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Why Do Bad Things Happen?

Sermon notes for August 29, 1999
By Pastor William R. Cunningham

INTRODUCTION

Why do bad things happen to good people and why do good things happen to bad people? Why did this have to happen to me? Why me? These are questions that I’m sure you have asked yourself or heard someone else ask. We wonder why do certain things happen to us. We wonder why such a good person has to suffer such pain.

Many times I hear people explain a situation by stating that it is God’s will or God must have wanted such and such to happen. We hear sometimes of the problem of pain, that is, if God is so loving and omnipotent then why does he allow people to suffer evil? We hear of things such as "acts of God" to explain major natural calamities such as hurricanes and earthquakes. Have you ever stopped and asked yourself what role God really has in all of these things? Do you wonder if God really cares about the human race? Is God involved with the affairs of humans or is he a distant observer only intervening at specific times? How can we reckon God with our world? What part does God have in my life? These and many questions are typical of many people, especially Christians.

I am not going to discuss the entire scope indicated by the questions raised above because it would take too long. However, I will discuss the possible reasons why things happen to us. Perhaps we will discuss more on the problem of pain in future lessons. There are some things that we must consider when we ask the types of questions given above. First we have to consider our role in the events that surround us. Secondly, we should consider the authority that God has given us in governing our own life. Thirdly, we should consider the impact that our actions and decisions have on ourselves and on others. Fourth, we should consider the impact that nature has on us and we should consider the agent that controls nature. Last, we should consider God’s role in all of this. Here is a summary of these things to consider.

  1. Consider our role in the things that happens

  2. What control do we have over things that happen in our lives

  3. What are the consequences of our decisions and actions

  4. The component of natural phenomena in things that happen

  5. God’s role in all of these things

Consider the following scripture, which will be the principle scripture of this lesson.


Gal. 6:7 through Gal. 6:8 (NIV) Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.8The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.

 

Our Role

Do we contribute to the things that happen to us and possibly to others? The answer is a resounding yes! Everything that happens is due to the consequences of something, whether a natural phenomena or a controlled phenomena. Things don’t just happen. We all contribute in one way or another to the things that happen to us and sometimes to others. We are not isolated from our activities and decisions. A person who does not practice good health will not be in good health. A person that does not learn will be ignorant. These things are the result of a previous activity or decision. In the former case, poor health is due to the decision (or inability) to practice good health such as eating right and exercising. In the later case, ignorance is due to the decision not to put the effort into learning. There is really no excuse.

We are products of the decisions that we have made in the past. We are products of the influences of circumstances of the past and the reaction to them. We are whom we have chosen to be (whether solely our choice or something imposed on us). However, we play a significant role in the things that happen to us.

We are not isolated from the circumstances of our lives. Instead, we play a very significant role in our lives and experience the consequences of the things we have done in the past.

 

Our Authority

What authority do we have over the things that happen to us and sometimes to others? We have a lot of authority. What do I mean by authority? I mean that we have the power (ability) and the right to do a number of things that will effect our own lives and sometimes the lives of others. Yeah, but isn’t God in control of everything? Not exactly. Yes there is nothing that can hinder God’s will from being accomplished. However, the Bible does not reveal that God controls every event, every decision, and every activity of a human being. The Bible reveals that we have a choice to either live by the WAY of God or to live by the WAY of self. The WAY of self is what some call the operation of the kingdom of this world. Either you live according to God’s word or you don’t. It’s that simple. We have the authority (ability) to choose whether we will live according to the will of God or whether we will live to fulfill our own lusts (live for self).

Keep in mind that our topic scripture tells us that we will reap what we sow. That is, if we live our lives to fulfill our own desires then we will reap corruption and death. However, if we live to fulfill the will of God and according to his word, then we will reap life. The authority that we have is evident in that the Bible constantly admonishes us and almost pleads with us to believe in Jesus Christ. If God were absolutely in control with the details of our lives then such would not be necessary. Please refer to the lesson "God’s Will and Prayer" for more information on God’s will. Such a statement or invitation is necessary because we have more control over our lives then we sometimes want to admit. We have the power to decide and the authority to do so. God is not the great puppet master in the sky what controls our every move and decision. If indeed He did control our every move then there would be no need for us to decide anything and therefore would mean that we would not be creatures of free will.

