Bad Things
Tuesday, August 31, 2010 at 9:51AM
Jeff Smith in Discipleship, Godhood

We still wonder, I suppose, why bad things happen to good people. Of course, no one is really altogether good except God himself, but we are curious why apparently innocent children are afflicted with birth defects or abusive parents, why little old ladies can get fleeced by smooth talking con men, why entire communities can be wiped out by a hurricane, tornado or drought. Some people reject the existence of God on nothing more than dissatisfaction with this question, while the devil is able to reclaim saved souls or interrupt the salvation of seekers by emphasizing it. Why do some bad things happen to some comparatively good people?

I. Good People

    A. Job

        1. when we think about bad things happening to good people, we must think quickly think of Job, one of the wealthiest men in all Bible history, but who also “was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil” (Job 1:2).

        2. Job worshiped God continually and had compassion upon his family, so much so that he caught the attention of God whom the devil challenged to show proof of faith (Job 1:6-12)

            a. first the devil motivated the Sabeans and Chaldeans to plunder his wealth, gathering fire from the sky and the western sirocco wind to destroy even more, including his beloved children

            b. and then Satan was permitted to attack Job’s health “with loathsome sores from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. And he took a piece of broken pottery with which to scrape himself while he sat in the ashes” (Job 2:7-8).

            c. even Job’s wife and his friends provided no comfort, counseling him either to curse God and die or to confess to some act of wickedness which he had not committed (Job 4:1-9)

        3. Job, a good man by most any standard, including God’s, was sorely afflicted by natural disaster, crime, the premature death of his children and the breakdown of his marriage and friendships

        4. these bad things happened to Job, not as a punishment from God but as a test by the devil

            a. the truth is that God still allows his people to be tested by the perverse schemes of a devil let loose upon a world that has made room for him (First Peter 1:6-9)

            b. if some of these things afflict you, do not automatically jump to the same wrong conclusions that afflicted Job and his friends – that God is punishing you for something you haven’t done

            c. the devil is allowed to test you and the kind of attitude that blames God is what lets him win and steal your soul back (James 5:8-11)


    B. Invalid at Bethesda

        1. the ministry of Jesus Christ was often populated with infamous sinners – prostitutes, violent soldiers, greedy publicans – but there were also present many who were apparently innocent of anything too heinous

            a. one group was as necessary as the other to the ministry of Christ, who relied upon sinners to treat as the Great Physician, but also demon-possessed, fatigued, injured, damaged, orphaned souls to heal as a testimony to his power from on high

            b. even today, there remains among some a false notion that people born with disabilities can be mistreated and punished further, but the work of Christ shows a higher objective

        2. one such case involved an invalid whom Jesus found on the Sabbath at an unusual place, called the pool of Bethesda (John 5:3-9)

            a. the misguided, heartless religious authorities objected because the healing had occurred on the Sabbath and the man was now carrying his pallet, which they wrongly assigned to work

            b. when he spoke again with Jesus, he found only compassion, not self-serving legalism (John 5:14-17)

        3. and Jesus explains why he healed this unfortunate man when the doctors and Pharisees had done nothing for him (John 5:19-20)

            a. the purpose of the signs and wonders was always to testify to the word being preached and the authority of the messenger

            b. Jesus had power to heal, but it was souls that meant the most to him; that is why he tells the man to go and sin no more


    C. A Man Blind From Birth

        1. consider the man born blind whom Jesus met in his ministry (John 9:1-3)

            a. before Jesus does anything about his optometric issue, he disabuses his disciples of this arrogant, superstitious concept that disabilities are evidence of sin, either by the parents, the unborn child or someone in some mythical previous life

            b. this particular man was born blind in spite of his parents’ anguish and his own lifetime of hardships for a singular purpose: “that the works of God might be displayed in him.”

        2. surely, the disciples of Christ could now see things more clearly as well, but it was the doubters and disputers who persisted in accusing him (John 9:18-19, 24-25, 30-34)

            a. born in utter sin, they accused, for no other reason than he was blind – formerly

            b. they, of course, were still blind spiritually and that was not soon to change


    D. Lazarus

        1. that miracle was not far from the disciples’ minds a little later when the Lord’s friend, Lazarus, suddenly died (John 11:4, 11-15, 33-44)

        2. even the disciples had not learned the central lesson of healing the blind man, so the drama is intensified by death itself, illustrating the Lord’s power over life and death

        3. it was the occasion for Martha’s good confession: “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world” (John 11:27).

        4. no one is being raised from the dead in quite that way today and yet death itself continues to be both a great test of the faith of the living and occasion to reach the wavering and complacent; why couldn’t the physical death of someone near be the occasion to remind us of the power of Jesus and certainty of resurrection to a greater life than this one?

            a. Paul wrote, “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope” (First Thessalonians 4:13).

            b. Wisdom says, “It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter, for by sadness of face the heart is made glad. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth” (Ecclesiastes 7:2-4).


II. Confronting Bad Things

    A. Pondering the Less Fortunate 

        1. from these examples, we learn to have compassion upon anyone who is afflicted with a deformity or disability, whether from birth or acquired in the course of life, rather than despising and rejecting them, perhaps even speculating about it being a punishment from on high

        2. furthermore, we find that all suffering in the world is not the direct effect of personal sin or that suffering is always commensurate with iniquity (Luke 13:1-5)

        3. God does chasten his children, which means that he allows the devil to test them, but it does not follow that every misfortune is God-devised (Hebrews 12:5-8, 11; James 1:12-15)

        4. most importantly, we should learn that God’s merciful plan in the midst of our sinful society is “to adapt his mercies to the woes of men” (Barnes); we find that calamity, want, poverty and sickness just might be permitted by God in order that he might show his mercy, teach us to count our blessings and to seek deliverance from a greater peril, living in sin

        5. and we come to understand that those who are afflicted with defects, deformities and any other hardship of life should be submissive to “the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” (James 1:17).


    B. Greater Works

        1. in his final audience with his eleven faithful apostles, Jesus comforted them with the promise of his abiding presence through the Holy Spirit and what he had already shown them (John 14:8-12)

            a. in John’s gospel, “works” differ from “signs,” in that the signs were usually miraculous, but the works also included his ministering, teaching, sharing and exemplifying holiness 

            b. Jesus thus urged his followers to imitate his works and to add to them with their own acts of compassion and service; the works will be greater, not more impressive, but because their scope will be worldwide and their duration will be from faith to faith, generation to generation (Philippians 2:12-13)

        2. our responsibility is to look for the opportunities that Jesus never failed to recognize – to carry out God’s will on small stages of evangelism, edification, comfort and encouragement, especially regarding those people who are beleaguered and forsaken

            a. when we imitate Jesus, we provide for him greater works; “Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me” (Colossians 1:28-29).

            b. we must not concern ourselves with earthly notoriety, but be content to give God the glory, even as Jesus did when he worked and credited his Father’s will (First Timothy 5:24-25)

        3. “The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people” (Titus 3:8).


    C. Entertaining Angels 

        1. in fact, the blessing of visiting an otherwise forsaken widow, orphan or needy person is too great to dismiss (James 1:27, 2:14-18)

        2. our attitude should be one of empathy, if not sympathy, when we find someone suffering the kinds of hardships that attracted the compassion of our Master (Hebrews 13:1-3)

        3. “But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth” (First John 3:17-18).



No government, no committee, no eleemosynary can do for us what is our duty to do. Even the church must stand after the disciple in discharging the duties that Jesus entrusted to him or her.


Questions For Review

  1. When did Job live? What was his life like?
  2. Why did some think God was punishing him?
  3. Why did Jesus heal people?
  4. Why did he say the man was born blind?
  5. What should have come from Lazarus’s resurrection?
  6. What should we learn about the less fortunate from these examples?
  7. What does it mean to entertain angels?
Update on Sunday, July 3, 2011 at 7:33PM by Registered CommenterJeff Smith

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