This week's question in our Why? series is another one we've all asked at times: Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People? This is one that comes up a lot when we see a fellow servant in Christ suffering. Or a child. We struggle with the suffering of good people. Why does it happen? Read on and get some thoughts...
This week’s message is from Matthew 27:22-26. To read this now, click here.
Why do bad things happen to good people? That’s a question that everyone has asked at one time or another. It’s something we all struggle with; we all know of someone who has had some horrible tragedy occur in their life that they didn’t deserve. Maybe you are struggling this morning.
Why do these things happen? Why do bad things happen to good people? Why do bad things happen to me when I’m trying so hard? No matter how you ask it, the pain and the perplexity is still the same. That’s why we’re in our series looking at these why questions. This week we’re looking at Jesus after he had been arrested, they brought him before Pilate and they’re yelling crucify him, crucify him, and Pilate asked them the question, Why? What evil has he done?
Today, we say it differently, but we’re really asking the same question: Why do bad things happen to good people? That’s a hard question, and it sure can’t be answered in just 20 minutes. But maybe we can learn something. In our reading, in verse 27:22-23, we see the struggle. “What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called Christ?” Pilate asked. They all answered, “Crucify him!” “Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate. But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!”
We’ll look into this this morning and see if we can understand something from it. But as we start, let me suggest here that the question may be flawed. Maybe the better question isn’t, “Why do bad things happen to good people? Maybe the better question is, “Why, God, did bad things happen to the only one that is good?” That’s really a better question.
Because the truth is, Jesus is the only one that’s ever lived a sin free life, and He still suffered. And even as believers, as hard as we try to do the right things, we still struggle, we still fall short. From a theological sense, we’re not that good. Romans 3:10 says, “There is none righteous, no, not one.” In verse 23, Paul writes, “There is no difference [among believers, Jew or Gentile], for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” So theologically, we need to understand that as much as we struggle with this question, we aren’t really good. And the only one that was good struggled, too.
But we know what we mean when we ask that question. As a believer Jesus came into my heart, doesn’t that make me good? Doesn’t that account for something? So maybe we could think, since we’ve been forgiven, since we’ve been adopted as God’s own children, why do bad things still happen to us? Why does tragedy seem to strike believer and non-believer with the same frequency?
Why do the young have cancer, why do children suffer, why is there abuse and abandonment, what did the kids do to deserve this evil? What does anybody do to deserve the suffering that happens?
Now I’m going to try to answer two questions this morning. First, the question that’s the title question, why is there evil? Why do such tragic things happen to good people? But then there’s another question that Pilate is struggling with in our reading, I want to look at that too.
But first … Why do bad things happen to good people? Again, it’s a lot for a short message, but let me see if I can give you some things to think about. I think I’ve identified four pretty good reasons why bad things happen. The first reason is simply because of the world we live in. We live in a fallen world, and to be honest with you, we are all fallen people living in a fallen world.
In Genesis 3:17-18, we see, “To Adam he said, ‘because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree of which I commanded you, ‘you must not eat of it,’ Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will the plants of the field.” Thorns and thistles hurt when we try to work in a garden around them, they bring pain, and what he’s saying is that pain has come into the world. Folks, we’re not in heaven, as comfortable as we are here at times, this isn’t heaven, when we get there it will be different. Pain has come into this world. Just the world we live in.
Second reason, because violate God’s Laws. There are laws. There are physical laws, and there are spiritual laws. Sometimes, we make choices that go against those laws, and because we make those choices, we sometimes suffer consequences. Galatians 6:7-8 says, “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 Sprit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.”
Farmers know you get what you plant. You can’t plant lettuce and expect to get radishes. You get lettuce. That’s the law of the harvest. You can’t sow your sins and expect anything good to come from it. If you sow your sins, you’re going to reap the consequences. It’s the law of the harvest. You sow to the flesh, you reap from the flesh, you sow to the Spirit, you reap from the Spirit. It’s one of God’s spiritual laws. You reap what you sow. You reap of the same kind you sow. If you sow criticism, you reap criticism. You sow hate, you get hate. Here are a couple rules every farmer knows, and everybody ought to know. You always reap what you sow, and you always reap more than you sow, that’s the law of the harvest.
