Week 1

Day 6: Life in a Fallen World: Where Is God in the Middle of Evil?

 

WHY IS THERE EVIL?

WHY DID GOD LET THIS HAPPEN?

HOW COULD A GOOD GOD ALLOW THIS TO HAPPEN?

WILL GOD HELP US THROUGH THIS?

CAN GOD STOP EVIL?

IS GOD ON OUR SIDE?

 

Have you ever asked any of these questions in response to a traumatic event that happened to you, someone you loved – or even one that did not happen directly to you, but you still felt its effects and hurt and grieved along with the victims?

It’s likely that we all have asked those questions of ourselves and God, either out loud or quietly in our own heads as we try to make sense of an often disordered and violent world.

 

WHY IS THERE EVIL?

WHY DO BAD THINGS HAPPEN TO THOSE WHO LOVE GOD?

For those who don’t know God and those who have rejected Him, the tragedies of life seem to support a flawed and fallacious conclusion that because there is evil, there is no God.  In the hours and days following a violent crime or natural disaster, we often hear atheists seek to justify their belief that God does not exist and that a good God would not allow such suffering and pain in His children.

However, for those who know and accept God and His Word, there is an understanding that we are living in a fallen world, one which is temporarily under Satan’s power as a result of a choice made by one woman and one man, tempted by a piece of fruit and deceived by a serpent in the Garden of Eden.

“Then the Lord God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it. The Lord God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.”” (Gen. 2:15-17, NASB)

“Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.’” The serpent said to the woman, “You surely will not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings.” (Gen. 3:1-7, NASB)

Like one domino falling and setting off a chain reaction of a million subsequent dominoes, that   one choice altered life as God intended it.  The Bible teaches us that sin entered the human race through the choice that Adam and Eve made to eat fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

“Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned—” (Rom. 5:12, NASB)

Since we know that God knows everything, Adam and Eve’s choice wouldn’t have surprised God – though it surely must have grieved Him knowing that His children would fail in their very first trial on earth.

Followers of Christ are not vaccinated against tragedy and trials.  Suffering and struggles are the reality of living in a fallen world for every single one of us.  Believers and unbelievers alike face the same adversaries – among them disease, death, divorce, depression and devastation. To live in this world is to experience loss, heartache, discouragement – and at times, defeat.

While at times it may seem unfair, God allows the good and bad of this life to affect each of us.

“ “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Matt. 5:43-45, NASB)

If we trust God and obey Him through both the sunshine and storms, God will use the good and bad of this life to teach, refine and strengthen us as we are sanctified and become more like His Son and our Savior each day.

Jesus’s brother James taught in his epistle to his brothers and sisters in Christ that we should be grateful for our trials and that we should even count them as joyful blessings.   James was writing to  followers of The Way – some of the earliest Jewish converts to Christianity who had been scattered in different directions and who were experiencing persecution and hardship because of their faith and conversion as followers of Christ.

“ Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (Jas. 1:2-3, NASB)

As we persist and persevere through our trials, these trials will change us from the inside out, helping us to walk more closely with God, trust our Lord and Savior in every detail of our lives, and becoming more like Jesus in the process.  Further, our trust in God through the trials of our lives will serve as a testimony of who God is and what He is doing in us as people who don’t yet know Him see us trusting God, even in the heartbreaks and challenges that life on this earth brings to all of us.

When Jesus came down from heaven to live among us, He came to live as one of us.  The Creator of all subjected Himself to experience the same pains, griefs, sorrows and hardships as His children.  He came in human form so that He could suffer alongside us and teach us how to endure, to persevere and to trust our Heavenly Father.

