly, opens our eyes, our hearts to understand God's word as it was intended to be understood, so that in that way, it might strengthen us in our own relationship with the Lord. And so it could be, Elias, that as you're recalling Bible verses, that that is the grace of God, the Holy Spirit at work in your life, guiding you, using the scriptures to help guide you. And I thought, I don't want you to discount that, but I would say make sure, as you think about hearing God's voice, if you will, that it's always attached to God's word.

It's not something out there coming from left field. It's always God's word, and it's God's word rightly understood as you study it in context. So thank you again for that question. May the Lord bless you as you continue to hear him speaking to you in the scriptures. You know, Elias, we actually have a great resource here at Core Christianity that could be very helpful to you. It's called How Does God Talk to Us? Yeah, Elias, I want you to get a hold of this resource. Go over to corechristianity.com and look up How Does God Talk to Us? It's just a study that's going to unpack how it is that we as Christians today, living in the 21st century, hear the voice of God. It's so important for us to understand. So Elias, go to our website corechristianity.com forward slash offers and get a hold of How Does God Talk to Us?

Well, Elias, thanks so much for your question. This is Core Christianity. And if you want to get in touch with us through email, our email address is questions at corechristianity.com. Rodney wrote to us and said this, Who made God? I thought about this question myself, and I believe I could answer it if put on the spot, but I'm curious to know what your answer would be.

Yeah, thank you for that question. My answer to that question is God is uncreated. So no one made God.

I mean, God is different than we are. We're created. We're dependent upon something else, God, namely, but we're, you know, we're born into the world.

And so a lot of people, you know, they just sort of assume, well, that's how everything is. But there's this this really important distinction that we need to understand one of the most important distinctions, actually, in theology, is the distinction between the creature and the creator. We're creatures, we're finite, we're created, we're dependent upon God. God is uncreated. He always was and is.

He never had a beginning. Now, that's really hard for us to wrap our minds around, I understand, because we're finite creatures. But we need to recognize that God isn't like us. This is one of the biggest problems, I think, in the church today. And for many Christians, we assume that God is just like us. And then we sort of, you know, impute our own ideas of what God should be like on him on the basis of our own experience.

So we have to be careful that we don't do that. Trying to understand God as he is in his essence is impossible. Like an ant trying to comprehend core Christianity, you know, in this radio program, that kind of a thing.

It's just unfathomable. God is the uncreated one, and by him, all things were made. Now, Genesis chapter one, when it talks about the creation, it depicts God as this great king who made all things from nothing.

He didn't need anything. John chapter one talks about Jesus there at the very beginning. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. Right there you have the doctrine of the Holy Trinity, you know, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, distinct persons. The Word was with God, but he also was God. And then John says this, he was in the beginning with God, all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made.

John is emphatic about this. Everything was made through Jesus, and without Jesus, there wasn't anything made that was made. And so when it comes to, you know, these categories, creator and creature, Jesus is in the category of creator. He too is uncreated, the eternal Son of God. And so Rodney, God isn't like us. God was not made.

He didn't need to be made. He always was, and through him, all things were made. You're listening to Core Christianity with Pastor Adrian Sanchez, and here's a question that came in from Wendell through our email. He says, what theological books would you recommend?

Ooh, I like that question. Boy, there are so many. I mean, obviously, I would recommend Core Christianity, which is a kind of an introduction to the Core Christian doctrines that every Christian believes or should believe.

And I just want to mention that one. And I know we mentioned on the program from time to time, but look, so many Christians today don't understand the teaching of the Bible. One of the things that the book, Core Christianity, written by my friend Dr. Michael Horton, does is it sort of walks you through these Core Christian doctrines that you need to understand. And they're not just out there sort of pie-in-the-sky doctrines.

No, they relate directly to us, to our redemption, to our lives, to understanding how God speaks to us today. Really a helpful resource. So I'd recommend that book. Other books that are just wonderful books that have been impactful for me, there's an older book, The Confessions of St. Augustine.

