This morning, we’re continuing our series entitled, “Unexpected” where we are going to recall the truly unexpected ways in which God worked in the past and some of the unexpected places and times where He showed up.
These reminders of God’s faithfulness and miraculous power and authority will serve to encourage us in our present and give us hope toward our future.
One of the unexpected ways in which God works is a commonly asked question about Him. Through the years, it has caused many to stumble in their faith and even cause many to never begin their faith journey. It is the question of, “How can a good God allow bad things to happen?” In fact, this morning’s message title is, “Wicked good.”
This morning, we’re going to primarily focus on the “bad things” that happen at the hands of people. After all, much of what we consider to be the world’s greatest sufferings are the direct result of people’s choices.
Ultimately, all bad things happen because of the choice of one man and woman; Adam and Eve right at the beginning of our existence. Even the bad things that happen now that are not the direct result of a person’s choices are ultimately the result of a world broken and corrupted by sin.
Hunger, poverty, disease, access to fresh water, shelter, safety, and many other global injustices often exist as the result of human choice. Despite the ever-increasing population of earth, God created this planet in such a way that it possesses all of the resources necessary to meet the demands of these needs if it is stewarded well.
Often the very overseeing governments that should be providing the infrastructure and opportunities for all of their citizens to have access to these basic human needs serve as the hindrance to them. Many governmental structures serve to make the rich richer and the poor poorer. Intentional oppression is often what results in this human suffering.
Without a doubt, this is one of the very unexpected ways in which God works. God created everything on this earth and then entrusted it to humans created in His image to steward and to manage it. The Bible records a few times when He regretted handing off this stewardship, too (Gen. 6, 1 Sam. 15).
Similar to what we learned last week, God reigns sovereign over all; possesses all power and authority over all things, but chooses not to use it to override our free will. God created everything perfectly and then handed it over to us. Oh and what have we done with it?
This thought crossed my mind Monday we visited Kennywood. Here stands a huge steel structure with powerful hydraulics that could accomplish all sorts of amazing tasks. What do we use it for? We spin thousands of people round and round in circles for hours every day for their entertainment…
It’s like that meme floating around social media about milk. An angel approaches Jesus to let Him know that we’re making milk out of almonds and soy. Jesus says, “What? I gave them like eight animals to get milk from and they’re doing what?”
God entrusts us to steward His creation.
Abel was the first to experience firsthand just how badly people can be at stewarding God’s creation. The violence leading to his murder wasn’t a gun problem, it was a heart problem. God stepped in and tried to stop it, but ultimately refused to override Cain and Abel’s free will.
6 Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? 7 If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”
8 Now Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.” While they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.
Why did God allow bad things to happen to a righteous person at the hand of an unrighteous one? God knew what Cain was planning to do, so why didn’t He step in and forcibly prevent it from happening?
The paradox that God’s gift of free will and His choice to delegate stewardship of this earth to us creates is a challenging one for us to fully understand. Specifically in situations like this, it often just makes no sense to us. How can a good God allow bad things to happen?
Well, if God created us as mindless robots that have no choice but to obey Him and do what is right, He wouldn’t really be a good God. Love requires a choice. Blessing and reward requires a choice. Good is not good without the potential for wicked and bad. A paradox; wicked good…
People can be downright selfish, evil, and wicked. If it weren’t for God’s grace and His making a way to be born again, we would all likely be in this condition!
Asaph was wondering this same question and struggling with this same paradox. Why does a good God allow bad things to happen? How can He allow wicked people to prosper and even to oppress other people?
In fact, he wasn’t only pondering these questions, he was getting downright embittered and upset about it. We read about his testimony in Psalm 73. I encourage everyone to read it in its entirety, but we’ll look at just a few verses this morning for time’s sake.
1 Surely God is good to Israel,
to those who are pure in heart.
2 But as for me, my feet had almost slipped;
I had nearly lost my foothold.
3 For I envied the arrogant
when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
7 From their callous hearts comes iniquity;
their evil imaginations have no limits.
8 They scoff, and speak with malice;
with arrogance they threaten oppression.
12 This is what the wicked are like—
always free of care, they go on amassing wealth.
13 Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure
and have washed my hands in innocence.
14 All day long I have been afflicted,
and every morning brings new punishments.
15 If I had spoken out like that,
I would have betrayed your children.
16 When I tried to understand all this,
it troubled me deeply
17 till I entered the sanctuary of God;
then I understood their final destiny.
The double-edged sword of being given the gift of free will and having stewardship delegated to us is that at some point, we will have to give an account to God who entrusted us with these gifts. With these gifts also comes responsibility.
God is righteous and He always rights wrongs. God is just and He administers justice.
Some of us suffer the consequences here and now for our sin; some seem to prosper in their sin. Some of us receive the reward here and now for our right choices; some right choices seem to go punished instead. However, no matter what, God will eventually sit as judge and will honor all of our choices.
Those who chose to receive Jesus’ salvation in this lifetime will be rewarded with eternal life in Heaven and those who chose to decline it will experience the second death as torment in Hell. God will honor our choice. God doesn’t choose to send people to Hell, people choose Hell over God’s free gifts of grace, mercy, and forgiveness.
In fact, Jesus also spoke a parable about this reality about this unexpected way in which God works. This paradox of God allowing good done to wickedness and wickedness done to good. Wicked good.
24 Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25 But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. 26 When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.
27 “The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’
28 “‘An enemy did this,’ he replied.
“The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’
29 “‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’”
36 Then he left the crowd and went into the house. His disciples came to him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.”
37 He answered, “The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. 38 The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the people of the kingdom. The weeds are the people of the evil one, 39 and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels.
40 “As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. 42 They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears, let them hear.
We were created to grow. We can choose to grow more and more Christ-like throughout the course of our lives or more and more sinful. We have free will, but we choose to surrender that will to Jesus or to the devil.
Jesus taught us in Matthew 7 all about how to discern and rightly judge people. He said that it would be by the fruit of one’s life that we can recognize a sheep from a wolf in sheep’s clothing. It is by the fruit of a person’s life that you can tell whether they are wheat or weed, Kingdom people or evil people.
The good news is that when we choose to use our free will to follow the will of God, awesome things begin to happen! When we choose to live that simple prayer, “Not my will, but Yours be done.”, we become good seed. When we continue to grow on the path of the good seed, we begin to bear good fruit.
Although bad things may still happen to us and even at the hand of people intending to harm us and out of wicked and evil intent, God is now able to work all things together for good. When we submit our will to God’s, He is able to begin to do His work in and through our lives!
Joseph’s brothers hated him because he was their father’s favorite and had been given dreams by God that he would one day rule over them. They were about to kill him when one convinced them that rather than to kill him, to leave him in a cistern to die. Then, they saw an even better opportunity for personal gain at the cost of his life. They sold him for 20 shekels of silver to Midianite merchants passing by.
Joseph suffered many more times at the hand of evil people who lied about him, forgot about him, abandoned him, and despised him. He suffered all of these things because he submitted his will to God. Bad things happen to good people.
However, God worked through all of those evil and wicked things that people did to him. After God promoted Joseph to be a great ruler and was given the opportunity for revenge on his brothers, he said this:
19 …“Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? 20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.
When God’s will is accomplished in our lives, only then God is able to begin bringing healing to our hurt, justice to the wrong done to us, and to restore that which has been stolen from us. When we submit our will to God, He is able to bring beauty from ashes and life from death.
Yes, it is confusing and unexpected that God would entrust us with free will and to steward his creation. However, when we choose to allow God’s will to be done in our life instead of our own, things are set right.
Romans 8 teaches us all about our obligation to no longer live according to our flesh that our own will would be done, but the need to live according to the Spirit governed by His lead.
We may not know the will of God, but the Spirit living within us does. He is able to perfectly intercede between our will and God’s will so that God’s plans and purposes ultimately prevail in our lives.
26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.
28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
Not all things that happen to us who have surrendered our lives to Christ is good. Bad, evil, wicked things will happen to us. However, God is wicked good! God is so good and so faithful and so powerful that He is able to work all things, the good and the bad, all things together for our good.
This morning, let’s trust Him. Let’s believe what He has promised to do. What has been done to you, what you have been going through, may be bad and even downright wicked. However, God is able to make a way where there is no way.
He is able to call out to a dead man and bring him back to life (John 11). He is able to heal incurable sickness and disease (Matthew 4,9). He is able to breathe life into dry bones and raise them up into a mighty army (Ezekiel 37). He is able to bring miraculous provision enough to cover all debts and bring an abundance to leave behind as an inheritance (2 Kings 4).
He is able to give us a crown of beauty for the shame of our ashes. He is able to give us joy instead of mourning. He is able to put on us garments of praise instead of a spirit of despair and depression. (Isaiah 61)
He is able to do all of these things and so much more! He literally says:
I am the Lord, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?
Today is a day of freedom! Today is a day to proclaim release for those held captive. Today is a day when wrongs are set right! Today is a day of the Lord’s favor on us as we choose His will and not our own!