Welcome to Grace Summit!
Sunday Services at 9:30 and 11:00 am
Grace Summit Community Church is a nondenominational church which focuses on authentically living out what the Bible teaches. It’s also a church with a big heart—toward its members, guests, and those in our community.
Grace Summit leadership and members desire to make a difference in our world by demonstrating through our lives that God is real, that He loves people and that He wants a relationship with each person. The mindset of “making room for more” underlies the plans and activities of Grace Summit as we strive to include and connect with more people in all we do. We’d love to have you be a part of what God is doing here at Grace Summit!
This Week's Message
Lord, we ask for those who have lost loved ones in a horrific way in Oregon this week. Help us as a nation to be transformed that these things would not happen every few weeks. We need to be healed as a people – we need to be saved – we need YOU – You are our only hope. We pray You would give grace and comfort to those families. Help us to hear Your word – and as we consider what it means to be people of faith – give us wisdom and insight. Help me to share with humility and grace.
We have been going through this series on Faith and Doubt– and we were down visiting our grandchildren – (but our kids show up) – and one of my sons has been listening to it online and we were talking about it – and he started asking a lot of questions - and I realized that it brings even more questions. Feel free to ask them! Jot it down or mention it to me. It is impossible with these issues to give all the right answers. And what I have found – listening to well-known Christian leaders – with a lot of these topics – they may disagree with one another on a lot of these things – but these are well-respected people and love God. I will probably share some things that you disagree with and I am okay with it!
I also recognize that I may have some different answers than you are used to hearing – and I want to say that there is not always ONE right answer for everything. I like to believe that God is not a God of right answers – He is bigger than that.
Sometimes God believes in no answers! Sometimes He is known for that. Jesus often gives no answers – usually He just asked another question.
Today we will talk about the Problem of Evil and Suffering for everyone.
CS Lewis – has written two important books - The Problem of Pain – and The Weight of Glory - I urge you to read them – they are short books. It would be really good for you to help in this area.
You may know that CS Lewis was an atheist for the longest time. I’ll take snippets from 3-4 pages.
Not many years ago when I was an atheist, if anyone had asked me, “Why do you not believe in God?” my reply would have run something like this:
“Look at the universe we live in. By far the greater part of it consists of empty space, completely dark and unimaginably cold. The bodies which move in this space are so few and so small in comparison with the space itself that even if every one of them were known to be crowded as full as it could hold with perfectly happy creatures, it would still be difficult to believe that life and happiness were more than a by-product to the power that made the universe. As it is, however, the scientists think it likely that very few of the suns of space--perhaps none of them except our own--have any planets; and in our own system it is improbable that any planet except the Earth sustains life. And Earth herself existed without life for millions of years and may exist for millions more when life has left her. And what is life like while it lasts? It is so arranged that all the forms of it can live only by preying upon one another. In the lower forms this process entails only death, but in the higher there appears a new quality called consciousness which enables [death] to be attended with pain. The creatures cause pain by being born, and live by inflicting pain, and in pain they mostly die. In the most complex of all the creatures, Man, yet another quality appears, which we call reason, whereby he is enabled to foresee his own pain which henceforth is preceded with acute mental suffering, and to foresee his own death while keenly desiring permanence.
Then he goes on to talk about with this reason they make war and destroy one another…
“If you ask me to believe that this is the work of a benevolent and omnipotent spirit, I reply that all the evidence points in the opposite direction. Either there is no spirit behind the universe, or else a spirit indifferent to good and evil, or else an evil spirit.”
“If God were good, He would wish to make His creatures perfectly happy – and if He were almighty, he’d be able to do what He wished. But the creatures are not happy, therefore God either lacks goodness or power or both.”
Adam Hamilton – the traditional question as it is posed. If God is loving and just , then He must not be all-powerful, and if God were both, He would stop the pain and suffering in the world.
This is that the ‘New Atheists’ are doing to eliminate God from our world – and this is what those who have rejected God are listening to.
That is the number one thing that causes Christians to walk away from the faith – the problem of the suffering of innocents in this world.
I don’t think I can answer all your questions satisfactorily – I don’t know that anyone can.
We who live in the developed world live in a world where people suffer less than any time in history. That does not mean we don’t suffer – all of us have gone through terribly difficult things - we all know people or we have ourselves – those who have lost loved ones – terrible situations like what took place in Oregon or Sandy Hook – There is plenty of suffering in our world – but compared to what is happening in the underdeveloped world, we suffer much less. And if you go back through history – this is probably the least suffering ever. In most of history – 50% of children died before the age of TEN! Think about that in our context - Think about the suffering if that were going on today!
As we have, through medicine, technology, scientific advancement, eliminated more suffering - we probably tolerate suffering less. In the ancient world, suffering did not cause people to not believe in God – instead it drew them to God. In the underdeveloped world, suffering does not cause people to reject God! The way the early Christians responded to suffering – caused others to want to become Christians! As they were thrown to the lions and burned and whipped – it caused people to want to join them! We can’t even comprehend that in our thinking – and yet today, it is what drives people away. But today, our view of suffering has changed because of prosperity. Our understanding of suffering lacks a foundation that people used to have a bit better. As a result of this – we eliminate belief in God. We think, well, this shouldn’t be happening this way – so I have to give up on this. Eliminating belief in God does not change the suffering or the problem. They have nowhere to go. If they go to man – how does that work? It does not work well
Humankind has been unable, and has always been unable, to stop the violence and pain.
Existence of pain and suffering does not prove the absence of a loving God.
