TUESDAY PRAYERS 2020-03-03 – Suffering and the Christian
Greetings in the name of our Most Excellent Lord and Savior, Jesus, the Christ.
Last night, (Monday Movie Night), we watched a couple short videos from Answers In Genesis. The first concerned the topic of the relevance of Genesis for today while the second was about the source of suffering. While these videos were made some 15-20 years ago, they were incredibly instructive concerning the outcomes we see in our culture today that were predicted a couple decades ago, based upon the rejection of belief in Genesis 1-11 in many of our churches and universities, and in our culture.
The warnings were basically that once we reject the understanding that all our doctrines, and many of our cultural practices find their roots in the earliest chapters of the first book of the Bible, we will have no moorings to hold our culture back from a wholesale loss of understanding of God and our relationship to Him. Without Genesis 1-11, we have no foundation for the rest of the doctrines of Scripture; up to, and including, Jesus’ life-sacrificial death-burial-physical resurrection-ascension-and physical return. In fact, some Christian ministers have referred to the crucifixion not as the wonderful demonstration of the grace of God toward rebellious sinners, but rather a horrible act of useless violence.
Most telling is the fact that many atheists understand the cost of spiritualizing Genesis far better than many pastors and Christian university professors. In their worldview, death and suffering have been around for millions of years and the idea that death entered the world through, and as a consequence of, sin is just a ridiculous notion…and so also then is the message of the Gospel.
But as a Christian, if we look at the world through the lens of God’s Word, then we can make sense of all that we see around us, including suffering, disease, death and decay.
God said on the seventh day after the beginning of time, that the universe He created was “very good.” If we equate this to sometime millions of years into the biological evolutionary process of random processes and ongoing suffering and death and decay, then our God must be an ogre.
But if we accept Genesis as true, then we can see that God created a universe that was completely good and that it was, in fact, perfect. Furthermore, we can see that the blame for bad things happening in the world rests not with God, but with human-kind. Our first Dad and Mom rejected obedience to the one and only prohibition God had given (“do not eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil for in the day that you eat of it, dying, you shall surely die” Genesis 2:17).
The gist of the “dying” statement is that “you will begin to die, and you will keep on dying and dying until you die…dying immediately in the spiritual sense of having a broken relationship with God and having the physical consequence of bodies that were created with the potential of immortality becoming cursed by mortality.
And not only were our bodies cursed with the consequence of our sin, but the whole of creation is groaning under the same curse (Genesis 3:17-18; Romans 8:20-23). Even in this condition of being under the curse of death, we can see incredible beauty in God’s creation, cursed though it is. We cannot even imagine what His perfect creation was like before the curse…because the concept is entirely outside of our knowledge, experience and ability to imagine.
So, how can our knowledge of first things concerning the creation, the fall, sin and death (our theology) assist us in time of trials, tribulations, suffering, death and grief?
In our belief that God is in control of all things, working His plan together for the good of all those who love Him, to those who are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28), we tend to place the blame on Him for our sufferings. We ask (plead, demand) to know why He did this, or allowed this ___(fill in the blank)__ to happen to us.
We view these things as a reason to doubt the goodness of God…while at the same time trying not to doubt His goodness.
Some go so far as to say that “if there is a god, then he cannot be good because he allows people to suffer…and that is his motus operandi, after all…death and suffering have been here since the beginning of the evolution of the universe.
Dare we not forget that the Bible tells us the Christ was crucified before the beginning of creation and our names were written in His book before even one day came to be (Acts 2:23; Ephesians 1:4; Hebrews 9:24-28; 1 Peter 1:20; Revelation 13:8; 17:8). In other words, God created us with the ability to reject and rebel against the One who created us. But even before the creation began, the plan was already in place and the outcome was determined, that God would provide a way for us to be reconciled unto Himself. That path of reconciliation passes only through His Word, made flesh and dwelling among us, giving up His life (no one took it from Him – He gave it willingly) as a substitutionary sacrifice for our sin, paying a sufficient price to cover all sin and satisfying the outpouring of the wrath of God.
Rather than our suffering being an outworking of an ogre-god, we can see God’s tremendous mercy at work. Can you imagine what it would be like to suffer in a rebellious, wicked and sinful world…while being immortal? The Bible does tell us of a time that is to come when people will want to die but won’t be able to (Revelation 9:6; cf., 20:14; 21:8).
From the time of the first sin, God promised a coming salvation that He would provide, the blessed hope of a conquering Redeemer (Gen 3:15). Though the creation was subjected to frustration, it also is awaiting the redemption of our bodies and the restoration of all creation to its intended state of eternal perfection (Romans 8:23-25; 2 Peter 3:5-13; Revelation 21).
Therefore, because we have this hope within us, when suffering the afflictions that accompany living in this fallen and cursed state, we ought to focus our anger, frustration and blame where it belongs.
Our suffering began as a consequence of our first father in the Garden of Eden who, though living as a perfect man (morally, spiritually, physically) chose to disobey God’s command to him. We were, in effect, in him when he sinned (remember, God said that Levi was in his father’s [Abraham] loins when Abraham paid a tithe to Melchizedek…see Hebrews 7:10). The Bible calls this, being in the first Adam (1 Corinthians 15:22, 45) and tells us that in him is death, but in the second Adam (Christ) there is life.
Why is there death and suffering in the world? Why do bad things happen to good people?
Because, we rejected God as our Lord and Master, and in His love which required that we be allowed to choose and live according to our choice, sin and death entered the world.
But God (two of the greatest words in all of history), in His love, made a way for us to be reborn into life eternal through Christ (John 3:16; 1 Corinthians 15:22; and many other references). In our suffering, it ought to remind us of the cost of our rebellion, and cause to rise within us a great desire for all things to be made right again (Revelation 6:10; Romans 8:22-30).
And, in the midst of these trials and sufferings, we can truly praise God, for they are working in us to produce a harvest of great joy (Galatians 6:9; James 1:2-8; Hebrews 12:1-2). We can be assured that He will never leave us nor forsake us (Romans 8:35-39) and that He will bring to completion that great work He has begun in us (Philippians 1:6), the work of conforming us into the image of His Son (Romans 8:29).
Lord, I pray that you will help us to grow in the confidence that, though we may be in the midst of suffering, yet You are in the midst of redeeming these sufferings to us in Jesus’ name. Help us not to lose our confidence in your love, nor our assurance of your salvation, or our hope in the resurrection to come. Use our trials and tribulations to help us to better appreciate and understand the immense cost of our sin against you and the even greater price that Jesus paid for our redemption on the cross. Help us to keep our eyes fixed upon Him who endured the cross, scorning its shame, who also sat down at your own right hand.
It is in His glorious name that we make our requests to you. AMEN!