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Why Suffering? (Part 1 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
The Truth Network Radio
November 18, 2020 3:00 am

Why Suffering? (Part 1 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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November 18, 2020 3:00 am

From world tragedies to painful circumstances in our personal lives, suffering is universal. Does it have to be this way, though? Join us on Truth For Life as Alistair Begg turns to God’s Word to explain why suffering exists.


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Suffering is something all of us expect and it's difficult for us to understand.

We often wonder why an all-knowing, all loving God would create a world where we experience pain today on Truth for Life. Alastair Begg explains the biblical framework that addresses the question why suffering, it's the first message in our new series called my times are in your hands. Let me invite you to turn to the book of Job made reference to it from time to time.

Although I confess that our study this morning is more topical than is our normal pattern and that is this whole matter of the Christian in the experience of suffering and pain and evil. Obviously this is a vast subject, one into which we can only dip hopefully significantly enough to be able to at least address some of the questions that are on our minds and in our hearts, but it really isn't possible for us to walk through our lives to live in the company of one another and see the significant number of individuals whose lives are ravaged by pain and by discomfort and in the course of my life. I read a number of books and one that I've been particularly enjoying is entitled, the Beatles, the Bible and bodega Bay written by a man called Ken Mansfield who was the former United States manager of Apple records in executive with Capitol records here in the states and in the 60s.

He was in the very forefront of everything that was happening in the rock 'n' roll world as it relates to the Beatles along the journey of his life. He found that he washed up against the rocks that refused to roll and finally discover that he needed to take a stand on the rock of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the course of reading this book and not looking for illustrative material on the matter of suffering in the life of the Christian vibes I find myself drawn in that direction. Even in apparently happenstance reading. I read last evening. This entry, which was an entry in his journal on in September 1993 and it is disease writing from somewhere on the coastline and bodega Bay, California.

I know a man is not supposed to cry. But today I felt like Jeremiah the weeping prophet.

I wept in the wind as I walk before the waves, wondering why Matt dined, I gazed out of the sea, knowing beneath its surface of the sharks and the dolphin swim in the same water. Just once. Though I wish that Flipper could give Joseph whale of a beating. Matt was a Christian brother and the young father of three small children. 1/4 child was due in a few weeks he had lost his job recently and things were tough on all fronts. He was killed instantly in a tragic motorcycle accident. I honestly believe that some of the tears I shed were for those last days that his family had with him. I wish things could have been better before he went away for the sake of their memories. I never cried when my dad passed away.

I kept thinking I would but now I can't stop crying from Matt.

Maybe I'm shedding the tears for this father is a symbol of all fathers when I think about these young children what they have lost.

I fall to my knees in the water's edge and lift my swollen eyes to the heavens above and I pray then there's his prayers and then he writes a game to the water's edge for answers after I hear the tragic news today. I've been staring at it for hours and waiting as the ripples wash up on the sand. I want to rush in and have this whole thing healed two of everyone's pain go away but I stand transfixed, unable to move in any direction mentally, physically or spiritually. I refuse to ask God why these things happen. He is God. We got that straight a long time ago so I've learned to ask important and how instead. What am I to learn from this experience. What can I do that would be in line with his wishes and purposes. How can I be a godly witness in a situation like this, especially when all the unbelievers have a field day is weak, crazy Christians try to explain this one away.

How can I minister to those in need. How can I glorify God in this and in every situation in my life that is not as circumstance that is remote to eyes as we make our journey through our days to 1 or another.

Each of us has or will have occasion at least to feel the feelings that man had, if not to be able to express them so cogently as he's done in that section. Certainly this was something akin to the expedience of Job, who has the most up bright and blameless man, one who feared God and turned away from evil. He found himself subjected to the most dreadful circumstances. I encourage you to read Job for your homework and when you do, you will discover that his life was such that once the devil had asked God if he could put them through a time of testing. Everything fell apart. The Sabeans invaded his territory.

He killed his servants.

They stole all of his capital.

The following day. Lightning struck all of his sheep and the shepherds that were looking after him in the middle of the next night the Chaldeans came and Russell his camels, and then the news reached him the previous night's storm had brought down his house where all of his sons and daughters were feasting and each one of them had been killed all of them were dead and just to add to the dreadful predicament. He himself became the recipient of this most dreadful plague of boils, from which he could get no relief.

A tall and all of this, the expedience of a God-fearing man, reminding us that suffering is no respecter of persons. So we take life and live it.

We take the Bible and we read it and it becomes immediately apparent to us that suffering is a fact of our human existence know some people will try to alleviate the problem in a variety of ways.

For example, Christian science, the work of Mary Baker Eddy has labored long and hard to try and convince us to see pain as something of an illusion to believe that somehow or another weekend in a mind over matter approach isolate ourselves from these dreadful experiences of pain-and-suffering. Certainly, I haven't found that the proponents of this are holding to that line very vociferously when it comes to most obvious things like broken limbs and ruptured spleen's and so on. Nevertheless, that is offered up to his is a way of trying to deal with the problem of pain. You know, kind of ignore it and it'll go away. Deny it and it won't really be there. Others attempt to deal with it, not by removing pain from our line said, but by rejecting God so they say.

If this is how things are to be then I will simply reject God and by rejecting God then somehow or another.

I've dealt with the problem.

Some of you may be here this morning and that's the line that you've taken your angry your disgruntled and your confused can I say to you as graciously as I can, but no one solves the problem of pain and evil and suffering by rejecting God all that they do is remove the possibility of providing a meaningful answer to the predicament. If there is no God who is wise and in control, then the events of life are purely happenstance they take place as a result of blind chance and we then live on our own, unable to make any sense of suffering a tall. Indeed, without the presence of a personal creator God who has fashioned all of his creatures and who loves them. Even through their experiences dark and difficult as they might be without a belief in such a God.

We can never be sure that anything is any ultimate purpose or meaning, not least of all our suffering, and therefore we add to the issue of pain. Total meaninglessness and this of course is aptly summarized in all kinds of ways.

It is the emptiness or the nihilism that is expressed in Sartre's writings embodied in the work of Hemingway and others unit he recorded with great frequency, but it is such a striking quote.

Hemingway says life is a dirty trick, a short journey from nothingness to nothingness and the great dilemma. The great moral dilemma of pain and evil and suffering is not rectified by rejecting God. It is exacerbated by rejecting God because with God. We at least have a point of reference. Absent God. The whole thing is a mess that is without we are without form and void. We are purposeless and we are totally chaotic.

So some of try to deal with it by saying well it's an illusion. Others are trying to deal with it by rejecting God and others try and deal with it by redefining God.

This is the work that is been made famous by Rabbi Kushner wasn't an original idea for him. He never suggested that it was that he has popularized it in his book when bad things happen to good people and what is he saying that book when he doesn't deny the existence of God you wouldn't. He's Jewish, but he solves the problem. He says of pain and evil and suffering by denying God's omnipotence. There is a God, he says, but he is not all-powerful and so on page 148 of the book, he says, we advise you to love God and to forgive him. Despite his limitations so we have a problem here because it seems inconceivable that an all-powerful, all good God would allow these difficulties to exist in our lives.

So watch what we do well so somebody deny that existence is an illusion. That's a silly idea reject God that doesn't help that makes it worse. Redefining God who are you to redefining God. God has made himself known.

God is not the work of our imagination. We do not fashion God the way up author fashions play. Rather, the Bible says that God is the potter and we are the clay well. All were doing is saying that's not a good answer, is that a good answer always the question. The question I think is essentially this lease. This is the ultimate question to which I get why did God, who in his sovereignty knows everything plan is everything and controls everything. Create a world in which he knew things would go wrong, create a world in which he knew things would go wrong and a world in which so much suffering would result.

Why did he not simply prevent Adam and Eve from sinning are asking that question in a defined way were asking that question in an intelligent way were asking if you like in a philosophical way asking it in a sense of putting God in the block but I'm suggesting to you that the ultimate question is if you have those God as he has revealed himself. Why, then, knowing the eventualities we choose to do this now. Clearly, we can stay up all night discussing this and it is not within my frame of reference to build a gift totally comprehensive response to it, but I want to say two things in answer my own question. The first reason I think is simply because he wanted men and women to serve him freely and lovingly, and not just because he gave them no choice because he had programmed them in a certain way is clear that God could've stopped Eve's disobedience he could've removed the fruit from her hand.

He could've annihilated the devil before the world was made, but God chose to teach men and women. The meaning of willing love and genuine obedience. It is our very freedom that makes that a reality. Secondly, and really car relatively God knew that men and women would learn more about their creator and bring more honor to his name if he allowed them first, the freedom to go their own way. So God allowed sin to come into the world with all its horrible results because that way we would learn to love God freely and because somehow God would show his love in a world of evil. I know that that is a tough explanation. It is not an explanation before which the mind of man immediately balance but it is an explanation which does not of God wiggling out of responsibility, which allows us as Christians with a biblical worldview to say to our friends and neighbors know were not trying to apologize for God in relationship to the problem of pain.

We recognize that God himself takes ultimate responsibility God could install all evil tomorrow if he chose. And God has said that there is a day when he will bring all evil to a conclusion. Meanwhile, he determines to leave things exactly as they are in order that men might be brought to a discovery of the fact that he has revealed himself supremely in his suffering, dying son know for me that is very very important because it leaves God is sovereign over all things without making and the author of evil because God himself is not the author of evil. He cannot be an absolute goodness be the author of evil, but we have to acknowledge that God is absolutely sovereign. Therefore, ultimate responsibility comes to God. For example, in Isaiah 45 he says through the prophet I bring prosperity and I create disaster.

Now when you learn to think along these lines. Hopefully you will then be able to be of help to others the kind of help that Job was not getting from his friends because his friends were full of hot air.

That's what he said there in chapter 16 he says basically you're blowing a lot of air out and your long-winded speeches never seem to come to an end. You're a bunch of miserable comforters now again for your homework.

You can look and see what these fellas were saying what you say when a friend is diagnosed with cancer. What you say when someone loses their son in a dreadful Motl's motorcycle accident. What you say when somebody's life begins to unravel before them, and they lose their sense of their mind and their and their reduced distant dreadful circumstances and some ward of of a psychiatric unit. While the kind of things that these fellas had to say were as follows artist, detailing for you and you can read the chapters on your own, but Eliphaz he took the high ground and he came to Job and he said I Job I can see her in a dreadful mess.

You look disgusting. Frankly, and I I'm I'm amazed at all of the things that have happened to you and my advice to you is that you should seek God you just imagine his voice can't assert are so dryroasted to seek the implication being that you haven't been seeking God. Job's response would be more healing I'm doing mightily.

I'm in the predicament why you think I am as I am.

One commentator refers to Eliphaz is a theologian fueled by his creed. Theologian killed by his creed live as each make a mental note of the wailing of becoming such theologians. So when we confront evil when we confront pain and suffering in the lives of our friends and loved ones though we don't immediately come to them and say my my my, I think what you really need to do now is start seeking God. Of course, we always need to seek God at all times, but this is no answer to Job in his predicament. Beware of applying principles at arms length to a problem that is too deep for your arms reach Bildad. He was a friendly soul.

He accuses Job of being a windbag can read that in chapter 8 can imagine that covenant boils lost everything that you all and all your sons and daughters burned up in a fire in a torrent. The fella comes and says you know you did for the window sources. I thank you very much. Give me a tissue and don't let the door hit you on the way. The third valve so far.

You can read of him. In chapter 11.

So far he issues a call to repentance. He's narrow.

He's dogmatic and he shows that he doesn't understand for a moment.

The problem of Job suffers so each of these characters exacerbates the problem here is Job facing all of this dreadful eventuality in each of these fellas shows up like you is the all answers man.

He tells Job it simply a matter of discipline do you love those people and Arbutus tried a little harder. Pull your socks up you wouldn't be in this mess now just come along. Now I really your Bible every day and you say your prayers. How many pleasures say how long they last.

Clearly not long enough by then you should double it up on both counts and does deceive again deal with this. What a load of nonsense. What a load of unhelpful claptrap. What a lot of high sounding regimented clich ridden religiosity spewing out of the mouths of individuals who perhaps themselves have never faced the dark night of the soul.

These fellas were useless and his own wife is helpmeets. What is she telling curse God and die. Hey, thank you very much good I have a little more good. I have a little more cereal please and thank you for that Rogers just rub the calamine lotion just here on and I thank you, thank you very much know the bedsores are lovely and thanks. Why do you go shopping for the rest of your life. So a response to them. He describes them in chapter 13 verse 40 says your worthless physician.

You're absolutely useless. All that you would keep silent, and it would be your wisdom. If you said nothing it says it would be profound in his eloquence isolated past their best at the very beginning in chapter 2, when they see Job coming and they realize his extremity. They do the best that they were ever going to do and in chapter 2 in verse 12 it says and when they saw him from a distance they could hardly recognize him.

They began to weep aloud and they tore their robes in the sprinkled dust on their heads and then they sat on the ground with them for seven days and seven nights, and no one said a word to him because they saw how great his suffering was those of us who have known the darkness and emptiness and fearfulness of the circumstances will be able to testify to the eloquent wisdom of those who've been prepared to sit in the darkness where this and simply hold our hands or put an arm around her shoulders and say they are there there there there there for when you read the Bible you discover that the explanations in relationship to suffering and in relationship to pain are not provided in terms of cause and effect.

The explanations in relationship to the dilemma are not.

They are intaking it in terms of its origins, but understanding it in terms of its goals and when the Bible addresses the issue of pain and suffering and does so within the framework of the fact that God who is good and who is all-powerful from all of eternity has a plan to create a people who are his very own to conform them to the image of his son, and to bring them safely to glory, and he will if you like. If we might say so reverently do just what ever it takes in order to achieve that objective. And in the course of our life's pain and suffering will be part of our suffering takes place under the complete care and sovereignty of God to comforting thought to help us through our trials. Your listing to Truth for Life with Alistair Begg.

It is only in the pages of Scripture that we find ultimate answers to our human experiences, including why we encounter suffering and pain. God's word is our sufficient source to address life's deepest questions.

That's why our program is called Truth for Life. We believe God's truth is the roadmap for our lives. Without it, were all adrift and without hope Truth for Life were committed to reaching as many blisters as we can with this life-changing good news, but we can't do this on our own were completely dependent on God's provision through blisters like you.

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