Wonderful book. I read it in college, and it really is, I would talk about it in terms of a theology book, but it really is St. Augustine, this fifth-century church father sharing the story of his conversion. And one of the things I loved about that book in particular was it was, for me at least, a reminder of the fact that, hey, people have been loving and serving Jesus for a really long time. The church didn't begin in, you know, 1963 or something like that.

Christians have been following the Lord, serving the Lord, studying the Scriptures, walking with Jesus for years. And so reading Augustine's Confessions is really helpful for me. There is some good theology there, but there is just also just this wonderful sense of, boy, the church is way bigger than I ever imagined. So I would recommend that book.

I'd recommend J.I. Packer's Knowing God. Knowing God is a wonderful book. That's going to get you a little bit deeper into some of these doctrines that we think are really, really important. If you're looking for stuff related to apologetics, we oftentimes recommend The Story of Reality by Greg Kochel. That sort of gets into worldview, you know, defenses of various Christian doctrines, in particular doctrines like the resurrection. That's a really helpful book for defending the faith.

And so those are a handful of books. You know, you kind of have Augustine's Confessions. That's going to be more church history, but also theology, core Christianity, you know, the introduction of the core doctrines that a lot of us have sort of missed. Story of Reality, more apologetics-based, Defending the Faith. You know, those are all books that I would recommend if you're looking to get started studying theology, Christian theology. You know, Adriel Wendell's question reminds me that there are some pastors, some Christian leaders who will say all we need is the Bible and that theology and doctrine are simply the ideas of man so that they're humanistic and they're adding on to Scripture and therefore they can lead us astray. How would you respond to that?

Yeah, I'm glad you brought that up. I remember when I was thinking about pursuing a cult in the ministry, I was going to a church and I suggested to the pastor, one of the pastors there at that church, that I go to seminary. And he looked at me with this concerned look and he said, Seminary is cemetery. The idea was, you know, that's where you go for your faith to die and this sort of pie in the sky theological mumbo jumbo is not really going to help you grow in your relationship with Jesus. I remember being a little bit discouraged because at least for me at that time, as a young man, the sense that I had was, boy, I want to continue to dig into the Scriptures.

I want to know them as well as I can so that I can teach them. For me, it wasn't necessarily like study the deep things of theology. I just wanted to know God.

Well, guess what? You can't know God unless you understand theology. Now, what I mean by that is, you know, it's not about locking yourself in a room and becoming a theological egghead or something like that.

It's just this. As you study the Scriptures, you're doing the work of theology. Theology just means the study of God.

And there have been many very godly men and women throughout the history of the church who have studied the Scriptures too and have formulated their thoughts and their ideas and put them together in helpful ways. And in studying these things, actually, it's not supposed to make you more prideful, more arrogant. It's not supposed to kill your faith. What it should do is it should kindle a fire inside of you, a fire of love for God, of love for your neighbor, of humility, because you recognize the more that you learn that God is greater than you could ever imagine. And so I encourage people all the time, I say, look, no, you want to grow in your understanding of the Lord and your relationship with Jesus? Don't discount the study of theology. You can't. You have to know God's word.

You have to study it. And you have to dig deep. And the deeper you dig, the more you realize, wow, this God is amazing. Now, there is a danger, Bill, and I think that's one of the reasons why a lot of people say, oh, you know, study theology, you know, why can't we just love Jesus, that kind of thing.

And that's this. Knowledge does puff up. I mean, Paul says this. There is a danger that, you know, as people study, they can become prideful, arrogant, unloving. I mean, you think of the Pharisees. I talk about people who studied the scriptures, and yet they totally missed it.

Still, they didn't understand the scriptures as they should. We have to be careful that as we study the word of God, we're also growing in our love for God. That's what the scriptures are meant to do. That's what theology is meant to do. It's meant to help us fall more in love with Jesus, to rightly represent him as we speak to others about who he is.