While He could have come as an earthly king or aristocrat, He chose to be a carpenter – a builder.  It was prophesied by Isaiah that He would be the Prince of Peace and that the government would rest upon His shoulders (Is. 9:6-7) – yet He didn’t choose a castle or seat of power for His birthplace, but rather a manger in the town of Bethlehem. (Lk. 2:12; Mic. 5:2)

In such a fitting display of His great love for us, He chose to allow Himself to suffer for and with us, so that we might see Him as our Savior and our Friend.  As Emmanuel – God with us – Jesus left the peace and beauty of heaven on a rescue mission which would require Him to suffer and die if it were to be successfully completed.  He chose an earthly life of hardship and betrayal, knowing that His journey from Bethlehem to Calvary would be difficult, painful – but the only way to deliver us from sin’s terrifying grip.  As we look back on His earthly days, we can see how Jesus persevered and endured – and we are able to rely on His example as a way to choose to live.  Our God came down to suffer as we suffer so that we might know our High Priest chose to die for us so that we could live with Him and with our Heavenly Father forever.  And as we endure these days, we can take comfort and strength in His example, pressing on through the evil days and choosing a righteous and virtuous life rather than succumbing to sin and evil.

“ For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.  Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Heb. 4:15-16, NASB)

WILL GOD HELP US THROUGH THIS?

The good news is, quite literally, The Good News.  Because while we will all go through the mud and muck of life on this earth, believers have a hope that lies beyond this world – a sure hope of God’s promise not only of eternal blessings in heaven but just as trustworthy a hope that God is with us in the temporal struggles we face in our often weak and weary earthly bodies.  Each day, He is with us as we endure, persevere and strive through what feels like an endless assortment of chores, to-do lists, conflicts and hardships.

Some days are better than others, of course.  But the reality is that even in the most perfect of days, challenges will arrive on each of our doorsteps, whether we invited them or not.  It may happen to us, a loved one or a complete stranger we read about in the news – but we can be certain that trouble finds all of us in one way and at one time or another.

And through it all, as followers of Christ we must be diligent to continue following Christ, we must continue on our walk of faith and we must make a conscious decision that we will not give up and we will not lose faith, no matter what.  We must seek to point people to our hope and encourage others to join us on this journey.

We need to be prepared for these types of days – mornings you’d rather stay in bed than face the leftovers of yesterday’s problems, moments of chaos, hours of heartache and nights spent tossing and turning as you try to make sense of it all.

In those days, we will need more than ever the kind of vision to see that God is with us, especially in moments of what feels like soul-shattering pain.  We may not feel that He is there – which is why we must trust that He is there.  It may feel like we are all alone and like the world is falling in on us.  That is exactly what Satan wants us to feel and believe.  Satan wants us to believe that God is angry with us, that He has abandoned us, that we are all alone and that we have no hope.  Those are the dark corners of the universe where Satan seeks to lure us in moments of despair and depression.

In the book of Job, Satan sought to destroy Job in his futile effort to persuade Job to turn from God.  While Satan ultimately failed, there were moments in Job’s days of suffering in which he questioned, challenged and doubted God’s plans.  It was in these times that Job was vulnerable to the lies of Satan – that God doesn’t care, that He isn’t with us, that He won’t help us, that He has abandoned us and that He is angry with us.

“ Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them. The Lord said to Satan, “From where do you come?” Then Satan answered the Lord and said, “From roaming about on the earth and walking around on it.” The Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job? For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil.” Then Satan answered the Lord, “Does Job fear God for nothing? Have You not made a hedge about him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But put forth Your hand now and touch all that he has; he will surely curse You to Your face.” Then the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your power, only do not put forth your hand on him.” So Satan departed from the presence of the Lord.” (Job 1:6-12, NASB)

Job’s initial response was faith and trust.

“Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head, and he fell to the ground and worshiped. He said,

“Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
And naked I shall return there.
The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away.
Blessed be the name of the Lord.”

Through all this Job did not sin nor did he blame God.” (Job 1:20-22, NASB)

Satan was then permitted to bring great pain and suffering into Job’s life.  God allowed Satan to try and test Job – though God commanded that Satan could not take Job’s life.  God had such confidence in His servant Job that He believed that Satan couldn’t take Job from God’s hands.  God knew that Satan would try to destroy and deceive Job, but God knew His faithful child and knew that Job would persevere and press through the trials.

In the midst of the evil – Job lost all his possessions, his livestock, his health and his children – Job did have days of questioning God and himself.  He wondered what he could have done to have brought upon such suffering and loss.  What Job couldn’t see was the invisible struggle between God and Satan, between good and evil.