We have a free will to choose and therefore significantly effect many situations that come upon us.

 

The Consequences

We have a part to play in our lives and we have the authority to make decisions on our own. This implies that the situations that we face are many times within our control to some extent. For example, if you decide to drive a certain way home from work and discover that there is a flood that causes you to be late for an appointment, then you can safely say that your decision to take that route contributed significantly in you being late. You cannot say that the flood caused you to be late in an absolute sense because you could have gone another way. You could have listened to the traffic report or some even believe that you could have prayed to God for a good a route (I don’t particularly agree with that philosophy). The bottom line is that you suffered the consequence of your decision.

Another example is you don’t educate yourself in a particular skill that will increase your chances for a promotion on your job. Your inability to get a promotion is partly due to your decision not to pursue education that will help you get the promotion. Your stagnant position is in part your fault. Yeah, but can’t God intervene for you to get you that promotion? This brings to mind some scriptures that seem to promise us that God will answer our prayers granting us what we want.

John 15:7 (NIV) If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.

Consider also Mark 11:22-24, Psalm 37:4, and John 14:13. These seem to imply that God will act as if he were our genie. He will grant our every wish. Therefore, if we want a promotion then all we have to do is pray about it and God will grant us a promotion. You and I know that life just doesn’t work that way. There has to be more to it then that else we have all seriously misunderstood the scriptures. There are certain things that must be established in order for you to get a promotion for example. In addition to this, we all know that the world operates on principles of dishonesty and favoritism, which means you still may get passed by for that promotion. So the reasons for your situation is not exclusively dependent on what you do. Sometimes we are victims of what others have decided and what others have done.

Let’s look at some examples from the Bible. Examine Joshua chapter 7. There is recorded the situation where the people of Israel were defeated by the men of Ai. Why were they defeated. Wasn’t God with his own people? The reason is clearly given as sin being in the camp. Everyone suffered because one person, Achan, made the decision to do what was not right to do. The consequences of his actions were experienced by all of the people. That’s not fair you may say. I say to you rules are rules, principles are principles, and nothing will violate these. A parent cannot plead innocent if their children are unruly and they did nothing to raise him or her up right.

Another example is salvation itself. The consequence of not believing in Christ is eternal damnation. The consequence of believing in Christ is eternal life. The difference between this consequence and the one given in the previous example is that it only effects the person that made the decision. In other words, a person’s decision not to believe in Jesus Christ only effects Him or her.

On another note, our decisions can have global impact. Consider the following scripture.

Rom. 5:12 (NCV) Sin came into the world because of what one man did, and with sin came death. This is why everyone must die—because everyone sinned.

Imagine that. We suffer because of what one man did! Similarly, the actions of one person can have global implications. Consider people like Martin Luther King, Martin Luther, Napoleon, Mother Theresa, Rosa Parks, and Billy Graham. Their actions have effected millions of lives and continue to do so.

The things that happen to us are due in part to what we have done and what others have done. We experience the consequences of our actions and sometimes the actions of others. This brings up the concept of the collective. What if people were considerate of the welfare of others? Would the consequences be more favorable? I believe so. Let me explain.

 

The Collective

You drive down the expressway and a driver that seems to be in a rush cuts you off. Cars buzz by you in excess of seventy miles per hour weaving in and out of traffic. People neglect to stop at the stop sign. People race through the red light. These "bad" drivers are not isolated to themselves. Their actions can have dire consequences for someone else. They could cause someone to loose control. They could not fully see the road ahead and have to make a sudden move causing an accident, which could cause their death or death of someone else that is just driving to work.

