Confronting people’s sin isn’t very popular these days. More and more the world is handing out excuses rather than judgements and punishments. It’s not that I’m advocating for the return of the Salem Witch trials or the Spanish Inquisition, but I do believe that we have lost something incredibly important to human society when we are no longer able (or allowed) to call out evil and declare something a sin.
Even our movies have changed. It used to be that we knew the bad guy because he had the black hat and twirly mustache. He didn’t need much of a back-story – he was the bad guy. “Once upon a time there was a witch who hated everyone…” or “Once upon a time a young girl was sent to visit her grandmother’s house, but when she got there her grandmother was replaced by a wolf…” was plenty enough information for us to know that the witch and the wolf were bad guys.
Not anymore. Now the witch and the wolf have backstories that explain why they went bad. The witch was hurt by an untrustworthy boy she liked, and the wolf came from a broken home in a bad neighbourhood. Implicit in these backstories is that everyone has an excuse for why they do what they do – nothing is their fault. They are merely a product of a broken system. If they had grown up in a different place, with good education and the right meds, then they would be just fine.
Words and stories are very powerful things because they shape our worldview. And if we get rid of words like right and wrong, good and evil, sin and righteousness, then we end up rewriting our understanding of the greatest problem in this world and losing sight of what must be done to change it. If our greatest problem is sin, and the solution is Jesus, then we need to be able to declare that sin exists. But what happens when we stop using the word sin? How can we get to the solution, when we’ve changed what we think the problem is?
Consider the fact that we’ve all but lost the categories for sin today. Last week I read a passage from Galatians 5 which outlined a whole list of sins that God says we need to take seriously, because when we commit these sins we show that we are out of step with Him and are working against His Spirit. The passage went like this:
“Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Gal 5:19-21)
Now that sounds bad when you use those words, right? “Not inheriting the Kingdom of God” is a big deal, right? This is a problem that needs solving! We need Jesus to fix this!
Well, let’s modernize them and see what happens.
- First, let’s turn “sexual immorality, impurity and sensuality” into “expressing your feelings for someone in a natural way”, “a healthy expression of one’s inner desires”, “dating” and the ever-popular, “safe sex.” That way we can turn something like “adultery” into “a love affair” (that sounds nice, doesn’t it) or “finding my soul mate during a troubled marriage”.
- Next let’s turn “idolatry” into “consumerism”, “a beautiful expression of culture.” and “personal religious constructs”.
- We’ll turn “sorcery” into “silly superstitions”, “using pharmaceuticals to improve life”, “being in touch with mother nature” or “living a naturalistic lifestyle”.
- We’ll change “enmity”, “strife”, “jealousy”, “fits of anger” and “rivalries”, “dissensions” and “divisions” into “having a competitive spirit”, “wanting to be the best you can be”, “winning at all costs”, “survival of the fittest” or simply “being passionate about excellence”.
- We’ll turn “envy” into “looking up to someone more successful than you”, “wanting to get what you deserve.”
- And finally “drunkenness” and “orgies” can become “getting a little carried away at a fun party”.
Ok, so let’s summarize, and we’ll use the modern translation that we’ve just come up with:
“Now, the works of the flesh are… expressing your natural feelings for someone, sharing in the beauty of your culture, living a natural lifestyle, being passionate about excellence, looking up to people more successful than you, and having fun at parties… those who do such things (?) will not inherit the kingdom of God…”
Now, that sounds a little harsh doesn’t it? How can God be against people expressing our feelings, sharing beauty, living naturally, pursuing excellence, and having fun?! Do you see why words are important and how dangerous it is that we are living in a culture that won’t call sin sin?
What we’re about to study today is a passage known as the “Woe to the Chaldeans” and it’s all about calling out sin. We talked a bit about this last week, but I want you to remember the context. This intense section of scripture is full of hard language and threats, but is there for a reason. It’s pointing out how much God hates sin – which is what we talked about last week – but also how He intends to deal with it. Some people are going to be disciplined, others punished. No one will get away with anything.
Christians love to sing “Amazing Grace how sweet the sound”, but in order to understand the first part, we need to understand the “that saved a wretch like me” part. In order to understand forgiveness we need to see what we’ve been forgiven for. In order to understand mercy, we need to see the wrath from which we were spared. In order to comprehend the amazing love of God for His people, and the sacrifice of His Son on our behalf, we have to come face to face with the depth of our sin and depravity, and the weight of judgement that faces each person that doesn’t know Jesus as their Saviour and Lord. It’s awesome to talk about amazing grace, but it only makes sense in the light of knowing we are wretches first.
So, as we look at this, let’s keep the context in mind. Habakkuk, a priest in God’s temple, was living in a nation that was almost totally corrupt. Suffering, injustice, violence and sin were everywhere. His heart is breaking and he starts to pray, asking God why He’s not doing anything about it. God sends Habakkuk a vision that explains to him and us how he plans to deal with the sin of His people and, by extension, the sins of the world. God says his plan is to discipline his people by sending their enemy, the Chaldeans (later called the Babylonians), to wipe out Jerusalem and drag the people off into captivity for 70 years.
Habakkuk, a priest in God’s temple, was living in a nation that was almost totally corrupt. Suffering, injustice, violence and sin were everywhere. His heart is breaking and he starts to pray, asking God why He’s not doing anything about it. God sends Habakkuk a vision that explains to him and us how he plans to deal with the sin of His people and, by extension, the sins of the world. God says his plan is to discipline his people by sending their enemy, the Chaldeans (later called the Babylonians), to wipe out Jerusalem and drag the people off into captivity for 70 years.
Habakkuk asks a follow-up question, wondering how God could justify using a greater evil to punish a lesser one: “Why would he use the pagan Chaldeans to punish the lesser wrongs of Israel? Why should the Chaldeans get away with being evil when Israel won’t?”
God’s answer is that He is a God of justice and that no one will be getting away with anything! He’s going to use the Chaldeans as a rod of discipline against His children, and then make sure that the Chaldeans receive their judgement for their sin too. God isn’t slow to act, nor has He forgotten. He’s been patiently waiting for His people to repent, but they won’t. And while they’ve been rejecting Him and His prophets, He’s been preparing the world for a change of empires – the rise of the Babylonians – who though they don’t even believe in Him, God intends to use bring Himself glory and bring salvation to His people.
