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Why do bad things happen to good people

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									                                Why do bad things happen to good people?
                                         Rev. Phillip A. Hagen
                                           August 31st, 2008
Read I Corinthians 15:24-28
         Why do bad things happen to good people? When I was in high school in California one of our
youth leaders was killed in a tragic car accident. Kathy Botko was a youth advisor from our church who
had gone to spend the weekend with one of her daughters in college. On the way home from visiting her
daughter Mrs. Botko lost control of her car and hit a tree off the side of the road. The loss of Mrs. Botko
was felt throughout the church but especially by our youth group. We all loved Mrs. Botko and her
passing was very hard for much of the youth group. I remember at her funeral at the church we had
probably over one hundred youth from our church and throughout the community who gathered to form a
prayer circle and we sang a song which Mrs. Botko would have loved. Now I don’t want to argue to
know why Mrs. Botko had to die but I do know that the love she shared in her life with those around her
was very evident to us all that day. Today’s sermon is about trying to sort through the question of why do
bad things happen to good people? My question for you is to ask yourself where is God when bad things
happen?
         This is obviously a very difficult topic for us to look at because there are usually more questions
arise than answers but I want to look at four specific questions and how we respond to them. The first
question concerning bad things happening to good people is the question of why? Why do bad things
happen? Some possible answers to the question of why is that humans are finite creatures who have to
face the dark side of creation through death because of sin’s presence in our lives. Another answer is the
natural law in which God created the world good but God is not directly responsible when the structure
doesn’t work for our advantage. There is also the presence of evil and the person of Satan who is causing
the evil to happen. Ultimately we don’t know WHY because there are not definite answers. Think of the
story of Job in the Old Testament. Job had everything a man could want, a wonderful wife and family, a
great house, and everything else under the sun. In an instance, everything is taken away and even Job’s
wife asks him why he persists in his integrity? To which Job answers, “Shall we receive the good at the
hand of God and not receive the bad?” Job didn’t understand the why but he had confidence and a hope
in God.
         While in Guatemala we encountered many people who had every right to ask the question WHY.
In particular there was my encounter with a young woman named Monica. Monica was a twenty-two
year old suffering from kidney failure. When I met Monica in her house of dirt floors and bed sheets as
curtains for windows in the slums I was amazed by her loving presence. I had come to give Monica a
blessing but throughout it all not once did Monica or her family ask why? Despite the dyer circumstances
in which Monica found herself she remained confident that God would provide an opportunity for a new
kidney and the money necessary for the surgery. Monica demonstrated how in the midst of wondering
WHY. God can be present. Monica had hope in God and in God’s power to work through her unknown
future. Monica was an agent of change for us because too many times ask WHY without letting God use
our circumstances around us to redeem the situation.
         The next question to ask about bad things happening in our lives is the question of How? How do
bad things happen to good people? Some possible answers to the question of HOW? are bad things
happening in our lives because of sin. Sin in prevalent part of our society but it is not solely the “Original
Sin” of Adam and Eve which is the causes our pain. Maybe it our human free will and the evil in our
hearts which has caused us to have bad things happen. Some may even ask maybe God has something to
do with our pain? The answer to that is of course no because evil is by definition what God does not will
and does not do. The question of how is very apparent in the New Testament in Jesus’ encounter with
people. There is the story of the man born blind in the gospel of John. Jesus’ disciples ask, “Rabbi, who
sinned, this man or his parents that he was born blind?” (John 9:2). In Jewish thought, one must have
sinned to have a problem and vice versa. Jesus responds by saying, “Neither the man nor his parents
sinned; the man was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him” (John 9:3). Many of us
believe our pain is caused by either ourselves or some circumstance in our lives which we let happen.


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Jesus tells us that sin is sin and the hope we have in God is more powerful than any pain or sin in the
world. As C.S. Lewis says in his book, “The Problem of Pain,” we are dead in Adam but alive in Christ.
God has the final word, even over death itself. We must believe in God’s power of hope.
         This last week has been a difficult as many of us have cleaned up after Tropical Storm Fay or
maybe better called, Which Way Fay. Living in Florida, we accept the chance that we could get a
hurricane or tropical storm which could destroy our houses and our way of life. Even the church has been
affected by Fay this last week with flooding downstairs in the basement and tiles missing from the roof.
For some people, like those living in Melbourne or Jacksonville, flooding has been a real difficult
problem. Now did some of us “deserve” the flooding or destruction of property more than others? No.
Did those who suffered damage do something in their lives to bring about this pain? No. Sometimes
things just happen but the key for us is to understand that God works to bring hope when we are open to
God’s presence. Bad things happen and we often don’t know HOW but…we do know God and the hope
for a good future which God has for each of us.
         The last questions asked concerning bad things happening to good people is about the WHO and
the WHAT. The WHO is God’s providence and sovereignty and the WHAT is God working in our lives.
Some answers to the WHO question is that God is a God who has suffered love on the cross in the form
of Jesus Christ so that our pain and suffering, even death, would not have the final word. God is also a
God who is sovereign. God is always in control of our lives and the situations in our lives even when we
are not aware of it. Last, God is a liberating God who gives power to the weak when they need it the
most. The WHAT is the change and hope which we see once we accept the who…God. Think of the
story of Joseph and his brothers in the book of Genesis. Joseph was the second youngest of twelve
brothers and the most beloved by his father, Jacob. His older brothers hated Joseph and sold him into
slavery. Eventually Joseph raised to power in Egypt and his brothers come face to face with him, though
now Joseph had the power. Joseph says to his brothers, “What you intended for evil, God has intended
for good” (Genesis 50:20). What Joseph’s brothers intended for evil, God intended for good so that
Joseph could save his family in their time of need.
         I want to share with you a story which captures the very essence of Joseph’s story. While in
Guatemala, our group, with your help, bought lights for the soccer field in Jocotenango. Jocotenango is
an area outside of Antigua which is notorious for gangs, drugs, alcohol abuse, and death. The world has
deemed this town hopeless and the youth of this area worthless but that’s where God’s providential love
comes into play. The money you all helped raise allowed the lights to go on a field but it also provided an
opportunity for God’s love. Now the youth of Jocotenango have something constructive they can do with
their time. The girls, who before the lights didn’t have a chance to play because of their responsibilities
to help out at home, can now play soccer and they now have a hope. One single act by our church may
have changed a generation of youth in Guatemala, to have a hope in the future. We don’t always know
how God is working but what the world left for evil, God used for good.
         So, why do bad things happen to good people? We may never know the answer to that question
but we do know that we have a future and a hope in God. A quick ending to the story of Mrs. Botko: her
tragic death and the youth’s response really moved our congregation and many youth started coming to
church even more so and became Christians because of this tragic loss. We don’t always know the why
or how but we do know the who, Jesus Christ, who loves us and gives us hope. Amen.
Let us pray…
         Gracious God, you are from every lasting to everlasting. Your love has the final word in our
lives. God, we don’t know why or how bad things happen to good people but we do know you love us
so much that you were willing to suffer on the cross for us. Give us the hope in the bright futures you
have for each of us. Remind of us of your love not only this day but each day. Amen.




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