These spiritual laws are just like physical laws. You don’t break the law of gravity, if you jump off a building, you’re going to fall down. God has physical laws and He has spiritual laws and they are both unbreakable.
If you have a really bad diet and you eat bad food and you have no exercise and no self discipline - there is a price for that. If you eat a lot of fat in your diet, the price might be that you get overweight. Sometimes our choices result in, or least contribute to, some of the tragedies in our life. My Mom died a few years ago from lung cancer. She was 77 years old, and smoked cigarettes for 62 of those years. So her diagnosis of cancer was a tragedy, but it was brought on by some choices she made. Sometimes bad things happen because we have terrible diets, we smoke, we do things we know we know we shouldn’t. It’s still a tragedy, but it’s because we’ve violated God’s laws. And there are consequences to violating God’s laws.
Let me give you a third reason: We have a Spiritual Enemy. I probably don’t need to remind you of this, but everything that’s not nailed down is coming up, and the devil is pulling nails as fast as he can. Job suffered, and this is a really hard one to understand, and I don’t understand it, but God allowed the enemy to put him through the fire. It almost seems absurd to me; I don’t understand it. I know that Satan can’t touch a believer without God’s permission. But sometimes God gives him permission.
In Luke 22:31, “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat.” We, as believers, have a bull’s eye on our backs. Satan would love to teach us a lesson. Satan would love to knock us off our pedestals. He would love to keep us from other Christians, to keep us from growing closer to Jesus.
Here’s the good news, he can’t touch us without God’s permission. That’s what Jesus told Peter. I can imagine the conversation. Peter, I’ve got good news and I’ve got bad news. Peter said, “Oh boy! I love good news, what’s the good news?” Jesus told him, “Satan can’t touch you unless I give him permission.” Peter said, “Wow, that’s great! What’s the bad news?” “I’ve given him permission.” Why does God give permission? I don’t know, maybe it has something to do with the next one.
Number 4: Because God Wants to Develop Christ-like Character in our Lives. Everyone knows Romans 8:28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” We know that verse and gives us great comfort when we’re struggling. But did you ever consider the next verse, verse 29? “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the first born among many brothers”
If you’re sitting here today, it’s because God called you. If God hadn’t drawn you to the faith, you would have never come in here. God called you, he foreknew you. And the second he did that, he also pledged to conform you into the image of His Son, Jesus. And sometimes the transformation process isn’t very pleasant.
When you’re refining gold, you put that gold in the hottest melting pot you can. And as the gold melts, the refiner skims the dross, the impurities off the top. You know when he knows it’s ready? When he can see his reflection in the gold. And sometimes God allows things to happen in our lives because He looks into our lives, and He doesn’t see himself in us. So he brings us to the melting point again. He wants us to be conformed to the image of Christ.
Sometimes tragedy comes our way because we live in a fallen world, sometimes it’s the way His laws operate, action and consequence, sometimes it’s the enemy working us over, and sometimes God is refining the impurity out of us, to conform us into the image of His son.
Why did you lose your job? I don’t know. Why did your relationship break up? Why did your child get sick? Why are you facing such a hard road financially? Why did the doctor say cancer? I don’t know. I don’t know why this might have happened to you. I know that sometimes it’s because we live in a fallen world, sometimes it’s because of God’s unbreakable laws, sometimes it’s the enemy, and sometimes it’s God growing us. I hope that gave you something to think about next time trouble comes. Or if you’re struggling today, maybe I’ve given you something to think about.
There’s another question that Pilate asked the crowd in our reading this morning, that we need to give some thought to, also. Pilate struggled with the crowd wanting to crucify Jesus, knowing Jesus hadn’t done anything wrong. But then he asked a follow up question, and it’s a question each one of you is going to have to answer. And here’s the question: “What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called Christ?” It’s a personal question. What shall I do? It’s a penetrating question. It’s a question you’re going to have to answer.
My question to you is simply this, what are you going to do with Jesus. Let’s look at some folks in the Bible to see what they say of Jesus: