Faith Matters: June 22, 2013: When bad things happen to God's good people

June 22, 2013 

The strongest believer's faith can be severely challenged "when bad things happen to God's good people."

We see an example of this when John the Baptist was in prison, he sent his disciples to Jesus to ask Him a troubling question.

"And John, calling two of his disciples to him, sent them to Jesus, saying, 'Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?'" (Luke 7:19).

This was John the Baptist! John who saw the heavens open, the dove descend, and heard the voice of the Father declaring "this is my Son!"

But now John only sees prison walls, only hears the sounds of despair and the cries of agony from the other prisoners, perhaps, as they are being tortured and executed. "Why am I here?, why isn't the Miracle Man bringing me my miracle?"

That may very well be what was surging through John's mind as he tried to drown out the persistent mocking of the palace guards.

John is alone, afraid and angry. Hopelessness has seized him deep into its cruel, cruel clutches.

Jesus, who is not offended by John's questioning of who he, the great "I am" is, sends back His response. It serves to remind John of the mission, one that he helped to pave the way for, a mission that is advancing, one that will soon cost Jesus the ultimate price.

"When the men had come to Him, they said, John the Baptist has sent us to You, saying, 'Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?' And that very hour He cured many of infirmities, afflictions and evil spirits; and to many blind He gave sight.

"Jesus answered and said to them, go and tell John the things you have seen and heard: that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me" (Luke 7:20-23).

You see, John was focusing on what God wasn't doing, rather than what He was doing, and that can happen to any one of us.

"It Is Well with My Soul" is a hymn penned by hymnist Horatio Spafford and composed by Philip Bliss. It is one of the most influential and enduring hymns in church history.

This hymn was written after some traumatic events in Spafford's life. The first one was the 1871 Great Chicago Fire, in which he was financially ruined. He had been a successful lawyer and had invested significantly in property in Chicago that was decimated by the great fire. His business interests were further hit by the economic downturn of 1873, at which time he had planned to travel to Europe with his family on the SS Ville du Havre.

In a late change of plans, he sent the family ahead while he was delayed on business concerning zoning problems following the Great Chicago Fire. While crossing the Atlantic, the ship sank rapidly after a collision with a sea vessel, the Loch Earn, and all four of Spafford's daughters died.

His wife, Anna, survived and sent him the now famous telegram, "Saved alone." Shortly afterward, as Spafford traveled to meet his grieving wife, he was inspired to write that famous song as his ship passed near the watery grave where his daughters had perished.

Our grief and disappointment can either consume us further into despair and darkness, or cause us to offer up a sacrifice of praise that tramples darkness and despair and shines a light that illuminates beams of hope, perhaps for decades to come long after we breathe our last as it did in the life of Mr. Spafford, as well as in the life of the Apostle Paul.

"And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me.

"And He said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong" (2 Corinthians 12:7-10).

In the many wonderful promises that fill the Holy Scriptures, we also find this one from our precious Savior and King.

"These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world" (John 16:33).

This passage brought into my remembrance the lyrics from a recent popular song, "sometimes He calms the storm and other times He calms His child."

I know someone personally who recently came to Christ having left a very violent lifestyle. He was jumped, beaten and sent to the emergency room in part because of his new-found faith.

He said to me, "This beat down was for the Lord and this one was worth it." He is convinced that God has called him to reach others in that same lifestyle. Rather than retaliate, he has chosen to love and forgive. He inspires me to strive to be a better Christian and I would like to dedicate this article to him.

I close this epistle of hope with a portion of those famous lyrics of old;

"When peace, like a river, attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll; whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say, it is well, it is well, with my soul."

That is the Kingdom Perspective.

Don Sturiano, is pastor of Kingdom Life Christian Church, which meets at 10:30 a.m. Sunday at 825 Ninth St. W., just across the street from Turner Donuts in downtown Bradenton. Call 941-776-0026 or visit www.kingdomlifechristianchurch.org for more information.

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