The Lord gave me an opportunity to preside at a very difficult funeral today. The deceased was a 20-something who died from an overdose. The family has been so overwhelmed by the individual’s addiction and just as overwhelmed by the person’s death. The person had prayed to receive Christ many years ago, but had been dominated by addictive behavior.There were a number of believers there, but also a lot of secularized young people. The sister and brother of the deceased did a tremendous job sharing about how much they loved their sibling, and yet how difficult it was to see them go though the pain. I read from Psalm 77:1-10; Lamentations 3:19-25; Romans 8:26-32. Then I spoke and here is the heart of the message. Pray that the Lord would continue to use this in someone’s life who was there this morning:
How are we to comprehend the death of a young person like —-? Did it have to end this way? What more could we have done to help? Why does God allow something like this to take place? These are questions many of you are asking right now and I can honestly say “I don’t know” to all of them.
You can see why some people lose their faith at times like this. They would agree with many atheists who claim there is no God based upon the fact there is so much that is bad in the world. It is called the Problem of Evil and most religions have tried to deal with it. The argument goes like this; if God exists at all, in view of all the horrible things that happen in this world, either he is good and does not have the power to stop evil, or he is powerful enough to stop it, but doesn’t, which means he is not Good.
I want to give you a straight answer as to why I believe there is a God and why I believe he is both powerful and good. I believe that believing in God explains more about this world than not believing in God. The writer CS Lewis, who was an atheist until age 50, once said that he believed in the existence of God just like he believed in the existence of the sun. “I believe in the sun not because I always see it, but by it I see all things. And so I believe in God not because I see Him, but by Him I see all things.”
And so I believe that God is the best explanation for what we see in this world. Yes, it is true there are bad things, evil things; like addiction, suffering, crime, war, violence, and death. But there also exists the Problem of the Good. From where do love, beauty, goodness, mercy, forgiveness, and generosity come? These things are only a problem for those who do not believe in God because according to their story they cannot explain these things. They might say that good comes from the human heart (which they see as basically good). However, from where then do the bad things come? Do they come from the same human heart? No one likes to admit this because we’d rather blame God. But without God and his story we have no rational explanation for good or evil.
And yet God’s story found in the Bible tells us that the world was created by a Good God and it was created with hope, beauty, goodness, love, kindness; and we were created with dignity and honor. It was when the people he created chose to go their own way and chose to be their own god that evil was unleashed upon the world– not so much as punishment as much as consequence. God told them it would happen if they went their own way. And it wasn’t long before families struggled, marriages broke apart, children cried, war raged, and disease took its toll.
But God did not give up on his creation. Even in the Old Testament of the Bible there was always mercy; there was always grace and forgiveness. But then there was an event that changed it all. God became man in Jesus Christ. And what did we do to him? We killed him. We killed our Maker! And yet God’s goodness and power was shown in that he turned the sacrifice of himself into the very means of our salvation. The movie Passion of the Christ demonstrated this in its trailer. A verse from Isaiah 53 came up on the screen before the movie began which said, “For he was wounded for our transgression, bruised for our iniquity; the punishment of our sins were upon him and by his wounds we were healed.”
And so Jesus Christ, our God with skin on, by his death and resurrection paved a way by which I could change stories; change from the messy story I was making of my life which offered me little hope of a tomorrow, to a new story based upon God’s love and mercy. And so he gave to me, a broken sinner, a future in this life and the life to come.
I fully affirm what St Paul said at the end of Romans 8: “I am convinced that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor anything in all of creation shall ever separate me from the love of Christ Jesus my Lord.”
No guilt in life, no fear in death—
This is the pow’r of Christ in me;
From life’s first cry to final breath,
Jesus commands my destiny.
No pow’r of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand;
Till He returns or calls me home—
Here in the pow’r of Christ I’ll stand.
Is this your story? If it is, then cling to it in the face of all you do not understand. If not, it can be, if you trust in the Lord Jesus as your Savior and ask him come into your heart and forgive your sins. You can do that right now….