I submit to you that people are "evil." By evil I mean that people are not considerate to the general welfare of others. We tend not to love thy neighbor as thyself. The human race as a whole is a sinful bunch of people. The human race is loveless and self-centered. We wonder why bad things happen to us. It happens because we give it opportunity to happen. There would be less of a chance for an accident if we all simply drove safely. The likelihood of someone being killed by an accident would be lessened if we factored in the welfare of others around us when we make decisions in a public setting. Sure, driving ninety miles per hour may seem harmless. Sure it is only you at risk for a ticket. Sure you may think that only you would suffer if you lost control of the car. Not so. Many others around you may suffer because of your blatant neglect for public safety, which is a demonstration of lack of love for your neighbor. You put not only yourself at risk but also those around you as well.

Bad things are more likely to happen to us because we give them opportunity to happen. Bad things happen to us because we are collectively evil. I am not using the word evil to mean satanic or anything like that, though I believe the origins or source of this evil is Satanic. Evil is simply the state of not operating in the realm of the kingdom of God. Evil is not being godly in thought and deed. Evil is no consideration for your fellow "man" and a disregard for the general welfare of those around you. As a matter of fact, the word love means an unselfish concern for the welfare of another. Speeding on the highway demonstrates a lack of concern for others. Weaving in and out of traffic demonstrates a lack of love for others. Do you see what I mean? The collective is evil so evil things grow. We have provided the environment for "bad" things to happen so that probabilistically they will happen. Then of course we blame God for the consequences of our own (the collective) evil acts.

What would happen if you left a pile of wet rags in a corner in your basement? Most likely mold will develop and the rags will begin to stink. Why did the mold develop? Was it because of the damp rags? Not exactly. We should look at the entire process. Mold grew because it had the opportunity to grow. The wet rags established the environment for its growth in a corner in your basement. If you didn’t leave the wet rags in a corner in your basement then most likely the mold would not have developed. The rags would have dried out before mold could grow. As a whole, the wet rags that YOU put in a corner in your basement along with the mechanism for mold growth provided by the wet rags caused the moldy smell that you are now complaining about!

Just as I am writing this I have noticed that there is someone in the neighborhood that is shooting various explosives in the air (firecrackers and cherry bombs, etc.). Of course doing this is illegal. Of greater concern is the safety and welfare of others in the neighborhood. What if one of those explosives goes in a direction not planned by the person shooting them. What if it hits someone and explodes or goes in someone’s window and cause damage. You wonder still wonder why bad things happen. We have idiots (a person lacking in good sense—a fool) like this who have no concern for the welfare of others.

The same principle holds true in our lives. We do stuff and we experience the consequences for that stuff—good or bad. Other people do stuff and we still may suffer the consequences for what they have done. The whole human race is a pool for "bad things" and therefore bad things happen. This does not mean that there is not an environment for good things to happen. In Christ, the environment is set for good things to happen. However, since we are still on this Earth, we experience the consequences of the activities of this evil world as well as the consequences for acting according to the principles of the Kingdom of God.

We are victims (good or bad) of the whole (the collective)

 

Natural Phenomena

What about the things that we do not have control of? What about the occurrence of earthquakes, tornadoes, and hurricanes? Well I cannot get into too deep of a discussion on this since it is beyond the scope of this lesson. However, these are natural phenomena that we have no control over. The only thing that we can do is learn to live with them. There are certain areas that are prone to have earthquakes and there are areas that are known for hurricanes and tornadoes. Anyone that lives in these areas faces the risk of being effected by these natural events. We cannot blame God for these things. We can heed the warnings of scientists and prepare for them but that’s it. We cannot stop them nor can we expect to pray them away. They will happen and they will effect us. These are simply things that are part of living on this earth. Energy transfers from one region to another in the form of hurricanes. These are physical phenomena.

We also cannot say that a hurricane was God’s judgement on a particular region. We find in the story of Sodom and Gomorrah that God extracts his people from a region that will experience his judgement. See Genesis chapters eighteen and nineteen. Another example of this is the great flood. See Genesis chapters six and seven. Here again we see that God does look after his own when HE is passing judgement. The innocent is not counted with the guilty.

