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Bad Things | Good People

Bad Things Good PeopleI’m often asked why bad things happen to good people.

Tornados have devastated much of my home town again. I have friends displaced by the tragedy and some whose lives will never be the same. Apart from the tragic, I have relatives who are getting older. Their bodies and minds don’t function like they once did. These friends and family are all good people. Why would a loving God allow something like this to happen?

Wiser minds than mine have explored this topic. Beyond this, I have a predisposition toward the simple answer. I don’t believe that just because something is painful, hard or difficult that it’s inherently ‘bad’ or that the answer to our question has to be complicated, incomprehensible or ponderously deep. I believe God challenges us to search for His answers. I believe He delights when we find them.

My bend toward the simple answer means I risk oversimplifying the issue. That’s not my intent. Some of you face deep hurts, genuine tragedy and life altering circumstances the likes of which I have never known. Please don’t allow the simplicity of my answer to cause you to believe I take lightly the situation you face.

I believe there are two reasons bad things happen to good people, two reasons a loving God would allow people to experience tragedy.

  1. Even good people make mistakes.
  2. In many circumstance, for God to keep you from experiencing tragedy, he would also have to take away your ability to choose for yourself. In essence, you would no longer be free. He would have to so directly control your life and choices that it wouldn’t be you choosing anymore. God, in his sovereignty, has decided to risk the probability that you will suffer for your bad choices rather than forcing you into obedience to his will.

Like I said, simple answers, but not necessarily satisfying.

Let’s dig a little deeper.

I meet with a group of friends every week to talk about how the Bible applies to our everyday lives. Recently, we’ve been talking about the book of Job. It’s the story of a man who is successful in every way. He has a strong, loving family. He is wealthy and influential. God points him out as a man who is ‘blameless’. That doesn’t mean perfect. It means that Job avoided willful disobedience.

You may know the story. Satan challenges God. Satan argues that the reason Job is a good guy is because God has so greatly blessed him. God takes the challenge. He gives Satan permission to test Job. In the process Job is left penniless, his children killed, his reputation tarnished and only his misguided friends and nagging wife to ‘comfort’ him. Job is the perfect example of someone who could ask the questions, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” and “How could a loving God let something that bad happen?”

The study guide we use identified seven reasons bad things happen to good people, seven reasons God allows tragedy to affect our lives. I’ve not added to the list, but I’ve broadened the explanation. When we face tragedy, understanding the reason can help us formulate our response. Knowing ‘why’ can help us make right choices in the future. So here’s the list:

JUDGEMENT | REPENTANCE

Sometimes people disobey God for so long his judgement falls. They’ve done worse than ignore him, they’ve willfully and deliberately rebelled against him. They’ve rejected his grace, mercy and forgiveness and chosen to do things their own way. They’ve gone past the point of no return. Sometimes our choices demand that justice be satisfied and judgement is the only option.

In the face of judgement the only appropriate response is repentance. Learn these eight words, “I’m sorry. I was wrong. Please forgive me.” It’s amazing what God can do through a penitent heart. It’s amazing how a marriage heals when you end an argument with your spouse with those eight words. When tragedy comes due to judgement repentance is the only option.

DISCIPLINE | RESPOND

My kids play sports. They discipline and condition their bodies so they will be ready when the coach trusts them with the ball. Be honest. Exercise hurts. Eating right requires a sacrifice. But the gain is worth the pain. The win is worth the effort. Sometimes the bad things that happen to good people are really preparation for something more significant in the future.

Discipline is the tool God uses to prepare us for the  next season in our journey. When discipline comes we have to respond. “Yes, Lord. Even if it hurts I will learn it. I will do it. I will follow you.”

PERSECUTION | FAITHFUL

God has made it clear that he values sacrifice more than survival. Sometimes the tragedy we face is the result of persecution. In the face of persecution we must remain faithful. Faithfulness gives us a front row seat to all the promises of God. Faithfulness says, “Because I trust God I will hold on. The story may not end as I expect, but it will end with a miracle like I could never imagine.” If the tragedy you face is persecution, hold on. God is giving you a front row seat to all the promises of His Word.

NECESSITY | ENDURE

Some things just have to be. Childbirth is going to hurt. Medication may minimize it. The end result may cause you to forget it, but when a woman goes through labor they will experience pain like they’ve never experienced before. There’s no real formula for instant gratification for anything in life. Some things just take time. Some take practice. Some hurt. If you face a tragedy of necessity, endure. God will walk with you through the whole thing.

CONSEQUENCES | LEARN WISDOM

You learned it in physics. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. There’s a spiritual truth here too. Every physical choice has a spiritual consequence. Every spiritual truth influences the choice we make. If you drop something. It will fall. If you hit someone they will get hurt – then mad – and likely punch back. Our choices have consequences. Those consequences are often unavoidable. If the tragedy you face is the consequence for your bad choices then learn wisdom. Don’t make that same choice again. Do it differently next time and watch the outcome change.

NATURAL | SERVE

Our bodies get old. Our minds slow down. There will come a day when my body will simply wear out. It’s natural. Being old isn’t a punishment. Suffering the inconvenience and pain of old age isn’t the price of a misspent youth. Natural disasters fall into this category as well. We live in a world affected by sin. Even nature. The earth will shake, the wind will blow, the water will rise and recede. It’s the natural rhythm of life. If the tragedy you face has to do with age or natural disaster our response is to serve. As long as God gives me breath I can use who I am and what I have for the benefit of others. I can help others through tragedy. I can serve those who are aging and when I’m the one struck down by age I can pray, I can bless, I can honor those who help me.

MYSTERY | BE PATIENT

Sometimes tragedy comes and we simply don’t know why. The miscarriage comes. The accident happens. The diagnosis is unexpected. We don’t always know the why, but we can trust the who. God understands. God loves us and cares for us. I may not be satisfied with the mystery, but I trust the one who holds that mystery in his hand. When you face this kind of tragedy be patient, God’s not finished yet.

I don’t know what tragedy you’ve faced. You may think of yourself as a good person stuck in a bad situation. You may be like Job.

Whatever the case, remember these things:

  1. God can be trusted.
  2. Remain faithful – faithfulness gives you a front row seat to all the promised of God.
  3. Explore these seven reasons. They can be the road map that helps you know how to take your next step.

For Goodness Sake, What Good Are You?

1 John has 5 chapters. Let’s read one chapter each day. In 5 days you will have read an entire book of the Bible!


What good are you?1 John 1

I like good people. The world is full of good people. The problem is that good is not the standard.

Jesus is the standard.

Following him isn’t about being good. It’s about becoming godly. It’s not about being better than most. It’s about trusting Jesus to forgive our sin.

Jesus will forgive the worst thing you’ve ever done. More than that, he will forgive the worst thing you haven’t done yet.

Does God like good people? Sure. But goodness isn’t enough to give you a right relationship with him or anyone else.

Good people get divorced.
Good people fight with their kids.
Good people lose their jobs.
Good people make mistakes.

Jesus can save them all.

1 John 1:5-6 say, ‘This is the message we heard from Jesus and now declare to you: God is light, and there is no darkness in him at all. So we are lying if we say we have fellowship with God but go on living in spiritual darkness; we are not practicing the truth.”

You may think those verses are talking about the good things you do. ‘Walk in the light’ surely means, “Go be good.” But read the rest of the context. ‘Walk in the light’ means confess your sin. Recognize your lack of genuine goodness. Realize that good is not enough. Understand that you desperately need the forgiveness that only comes from God. To believe anything less is to settle for living a lie. The promise is clear. “If we confess our sins he is faithful and just to forgive our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9.

Stop parading your goodness around like it means something. Instead, place your faith in Jesus and discover the exponential power of your goodness replaced by his holiness.

Good is good. Jesus is better.

PRAYER

Heavenly Father,

Kids are often afraid of the dark, and for good reason. Scary things often live in the dark. Thank you for shining your light into the darkness. Thank you for using that light to show us the limits of own abilities. Thank you for helping us see that life is so much more than we can imagine on our own. Today, help me walk in the light of your forgiveness. I want to live a good life, but I don’t want to stop there. Help me become godly. Forgive my sin and fill me with your righteousness, peace, joy and your Holy Spirit. I want to walk in the light of your forgiveness and help others do the same.

I love you, in Jesus name –
Chad

Don’t Be Evil

evilHere’s how this works.

Each day I’ll read and S.O.A.P. one chapter of Romans. S.O.A.P. is a simple way to focus on what God is speaking to you through what you read. It stands for ScriptureObservationApplication, & Prayer.

Every time I read a chapter God always focuses my heart and mind around a specific part of that chapter. Sometimes it’s just a verse. Sometimes it’s more than that. That verse or group of verses becomes the focus of my devo.

There’s one other practice that helps me know, understand and follow scripture – memorization. Consider memorizing the verse or verses you S.O.A.P.


Romans 12

SCRIPTURE

Romans 12:21, “Don’t be overcome with evil but overcome evil with good.” (NKJV)

OBSERVATION

Paul quickly goes from doctrinal and philosophical to practical. This passage is full of a world of practical advice for those who Believe. However, it’s more than simply practical. It is the natural outflow of a life that has been saved by Jesus Christ. He starts the passage, “Therefore, I beseech you brethren by the mercies of God…” In other words because of all the truth of chapters 1 – 11 here’s what you should now do. You don’t do these things in order to be made right with God, but because you have been made right with God.

The last verse sum it all up nicely, “Do not be overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good.”

APPLICATION

If you practice Scripture memory Romans 12:21 is a good one to memorize (several in this passage are). Romans 12:21 has the added advantage of being easy to memorize. First, it’s short. Second there is a play on words here that makes it memorable. Like the numbers themselves, it’s a mirror image of itself. Write a 12. Look at it in a mirror you see 21. Romans 12:21, “Do not be overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good.”

