|"Why Do Bad Things Happen To Good People?"
By James Merritt
1. I want to ask you a question. But I want you to think through very carefully before you answer the question. It may sound like a trick question but it really isn't. The answer is very simple. How many of you were born of a woman; you came into this world by a woman? In other words, you had a mother. Then I have two things to say to you. First of all, you are not long for this world. Secondly, the short time you do have here will be full of trouble. You are headed for trouble and trouble is headed for you. Job 14:1 tells us, "Man who is born of woman is of few days, and full of trouble."
2. When you think about the question "Why do bad things happen to good people?" do not get the impression that bad things only happen to good people. Bad things also happen to bad people. Likewise, when you ask the question, "Why do good things happen to bad people?" don't get the impression that good things only happen to bad people. Because good things also happen to good people. In fact, I believe if you counted up your blessings you would find out they far outnumber your burdens.
3. Don't get the idea that since bad things do happen to good people, and good things do happen to bad people, that there is no need to be good and you may as well be bad. Friend, either way, whether you are good or bad, you are going to have trouble. You cannot avoid it.
4. A man set out on a long journey and he had driven all day and got very tired. So he decided to pull over by the side of the road and take a nap. He found a nice shady place by the side of the highway and pulled over and settled back in the seat to rest. Just as he closed his eyes and fell asleep a jogger came by and knocked on his window. He rolled it down. He said, "Sir, do you have the time?" Bleary-eyed the man looked at his watch and said, "Yes, it is 5:00 o'clock."
5. He settled back down into his seat and closed his eyes again and had just started sleeping when another jogger came by, knocked on the window and said, "Sir, do you have the time?" Bleary-eyed, the man looked at his watch again and said, "Yes, is 5:30."
6. At this rate it was obvious he wasn't going to get much rest so he came up with an idea. He wrote a short note and stuck it on the side of his car so anybody running by could see it. It said, "I do not have the time."
7. The man settled down for his sorely needed nap. Just a few minutes later another jogger came along, knocked on his window, he rolled it down, the jogger said, "Mister, I saw y our sign and I just wanted you to know that it is 6:00 o'clock.
8. You can write across the window of your life, "I do not have time for trouble," but trouble is going to come knocking just the same. But that still presents a problem. We understand why bad things happen to bad people. We understand why good things happen to good people. I believe most of us can even live with the fact that good things happen to bad people. But what bothers us most is when bad things happen to good people. It just doesn't seem fair. It is so difficult to understand.
9. Well a man by the name of Asaph had exactly the same problem. In fact, he had two problems. He had a problem with the successful sinner, but he also had a problem with the suffering saint. As he looked at life two things really troubled him: On the one hand the prosperity of the rebellious man, on the other hand the problems of the righteous man. Now he had seen the one, but he had personally experienced the other.
10. For example, Asaph was cleansed. "Surely I have cleansed my heart in vain." (Psa. 73:13) While everyone else was living high, wide, and handsome, jet-setting with the party crowd, running wild, loose, and free, Asaph was living a clean and a pure life.
11. Asaph also was committed. "And washed my hands in innocence." (v.13) Asaph not only got clean, he stayed clean. His record was spotless. His reputation was intact. You could examine his life and you could not find one blot, one blur, one blemish, one stain.
12. But Asaph was cursed. "For all day long I have been plagued." (v.14) Asaph was very discouraged. He was saying in effect, "It was not until I got saved that all the trouble started. It was not until I got my life right that things started going wrong. Now it seems as if life is just one bad thing after another."
13. Asaph also was chastened. "And chastened every morning." (v.14) He was saying, "When I get up I feel as if God is whipping me. Every morning I feel as if the first thing that God does is take me to the woodshed and whip me just on general principles, even though I haven't done anything wrong."
14. Because of this problem Asaph was confused. "When I thought how to understand this, it was too painful for me." (v.14) Asaph was saying, "I just don't understand it. It seems like the meaner my neighbor gets, the better things are. While the better I am, the worse things get. I don't understand it. I mean it's one thing for good things to happen to bad people, but I don't understand why bad things happen to good people."
15. It is indeed difficult to understand. I believe it is an understandable problem. There are three truths that I believe if you will remember, will help you solve this seemingly unsolvable problem, and answer this seemingly unanswerable question, "Why do bad things happen to good people?"