And so I've kind of gone on for a little while about this, but just because I want to encourage you as you're listening to this. You know, we sometimes do get into these deeper discussions and issues and theological questions, and the goal is not to make us prideful. The goal is we want you to know God.

We want you to understand what he said in his word. We want you to grow in your relationship with Jesus. So don't discount the study of theology. Embrace it and pray that as you grow in your understanding, you'll grow in your love for God and humility and in the grace and the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. Great perspective on that.

Thank you, Adriel. This is CORE Christianity with Pastor Adriel Sanchez. Here at the CORE, we strive to help you understand the core truths of the Christian faith, and we want to help as many people gain a clearer understanding of the gospel as possible. The CORE message of Christianity, and we do that through the articles on our website, the resources we produce, and every question that we answer on this program. But you know what? We can't do it without your help.

That's right, Bill. We're a listener-supported program, and if you've benefited and been encouraged by the answers to the questions about the Christian faith that you hear on CORE Christianity, we want to ask you to please consider sending a gift now to help us continue. As a thank you for a gift of $20 or more, we'll send you our new resource, How to Read the Bible. It's a resource that will show you how to answer some of the most important questions that come up when we read the Bible and encounter Jesus and his gospel for the first time. It will introduce you to the history of the Bible, key concepts that help tie the Old Testament and the New Testament into one cohesive whole, and key ideas from the main sections of the Bible and more. It's a 10-week study that can be used in personal devotions, Sunday school classes, or your Bible study group. Each weekly lesson includes selected passages from the Bible, reflection questions, and explanations of the key themes every Christian should know about the Bible as a whole. To make a donation and receive this new study, just head over to corechristianity.com forward slash bible. That's corechristianity.com forward slash bible.

And on behalf of the entire team here at CORE Radio, we thank you so much for your support. Let's get to another question. This one from Michelle, who posted on our Instagram account, and she says, I don't know if you saw the movie Batman versus Superman that came out a few years ago, but in that film, the bad guy, Lex Luthor, makes a comment about God. He says that God allows evil because he either doesn't care or is not powerful enough to stop it. I know this is a movie, but it seems like a good point, especially when you think of the senseless suffering in this world, like with children dying.

How would you respond to Lex Luthor's claim? Yeah, it really is a good question. I didn't see the movie, actually, but it's what's oftentimes referred to as the problem of theodicy. The problem of suffering in the world where we claim that God is great, that God is all powerful, and yet there's still suffering in the world. The question is, and this is what people will oftentimes say, either God is not all powerful because there's suffering and he's not able to stop it, or he's just not good. Because if he was good, wouldn't he stop all of this suffering?

You can't have it both ways, Christians. What we claim is that God is great and good. We even have a resource over at corechristianity.com called Is God Great and Good addressing this very question, which you might want to get a hold of. But that's the claim, and the response that people have is, it sounds like it's Lex Luthor's question, well if that's the case, how can God be good if there's suffering, or how can he be all powerful?

Well, a couple of things. One, we have to be really careful, and I'm sensitive to this as a pastor, that when people experience the terrible kinds of sufferings that are experienced in the world today, that we don't just try to give them these sort of quick, facile theological answers. Sometimes we don't really have a good answer, and that's okay.

And what I mean by that is, we don't have a good answer in the sense that people will experience something very devastating, and they'll say, why did God allow this to happen? And it's not always our place, certainly not my place as a pastor, to say, well here's what God was doing, here's what God was trying to teach you. No, sometimes you know what our job is in the midst of suffering as Christians, or when we're trying to comfort someone else who's experienced great pain?

It's not to come alongside and try to give them the answers, it's to cry with them. It's to weep with those who weep. And actually, there's a whole category in scripture for this. There are the Psalms of Lament. Throughout the book of Psalms, you have all these different kinds of Psalms, but the Lament Psalms actually happen to be the most prominent in the book of Psalms. There are more Psalms of Lament than any other kind of Psalm, and the Psalms of Lament are characterized by crying out to God in times of suffering. Sometimes the psalmist is saying, Lord, I don't even feel your presence, I don't know why I'm experiencing the things that I'm experiencing, the death, the pain, the hunger, the struggle. Where are you, God?

And the interesting thing is a lot of times you don't have these sort of quick answers that we oftentimes want. It's the psalmist crying out to God, and usually there's a glimmer of hope at the end where the psalmist says, I'm still going to trust you, Lord, I don't see what you're doing right now, but I'm still going to trust you. Sometimes there is no glimmer of hope. Think of Psalm 88, for example. If you read Psalm 88, the entire thing is lament, and it ends with darkness. Part of the wisdom literature of the Bible, and I think one of the things that God is teaching us there, is that sometimes the answer is lament. Sometimes when we experience great suffering, what we do is we just cry out to the Lord, and even this is an act of faith. God, I don't understand why you're doing this or why you've allowed this. I can't see this side of heaven, your perspective, so I don't know what you're doing, but I'm going to continue to trust you.

And so I bring that up, Michelle, because with a question like this, you know, related to suffering, what I don't want to do is say, well, here's the answer. Here's what God is doing in every instance, because we can't say that. Here's what we do know, according to the scriptures. We know that God is good.

It's a promise. We know that God is good, and we know that He is able to make all things work together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. That's what Paul says in Romans chapter 8, and what's so amazing about that passage is in the context of Romans chapter 8, when Paul says God is able to make all things work together for the good, those who love Him, the all things there in that context are really terrible things.

Suffering, persecution, famine, nakedness, sword. Paul says somehow mysteriously, God is able to make all things work together. I don't know how that is, this side of heaven, but I look to Him, and I trust in Him.

And I can trust that God, God, you said this, so I'm going to take you at your word, and here's another reason why we can trust Him. And this is one of the things that makes Christianity distinct among all the religions of the world. This is one of the things that we have a claim to that no other religious system has a claim to, is the God of the Bible doesn't just say, I'm good and great and sovereign, and you guys are out there suffering and I'm just sort of watching from afar, and yet trust in me.

No, the God of the Bible, you know what He did? He sent His Son into our world to assume humanity and experience suffering that was unparalleled. Jesus knows suffering. God, we might say, in Christ, in the assumption of humanity, as Jesus assumed humanity, He suffered in the flesh for us so that He could, one, redeem us from our sins, conquering sin and Satan so that we might have eternal life, but two, the author of the Hebrews says this, so that He could empathize with us, sympathize with us in our weakness so that we could go to Him in the midst of our suffering and say, God, I don't understand this, I don't know why I'm experiencing this pain, but you can go to Jesus and Jesus knows what you're going through. And He can sympathize with you in your weakness, whatever that weakness is, Jesus knows the pain of betrayal, of famine, of nakedness, of sword. I don't know why certain things happen, how God is going to work all these things together, but I do know that at the cross, Jesus was able to take the most intense and horrible situation and turn it into the redemption of His people. God is wiser than we are, God is stronger than we are, God is more glorious than we are, and so we go to Him with our pain and with our suffering and with these questions. At times, I'm not sure how this can be, I'm not sure how you're good in this particular situation, but I know you can sympathize with me and that you've conquered all evil through Jesus at the cross, and so I'm going to cling to you and I'm going to cling to that promise because He can sympathize with you in your weakness. Thanks for listening to Core Christianity. To request your copy of today's special offer, visit us at CoreChristianity.com and click on offers in the menu bar or call us at 1-833-843-2673. That's 833-THE-CORE. When you contact us, please let us know how you've been encouraged by this podcast, and be sure to join us next time as we explore the truth of God's Word together.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-01-10 15:32:28 / 2024-01-10 15:42:46 / 10

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