Last week we talked about the inner workings, the heart, of the Chaldeans – their pride, addiction and greed – and now this week we’re going to get in the specifics of God’s problem with them.
What I want to do over the next few weeks is look at the passage in context and then extrapolate out what those sins would look like today because God’s standards haven’t changed.
The big take-away from this sermon, I hope, is that God is very serious about sin, and we need to be serious about it too. And, perhaps the second take-away is that even when the world seems very dark, God isn’t being idle – He’s being patient – and He’s preparing the world for something even greater. Let’s turn to Habakkuk 2:6-20 and let’s read the passage together and then take it apart piece by piece.
“Shall not all these take up their taunt against him, with scoffing and riddles for him, and say, ‘Woe to him who heaps up what is not his own—for how long?—and loads himself with pledges!’ Will not your debtors suddenly arise, and those awake who will make you tremble? Then you will be spoil for them. Because you have plundered many nations, all the remnant of the peoples shall plunder you, for the blood of man and violence to the earth, to cities and all who dwell in them.
‘Woe to him who gets evil gain for his house, to set his nest on high, to be safe from the reach of harm! You have devised shame for your house by cutting off many peoples; you have forfeited your life. For the stone will cry out from the wall, and the beam from the woodwork respond.
‘Woe to him who builds a town with blood and founds a city on iniquity! Behold, is it not from the LORD of hosts that peoples labor merely for fire, and nations weary themselves for nothing? For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.
‘Woe to him who makes his neighbors drink—you pour out your wrath and make them drunk, in order to gaze at their nakedness! You will have your fill of shame instead of glory. Drink, yourself, and show your uncircumcision! The cup in the LORD’s right hand will come around to you, and utter shame will come upon your glory! The violence done to Lebanon will overwhelm you, as will the destruction of the beasts that terrified them, for the blood of man and violence to the earth, to cities and all who dwell in them.
‘What profit is an idol when its maker has shaped it, a metal image, a teacher of lies? For its maker trusts in his own creation when he makes speechless idols! Woe to him who says to a wooden thing, Awake; to a silent stone, Arise! Can this teach? Behold, it is overlaid with gold and silver, and there is no breath at all in it. But the LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him.’” (Habakkuk 2:6-20)
What are Woes
There are five woes and I want to look at each of them, but first, let’s answer the question: What is a “Woe”?
A “Woe” is a declaration of judgement for the miserable, deplorable condition of the one being addressed. It is not a good thing to receive a “woe”. Someone receiving a “woe” is most often living in a fantasy world, thinking they are doing well, when in fact they are utterly wretched and blind to the truth. They are self-satisfied, and don’t realize their spiritual condition, or the future that awaits them.
A “woe” is a pronouncement of judgement and a warning to someone who thinks they’re doing just fine, and they are found throughout scripture. In Matthew 23 Jesus pronounced woes on the Scribes and Pharisees who thought themselves to be so great and holy, but were in fact under the terrible judgement of God, destined for hell. It’s an expression of grief at the terrible condition of the sinner – people that are so utterly lost, they don’t even know it.
I want today’s message to serve as a sort of woe to each one of us, and perhaps to our friends and neighbours too. I hope that as we read this passage, we will have a realization of the depths of our sin problem and God’s hatred of it. We are far too comfortable with our sin, and it gets us into great trouble. We make excuses for it, play with it, think it no big deal, and start to think that God doesn’t care about it either. We desperately need the conviction of God and the knowledge of our sin, or we won’t come to Jesus. As long as we think ourselves righteous and good – perhaps only needing a little divine help here or there – we will not be on our face asking God for daily forgiveness and crying out in need for His love and presence.
I believe that desire starts with the acknowledgement that we are sinners and that there are serious consequences for our sins: for the believer and the unbeliever! Woe to any of us who do not listen to these words and not feel the weight of conviction on our souls and desire to come before God in repentance. If you can read these words and not feel some kind of conviction, then there is something wrong with your soul.
Ok, so let’s get into them:
The First Woe: Greed
“Woe to him who heaps up what is not his own—for how long?—and loads himself with pledges!’”
The first woe is against this nation’s greed. We talked about this last week. Their pride, fueled by drunkenness led to addiction which gave birth to an unquenchable greed. Woe to the one who keeps hoarding things they cannot pay for. Notice that these things aren’t theirs!
The first woe is against this nation’s greed. We talked about this last week. Their pride, fueled by drunkenness led to addiction which gave birth to an unquenchable greed. Woe to the one who keeps hoarding things they cannot pay for. Notice that these things aren’t theirs!
This isn’t a woe against materialism, ownership, or having nice things. This woe is specifically against those who take things from others that aren’t theirs. They didn’t work for what they had, they took it from others. They weren’t spending their own money, they were spending other people’s money.
The term “loaded himself with pledges” is a figurative term meaning that these conquering Chaldeans (or Babylonians) weren’t the owners of what they had, but were merely borrowing it. They were extorting money from people, seizing their land by force, and using military might to make their victims into slaves. Woe to them, God says, because that loan is going to be paid back!
What goes around comes around and all of the borrowing you’ve done is going to be taken back. A larger nation will take it from you and give it back – which is exactly what happened when the Persians conquered the Babylonians.
Their sin was greed. They wanted someone else to do the work for them so they could come and take it. They stole other nation’s homes, lands, cities, walls, cattle, money, and people. Instead of building, they plundered. Instead of working, they conquered.
The Chaldeans were doing this on a national level, but we do this on a personal level all the time. Consider the explosion of Credit Card debt we have today. According to a few news articles I read this week, consumer debt is at an all-time high. We might be in a recession, but that hasn’t stopped us from filling up our credit cards and getting new loans from the bank. And it’s not for food and shelter. The big costs, according to the Globe and Mail, are Restaurants, Cars, Home Improvement, and New Furniture. According to the CBC, the debt-to-income ratio for Canadian households is 163.3 percent. That means that for every dollar we earn, we owe $1.64 in debt. If that’s not greed, I don’t know what is. It’s the same thing!