Existence of pain does not prove the absence of love.
I am going through physical therapy. She moves my arm tiny movements – and it hurts! But that has nothing to do with her not loving me! The pain is for my good. So we made a video of how to do it and Cindy has learned to do this. So every night – my wife, who I think loves me, puts me through tremendous pain. It is hard on her. It is harder on me! But it is hard on her to do it to me.
Children sometimes do things they shouldn’t. My kids - once or twice – an hour – needed discipline. And it was painful – but it was not through a lack of love. It is done because we love our children.
Let me say this – this is a caution. We can sometimes think that suffering and pain are always a result of discipline – but that is not always true – we live in a fallen world.
Job was one of the most righteous men ever the Bible says – and Satan goes to God and says – He is only righteous because You protect him – so God allows terrible things to happen to Job – and one of Job’s lousy friends come and says this -
Job 4: 7 “Remember now, who ever perished being innocent?
Or where were the upright destroyed?
8 “According to what I have seen, those who plow iniquity
And those who sow trouble harvest it.
9 “By the breath of God they perish,
And by the blast of His anger they come to an end.
This is one of Job’s lousy friends. Job had lost everything – and the lousy friends come by – and Job is complaining – and this friend comes by and says – if you were doing the right thing you would not be experiencing this pain.
Job is all about The Retribution principle – those who do bad get bad and those who do good get good – and Job tell us that this is not true – it is not how the world works – and God looks at the friends who say – Job, if you were right this would not be happening – God says to them – You spoke wrongly of Me.
Life is not fair. The world is not fair. It is not how the world works. Often, the good and the innocent suffer – and at times, it seems like they suffer more than the evil! Why would the world be this way – why wouldn’t God make it the other way?
Evil and suffering are a result of sin (in general) – not always specifically because of your evil and sin.
Evil and suffering are a result of sin – but YOUR suffering is not always the result of your sin.
Sin’s influence is undiscriminating – it is dispersed through all of creation – it does not just alight on those who are the worst. Sin covers the globe as does suffering.
Romans 8: 19 For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now.
So when sin came, everything came down with it! So we ask – why did God create a world filled with suffering? I would say – He did not! When we look at the Garden – God’s creation had no suffering – no corruption. His original intent in creation was a world without suffering and pain. His ultimate purpose will be to create another world that has no suffering – no pain – no evil. It won’t exist. So that is God’s intent and purpose. And that is what will ultimately happen. The question of God being Good and All-powerful misses a key element of all of this. God’s ultimate character – the thing God is MOST is LOVE. God makes it clear He is many things – Holy, righteous, just – but the thing He wants to be known for the most – is God is love. And if you don’t think that – you have never read your Bible.
God Himself died for us because He loves us – can any expression be made in any other ways? Everything falls under that.
God is a trinity – Father, Son, Holy Spirit – How much JUSTICE is needed in that relationship? God doesn’t need to discipline Jesus. All we see among them is LOVE – this amazing relationship of LOVE.
Incomprehensible to us – beyond what we can imagine. Somehow – and I don’t know how or why – but God, in choosing to create – determined that for love to be made manifest and completely known – He had to create creatures who were free to reject Him. Why that is the case, I don’t know – but somehow God believes that FULL LOVE requires FREEDOM – FREEDOM resulted in evil – an evil choice – to reject God.
Why couldn’t God have created us with Freedom – but only the freedom to choose good? In heaven, you will be no less free – but you will always choose good! But for some reason, we don’t know it – God chose not to – something was so important to God – for His love to be understood fully – that is what He chose to do.
We think – why doesn’t God take away the freedom from someone who wanted to go into a university in Oregon to kill people? Well that isn’t freedom.
If this is not satisfying in any way to anyone – nonetheless, it is a reality – in order to really understand God’s love – His purpose and plans –
This doesn’t explain suffering – but this brings us back to Job – and the answer in Job – the answer to the why is there suffering and pain question? We’ll never understand. After Job goes through his rant – it is all unfair, God! And God answers Job:
Job 38: 1 Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind and said,
2 “Who is this that darkens counsel
By words without knowledge?
3 “Now gird up your loins like a man,
And I will ask you, and you instruct Me!
4 “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell Me, if you [a]have understanding,
Then He takes Job on a tour of creation – and says – don’t accuse Me – you don’t understand.
GK Chesterton – God is like looking at the sun – you can’t look directly at it – but without it you can’t look at anything.
We cannot answer the why question and we should cease trying forever. We can’t answer why does all this happen.
We want to –
There are some lessons to learn: Job – the faith of one person who suffers has cosmic consequences. Job suffering – and his faith, through that suffering – transforms things. Knowing nothing about it – no clue about what is going on in the heavenlies – and Job wins this great victory.
Job is a unique story – and it tells us that faith – significant faith – is powerful. When we go through suffering and overcome – it is a testimony to the world - it is very powerful and something powerful is a result of what we are doing. This is a miracle - it takes a tremendous outpouring of grace for someone to respond in faith. Think of those we admire – many have experienced tremendous suffering.
Job is the opposite of Adam. Adam chose sin. Job – his wife told him to curse God and die – and yet Job chose to worship. And Job is a picture of another Adam, Jesus - who also had a freedom to choose and He chose the cross to suffer for us.
Job tells us what to do about not understanding… -
Job 42:1 Then Job answered the Lord and said,
2 “I know that You can do all things,
And that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted.
3 ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’
Therefore I have declared that which I did not understand,
Things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.”
We might say - the answer to pain and suffering in the world? Take communion and understand who God is.