I. The Power Of God To Rescue Us From Trouble
1. One of the things that bothers us is that we know that God could prevent trouble from ever coming to his people if He chose to. Because oftentimes God has. In Heb. 11 we find God's hall of faith. It is a panorama of holy heroes from a distant past, men and women of great faith who were mighty conquerors for God. Beginning in v.32 the author gives us example after example of men whom God protected from trouble.
2. "And what more shall I say? For the time would fail me to tell of Gideon, and Barak, and Samson, and Jephthah; also of David and Samuel, and the prophets: who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Women received their dead raised to life again. (vv.32-35) The Old Testament is replete with example after example of how God protected his people from trouble. Daniel was thrown in the lion's den, but God gave those lions lockjaw and spared the life of Daniel. Those three Hebrew men were thrown in a fiery furnace, the fire being heated so hot that it killed all of the men around them who cast them into the fire. But God protected them, and God delivered them, and they came out of that fire with not one hair of their head even singed. In the New Testament we're told in the Book of Acts of how a poisonous snake bit the Apostle Paul and he just shook it off into the fire; didn't even get sick. Over and over in the word of God we're told how God protected his people from death, disease, and disaster; how God kept a bad thing from happening to a good person. Now that blesses us, but it also bothers us. Because if God can keep bad things from happening to any good person then why doesn't God keep bad things from happening to every good person?
3. In Acts 12 we are told that James, the brother of John, was thrown into prison and Herod cut him in half with a sword. But four chapters later, in Acts 16, we are told how Paul and Silas were miraculously delivered from prison. Three men went to jail. One man went to the executioner's block. The other two men went home with the warden. Genesis, the first book of the Old Testament, records how Joseph was thrown into prison. But God miraculously delivered Joseph from that prison and made him the Prime Minister of Egypt. Matthew, the first book in the New Testament, records how John the Baptist, the last of the true prophets, was thrown into prison, but he was not delivered, at least not totally. His head was delivered on a silver platter. Now why is it that at times God will deliver this saint from trouble, but he won't deliver that saint from trouble? At times God will heal that sick person, but at times he allows another one to die.
4. God's principles and promises are the same for every believer. But his plans and purposes may be entirely different. Verses 32-35 sound so encouraging, but the most important word in this passage is the word "others" in v.35. "Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection. Still others had trial of mockings and scourings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword, they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts, in mountains, in dens and caves of the earth."
5. What about these others? Did God love those who succeeded more than he loved those who suffered? Absolutely not. Did those who succeeded love God more than those who suffered? Absolutely not. It was simply that his plan and his purpose was different for both. Friend, don't ever try to compare your spiritual experience with the experience of someone else. That's when jealousy and envy and bitterness sets in. You just need to be concerned with God's plan and purpose for your life.
6. In John 21 the Lord Jesus told Peter exactly how he was going to die. He said, "Most assuredly I say to you when you were younger you girded yourself and walked where you wished; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish. This he spoke signifying by what death he would glorify God." (vv. 18-19) He told Peter he was going to be crucified. In fact, Peter was crucified upside down. But then Peter looked at John and said, "But Lord, what about this man?" Jesus said to him, "If I will that he remain til I come, what is that to you? You follow me." (vv. 21-22) God's promises for Peter and John were exactly the same. But his plan was entirely different. This fact leads to the second truth to remember:
II. The Purpose Of God To Redeem Us In Trouble
1. You see, sometimes the Lord diverts us from trouble. But sometimes he directs us to trouble that He might then deliver us through trouble. "Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all. Now notice it doesn't say the believer won't have trouble, but that the Lord will deliver him through that trouble. Now why does God allow us to go through trials and troubles? Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people? Or, more specifically, "Why does God allow bad things to happen to God's people?"
A. To Reveal His Person
1. God allows trouble to come into your life so that He might draw you close to Him. In some instances people can't be drawn close to God, they have to be driven close to God. That is a purpose that God has for trials and difficulties. Psalm 46:1 tells us "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble." One reason why God allows difficulty and trouble to come is so that you in a special way might know his presence, his love, and his grace.
2. Now God is always with us in the person of His Holy Spirit. But you talk to people who have been through trials and tragedies and tribulation, and so often they will testify that God was with them in a unique way that they had never experienced before. God is with you powerfully, personally and privately in the middle of your greatest difficulty. One of the great verses in the Bible is Isaiah 43:2, "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you." Now you are going to pass through deep waters, and you're going to walk through
hot fire." But he goes on to say in V.5, "Fear not, for I am with you."