There is one more thing that I would like to add. The Bible seems to indicate that the destructive forces of nature may be a result of Adam’s sin just as death is. Consider what Paul says.

Rom. 8:22 (KJV) For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.

Also consider Genesis 3:17-19. The earth was just as effected by the consequences of Adams sin as the human race was. We suffer and so does the Earth.

Natural phenomena are a part of life on this earth and will occur. There is nothing we can do about it except prepares. On a more spiritual note, I do believe that we can look to God for guidance in dealing with these and all other things that occur on this earth.

 

God’s Role

What does God do about all of these things? Why can’t God just stop the evil? Why doesn’t God intervene in the affairs of men and put an end to all of the suffering in the world? You may be surprised to know that God has already done these things. Again we find that it is our own disobedience and insistence in living a godless life that we suffer. Where do you think the concept of peace comes from? What about the basic principles of government? Where do you think the concepts of justice come from? What about the laws of the land? These things are mingled within the structure of society because of God’s influence on man. If it weren’t for God then our society would indeed thrive on the strongest survive. We would be in a world of total evil with no hope for reconciliation. However, there is a seed of hope since God has intervened in the affairs of man and planted seeds of godly morals and love. We simply don’t live by them and therefore suffer. We prefer to operate outside of the camp (the realm of God) and then want to blame God for stuff that we do.

Foremost in the list of things that God has ALREADY DONE is Jesus Christ. God could have left the human race to destroy itself. He could have abandoned us. He didn’t. He gave HIS ONLY BEGOTTEN SON to DIE ON THE CROSS so that this selfish godless world would be saved. Imagine that! The God they hate loves a collective that wants nothing to do with God. This same God returns contempt for him into an act of love—true love. He doesn’t return evil for evil. He plants a seed so that we can be delivered from the grips of evil. He sends Jesus Christ so that all we have to do is believe in him and experience the salvation of the Lord. Just as Adam’s death was not immediate, this eternal life does not appear to be evident in that we still experience the junk on this earth. However, God has made the down payment or guarantee (see 2 Cor. 1:22, 5:5, and Ephesians 1:14) for our eternal life. We have eternal life now, though it may not appear as such.

Therefore, God has done more than we can ever ask for. It is we who remain evil and suffer the consequence of such. If the collective, the human race, would listen to God and live according to His spirit then this world would indeed be a better place. I can’t say that all of the evils would be eradicated. However, there would be much less of an environment for evil to manifest and flourish. As it is now, the world is a prime field for the growth of evil weed.

Well why doesn’t God just destroy the evil people and leave the good. The Bible gives us a hint to the answer to this. See Matthew 13:24-30. Destroying the "evil" may effect the "good" as well.

God has done what is necessary to eliminate pain. As a matter of fact, there was no pain in the beginning. Pain came after the sin of man. However, God still intervened in the affairs of man to save us from our sins.

Final Consideration

Why do we experience the sufferings that we do? Why do bad things happen to people? First of all it is not God’s fault. The Bible reveals that God has been working to eliminate pain from the earth. He intended life not to be painful from the very beginning. However, humans acting on their own free will, have induced pain and suffering in the world and on the earth itself. Consider that God is not orchestrating the sufferings in the world today. We are! From the simple neglect of the welfare of others to the gross disobedience of the principles given to us by God, we are at fault.

The Bible reveals the kingdom of God and Jesus specifically gives us insight into its operation. Who seeks the Kingdom of God? Who attempts to live by the principles of the Kingdom of God? We allow the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches robs us of the true life that is in the word of God. We listen to preachers instead of the word. We obey the pastor instead of being sensitive to and heeding the word of God. As a matter of fact, many Christians really don’t know what the Bible teaches. They rattle off church cliches and slogans not realizing that those things are meaningless to the governing of our lives. What really counts is the word of God.

Matt. 4:4 (NCV) Jesus answered, "It is written in the Scriptures, ‘A person does not live by eating only bread, but by everything God says.’"

