Hard Questions Sermon

There are 2 reasons to voice this question and it is important why you do.

1 – You’re struggling in your faith with God. You love the Lord but the pain is causing you to doubt. If you are struggling, first of all, realize it’s completely okay. The Lord knows and loves you anyway. The fact is, it’s hard questions that can cause our faith to grow. God can use our struggles with hard questions to draw us closer to Him. The Lord knows you are struggling and it is okay. But there is someone else who knows you are struggling. And the last thing he wants is for you to lean into God with your questions. He wants to use the evil in this world to divide us from God and from each other. Jesus said that the devil is the father of lies. He wants to kill your relationship with God, steal your joy, and to destroy your life if you will let him. Satan roams around like a roaring lion seeking lives that he can devour. And that was spoken to believers. It’s perfectly fine, perfectly normal, even necessary to address hard questions. God wants to help you come out on the other side with your faith in-tact and even stronger. Don’t feel bad for thinking it. “If God is an all-powerful God, and such a loving God, why are so many horrible things happening?”

2 – But there is a second reason you might voice this question. Some have already rejected the idea that God exists. They have made their mind up. So, the intent is to make an accusation. “If God is an all-powerful God, and such a loving God, why are so many horrible things happening?” The great sadness is that so often this is spoken out of pain. It’s as much a cry for truth as it is an angry outburst. There was probably a moment in life when trauma brought a sense that God had abandoned them. You can become so angry about life, and at God, that you will feel angry at believers for their faith. “If God is an all-powerful God, and such a loving God, why are so many horrible things happening?” I believe that as long as you have questions or even anger, there is hope. If the idea of the existence of God creates tension for you, it’s not because you don’t believe.

Yet, the question of evil remains – We are talking about the God of the Bible, so let’s allow God’s word to speak for itself. Let’s begin at the beginning. Genesis 1:1 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. God is certainly all powerful. He spoke all things into existence. The first 2 chapters of Genesis speak of creation. We aren’t going to debate the finer points of the creation story but our question revolves around what it is that God created. The first thing God created was light. Verse 3 - God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. I find it interesting that light was first. That energy, light is necessary for life. The New Testament is filled with references that associate God with light. “God is light and in him there is no darkness at all (1 John 5:1).” That was written by John the beloved disciple. He quoted Jesus in the 4th Gospel “Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” John also wrote that God is love (1 John 4:8). So, the Bible claims that God is Light and Love. So in the first chapter off the first book of the Bible, God created all things – light, the earth and sky, the heavenly bodies, the vegetation, the creatures of sea and land, and then, man and woman.

And at the end of the chapter, Genesis 1:31, God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. Everything God created was not only good: it was very good. Doesn’t seem very good now. Why was it good then? In what ways was it good? Let’s back up a few verses – 27-29 So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. 28 God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.” 29 God said, “See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food.”

So all-powerful God who created humankind in His own image. That makes us pretty special among all of God’s creations. If you dig in to this further you will find that God breaths the breath of life into man. Jesus said that God knows us intimately, that the very hairs of our heads are numbered. So, humankind has a special place in God’s creation. God create humankind and gave them dominion over the rest of creation. This speaks of our responsibility to manage the earth’s resources responsibly. We don’t need to be worshipping creation, but don’t let this message get lost in politics. God gave humankind a work to do: to care for the earth. God gave humankind all that was needed to experience an abundant happy life, and everything was very good. So, what happened?

Well, we get a more detailed account of human creation in chapter 3, so turn there. Read Genesis 3: 7-9 God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being. 8 And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east; and there he put the man whom he had formed. 9 Out of the ground the Lord God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food, the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Notice the two trees mentioned here. Those who are familiar with the story are already asking, “Why did God put that tree there?” But let’s look at “The rest of the story.”

Beginning at verse 15 – So, 15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it. 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.” Wait a minute. I thought this was paradise. God set a limitation on man’s rights. Humankind was created having everything they needed for a life of abundance and meaning. Yet, there was one limitation. I’m not going to get off on another message here but it begs at least this: As little children we were not allowed to do just anything we wanted. Don’t touch that. Don’t walk out into the street. Don’t get into creeper vans with strangers offering candy. I ask you, are these limits set to ruin their lives or to teach them to live a happy healthy life? Freedom is not the ability to do anything we want. It is the liberty to live a life of connection with our creator. But I digress.

Adam names all of the animals. And God says that man should not be alone and creates woman – I this is pertinent to our question, so let’s read - 21 So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then he took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. 22 And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. 23 Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; this one shall be called Woman, for out of Man this one was taken.” 24 Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh. 25 And the man and his wife were both naked, and were not ashamed. So, what we have at this point is a beautiful relationship. A paradise where men and women have a shared purpose, and Adam is crazy about Eve. e says she is a part of me. He clings to her, they become one flesh. They have no shame, no fear, nothing but paradise between them. So how did this relationship get all jacked up?

This world is not what God created. So, what happened? Chapter 3 happened…

There we read a story. Some say it is a narrative, like one of Jesus’ parables to help us understand the fall of man. Others say it happened exactly as it is written. I don’t care which you believe. We just need to understand what it is saying. Adam and Eve were in perfect fellowship with each other, with creation, and with God. But the devil invaded their space and planted a lie in Eve’s heart. Genesis 3:1-4 Now the serpent was craftier than any other wild animal that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God say, ‘You shall not eat from any tree in the garden’?” 2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; 3 but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.’” 4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not die; 5 for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” You can be Gods. If you do your own thing, decide for yourselves what is good and evil you will be like gods.

They both eat from the tree that God said, do not eat. And their eyes were opened. They realized they could make their own choices. They began to feel shame and guilt. They no longer lived in innocence. They implemented sin management. Read Genesis 3:7-9 Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves. 8 They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?”

Humankind rejected God’s will. Our ancestors went their own way. We stopped trusting God. And all the good that God had created, all that was very good, became broken. Sin entered the heart of man, and all of creation suffered.

Humankind were no longer allowed to live in God’s paradise because they chose to reject God’s word, chose to question God’s motives, and chose to make their own decisions instead of trusting God. This is how sin entered the world.

From there followed hatred, sexual sin, lying, rebelliousness, pride, violence, and of course all kinds of pain, fear, shame, and hate. This is not what God created. It is what humankind chose.

By now, someone should be stating the obvious. None of that explains why God allowed them to be tempted by the devil. God is omnipotent, all powerful. But it appears that God chose not to maintain control over Adam and Eve or the situation. In fact, God gave placed the opportunity before them. God did not temp them. That was the devil. But the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was planted right there in the garden. And God gave them the liberty to choose to trust Him or to reject Him. Why? It is very apparent from the story of salvation that God wanted humankind to have an authentic relationship with humankind. Instead of creating a being that is coerced, a numb, unthinking, being with no ability to reason on our own. We are created in God’s image - so that our lives can be full of potential, full of mystery, full of creativity, full of discovery/curiosity, filled with talent, able to learn new skills, and having a will of our own, able to choose our relationships.

It is these things that make us human beings created in God’s image. Anything short of it is not. We were created to be like God, filled with love and light, but never meant to be gods. And it is only in a relationship with our creator, that we have so much potential and so much life. This is why God came into this world. The Bible is the story of creation and the fall and God coming to this world bringing a way back to Him. Jesus paid the price for our fall and rose again. In Him we can live. Just as He is in relationship with the Father, Jesus is calling us to Him so He can restore our souls and restore that relationship.

That’s a lot to take in. So, I will end with this. The next time something horrible happens, don’t say, oh that was just God’s will. Christ has proven His love for us and desires nothing but good for us in this life and the next. But we have to be willing to seek Him, find Him, and trust Him. Why does God allow evil in this world if He is a loving and all-powerful God? It is humankind that makes the choices. The offer to live in His light and love stands today and one day, He will restore all of creation. The paradise lost will be restored. Don’t you want to be part of that?

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