The thievery and conquering of the Chaldean armies is phrased in the language of loans and pledges because they didn’t own any of it! It was merely borrowed from other nations, and ultimately borrowed from God. Their short-sighted thinking had them believing that this world was about the accumulation of good for pleasure, no matter how they got it. And their decision was to take what they wanted from others.
The Gospel Consequences of Greed
Our society runs on the back of this kind of greed. Credit cards, high-interest pay-day loans, tax fraud and evasion, and more, are crippling our society today – and the church. Let’s take a minute to consider the terrible consequences to living a lifestyle of greed, consumerism and debt. Being greedy and seeking to accumulate things you aren’t willing to work for has some huge consequences to your life, family and ministry.
Let me ask you a few questions:
Are you making decisions with your money, or is your debt making decision for you? Proverbs 22:7 says, “… the borrower is the slave of the lender.” What that means is that once you are in debt, you lose a lot of your ability to make decisions.
If God were to call you to give generously to help someone who needs your help today, could you? Or is your money tied up in paying off the debts you have after buying things you don’t need?
If God asked you to pick up stakes and serve Him somewhere else, could you? Or have the decisions you’ve made with your money got you pinned down and unable to be flexible with your future. You have to say, “No God, don’t ask me to do that, I just can’t.”
Do you feel the pull to volunteer more of your time or give more of your energies to your church or your community, but can’t because you need to spend more time at work?
Has it ever crossed your mind that you are doing your family a disservice by working so much – that you need to either pull back the hours, get a different job, or quit altogether – but you can’t because you have too many debts to pay? You feel the pull to be a better parent, grandparent, grandchild, uncle, aunt, brother or sister – and know that you need to make a change, but you can’t because you decided to buy something you didn’t really need.
You’ve made yourself a “slave to the lender”. Your greed has caused you to take something that wasn’t yours. You, like the Chaldeans, have used money that isn’t yours to accumulate things for yourself you weren’t intended to have. You didn’t work and save for them, but instead got someone else to do the work for you.
God is no longer making decisions in your life, and neither are you. The Bank is deciding how many hours you work. Master Card is deciding how great a priority your family is to you. The loan company is your master now, and they get to tell you where you can live and what you can do with your time.
Debt makes you a slave! God’s woe to the Chaldeans was that the ones that they have borrowed from would rise up and destroy them. They thought that their conquering and accumulation would bring them happiness, but all it did was create the opportunity for their enemies to destroy them. It made them gluttonous and weak. It’s the same thing today.
Satan loves it when God’s people are greedy and in debt. It paralyzes them. As long as they are spending their money on themselves and digging themselves into financial ruin, then they aren’t spending their money on acts of mercy, giving generously, sharing with others, or spreading the gospel. He loves it when we’re being greedy and in debt.
So that was the first of the five woes, and that’s all we’re going to cover today. Let me close with the words of Jesus regarding the importance of being faithful with our money. This is found in Luke 16:10-13 and comes after the parable of the dishonest manager. Jesus says:
“One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful in that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own? No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” (Luke 16:10-13)
Being greedy and living in constant debt isn’t just a money issue – it declares a spiritual truth. It shows God that He’s not our Master or our God, someone else is. It shows that our priorities are out of whack. It shows that we care more for the things in this world than the people in it.
As a church, we cry out to God to use us for His glory and ask Him why He won’t give us more and more opportunities to obey Him. Is it possible that His answer is, “I gave you a few little things to take care of – a little pile of money, a little house, a little family – and you used it dishonestly and unfaithfully. Why would I entrust you with true riches?
I gave you everything you needed, but you didn’t think it was enough, so you borrowed more from pagans and non-believers. You felt that they were better providers than Me. And now, because of your debt to them, you serve them… and cannot wholly serve me.”
I encourage you to pray about this. Are there any changes you need to make financially? Is there anything you need to take back to the store or sell because you couldn’t afford it? Do you need to ask God’s forgiveness for seeking things He didn’t want to give you? Have you been greedy? Are you being faithful with your finances?
Please open up to Habakkuk 2, and as you get there let me give you a quick reminder of what we’ve covered so far.
Habakkuk is a book that show us a conversation between God and one of his prophets about the incredibly sinful things he’s seeing around him. His whole nation was corrupt and He wanted to know what God was going to do about it.
Habakkuk’s first question was one that we’ve all asked, “Why are all these bad things happening to us and what are you going to do about it?” God’s answer was, “I see the bad that is happening and my plan to deal with it is to discipline my people by destroying their city and sending them into captivity.” Habakkuk then asks the follow up question, “Ok, God, I know that you are good and just and hate sin, so how can you use people as utterly sinful as the Chaldeans to punish Israel – which though sinful, isn’t nearly as bad as they are? It seems unfair that you would use a greater evil to correct a lesser one.”
Then, as we ended last week, Habakkuk closed his mouth and went to sit and wait for God’s answer. Today we catch up with the prophet, sitting in the watchtower, waiting for God explain how God uses evil to bring about good. But as happened last week, God’s answer wasn’t exactly direct.
Let’s open up to Habakkuk 2:2-4 and read the first part of God’s answer to Habakkuk. But once again, realize that God isn’t about to give a direct answer. No, instead He’s going to get to the heart of the issue instead.
“And the LORD answered me: ‘Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it. For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay. Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him, but the righteous shall live by his faith.”
The Disparity Gospel
Habakkuk really strikes close to our hearts, doesn’t it? We all suffer. We all want to know the answer to Habakkuk’s questions, right? We’ve all wondered Why God would use destruction to build people up, why He would use physical or mental illness to bring about spiritual health, why God would crush someone before making them well, why God would ordain (or plan out in advance) that His people would suffer. Why is that the way the world works? Surely there must be a better way!
I titled this message “Life Sucks and Then You Die” to be a little provocative, but also because it’s sort of true. Life does suck a lot of times, doesn’t it? Suffering and evil isn’t something that we usually talk about out in the open, is it? I’m supposed to be up here giving you the good news, aren’t I? My kids often accuse me of being “Mr. Bad News” and tell me I spend way too long telling people how bad they are and how bad the world is and not enough time telling them the good news. They’re probably right, but I think it might be because God has set me up as a counterbalance to the prosperity gospel.