I believe that the world would be a much better place if we would live by the word of God. Things happen because we don’t live by the word of God. That is, the collective or human race does not operate by the principles of God. Though God’s principles are within our social structure, they are not heeded and sometimes even perverted to fit the fad of the day.

It would be wonderful if we could say that living by God’s word on this earth would eliminate or significantly reduce the bad things that happen. However, as we said earlier, others don’t follow this same idea. They want to live the way they want to live neglecting the commandments of God. Consider the Apostles and how some were martyred and persecuted. Consider how Jesus Christ was killed and how he from time to time had to hide and escape from being captured and killed (until the time was right). If Jesus suffered persecution then so will we at the hands of non-believers. The Apostles, such as Paul and Peter, were out doing good yet they suffered and died for the good that they did. Doing good is not a guarantee for no pains because we still live in an evil world. However, these men did what they had to do and will receive their reward from the Lord. They stayed faithful to the call that was placed upon them even unto death. However, they believed in the hope that they had and they were confident that God would live up to his promise of eternal life. The life on this earth does not compare with the life of eternity that we will experience. However, in the mean time, the best we can do is to respect God and do what he says. That is the only thing that really matters.

We cannot escape from many of the things that will happen. We can heed the Spirit of God and avoid many circumstances. By the wisdom of God we can stay clear of dangers that could harm or destroy us. However, those around us may not live by these same godly principles and we may therefore suffer because or their actions or decisions. Also, many of the things that happen to us are due to our own decisions and the things that we do. We can’t blame God because he does not orchestrate details in our lives. We can only blame ourselves for what we have done. Perhaps we should have gone right instead of left. Perhaps we should have invested in Intel instead of Microsoft.

The environment is set and the seeds are planted. What we plant really will grow. We are right back where we began.

Gal. 6:7 through Gal. 6:8 (NIV) Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.

This scripture is again referring to salvation and living a Christian life. However, the principle revealed is applicable to everyday life. Whatever we sow will grow. The seeds that we plant will grow and we will have to deal with the fruit. We will not only have to deal with our own fruit but the fruit of others as well. It is similar to dealing with weeds that keep migrating to your yard from your neighbor’s yard. Regardless of how much care you have for your lawn, you will always have to deal with something else. So again we deal with the consequences of our own actions and decisions as well as the actions and decisions of those around us (globally).

Things happen because it is the way of the world and the nature of things on this Earth

 

We Are Not Helpless To These Things

Are we helpless to this vicious cycle? Consider our discussion on Contentment (Loving the life we have now). That is crucial to living on this Earth as a Christian. Holding fast to the Kingdom of God is crucial. Holding your treasures to be heavenly instead of earthly is a great accomplishment. Acquiring a relationship and fellowship with God is most important. Then we can rely in the love that God has for us and bask in the hope that he has given us. We can look calamity in the face and keep going (not that we won’t be hurt or effected by it). Our hope will be based on Christ and not on what happens in this life. How has gotten to this point. Probably not many. However, we can know that God loves us and is not out to hurt us. The pain that we experience on this Earth is not the result of God’s actions. The pain that we experience is the result of our own actions as one collective human race. We humans, called man, have corrupted the world because we are corrupt. The loving and gracious God has provided a way out of the trap of death through Christ Jesus.

Do you believe in Jesus Christ? Do you believe that he is the Son of God, died on the cross, rose from the dead conquering our sins? Do you believe that Christ lives today? This is the gospel of Jesus Christ (See 1 Corinthians 15:3-5). Believe in the Lord and savior Jesus Christ and be saved. Escape the death that results from sin and the sin of those before you. All you have to do is hear this gospel, which I have shared with you, and believe. The Bible declares,

Rom. 10:9 (NCV) If you use your mouth to say, "Jesus is Lord," and if you believe in your heart that God raised Jesus from the dead, you will be saved.

Yes bad things happen. However, we have a hope that transcends these bad things. Our hope is in Christ Jesus. Just believe and be saved.

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