Ultimately, that is the essence of this world.  It is as simple and complex as that.  Every day, there is a battle waged between forces of good and forces of evil.  It is a recurring showdown between light and darkness – between the Rebellion and the Empire for the Star Wars fans among us.

It doesn’t matter if you are righteous, loving, good and honest.  In fact, if you are, you have assured yourself a front row seat to the match.  It is because of your trust in and love of God that Satan wants you.  Satan’s focus is on deceiving those who are following and obeying God as they seek to live as God has called them and Satan wants to perpetuate the disobedience of those who have rejected God and turned to a life of sin, evil, hate and misery, albeit often hidden in a mirage of pleasure and indulgence.

Satan targets the faithful because he desires to draw people away from God.  Satan is jealous of God – it was his pride that caused him to fall from heaven and to be separated from God.  As they say, misery loves company.  And Satan – a fallen angel and demon – would love nothing more than to add any of us to his company of misery, separating us forever from our loving God and Creator.

God allowed Job his questions and wonderings.  He waited patiently while Job struggled with the whys and hows and what if’s as he reviewed the film of his life, trying to figure out where he had gone wrong and what he had done to provoke God’s anger and punishment.

Below is an example of the questions Job asked of God as he sat suffering and contemplating his situation.

““Have I rejoiced at the extinction of my enemy,
Or exulted when evil befell him?
“No, I have not allowed my mouth to sin
By asking for his life in a curse.
 “Have the men of my tent not said,
‘Who can find one who has not been satisfied with his meat’?
“The alien has not lodged outside,
For I have opened my doors to the traveler.
“Have I covered my transgressions like Adam,
By hiding my iniquity in my bosom,
Because I feared the great multitude,
And the contempt of families terrified me,
And kept silent and did not go out of doors?
 “Oh that I had one to hear me!
Behold, here is my signature;
Let the Almighty answer me!
And the indictment which my adversary has written,” (Job 31:29-35, NASB)

 

God patiently waited and listened to Job’s questions.

And then, God answered Job.

And what an answer it was.  For several chapters, God showed Job who He is, what He has done, all He has created and oversees.  And then, God turned the tables on Job and began to question him, asking unanswerable, rhetorical questions of Job in response to Job’s demands and requests that God show him why he was suffering.

 

“Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind and said,

“Who is this that darkens counsel
By words without knowledge?
 “Now gird up your loins like a man,
And I will ask you, and you instruct Me!
 “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell Me, if you have understanding,
 Who set its measurements? Since you know.
Or who stretched the line on it?
 “On what were its bases sunk?
Or who laid its cornerstone,
 When the morning stars sang together
And all the sons of God shouted for joy?” (Job 38:1-7, NASB)

 

In listening to God’s eloquent and awesome response, Job realized that he was talking with Almighty God – the Creator of the heavens and all the universe.  Job humbly realized that his Maker had been with him the entire time, that He was in control of all things, had made all things and was in all things.  Suddenly, Job came to his senses and remembered the goodness, the majesty and the power of God and was repentant and responded with love, gratitude and obedience, entrusting himself to an omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent God full of love and mercy towards Job through all of his entreaties and challenges.

“Then Job answered the Lord and said,

“I know that You can do all things,
And that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted.
 ‘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.”
 ‘Hear, now, and I will speak;
I will ask You, and You instruct me.’
 “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear;
But now my eye sees You;
 Therefore I retract,
And I repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:1-6, NASB)

 

There will be days of struggle, suffering and sorrow in this life.  We will endure tests, trials and tribulations.  We may even feel like giving up and giving in.

 

Yet the Son of God calls us to take courage and He reminds us that He has overcome the world.  Jesus told us so much in the Gospel of John:

 

“These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” (Jn. 16:33, NASB)

 

For followers of Christ, we know how the story ends.

 

Death is defeated.

 

Satan is defeated.

 

Sin is defeated.

 

We are forgiven.

 

We are reconciled to God.

 

“But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Cor. 15:54-57, NASB)

 

And God’s Word teaches us that we will spend eternity with the triune God — our Creator, our Savior and our Comforter (God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit).

 

There will be no more evil, no more death, no more mourning, crying or pain.

 

“ And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”” (Rev. 21:3-4, NASB)

 

I love the picture God paints for us in the book of Second Kings.  God has revealed to his prophet Elisha the evil plans and purposes of the king of Aram, who is seeking to destroy Israel.  God warns Elisha so that Elisha can warn the king of Israel.  Israel is able to take evasive action to avoid the Arameans.

The Aramean king is angry that he has been unable to fulfill his planned surprise attack on Israel and he believes there is a spy among the Arameans.  He asks which of them is on the side of the king of Israel, but his men tell him that Elisha is able to hear the plans and strategies the king is discussing.

In response, the king of Aram demands to know where Elisha is and sends his men to carry out a surprise attack against him.

That night, an Aramean army of horses, chariots and soldiers encircle Elisha in Dothan.

Elisha’s servant arises early the next morning to discover the Aramean army surrounding them.  Like most of us would likely be, Elisha’s servant is filled with fear and dread.

Here is the passage:

 

“Now when the attendant of the man of God had risen early and gone out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was circling the city. And his servant said to him, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?” So he answered, “Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” Then Elisha prayed and said, “O Lord, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.” And the Lord opened the servant’s eyes and he saw; and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.

(2 Kings 6:15-17, NASB)

 

Elisha’s servant essentially asks him “Now What?”

And Elisha tells his servant not to fear.  Elisha trusts God – and he wants his servant to trust God also.

He reassures his servant and tells him that their army is bigger than the Aramean army.  It wasn’t the Israelite army that was bigger – it was a heavenly army of God that was with them.

And then Elisha prays and asks God to show his servant what he saw.  God’s answered Elisha’s prayer and opened the servant’s eyes.  Immediately, Elisha’s servant saw the LORD’s army with them and he could see and feel God’s presence.

In the same manner that Elisha asked God to open the eyes of his servant, he then asked God to shut the eyes of the Aramean soldiers.  God again answered Elisha’s prayer and blinded the Arameans surrounding them.  Elisha told the Arameans that they weren’t the ones the Arameans were seeking and he offered to take them to the man that they were seeking.

Which reminds me of this…

 

He led the blinded Aramean army to Samaria and asked God to return sight to their eyes.

As the men looked around, they saw that it was none other than their enemy, the King of Israel.  He asked Elisha if he should kill them, but Elisha counseled the king instead to care for the Arameans and give them bread and water.

As the story concludes, we learn that the Arameans were sent back to their king and that they left Israel alone after that encounter with Elisha.

God gave Elisha the peace and assurance that He was with them – and Elisha asked that his servant might receive the same vision and be able to see God’s presence.

God also gave Elisha great wisdom to help him see how to handle the evil that was surrounding him.

Because of that, Elisha was able to defuse the situation and he was not drawn into a battle of attrition with the Aramean army.

When we are facing evil or uncertainty, we can remember Elisha’s prayer that his servant would be able to see God’s presence all around them.  We can pray for the same awareness and peace that Elisha asked for and ask God to help us rest and trust in Him.

While God may not literally show us His armies, He will give us a peace that He is with us and that He will not leave or forsake us.

And we can ask God to give us wisdom to know how to deal with the evil surrounding us so that we would make wise choices and live in a way that honors God.

As Elisha prayed, so may we pray when we face evil in our lives.  May we seek and take comfort in God’s presence, surrounding us with love, power and strength.  May we know that God is with us in everything we go through.  May we always remember that God loves us and will see us through each battle until He brings us home to Him.

 

WHY DID GOD LET THIS HAPPEN?

WHY WOULD A GOOD GOD ALLOW THIS TO HAPPEN? 

 

When evil enters our lives, we sometimes ask where God was and why He let the evil happen to us.

When we don’t hear God, we wonder why He is silent and why He is not speaking to us.

We are not unique in asking these questions.

In the times of the judges, Gideon asked these same questions.  When the angel of the Lord came to Gideon to give him an important assignment from God, the angel of the Lord told him the Lord was with him, Gideon’s response was to question if God really was with them – and if so, why had all these bad things happened to them at the hands of the Midianites.

“ “Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our ancestors told us about when they said, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up out of Egypt?’ But now the Lord has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.”

The Lord turned to him and said, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?” (Judges 6:13-14, NASB)

More than a thousand years later, the sisters of Lazarus would also ask if God really was with them when they told Jesus that if He had been there, then their brother would not have died.  Unable to see that Jesus was with them even though they couldn’t physically see His presence, Mary and Martha couldn’t understand why Jesus had not come to heal his friend Lazarus, especially in light of the fact that Jesus had healed total strangers all over Israel.

What the sisters could not have known is that Jesus would resurrect Lazarus and would call him out of death and into life, from the darkness of grave cloths to the bright light of the living.

During those several days while Lazarus was ill and in the days after his death when he was placed in the tomb, Mary and Martha heard only the silence of God, punctuated by the wailing and weeping of mourners.

 “So Jesus then said to them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, and I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, so that you may believe; but let us go to him.” Therefore Thomas, who is called Didymus, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, so that we may die with Him.”

So when Jesus came, He found that he had already been in the tomb four days. Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off;and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary, to console them concerning their brother. Martha therefore, when she heard that Jesus was coming, went to meet Him, but Mary stayed at the house. Martha then said to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. Even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You.””

(Jn. 11:14- 22, NASB)

Even in the silence of God, we must remember that God is with us.  In the same way that we may not physically see God’s presence, we also may not hear God’s presence.  We may go through seasons when we do not feel as though God is speaking with us or responding to our prayers.  We may feel as though we are crying out to God in vain and we may worry that He is not listening or that He won’t answer our prayers.

It is in those times that we must know for certain that God is with us and that He hears us and is answering our prayers in His timing and in His ways.  Just as Jesus had a purpose and a plan in delaying His visit to Lazarus, so does He have a purpose and a plan in our lives.

There may be days when we suffer and grieve and mourn.  There will be losses, struggles and sorrows.  But through it all, we must hold on to the hope that God loves us, that He is with us and that He will help us through each day.  We must know and believe that God will never let go of us.

While we do have the hope of heaven even as we live here on earth, we will still face dark and difficult days.  There will be incidents in our lives that will shake us to our core.  We will read stories and hear of violence and hate and evil – across the globe, throughout our nation and even in our own neighborhoods.

You may have experienced or witnessed these kinds of days – of heartbreak, illness, betrayal and even death.  You may wonder why God allowed you to suffer and why He allowed someone you love to be taken from you.  You may question why God allows cancer, abuse and injuries.  You might have seen violence, war and suffering.  Perhaps in your own life you have seen the toll of physical pain, addiction, bullying or financial devastation.

You may have cried out to God, raged at Him and demanded answers from Him.  If He didn’t answer prayers as you asked them, you may have felt disappointed, discouraged and even destroyed.

Please know that God loves you and that He always will love you.

He is big enough to handle all of our questions, our cries and even our screams.

In our days of questioning and suffering, God is the same God as He is in our days of salvation, joy, triumph and comfort.

God does not change.  The world around us changes, our health and fortunes change, people whom we trusted may change and they may even betray us – but God never changes.

Our lives can change in the blink of an eye.  Our lives can and may and will change in the time it takes for a person to arm themselves with weapons and ammunition and enter a school, hotel or movie theatre, in the time it takes for a terrorist to board a plane or train determined to kill and destroy, in the time it takes for a drunk or distracted driver to take the life of a loved one.

But God does not change.

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Heb. 13:8, NASB)

“For I, the Lord, do not change; therefore you, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed.” (Mal. 3:6, NASB)

In the days when we face evil and its consequences, we must cling to our faith in God, our hope in Christ and to each other.  We must decide each day that we will continue to trust and obey God and love each other, even when we cannot see where we are going, when we cannot make sense of what appears to be madness all around us and especially when we see evil lurking and prowling, seeking to consume and destroy us.

The Bible teaches us “for we walk by faith, not by sight—” (2 Cor. 5:7, NASB).

There will be days of natural disasters, personal tragedies, global sufferings and unspeakable evil, even for followers of Christ.

The reality is that while God could change the heart of man and He could have chosen to make us love and follow Him, He wanted us to seek Him and want to love Him.

In giving us free will, God gave us the choice to love Him and others – or not.

None of us can make that choice for another person; we can only make that choice for ourselves.  Sadly, some will reject God and they will reject Christ.

Some will choose to live lives of evil, hate and anger.  This world is under the temporary control of the Enemy.  At a time in the future that only God knows, the power will transfer completely and eternally to Jesus Christ.  But for now, we live in a fallen and broken world in which bad things can and do happen to good people.

However, we can take comfort and refuge in our Savior who offers us rest, healing and hope.  He is the antithesis to the evil and hate of the Enemy.

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. (Jn. 10:10, NASB)

In days like 9/11, Sandy Hook, the Las Vegas shooting, the Parkland school shooting, Columbine and all of these other evil days, we must hold on to God, hold on to Jesus and hold on to each other, helping each other through these tragedies and being the hands and feet of Jesus to one another.  We cannot become  bitter, cruel, resentful or revengeful.  We must walk through these days with God and with each other, living out the fruits of the Holy Spirit and tenderly caring for each other, encouraging each other and helping each other – and then working together to live out the Gospel and change this world with love and life, telling people the Good News of Jesus, helping them to break the chains of sin binding them, which once bound us before we knew of Christ’s liberating love.

I pray that we may feel and see the presence of God.  I pray that even in what feels like God’s silence, we would know He is with us and He is walking with us.  May we know God’s love and may we have peace in our hearts that He created us, He has a purpose and a plan for us and He will never leave us or let go of us.  May we see God as Abba – Daddy.  I pray that God would bind up our wounds, that He would show us tender mercy and grace and help us to press on and continue in our walk with Him.  I pray for those who don’t yet know Christ as Savior and I pray that today, you might take your very first step of faith towards Him.

I pray for those who are learning of God’s love, grace and mercy and whom the Holy Spirit is calling to follow Christ.  Like a baby taking a very first step with mom and dad right there to help and catch their precious child, may you see your Heavenly Father calling you to come to Him, promising that He will catch you, He will protect you, He will be with you and He will help you through your walk of faith, every single day in every single way.

May we not lose hope in the face of evil and tragedy, but may we be reminded of and trust in His promises to us through His Son, our Savior Jesus Christ, in whose name we pray, Amen.

 

 

 

Questions

 

  1. Why do you think there is evil in our world?

 

 

 

 

  1. Can you think of a time when you asked God why He allowed something tragic or evil to happen in our world? If so, briefly describe the time, your feelings, and your conversation with God.

 

 

 

  1. As a follow-up to the above question, how did you talk with God during this time? You may have gone to church, prayed, read your Bible, read books about faith and God, listened to faith-oriented music, spent time outdoors experiencing God’s creation, fellowship with loved ones, etc.

 

 

 

 

  1. How do you respond to stories of injustice, crime, tragedy and violence? Some people get angry, others feel sad, many people feel powerless or hopeless, and some people feel motivated to take action to counter the wrongdoings in our world.  You may feel all of these emotions at different times, depending on the situation.   For example, you may not feel capable or qualified to take on crime, violence or suffering in a city far from where you live, but you may be moved by a story and decide to get involved in your own community as a mentor or volunteer.

 

 

 

 

  1. Has there ever been a time in your life or the life of a loved one when God seemed to be silent during a struggle, trial or hardship? How do you respond when God is silent?  Are you able to see that God is present with us, even when we go through trials and difficult days?

 

A verse you might think about during those days is the following:

 

“Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the Lord your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you.” (Deut. 31:6, NASB)

 

Always  remember that God is with you and that He will never fail you, leave you or forsake you.  You may feel alone – but you never are alone.  God is always with you.

 

  1. There is an expression we often hear about how we should “lean-in” to a situation. While that can be helpful and push us to get more involved, there are times when we may need to “step back” or “lean out.”  Some examples of when we need to lean out is when things are getting too heated or our emotions are running too hot and we run the risk of saying or doing something we will regret.

 

James wrote about the dangers of our words and he cautioned us that the tongue is very small, but it can cause so much damage – and often damage which will be difficult to repair and heal.   In our day and age, this would apply to things we speak as well as things we type (texts, tweets, social media posts, etc.)

 

“And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell. For every species of beasts and birds, of reptiles and creatures of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by the human race. But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison.” (Jas. 3:6-8, NASB)

 

Can you think of a time when you have regretted speaking (or texting, tweeting, emailing, etc.) in the moment?  Has there been a time when you wish you would have waited before you spoke?  If so, what could you have done differently before you spoke or typed?  Could you have prayed?  Counted to 10 (or 100!)?  Wrote out what you wanted to say, then prayed about it, entrusted it to God and asked for understanding and peace and either deleted it or thrown it away, never saying it?

 

 

  1. Passages of Evil. Select one or more of the below passages in the Bible and describe what the nature of the conflict was in the passage.  For example, was it man vs. man; man vs. self; man vs. God; man vs. nature; man vs. society, etc.  What was the evil choice that the person made?  What were the consequences of that evil choice?  How far did the consequences travel?

 

  1. Cain and Abel (Gen. 4:3-12)
  2. Sibling rivalry between Joseph and his brothers (Gen. 37)
  3. Pharaoh killing the baby boys of the Israelites (Ex. 1)
  4. David and Bathsheba (2 Sam. 11)
  5. Herod’s decree to kill Jewish babies after the birth of Jesus (Matt. 2:16-18)
  6. Judas’s betrayal of Jesus (Matt. 26:14-18; Matt. 27:1-10; Jn. 14:21-30; Jn. 18:1-6)
  7. Jesus’s death (Lk. 23:13-25; Lk. 23:33-49)
  8. Sapphira and Ananias (Acts 5:1-11)
  9. Stephen’s death (Acts 7:54-60)

 

 

 

 

  1. There is an expression that people sometimes use when talking about someone who has done something or gone through something devastating or destructive — “There but for the grace of God go I.”   This phrase is attributed to John Bradford, a chaplain of the Church of England who died a martyr’s death for his faith in 1555.  The common understanding of the expression is that any one of us has the potential for evil, given our sinful nature, but that it is God’s grace that has protected us and that it is God’s grace, teaching and protection that helps us make good, wise and right choices.

 

“The pious Martyr Bradford, when he saw a poor criminal led to execution, exclaimed, “there, but for the grace of God, goes John Bradford”. He knew that the same evil principles were in his own heart which had brought the criminal to that shameful end.”

A Treatise on prayer,  Edward Bickersteth, 1822 p. 60.

 

In the Beatitudes, Jesus talked about how our thoughts and feelings can become destructive and dangerous.  He taught that hate and lust powerful and disastrous emotions and that these emotions have the potential to lead to sinful choices if we don’t guard our hearts and minds. Jesus taught His disciples to be forgiving, merciful, righteous, holy and to be peace makers.  When we harbor hate or anger in our heart, we sin against God and others and risk acting out of those angry feelings.  Jesus taught that we must guard our hearts and minds against sinful thoughts because they are a step on the road to sinful actions. (Matt. 5)

 

 

In light of that, what helps you to guard yourself against evil?   How do you protect your heart, soul and mind from evil thoughts which could lead to evil actions?

 

 

 

The Bible teaches us that we should put on the full armor of God (Eph. 6:10-17) to help us deal with Satan’s schemes and evil plans.   James wrote that we should “Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” (Jas. 4:7, NASB)

 

Read Ephesians 6:10-17 and think about whether you are currently putting on God’s armor each day.  Is there a piece of the armor you may be forgetting to put on?  Commit to putting on God’s armor each day to help you be prepared for the challenges and trials you will face.

 

 

When you have faced temptation in the past, how have you responded?

 

 

 

 

How could you modify your strategy (or is there a new strategy you could take) to ensure that you make a choice that honors God, follows Christ’s example and which will protect your heart and guard your life?

 

 

 

  1. Look at the word “EVIL”

 

What do you think of when you see that word?  It could be historical figures, events, behaviors, situations or visceral feelings.

 

 

 

Now, write EVIL backwards.

 

 

 

What do you think of when you see that word?

 

It’s interesting that the L-I-V-E spelled backwards means the opposite of E-V-I-L.  Apparently, that is called a semordnilap (which is palindrome spelled backwards).

I don’t know how to pronounce semordnilap, but I guess that counts as my (our?) “You learn something new every day” for today.   Thanks, Internet!

It may be just a linguistics twist for us to think about, but still it’s thought-provoking and worthy of our consideration that the opposite of evil is to live and that Jesus so many times talked about giving us life and contrasted the hope, peace and love that God offered vis-à-vis the hate, evil and horror that Satan inflicts on our lives.

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (Jn. 10:10, NASB)

 

The Irish politician and philosopher Edmund Burke is quoted as saying that “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

 

Is there an example that you can think of in the world in which there is evil – but in which we can get involved and make a difference to stop that evil?

 

How do you think God wants us to deal with evil?  Is there something that is evil (human trafficking, violence, abuse, etc.) that you want to pray about and perhaps even get involved to address and bring about change?

 

Is there something you can do in the days ahead to make a difference and confront the evil in our world, countering it with love, righteousness and grace?

 

It could be serving as a prayer warrior, volunteering in your community, running for office or volunteering for a candidate who you believe is honest and ethical, speaking out against evil and hate, becoming involved with a group that is working to combat evil in the world and addressing important issues like violence, clean drinking water, hunger, access to health care, literacy, human trafficking, race relations, etc.

It may be something totally different – something specific and unique and for which God is calling you to get involved with and make a difference today.

 

God called Esther, an exiled Jew, to be the Queen of Persia so that He could use her to help save the Jewish people from Haman’s wicked scheme of genocide and destruction.

Because of her role as queen, Esther was able to influence the king and she helped save the Jewish people from certain death.  As she was trying to decide what to do regarding Haman’s evil plan, her cousin Mordecai counseled her that she must be brave and bold and fulfill her destiny, using her position as queen to counter Haman’s evil plot against the Jewish people. Mordecai suggested that God had put her in that time and place for His purposes and plans and that if she did not obey God and take action, then He would bring about deliverance and relief through another way.

“For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place and you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?”” (Est. 4:14, NASB)

 

For what has God placed you here in His world today?  Spend some time asking Him to show you His plans and purposes for you – and then seek to serve Him and others as He leads you.

 

This Week’s Prayer Focus:             

Please continue to pray for the Parkland community and all those who have been affected by gun violence.

Bible Memory Verse:        

Galatians 5:22-23

Fruit of the Week:                            

Oranges, a fruit grown in Florida, to remind us to pray for all those affected by the school shooting in Florida, including the families, the students, first responders and all of the community.

Discipline:                                         

Sacrifice during Lent – Why do we sacrifice to God  during Lent and at other times in the year?

Action Item:                                      

1 – Sometime this week, try to visit the produce section of your market.  Look at the fruits there and consider God’s creativity and goodness in giving us these foods to nurture and nourish us.  Thank Him for His goodness and select a fruit to enjoy this week, such as oranges from Florida.  If possible, make this a weekly habit during the Bible study as a way to be mindful and intentional about celebrating the fruits of the Spirit.

                                                           

2 – Make a commitment to pray each day for the Prayer Focus.  If you already pray daily, find time to include the prayer focus in your prayers.  If you don’t currently pray each day, try to find a time when you can spend a few minutes seeking God, interceding for the prayer focus and seek to begin to incorporate a regular prayer time into each day. 

 

“Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.”

 

 

 

 

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: