Home Media Sermons by Pastor Nicki Coertze Series 5. Why do bad things happen to good people? . Why do bad things happen to good people? (Part 1)

. Why do bad things happen to good people? (Part 1)

Life is filled with questions, but one of the questions we will most often hear is the title of today’s sermon:

WHY DO BAD THINGS HAPPEN TO GOOD PEOPLE?

 

Introduction.

Why do bad things happen to good people? Maybe we should at the same time ask why good things happen to bad people. Both ways we would be inclined to answer, ‘unfair’! Surely good things must happen to good people and bad things to bad people. We all know that God causes his rain to fall on both the righteous and the unrighteous, but that does not tell us why bad things happen to good people. The best way for me to answer the question is to do two sermons, one from the Old Testament that is historical and practical and one from the New Testament that is Theological. So for today I want to turn to the story of Job and next week we will look at Romans 8.

Let’s face it, if you as a believer have not gone through trials yet, you will.  What I want to do today is to prepare your heart that when those trials come that you do not curse God, but that you bless God as your free sovereign Father, no matter how intense the grief and pain will be that will enter into your life. Virtually everyone in this congregation will experience a bitter calamity sooner or later. And you can mark it down ahead of time: it will almost always seem absurd and meaningless and undeserved when it comes whether it comes naturally, through crime or to an age group we do not expect it to happen to, and you will cry ‘why’ a hundred times before the trial is over. Most trials come out of nowhere and baffle our sense of justice.

The story of Job is of tremendous help to any believer who asks the question, namely ‘why do bad things happen to good people?’ Job was a patriarch, he lived in the Genesis period, so you need to put his story possibly even before Abraham. In his time it was believed that if you are holy, then you are blessed by God, which means that you will have riches, so therefore Job was the richest man in the East, which means he was most blessed by God and therefore he was the holiest man around. This theology suddenly gets totally destroyed in the first two chapters of Job, as this supposed holiest of men is confronted with the greatest of struggles in his life. If you want to talk about bad things happening to good people, Job 1 & 2 is the story of baaaaaaad things happening to a goooood man, to coin two new words. That's why the book of Job is so relevant to our question. Job's suffering seems to come out of nowhere and has no connection to his character. Unfair?

Now to help you this morning, I want to structure my sermon in such a way that will be helpful to you personally but also to provide you with an answer to people who ask you for your response to this question. I am actually going to build my sermon around three numbers, and we are going to turn it into a telephone number for you to dial whenever you are in crisis, but at the same time you can give this number to people asking your response to their question. The number to dial is not 911 or 10111 but 243. Memorize it, use it and glorify God with it. Now what do these three numbers represent? It represents:

2 Scenes of the story of Job, which are actually taking place in heaven.

4 Theological truths necessary to understand your circumstances.

3 Applications for your life under trials.

The four truths and the three implications are about a quarter of the sermon, so do not get worried about time if we are still on the first point three quarters of the length of my normal sermons. So when you are in trials, what number do you dial? 243 – Two scenes, four truths and three applications.

So let’s turn in our Bibles to Job 1 and look at the 2 acts.

Scene  1.

Sadly, time will not allow us to go into this story in detail, so let’s simply fly through the story and see the two acts unfold. Verse 1 introduces us to the man Job and his character. He was a man that “was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil.” So, if suffering is always a result of sin, Job was not a likely candidate. Job’s reverence for God governed all he did.

Verses 2-3 describe the way God had blessed him (cf. 1:10) in his righteousness. He had seven sons and three daughters and huge numbers of sheep and camels and oxen and servants. He was the greatest of all the people of the east.

Verses 4-5 describe a specific instance of Job's fear of God and uprightness toward his children. Every time that his sons and daughters gathered for a feast, Job would get up early the next morning and offer burnt offerings for each one just in case any of them had sinned or cursed God in their heart. In other words he was extremely jealous for the honour of God's name, that it not be profaned, and he was extremely vigilant for the sake of his children, not wanting any of them to come to ruin. He was a good man.

Then the calamity came in spite of the man. Skip down to verse 13. It was on one of those feast days when all ten of his children were gathered in the home of the oldest brother.

First (vv.14-15) a messenger comes to Job and tells him that the Sabeans had attacked and stolen all his oxen and asses and killed all the servants with them.

Then (v.16) another messenger comes and says that the fire of God had fallen and destroyed all his sheep and the servants with them.

Then (v.17) another messenger comes and says that the Chaldeans had raided the camel herd and taken them all and killed the servants.

And finally (vv.18-19) the message comes that all of his children were crushed to death when a tornado caused the house to collapse.

Notice that two of the calamities were caused by evil men -- Sabaens (v.15) and Chaldeans (v.17). And two were caused by, what we would call "acts of God". Probably lightning and fire in verse 16 and a tornado in verse 19. Isn’t that how our trials normally come, either seemingly from the acts of man or what the insurance company calls, an act of God? But take note, what we see here are bad things happening to a good man. All Job's prosperity is gone in one afternoon. ‘What in the world is going on here’ is our natural response?