I think I might be preaching the Disparity Gospel. Not as in my job is to bring you to despair… Disparity means “lack of parity” or “lack of equality”, a “lack of fairness”. Where the prosperity gospel preachers say that God wants you to have your best life now and that if you follow him all your worldly dreams to come true, I preach the disparity gospel that reminds people that this world isn’t fair and has a lot of suffering and inequality in it. The wicked prosper, the righteous suffer. Good deeds are punished, and criminals run free. Healthy people suddenly drop dead, and people that abuse their bodies for years continue on. It’s not fair.
And as I read Habakkuk, I’m reminded how unfair, disjointed and frustrating life is. But that’s close to our hearts too, isn’t it? I wouldn’t be telling the truth if I stood up here and said that life is always great, that the life of a believer is always happy, and that Jesus wants you to have your best life now – because that’s just not true.
Yes, without question, God made this world a good place. James says that God is not the author of evil or temptation, and that every good thing in this world is a gift from above. God fills this world with light and hope. He is the glorious one who makes this life worth living. (James 1:13-17)
The book of Ecclesiastes, as hopeless and frustrated as the author is, continuously reminds us that the normalcy of life is still good. We work, we live, we play, we sing, we dance, we eat and drink, and we live under the brightness of the sun. There is a lot of good in this world, and we are right to rejoice in it.
It proves that the curse of sin that came through Adam and Eve is not complete. God has given us common grace and abundant love. Much of life is good and wonderful and even happy. But – not always. Sometimes life kicks you in the shins. The question is, during those times, how are we going to respond?
The Dangers of Avoiding Suffering: Some Examples
Part of studying Habakkuk is to realize that suffering is normal and it’s good for us to accept that and then bring our big questions about suffering and evil to God. Habakkuk is just asking a normal, human questions.
We all hate suffering, don’t we? I know, that’s a weird question to ask. No one likes suffering! No one wants to suffer. But let me make a quick point here before we dig into the scripture: That I think we’ve forgotten that suffering has an important role in this world. We are right to be joyful and happy during the good times – but I think we’ve forgotten that God’s good plans for us sometimes include times of suffering.
The society around us disagrees completely. In fact, they disagree so profoundly, that people are literally killing themselves in an attempt to completely eliminate suffering from their lives.
Let me give you an example: The New York Times published an article recently that said that the death rates of young white adults in the US is climbing. We have better and more access to medicine than any time in history, but now these young people are dying faster than they have since the 1970s. Why? Because of drug overdoses and suicides. Here’s a quote:
“Rising rates of overdose deaths and suicide appear to have erased the benefits from advances in medical treatment for most age groups of whites.”
In other words, the amount of people that are being saved by new medical technology from diseases are cancelled out by those who are dying from overdosing on drugs or committing suicide.
They want to avoid pain so much that they are literally killing themselves.
Or consider the rise of abortion and euthanasia (or doctor existing suicide) in Canada. Instead of caring for babies and the elderly, our most the vulnerable citizens, we have decided to get rid of them instead. The thinking is that if the existence of the baby causes any form of suffering to the mother – including physical, mental or financial – then it should be killed. We avoid suffering via murdering someone else.
And, if the “quality of life” of an elderly person isn’t up to their standards – in other words, if they are suffering in any way they feel is too much – whether that’s physical, emotional or financial – then they should be allowed to kill themselves to alleviate the suffering. Our society is fleeing suffering at all costs – even the cost of human lives.
Consider this: There’s also the growing epidemic of addiction to prescription pain killers. What do we do if we get a headache? Grab a pill. If our back hurts? Grab a pill. The thinking is that pain is always bad. We should always avoid pain. Even Christians are caught up in this. We avoid alcohol, smoking, even caffeine, because we see them as potentially addictive and dangerous – but then we go to the doctor and he gives us a jar of narcotics which we munch down with delight because it helps us avoid pain.
And of course, I have to mention the utter stupidity of the Government of Canada considering the legalization of marijuana. There are people in Canada who want to be allowed to take a drug that is known to alter their senses, deadens their brain, and affects their memories. I read a while ago that they’re even looking into perfecting a pill that works by eliminating bad memories from the brain altogether. Take the pill, wipe out the bad memory.
And this idea of fleeing suffering at all costs goes even further. We’re completely losing our ability to judge right and wrong anymore. We can’t tell anyone that their sin is hurting them and others, because we might offend them – and to cause anyone any kind of emotional pain, even if the motivation was to help someone, is becoming tantamount to a crime.
Do you know what you call someone who can’t feel pain? A leper. It’s a disease. We need pain in our bodies so we can know when something is wrong. Feeling pain is part of being healthy. When we can no longer feel pain, it’s a big problem. We bump into things, cut ourselves, even break a leg, and we won’t know it. We need pain in order to live in this world.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that we should go looking for suffering. Nor am I trying to say that all suffering is good. If someone is violently attacked, has a crime committed against them, becomes terribly ill, or is treated unjustly, even God feels pain for that person. He suffers with the suffering. I’m not saying that we should get rid of Tylenol and reject medical help when we go to the hospital. I’m certainly not saying that people who are in pain are closer to God, or worse, that we should cause ourselves pain so we can be closer to God. That’s a heresy called “asceticism”, and it’s addressed in scripture as being wrong.
No, what I’m saying is that we live in a society that will do anything to avoid any kind of pain, and that’s terribly unhealthy! And when we avoid pain at all costs, we miss out on the benefits that come from when God prescribes suffering as a treatment for our spiritual condition. We need to feel the pain so we can know that there’s something wrong with us.
When our first reaction to any kind of pain – physical, emotional or mental – is to turn immediately to anything that will remove that pain as quickly as possible, we do ourselves a disservice.
Suffering & Pain Serves Us
Let me give a few examples:
A friendship or a marriage goes through a rocky patch where there is a lot of arguing and painful conversations. One of the common reactions is to leave the relationship, get a divorce, and find someone else – and then repeat the problem with them. However, God’s will isn’t for us to evacuate when the difficult times come, but to draw closer to Him, and work through the pain to get to the other side where there is deeper love, more respect, a better friendship, and a higher level of understanding for each other. Leaving the pain of working through a difficult relationship time robs us of the joy that was mean tot come later when we worked through it. (I’m not talking about abuse situations!)
Or here’s another example of going through suffering so we can come out better on the other side: God gives us a passion to do something. Say it’s go to the mission field, switch careers, or quit our job and be a stay at home mom. We feel the tug in our heart, and believe it’s God’s will – but it’s going to be hard. It means financial struggles, a total life change, a whole bunch of uncertainty, and perhaps even some very difficult conversations with people who won’t understand. Our natural reaction is to try to avoid the pain – to dip our toe in, realize how hard it’s going to be, and then quit before we get started. Or start doing it, and then compromise our integrity or God’s plan to make it easier. Our refusal to go through the pain of that transition robs us of the blessing of fully obeying God and doing what He has called us to do.
One more example: Say we have a personality issue that we don’t see: we are impatient, or easily angered, or lazy, or lustful, or addicted to something. And God works it out in our life that that area of our life suddenly becomes a huge problem for us. Suddenly life starts to suck, everyone around us seems to be our enemy, and nothing is going right. Our first reaction is to dig into our addictions, avoid the pain, and blame everyone around us. But that’s not what God’s doing. No, He’s trying to show you that your impatience, or anger, or laziness, or lust, or addiction, is growing in you like a cancer, and that it’s going to take your life someday.
And so, like a healthy body, He sends a shot of pain into your life so you can register that something is wrong. And that pain is meant to force you to reevaluate things so you can see clearly and address the issue. It forces you to go to Doctor Jesus to see if He can do something about it. You wouldn’t have come to Jesus otherwise, right? You needed to feel that pain before you would come to Him so He could fix it.
That’s what I’m talking about sometimes God uses suffering to give us a new perspective on life and drive us to Him so we can receive the healing we need.
That’s what he was doing for His people during the Babylonian exile. They were a sick nation that didn’t even know how bad off they were. They were on the edge of spiritual death, and so God caused them pain so they could feel how bad off they were. That pain drove them to despair, but it also drove them to God.
“So He May Run”
In verse 2 God says to Habakkuk, “Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it.”
Remember the context: God is sending the Chaldeans to wipe out the city and drag everyone into exile for 70 years. So here we see God doing something very kind for His people. He’s giving the people a chance to get out while they still can. Now, that sounds like He’s giving them a chance to avoid the suffering, but it’s not. What God is doing is telling them to accept the suffering that will come because they are leaving their homeland because God has decreed it. He’s giving them a chance to decrease their suffering through obedience to His word.
Like a skilled surgeon, He’s both inflicting a wound and doing pain management. He tells them to accept the pain of leaving their homes and accepting God’s discipline for their sin, but to leave the town now so they didn’t have to go through the horror of the siege.
God does the same for us now. He puts us into this wonderful world, but then tells us not to get caught up in the joys of it too much. He tells us about the effects of the curse of sin and how to be free from the curse. And then, He gives us the same choice He gave to the people who would listen to Habakkuk’s prophecy: accept the pain and suffering of this life, allowing it to change us into what God wants us to be, or refuse, pretended it’ll be fine, try to avoid the pain, eat, drink and be merry, and then feel the full weight of his wrath.
Either accept God’s plan to use suffering to drive you to Him now, or feel the full weight of greater suffering in hell later. Avoiding the pain of this life is not only physically dangerous, but also spiritually dangerous! If we refuse to allow the pain of guilt and conviction of sin, or the sadness, grief and anger that comes when we are affected by it, we deaden ourselves to the great revelation that God wants to show us! That temporary pain is meant to cause us to hate sin and want righteousness, hate immorality and want good, to flee evil and desire the presence of God. If we avoid feeling guilt, shame or grief, then we will not come to God for relief.
Evil Conquered and Enslaved
But here’s something else. God does something even better. Not only does he use the suffering to bring us to knowledge of sin and desire to be saved, but He actually makes all that suffering work for our good! Nothing is wasted in His economy. That’s why Paul says in Romans 5:3-5 that Christians…
“rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
Read Romans 8:35-37:
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, ‘For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”
What does it mean to be “more than a conqueror”? It means that the tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger, sword, and slaughtering we face all day long won’t just be eliminated – but will actually serve us. Jesus is the conquering king that not only kills the evil in this world and gets rid of our enemies, but actually turns the enemy into our servants! Total, utter, victory! All the schemes of the devil, all the suffering he tries to inflict, not only come to nothing – but end up working out for the good of God’s plan!
It’s a mind boggling thing to process, I know, but it’s amazingly true. Habakkuk asks, “God, how can you use a greater evil to punish a lesser one?” and the answer we read throughout scripture is that God is so utterly perfect that He can even suffering and evil as His servants to bring about goodness and righteousness. The Chaldeans evil will work for good.
Again, this is most perfectly seen in the cross of Christ as humanity committed the worst atrocity imaginable, viciously murdering the perfect Son of God. And yet God used that worst of all evils, and turned it into the greatest good, the greatest gift imaginable. Listen again to Isaiah 53:3-5:
“He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.”
So that’s my message for today, and something we all need to remember when suffering comes. So here’s the two things we talked about today:
First: Remember that suffering is an unavoidable part of this world – no matter how hard we try to run from it. Our instinct is to avoid pain at all costs, but that’s not only unhealthy, but doesn’t work for our good in the long term. If you are suffering today, or know someone that is suffering, I want you to remember that suffering is normal, it comes with this world, you are not alone, and it is only temporary. God desires to walk with you every step of the way.
Remember Psalm 23: God doesn’t just keep us in green pastures and still waters. It is in the Valley of the Shadow of Death that we learn that we need not fear evil, and know the comfort of the Good Shepherd. It is sitting at the table in the presence of our greatest enemies that we are covered with God’s blessed oil.
Second: Remember that God allowed this suffering for a purpose. If it’s something you brought on yourself, then it’s there to teach you something about yourself. If it’s something that happened to you, completely beyond your control, then it was given to you by God. I realize that takes a lot of faith and maturity, but it’s absolutely true.