I’ll bet you have it memorized all ready.

Now for the hard part – actually living it out. It’s so easy to give in to the temptation to fight fire with fire. When someone is nasty to you don’t you have permission to be nasty back? When someone is mean isn’t the appropriate response meanness? Like in the movie The Untouchables if someone brings a knife to a fight shouldn’t you bring a gun? If your enemy puts one of yours in the hospital shouldn’t you put one of theirs in the morgue? Strength must be met with strength, right!?

That’s not exactly what the last part of Romans 12 teaches. It tells us to kill ’em with kindness and love ’em to death. It’s counterintuitive. Instead of escalation respond with the opposite of what seems natural. It tells us that what seems like a strong response isn’t actually strong at all. Evil verses evil only destroys. Good verses evil allows you to overcome.

Why do you think so many people struggle with the same relational issues over and over again? It’s because they attempt to overcome evil with evil. Look at the word evil – spell it backwards.

l – i – v- e

It’s another mirror image. You can be evil or you can live, but you can’t do both. An evil response to an evil act will always lead to an evil outcome. A good response to an evil act leads to life.

PRAYER

Heavenly Father,

Thank you for not doing to me what seems natural in regards to my response to you. I rejected you. I rebelled against you. I denied you. I doubted you. I am complicit in the death of your son. Thank your for not returning to me evil for evil. Instead you have done exceeding abundantly above all I could ask your think. Your goodness has overcome my evil and brought life. Teach me today to do the same. Show me the good response to every evil circumstance and allow me to overcome the evil in my life and the evil in my world with your goodness and lovingkindness.

I love you, in Jesus name –
Chad

Good is Not Enough

be goodHere’s how this works.

Each day I’ll read and S.O.A.P. one chapter of Romans. S.O.A.P. is a simple way to focus on what God is speaking to you through what you read. It stands for ScriptureObservationApplication, & Prayer.

Every time I read a chapter God always focuses my heart and mind around a specific part of that chapter. Sometimes it’s just a verse. Sometimes it’s more than that. That verse or group of verses becomes the focus of my devo.

There’s one other practice that helps me know, understand and follow scripture – memorization. Consider memorizing the verse or verses you S.O.A.P.


Romans 10

SCRIPTURE

Romans 10:1-4, “Dear brothers and sisters, the longing of my heart and my prayer to God is for the people of Israel to be saved. I know what enthusiasm they have for God, but it is misdirected zeal. For they don’t understand God’s way of making people right with himself. Refusing to accept God’s way, they cling to their own way of getting right with God by trying to keep the law. For Christ has already accomplished the purpose for which the law was given. As a result, all who believe in him are made right with God.” (NLT)

OBSERVATION

Paul expresses the same heart for the people of his nation that I have for the people of mine. I wish they would ‘get it’. I’m surrounded by passionate, committed and capable people. Our nation is filled with smart people, many who try daily to live a good life. They actively try to create more value than they consume. They are enthusiastic but with misdirected zeal. They misunderstand God’s way of making people right with himself. They refuse to accept God’s way. They cling to their own good and reject the work Christ has already accomplished for them.

APPLICATION

What do people see of the work of Christ in me? Do the people around me hear my good intentions, see my good works, experience my good deeds and assume all this happens because I’m a good guy? Or do they understand there’s more to me than meets the eye? How will they know. It’s good to be good. Everyone wants to be liked and feel good about the choices they make. Good is good.

Through the power of Christ we can be so much more. We can be godly.

Good is not enough. Good is average. It’s normal. It’s mundane. Is that what you really want? It’s really worse than that. Good is satisfying. It’s anesthetizing. It makes you feel like you’re all right. Until things get so bad you realize things aren’t really all right. Then you’re left wondering what went wrong. We were good. It was good. But it never moved beyond that.

Good is not enough.

God wants to do something in you and through you that can’t be explained because of you. It’s bigger than that – God want’s to do something in you and through you that you will NEVER be able to accomplish on your own. He wants to move you past good to make you godly.

Sincerity won’t get you there. Practice won’t help you overcome. All the education, information and inspiration in the world could double every second and still we’ll never go beyond good on our own. That takes something more. It takes the power of Christ in us.

This statement affects our life and our afterlife. It’s not just about heaven. It’s about the hear and now. Stop trying so hard to be good. Don’t settle for average. Trust Christ, follow him and discover the grace, mercy and power of life the way God intended.

PRAYER

Heavenly Father,

Thanks for surrounding me with good people. Thanks for allowing me to do good things. But I pray that we would go beyond that. Show us what it means to be godly. Give me the wisdom, courage, and strength to trust and obey you. I pray that my life would be unexplainable apart from you. I pray that my life would encourage others to be dissatisfied with good. Give me and those I influence a hunger and thirst for righteousness. Help me show people the value and reality of faith in Jesus Christ. Deepen the faith of our nation. Thank you for already completing, through Jesus, everything we need for life and godliness. Do something in me and through me that can’t be explained because of me.

I love you, in Jesus name –
Chad