To see what is going on we have to look outside the world. This world alone never answers the great questions of life. The answer is found in heaven. So the writer gives us a glimpse into heaven to understand better what is happening on earth.

Verses 6-12 describe a meeting between God and Satan. In verse 7 Satan says that he spends his time going to and fro on the earth. Then God take the initiative, not Satan and He puts on display one of His star humans that he delights in very much. He says, "Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil”

What’s happening here? Is God messing up? It is like this. A burglar breaks into your house and he is stealing all your belongings, and you come to him and ask him if he has considered your gold and diamond collection that you have hidden in a vault under the carpet, under your main med. Does that not sound like God is messing up? God is not messing up here, but demonstrating His glory to Satan and the heavenly hosts. He is manifestly proud of Job. Job's fear of God has endeared God to Job in a very deep way. Now remember that man is created for God’s glory, not for our own. And in Job, you have someone who already glorifies God and now he has a chance to glorify God even better.

Satan is not impressed. In verse 9 he insinuates that Job is not such a great specimen of reverence for God after all. He says that the only reason Job fears God is to get rich. "Does Job fear God for naught?" Job fears God because it will mean health wealth and prosperity, that's all. So Satan says to God in verse 11, "But stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face." God could have said, "I don't need to prove anything to you or anybody else. I know the heart of my servant Job and that is enough for me." He could have, but in this case he didn't. God chooses to get an open victory over Satan for his own glory. A test will show that in the heart of Job God himself is more highly esteemed than any possession or any family member.

So God says in verse 12, "Very well, then, everything he has is in your hands, but on the man himself do not lay a finger. "

Then comes the calamities. Job loses all his wealth and his children. What on earth is happening? The answer is that something of immense heavenly significance is happening. God is in the process of demonstrating to the heavenly hosts, to the fallen angels and to the Holy angels (and to any others who have eyes to see) that he himself is paramount in the heart of the man Job. Job's reverence is not mercenary as though God himself were of no value. No, Job's reverence is based on the value of God for who God is in himself. The revelation of this truth is so important that God is willing to subject his prize servant to grief and poverty in order to make it known.

Verses 20-21 records the victory. "At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship 21 and said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised.” Satan is proved to be wrong. Job did not curse God when he lost his wealth and his children. He worshiped and he blessed God. And so the superior worth of God became evident to all. And the purpose of God in setting Job up was fulfilled--the revelation of the value of God.

Maybe I’m speaking to somebody today who has lost material belongings or even family members and friends. Is this your story? Have you worshipped and blessed God, or have you cursed God? Well that’s the introduction to the first part of the story, but there is a scene 2.

Scene 2.

But just as Job was recovering from the shock of losing his wealth and his children, he contracts a dreaded disease. In 2:7-8 it says that he was afflicted "with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the top of his head. 8 Then Job took a piece of broken pottery and scraped himself with it as he sat among the ashes." According to 7:5 Job was covered with boil-like sores that opened and ran with puss and then got clogged with dirt and infested with worms. Is this the reward of Job's reverent response to the loss of his children? Again we ask, "What in the world is going on here?" And again the answer is not given in the world but in heaven.

In 2:1-6 God puts Job on display before Satan again.

Verse 3: "Then the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil. And he still maintains his integrity, though you incited me against him to ruin him without any reason"

And again Satan challenges the authenticity of Job's reverence. He says that Job is only reverent because God preserves his health. Verse 4: "Skin for skin!” Satan replied. “A man will give all he has for his own life. 5 But stretch out your hand and strike his flesh and bones, and he will surely curse you to your face." So again the worth of God is challenged. Is it God himself that Job cherishes, or is it the earthly pleasures of family and possessions and health? Job has shown that God is more valuable to him than family and possessions. But what about health? So to show that He alone is Job's treasure God gives his servant into the hand of Satan for the destruction of his flesh.

Verse 6: "Very well, he is in your hands, but you must spare his life.” In other words behind these apparently absurd earthly calamities, there are heavenly transactions of infinite importance. We have Job’s story. He never knew it from the perspective we have that is the written in the Scriptures. However, we need to believe that when calamity comes we must also look to heaven, even if we never understand our story this side of the grave. The demonstration of the worth of God in the faith and reverence of his people is the most important matter in the world.

But when Job's health fails it proves to be too much for his wife. She had endured with him the loss of her children and wealth. But now with the life of her husband draining away leaving her utterly destitute, her faith collapses. Verse 9: "Then his wife said to him, `Are you still holding on to your integrity? Curse God, and die.'" This must have made a hopeful smile come across the face of Satan. But then comes the shattering victory of Job's faith. Verse 10: You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?

Here is the lesson, comforts and calamities come from the hand of God. This rock solid confidence in the sovereignty of God Job will not relinquish -- and neither should we! We think small, but picture Satan in heaven surrounded by 10,000  angels awaiting Job's response. Then Job answers, and unknown to him, 20,000 arms are raised and 10,000 mighty voices shout, "Worthy is the Lord God of Job!"  And what does Satan do? He flees from the presence of the praise of God.

Did you ever wonder what Peter meant when he said (in 1 Peter 5:8) "Be self-controlled and alert? Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” He means that when you suffer, the way to resist Satan is to be like Job and hold fast your confidence in the free and sovereign goodness of God -- not to curse him, but to reverence him. When you do, all heaven shouts the victory and Satan is defeated. "Let those who suffer according to God's will do right and entrust their souls to a faithful Creator" (1 Peter 4:19). I did a sermon on it but remember the teaching of Paul in Ephesians 3:10 (ESV) “10 so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.” You see, God’s manifold wisdom is bigger that your and my life, and so in Job, the manifold wisdom of God was on display to the rulers and authorities and in you and I the manifold wisdom of God is on display today.

 

Now let's get to our second number and stand back and draw out from the text four theological truths and three personal implications.

Four theological truths.

1.      Satan's aim is to destroy our joy in God.

Satan normally uses two weapons against us: pain and pleasure. He uses pain to make us feel that God is powerless or hostile. He uses pleasure to make us feel that God is unessential in my life. I believe we treat the pleasure part as too insignificant in our destruction. Sometimes it is just the beginning of a downward spiral towards turning away from God while pain mostly comes suddenly. Satan failed to turn Job away from God in the days of his pleasure and prosperity. So he attacks Job's God-centred joy through pain. He fails again. But there is no doubt what Satan is after in our life: his aim is to destroy our joy in God and to replace the treasure of God with the earthly treasures of wealth or family or health. That is why bad things happen to good people, and God allows you to see Satan’s tactics in His questions to Satan. The question that God asks Satan exposes Satan and shows forth his wickedness.

2.      God aims to be glorified in the lives of his people.

The great aim of God in creation and redemption is to preserve and display the infinite worth of his glory. The way he does this is by redeeming a people who love him and cleave to him and cherish him above all earthly treasures and pleasures. The mirror he has chosen for the reflection of his worth is his people. They will not trade him for anything this world can offer.

3.      God grants to Satan limited power to cause pain.

In 1:12 God says to Satan, "Very well, then, everything he has is in your hands, but on the man himself do not lay a finger" And in 2:6 God says, "Very well, then, he is in your hands; but you must spare his life." God sets the limits of Satan's power to cause pain. Our God is not frustrated by the power and subtlety of Satan. Satan cannot make a move without the permission of God almighty. He may be a lion, but he is a lion on a leash. And God reins him in or gives him slack according to God's own sovereign purposes.

4.      God’s hand is always seen in the lives of believers, even when trials come by the hand of Satan.

Did you notice that in the two heavenly scenes God handed Job over to Satan's power? But when Satan had done his work of taking Job's wealth and family, Job said in 1:21, "The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised.." Job says that it was ultimately the Lord himself who took away his family and wealth. Then the inspired writer of the book makes a comment to avoid a misunderstanding. Lest anyone say that Job should not have attributed Satan's work to God, he writes (v. 22), "In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.” It is not sin to say that what Satan did, God ultimately did, because God rules Satan. The error will be to say that God is wrong.

Similarly in the second heavenly scene God says (2:6) to Satan, "“Very well, then, he is in your hands; but you must spare his life.” “Then verse 7 makes it very explicit that “Satan went out from the presence of the LORD and afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the top of his head.” But again in verse 10 Job says, "Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble.  In other words Job again goes all the way up to the sovereignty of God over Satan and says that his sickness is from God. Satan may have been the nearer cause, but ultimately it is from God.

And again the inspired writer warns us not to criticize Job here. He writes at the end of verse 10, "In all this Job did not sin with his lips." It is not a sin to say that a sickness that Satan causes is "from the Lord". Job's rock of refuge and hope when everything else seemed to be crumbling was the absolute sovereignty of God. Which leads me finally to our third number in our telephone call to heaven to get our answer on ‘why bad things happen to good people?’

Three applications for all of us today.

1. Let us join with Job and affirm with all our hearts the absolute sovereignty of God.

Let us say with the Psalmist (115:3), "Our God is in the heavens; he does whatever he pleases." Let us say with Daniel (4:35), He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: “What have you done?” Let us make the absolute sovereignty of God the rock on which we build our lives and our church.

2. Let your tears flow freely when your calamity comes.

“20 At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship” (1:20). The sobs of grief and pain are not the sign of unbelief. Job knows nothing of a flippant, insensitive, superficial "Praise God anyhow" response to suffering. The magnificence of his worship is because it was in grief not because it replaced grief. Let your tears flow freely when your calamity comes. And let the rest of us weep with those who weep.

3. Trust in the goodness of God, and let him be your treasure and your joy.

Even if God had let Satan take Job's life we know what Job would have said: Psalm 63:3, “Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you.” Or as some translations put it: The steadfast love of the Lord is better than life." To the rest of us, when your calamity comes may the Lord give you the grace to affirm the sovereignty of God, let your tears flow freely, and let God himself be your treasure and your joy.

So whenever you face your trials, dial 243, remember the 2 acts in heaven, remember the 4 theological truths that are unchanging and remember the 3 implications or applications that apply to all of us today.

Amen!

Logos Community Church:- 10 February 2013