3. We mentioned previously the story of three men who were cast into the fiery furnace. Now you know the story and remember that when they threw them into the furnace there were not three men, but actually four. The fourth man was the Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ. Now I ask you a question. Was Jesus with these three men before they got into the fire? You better believe it or else they would have never gotten into the fire. But they did not see Jesus until they got into the fire. So often God allows you to get into the fiery furnace so that you might see Him. Spurgeon said, "The refiner is never far from the furnace when his gold is in the fire."
4. When our Lord Jesus was in the middle of his greatest trial, hanging on the cross, forsaken by the world, even his Father's back had been turned on him. For the first time in his life it seemed as if his Heavenly Father was so far away. But I tell you in the moment of his greatest trial, his Heavenly Father was so close that the Lord Jesus could speak to him and say, "Father, into Thy hands I commend my spirit." In that last moment of death, Jesus could reach out and touch the hand of his Heavenly Father.
5. Get it down and get it straight. One of the purposes of trouble is to get us to focus on God. You see, of often when we go through troubles we focus on the trouble. Now when you focus on your troubles you're going to get into trouble. When the storms of life come, and come they will, you had better not focus on the storm.
6. I went back and read the account of how Peter walked on the water. I saw something I had never seen before. When you see pictures of Jesus walking on the water, the sea looks so calm, the moonlight is shimmering across the surface of the lake and everything seems so peaceful. But that is now how Jesus came walking on the water, nor are those the conditions under which Peter was asked to walk on the water.
7. Matt. 14:32 plainly says that the storm did not stop until Jesus got into the boat. When Jesus asked Peter to get into that water the wind was howling, the waves were crashing, the thunder was rolling, the lightning was flashing. Peter was fine until he took his eyes off of Jesus and put them on the storm. When he did, he began to sink. When he changed his focus he lost his faith, and when he lost his faith he sank in failure.
8. Don't you try to build your theology on circumstances. Don't you try to build your theology on the storms. You'd better build your theology on the Scripture. Don't you build your theology on the troubles of this world. You build your theology on the truth of God's word, and God's word says when you are in the middle of your deepest trial, God wants to reveal Himself particularly to you.
B. To Refine His People
1. Nothing is ever lost on God. God never winds up with an extra piece of the puzzle that he does not know how to fit into the total picture. God uses trouble to accomplish purposes in our lives that He could not, and would not, any other way. Sometimes God uses troubles to tame us. God sometimes uses trouble to discipline us, to correct us, to chastise us. Christians sometimes get the idea that if bad things happen to them that evidently they're not saved and God doesn't love them. Listen, trouble does not mean that you're not saved. Trouble may every well mean that you are saved. When you're having problems in your life it doesn't mean that God does not love you. It is proof positive that God does love you.
2. If you are a child of God you cannot sin and enjoy it. In fact, I'll give you a test right now. If you are living in sin at this moment; if you're living in willful disobedience to God, and your conscience does not bother you; there is no ill fruit in your life, you are not a child of God. If you are living in sin, if you're living in disobedience right now, you are headed for one of two places. You're headed for the woodshed, or you are headed for hell. Sometimes God uses trouble to discipline his children when they're not living for Him. As a good parent should, God whips his children when they fall into continual, willful disobedience.
3. Now that bothers a lot of people. There are some people who just do not believe that God ever punishes his children; that God cannot use trouble as a means of discipline in our lives. Well I don't believe that should bother you. I think that should comfort you. In the 23rd Psalm David was comparing Jesus to a shepherd and his people to sheep, and David said in Psalm 23:4, "Your rod and your staff, they comfort me." Now the staff was that long stick with the crook in it that the shepherd would use to direct his sheep. But the rod was a stick that the shepherd would use to discipline his sheep, to whip them when they got out of line. David was comforted by both. David was glad that God loved him enough to direct him to do right. But he also loved him
enough to discipline him when he did wrong.
4. Uncle Buddy Robinson was a great Nazarene preacher of yesteryear, a man full of wisdom and the Holy Spirit. He said, "If the Lord is your shepherd, then you are the Lord's sheep. And he has a perfect right to shear you any time he needs wool and you have no right to bleat."
5. Yes, a loving God sometimes uses trials and troubles to discipline his children. That should not bother you, it should bless you. "My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord nor detest his correction; for whom the Lord loves he corrects just as a father the son in whom he delights." (Prov. 3:11-12)
6. Then God uses troubles to test his children. It is one thing to praise God, to believe God, to trust God, to obey God, when things are good. But real faith believes God when things are bad. Sometimes God allows troubles to come into our lives to show us just how strong, or how weak, our faith really is. Did you know that there is nothing that can test your faith like trouble and difficulty? "If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small." (Prov. 24:10) What that proverb was saying is this: If you really want to know just how strong your faith really is, you see if it can stand up under the pressures of trouble. God sometimes puts you in the kitchen just to see if your faith can take the heat.
7. Elizabeth Elliott said, "Every experience of trial puts us to this test: "Do you trust God or don't you?" Do you know what the difference is between false faith and real faith? When troubles come false faith says, "This is enough to make me lose my religion." But real faith says, "This is enough to make me use my religion."
8. Real faith is the faith of Job, who covered with boils, sitting in sackcloth and ashes, his family dead, his fortune dissipated, his friends denying him, could say, "Even if he slays me, yet will I trust Him." (Job 13:15)
9. I watch these television evangelists talk about faith. They're always talking about faith in terms of getting something. Real faith is not getting what you want from God. Real faith is accepting what you're given by God, and praising Him just the same. Here is a dear saint of God terminally ill with cancer. So someone will ask the question, "Do you have the faith to be healed?" That is not the big question. The big question is, "Do you have the faith not to be healed and still praise the Lord?" Friend, it takes more faith to endure trouble than it does to escape trouble. God sometimes sends trouble that our faith might be tested. Because a faith that cannot be tested cannot be trusted.
10. But then God allows troubles at times that he might teach us. The Psalmist of old said in Psalm 119:71, "It is good for me that I have been afflicted that I may learn your statutes." There are some things that God wants to teach you that you can only learn in tough times. When trouble comes, instead of asking "Why is this happening?" you need to be asking "Lord, what are you wanting to teach me?"
11. Have you ever thought about the fact that you can see farther at night than you can in the daytime? In the daytime we can see the sun which is 93 million miles away. But at night we can see stars that are galaxies away from the sun. God at times draws the curtains of night over our soul that our spiritual sight might be increased and we might learn things about Him and about ourselves we could never learn otherwise.
C. To Release His Peace
1. As I was preparing this message a thought hit me and I checked it out to see if it was true, and it was. Every letter that Paul wrote in the New Testament includes in the salutation the phrase "grace and peace to you." Now remember Paul was writing to a persecuted church. He was writing to good people who had bad things happening to them. Do you know why Paul was asking God to give them his grace and his peace? Well what is the difference between the two? Grace is the ability God gives to face trouble. Peace is the serenity God gives in the midst of trouble. Peace is not the absence of trouble. Peace is the presence of God in the midst of trouble.
2. Two artists were commissioned by a city to paint a picture of peace, with the winning portrait being displayed in the City Museum. The first artist drew an idyllic scene. He painted an ocean still as a pond with sailboats floating quietly by. Overhead the sky was blue flecked with light fluffy clouds. On the shore children played in the sand, making castles. Families picnicked nearby.
3. The second artist painted a totally different picture. He depicted a wild and rocky shore that was being hammered by angry billows and waves, bursting up in towering clouds of spray. He painted a sky that was black with dark storm clouds rolling with thunder and rocking with lightning. He painted palm trees bent over double from the force of the gales and the winds. Frightened people were scurrying for some kind of cover and shelter. But far up in the little nook of a cliff, hidden in the cleft of the rock and sheltered from that storm sat a little bird, safe and secure in her nest, looking out with a serene and untroubled eye at all the turmoil beneath. His picture won the prize.
4. God does allow trouble to come but He does it that we might know the "peace of God which passes all understanding."
III. The Promise Of God To Reward Us In Trouble
1. I'm going to be honest with you, I don't care how good and godly you are, bad things are going to happen to you. Because bad things do happen to good people. But don't quit. Don't give up. In Hebrews 10:32ff the author records all of the sufferings and reproaches and trials that God's people had been through. But then he says in v.35, "Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward."
2. The Lord's own brother, James, was stoned to death by the Jewish High Priest. He was murdered just because of his faith in his elder brother, the Lord Jesus Christ. This James said, "Blessed is the man who endures trouble; for when he has been proved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him." (James 1:12)
3. What do you do if you're a good person and bad things are happening to you? Well, the best thing, the right thing, the only thing you should do, is just trust in God.
Have faith in God, He's on His throne;
Have faith in God, He watches o're His own;
He cannot fail, He must prevail;
Have faith in God, have faith in God.
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