Allow the pain of your suffering to force you to go to Doctor Jesus for help. Allow your suffering to drive you to God. Romans 8:18 says, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” That means that no matter how bad it feels now, the good that comes after will be exponentially better. Don’t waste your suffering by trying to deny it or avoid it.
If you go to God with your pain, He will do something with it. He’s going to use this terrible, frustrating, difficult time for His glory, your good, and the good of others. He promises to do that! Get into the watchtower and watch for what God will do through this time in your life. You are, right now, surrounded by people who can tell stories of how they have suffered in their life, and how God brought them through it, and how God used it for His glory and their good.
Halloween is coming up soon, so the CT guys perform a skit and take on the perennial question of whether a Christian should participate in Halloween or not. We didn’t realize how heated the discussion was going to get!
Behind the Scenes Video:
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Don’t You Care?
“On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, ‘Let us go across to the other side.’ And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, ‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’” (Mark 4:35-38)
Let’s stop there and dig into that question, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”
The Wrong Ending
Do you ever read spy or adventure novels? Imagine this scene occurring in the middle of your book.
The hero, Ace, has tracked the diamond thieves across the whole globe, finally reaching their secret hideout deep in the woods. But things have turned for the worse! As he was taking pictures with his spy camera, he fell through the roof right in front of the leader of the gang. Oh no! Ace has been captured!
Now, there sits the hero of the story, bloody and bruised, tied to a chair in the middle of a cabin, deep in the woods. His enemies have left him there to die as they run outside to finish off Ace once and for all. Our hero looks around, wondering what he can do. His hands are tied, the chair is made of heavy wood, and he’s weak from the beating he’s just taken.
The villains outside are drenching the cabin with gallons and gallons of gasoline. Ace can hear their leader laughing and mocking him – and in good evil villain fashion, telling Ace his whole dastardly plot for world domination. Ace pulls against the ropes with all his strength, turning over his chair, landing with a crash on the floor.
Suddenly, outside there is silence… and Ace hears the click-click of a torch being lit. Within moments bright yellow blaze of flames engulfs the walls in seconds. Ace is trapped. He yells for help, but there is no one around for hundreds of miles. Suddenly he remembers his laser spy watch! He can cut through the bonds with the laser! H wrenches his wrist, breaking his thumbs, but struggle as he might, he just can’t reach his watch. Finally, in an act of desperation, Ace rolls to the wall, using it to get himself onto his feet, and tries to smash his body and the chair through the burning cabin wall–it leaves a dent, but the wood on the outside is far too thick to break through.
Soon, smoke is billowing throughout the room. His breathing becomes laboured and his head is starting to spin. He’s becoming covered by the thick, dark clouds of ash. He passes out to the sound of a helicopter roaring to life – full of wealthy super-villains . Within a few minutes his barely breathing form is engulfed in flames and our hero, Ace, is gone forever. The chapter closes with the jewel thieves laughing at the fool who thought he could stop them.
And there you are, holding your book, thinking, “What? They killed the main character? No way!” So you turn to the next chapter to see if he had actually escaped, or if it was all a dream. But no. The hero is dead, the bad guys have won. Evil triumphed and as far as you can tell the rest of the book goes on to describe how the thieves spend their millions of dollars and took over the world. (Story adapted from Gary Poole’s “How could God allow suffering and Evil”)
Re-Writing the Ending
What would you think of that book? Unfair, right?! That’s not how it’s supposed to go! You’d think the author would have figured out a better ending than that! But the author didn’t write it that way… he let the hero die.
That’s how life seems sometimes, doesn’t it? Unfair. Not right. When something catastrophic like a natural disaster, kidnapping, or a family member dies or is terribly hurt in a car accident, it’s as the Author has made a huge mistake. Breaking up with someone you love causes a huge, dark hole of disappointment opens up in your heart… and you just wish that someone would come and rewrite that part of your life.
Have you ever felt this way? I’m sure we all have. We all find ourselves asking the question: “Is God in charge, or not? Is He out there writing the script for how this world works, or is it all just random and out of control? And if He is in charge of everything, all-seeing, all-knowing, all-powerful, then why doesn’t He write a better ending? We want him to write like CS Lewis, JK Rowling, or the old Fairy Tales authors where everyone lives happily ever after… but sometimes He seems more like RR Martin or Quentin Tarantino – randomly writing in heartbreak and loss for what seems like no reason at all – other than to frustrate everyone.
Do you ever wish that God would step in and rewrite something in your life, or someone who is close to you? I can think of a few times that I wish God would have just expunged from my record. Relationships I’ve messed up, an uncle who committed suicide in a horrible way, the rejection that I felt all through High School, arguments I’ve had with my wife, things I’ve said to my kids that I never should have said, debts I’ve accumulated that are now plaguing me. I wish that God would have come down at that moment, hit rewind, and rewritten it to have a better ending.
Big, Important Questions
We all, at some point, cry out to God just like the disciples did on the boat, They said, ““Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”. We say “What’s going on? It’s not fair! It’s not right! Why won’t you step in and fix this?”
Take comfort that we’re not alone in those questions. We read this all over scripture.
Jeremiah the prophet who was called by God to deliver messages to Israel, half way through says to God, “O LORD, you have deceived me, and I was deceived; you are stronger than I, and you have prevailed. I have become a laughingstock all the day; everyone mocks me.” (20:7) He says, “God, you lied, you strong-armed me into this mess, and it’s not right! Why are you doing this?”
David says to Him, “Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest.” (Ps 22:1b-2) “God, you’re letting me down, and not even listening! Where are you?”
The prophet Habbakuk (1:13) says to God, “You who are of purer eyes than to see evil and cannot look at wrong, why do you idly look at traitors and remain silent when the wicked swallows up the man more righteous than he?” Essentially saying, “Horrible things are happening to good people, and you’re nowhere to be found! Why don’t you do something?”
These are questions that each of us ask. I think it’s very meaningful and comforting to know that I’m not alone in my frustrations, and even the holiest people of the Bible have felt what we’ve felt – and far worse – and felt that they could ask God these kinds of questions. It lets me know that I’m not alone.
But at the root the question is really this: Where is God when bad things happen? What is God doing about the problem of evil in this world?
People often site sin, evil and all the bad things that happen in the world as reasons to either deny or distrust God.
There’s an old quote from a Greek philosopher that states this problem like this:
“Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?”
If God is all powerful, then why do bad things happen? Isn’t God a good God? Either there is no god and all this horrible stuff is just chaos out of control. Or, there is a god, but He has no power to help us. Or, there is a god, and he is all powerful, but he’s not good and simply enjoys watching people suffer. Is any of that true?
Well, I want to go through a few options of what God could do about the evil in the world see if we can’t find out what He’s doing. I’m not coming up with this on my own, but am using a wonderful little study guide by a man named Gary Poole’s called “How could God allow suffering and Evil”.
For these options, let’s assume a Biblical view of God. That He is perfectly good, perfectly just, all-knowing, all-powerful, and ever-present. So then, what are some options that He could use to take over the world? Let’s do a little philosophizing and try to “think God’s thoughts after Him.” (Johann Kepler)
Option 1: Destroy The World
First, He could simply destroy all of humanity. If He is all-powerful then He could easily wipe out the human race. He did it before with a flood, right? This is a simple solution: if there weren’t any people, then no one could get hurt. No evil, no murder, no thieves, no problems. And if He blew up the whole world there would also be no hurricanes, volcanoes or earthquakes! Perfect peace.
Well, that’s not the best solution, is it? If God is all-knowing, then He knew all this would happen before He ever created us. So, He must want us around. He must have created us for a purpose, and wants for us to be a part of creation. We mess it up, hurt each other, and are slowly killing the planet He gave us, but we are apparently important enough to Him that He’s decided to keep us around. But there’s still a problem with Evil…
Option 2: Zap the Evil People
The second thing God could do is to hand-pick all the evil people out of the world and eliminate them. Tally up all the really bad people – the murderers, rapists, terrorists, etc. – and fry them with a bolt of lightning.
And then, let’s go one better. Since God is all-knowing, and already knows who is going to commit an act of evil against someone else, or any part of creation, or against Himself, He could destroy them before they even take their first breath. And everyone else – all the people who would live their entire life without ever committing any kind of evil or sin – or even thinking evil about someone else, because the bible counts that as sin – whether they would do it on purpose or by accident – all those people could just live in peace.
Well, the problem with that solution is that, according to the Bible, and according to our own consciences, we have all sinned and done evil. There is not one person here who hasn’t done something wrong in the eyes of God. So again, everyone on the planet would get fried by a bolt of lightning.
Option 3: Eliminate Choice
Third, God could step in every time something evil happens and counteract it. He could get rid of our ability to choose evil. Just like we talked about before – just hit rewind and rewrite a new ending – and we would never know the difference. Someone wants to do something wrong, and God stops it before it ever happens.
Or, even better, He could make everyone immortal and mess with everyone’s plans. If someone shoots someone else, they just get up and go on with life, without even a scratch. If you get thrown off a cliff, you don’t even get hurt. You just hit the ground, wake up and walk home. If you decide to cheat on your spouse, God has our car break down, and fills the hotel room full of spiders. If you want to steal something, you find that there is suddenly a parade of police officers exactly where we want to take it from. No one’s choices would make any difference.
Or, even better, just get rid of choice altogether. Don’t put a Tree of Good and Evil in the garden of Eden. Pre-program everyone’s minds that they will always make the right choice, every time, no matter what. No bad thoughts, no worries, no issues, no arguments, no one ever even considers doing anything wrong – ever.
Now, the problem is that if there is no choice, then there are no relationships – no love. We would all be robots and play-actors in God’s perfect, little play. No one would choose to love you, they would be programmed to in advance. No one would choose to love God or serve Him out of thanksgiving or worship, but would simply do it because they were supposed to.
In order for there to be true love, true joy, real worship, any meaning in life at all, then we must be able to choose. If God created us to be in relationship with Him, then we must be able to choose not to be. If all you had to do was walk up and push a button on someone to have them say “I love you”, then it wouldn’t really be love, would it?
People sometimes ask why God doesn’t just get rid of all of the wrong choices. The answer is because without the ability to choose the wrong answer — to love or not to love, to be good or do evil, to help or to harm… there really isn’t a choice. For us to be able to experience love, we have to have the freedom of choice.
Option 4: Leave Us Alone
The fourth way God could deal with evil is to just walk away and let us fend for ourselves. He could wind the watch, keep the planet spinning but let everyone do whatever they wanted. Just let the pieces fall where they may. He wouldn’t get in the way when someone wanted to do something evil, He wouldn’t give them a conscience to tell them right from wrong, and He wouldn’t perform any miracles. Just let it go.
That wouldn’t help us much, but from His perspective, if He could make Himself not care about us, turn his back and walk away, then at least for Him, the problem would be kind-of solved.
Can you imagine that world? A world without conscience, without God’s intervention. A world without Christians, without divine morality, where it really is the “survival of the fittest”. A world without God giving people the desire to selflessly serve others. A world where God never raised up strong, bold, courageous, moral leaders who would fight for what is right – even in the face of a stronger evil?
2 Thessalonians 2:7 says, “For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. Only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way.” That means that right now God is restraining, holding back, the full effects of evil. If God stopped doing that, we’d be living in hell. And God doesn’t want that for us. He doesn’t want to turn His back and leave us alone.
Two Reasons Evil Continues
So, none of those solutions work, do they? So what is God doing about evil?
Let me say this first. I believe God allows evil for 2 important reasons.
First, so that we can see what life is like without God. What it’s like when people are left to themselves, when evil is left to flourish, and when people really get what they want. In this world, we experience evil and its effects partly because it let us see what happens when we get to the end of our lust for sex, power, money, attention. We see the results in ourselves and in others, and are meant to say “That is terrible and I no longer want any part of it. I don’t want to be like that anymore – I don’t want to become like that. Thank God that He has kept me from that.” Many who have looked deeply into themselves, after God has gotten a hold of their heart, and are able to have compassion on those who are so evil thinking to themselves, “But by the grace of God go I.” Evil gives us a glimpse of life in Hell, and is meant to drive us to God.
Second, because He wants more people to be saved. We wonder why He doesn’t just come now. Why not end it all now and just be done with this horrible world? One reason we are given is in 2 Peter 3:9 which says, “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” If He would have come before you were saved, you would be in Hell. Those of you who are praying for members of your family to be saved from their sin, saved from Hell and go to heaven… what if Jesus were to come today. Where would they be? I don’t know how it all works, but I know that it is a grace that God gives us time to repent!
Option 5: Experience It and then Destroy it
So what did God do about evil? Well, that’s option 5.
He came to earth to experience evil first hand, so we could know how to live in this world. He came to live a perfect life where He would commit no evil, to show us His divinity and perfection. And then, through His death on the cross, where the perfect man was sacrificed in our place, made it possible for us to join Him and be free of the effects of evil forever.
He could have left us in sin, given us our way, and allowed humanity to just go to hell, but He didn’t. Instead, Jesus came and lived in this world and knows exactly what it’s like. His ministry, the inauguration of His New Kingdom, set in motion our ultimate deliverance from evil. Our faith in His life, death and resurrection, makes it possible for us to be accepted by God into His perfect kingdom.
Because of the evil within us – our sin – we would never be allowed to be in the presence of Holy God. But, since Jesus has taken our sin, upon his own shoulders, and God poured out His justice and wrath on Him, instead of us – we have been given the opportunity to come to the Father in His name. God imputed (credited, ascribed, gave as a gift) Jesus’ righteousness to us.
Martin Luther called this “The Great Exchange”: our sin and unrighteousness for Jesus’ perfection and righteousness. That’s the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Everyone who believes and who is touched by evil, death and disease can live without worrying that that will be their final condition. Instead of fear, God infuses the Christian with hope . And more than that, God promises to use the evil in our world, our pain, suffering, loss, and even death, to bring about good in this world (Romans 8:28).
“Teacher, Do You Not Care?”
Let’s finish the story in Mark 4:37-41,
“And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, ‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’”
I can’t imagine what went through the mind of Jesus when the disciples asked that question: “Don’t you care?” He knew why He was there. He was there to suffer and die for not only their sin, but the sin of every other person who would believe in Him, for all time. He was to the perfect and final sacrifice for sin, finally completing the whole law and everything prophesied about him from the beginning.
In a short time, He would be tortured to death for no reason other than the hatred that this world had for him. He will have had done nothing to deserve it, but because of His love for them – for us – His blood would be spilled.
It’s the same question we ask: “Jesus, do you not care?”
“And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’ And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, ‘Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?’ And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?’”
So, why are we so afraid? With a God like this, as powerful and loving and wise as He is, why are we so afraid? Why do we lack faith? Why are we not constantly falling down in worship? Why would we try to do this all on our own? Where is our faith?
Let me ask you: Is your future secure in Jesus Christ? Have you been asking Him for the strength He gives, to face your pain and persecutions? Did someone convinced you that Christianity is easy and safe, or are you aware of the spiritual reality that there is evil around you at all times, that you are at war, and all of humanity is part of it?
God has conquered evil, and has invited us into His Kingdom so we might work with Him against it. The words, “Do not fear” are shear and utter madness in this world! There is much to fear… unless God truly did raise Jesus from death, and unless He is abiding in our hearts. Our faith destroys the fear of storms. There is nothing we cannot face if we trust in Jesus Christ.
So let me close with Hebrews 10:19-23:
“Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.”
God, you are good to Your people and to those who are pure in heart. We praise you for your goodness.
We must acknowledge that despite your goodness, we have sinned.
Our feet have slipped and we have almost lost our foot hold.
We looked at the arrogant and we have envied them,
wanting to be like people who do not even acknowledge you as Lord.
We have envied the prosperity of the wicked,
thinking that we would rather have material things than the Saviour of our souls.
It is difficult for us to look at sometimes, Lord.
These wealthy, powerful people look so healthy,
so free from the burdens that are common to us.
They are evil,
– and yet they don’t seem touched by human ills.
They wear pride like a necklace and they cloth themselves with violence.
They have callous hearts and they bring forth sin.
The evil conceits of their minds know no limits.
And yet for some reason…
they seem blessed, happy, rich and strong.
Forgive us for wanting to be like them.
We are confused about these people, Lord.
They scoff against you,
and have far more than most.
They hurt others and get rewarded with more riches!
“Do you even know about these people, God?
Do you, the Most High, know how evil some of these people are, and how evil they are acting?
Why have you not done anything about them?”
You don’t seem to.
They are getting richer and they seem carefree.
It’s like all of the good that we do is in vain.
It’s like all of the work we do to stay pure is in vain because they are prospering and we are suffering.
We don’t talk about this much, Father.
If we bring this up we might harm some people’s faith,
so we don’t bring voice to our complaint in public.
We’ve tried to understand it, but we just can’t…
it breaks our hearts and muddles our minds.
But then we came to church.
We entered your sanctuary,
we sang songs to you,
we heard your word,
we remembered your Gospel
and their final destiny.
You opened our eyes to see what is really happening.
Their feet are on slippery ground.
They are already cast down into ruin
and all of the worldly collections they have will be destroyed.
Their life is like a dream and all that they have done,
all that they have,
all of their wickedness and ill-gotten treasures
will be completely swept away and they will have nothing.
When you finally deal with them, they will be nothing more than a fantasy
– an old story long forgotten.
Our bitterness and grieving at our lack of riches was foolish, Lord.
We were ignorant to be jealous of the wicked.
We were as dumb as a wild animal.
And so we resolve to stay with you.
Keep holding us by our hands.
Give us your guidance and your counsel,
and then after this world has passed away,
take us into your glory.
In all the world, there is really nothing better than you.
When we get to heaven, our greatest treasure will be you.
Our flesh and our heart might fail us, but God,
you are the strength of our hearts
and our portion forever.
We stay close to you because those who are far from you will perish.
You will destroy all those who do not have faith.
Lord God, no matter what…
no matter what happens in this world…
it is good to be near God.
We have made you the Sovereign Lord of our refuge
and we will tell everyone of your wonderful deeds!
We pray this in the name of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
(Adapted from Psalm 73)