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Jul
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No. Evil doesn’t just happen.

“For the eyes of the LORD move to and fro throughout the earth that

He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His.

2 Chronicles 16:9

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On June 13, 2016, the day after the Orlando Pulse nightclub shooting, Christianitytoday.com posted a blog entry by Karl Vaters entitled, 5 Dumb Things Christians Must Stop Saying When Evil Strikes. Karl Vaters is the lead pastor of Cornerstone Christian Fellowship in Fountain City, California. I believe the Bible is the inerrant Word of God. And so does Karl Vaters’ church (http://www.cornerstonefv.com/about-us/what-we-believe.html) and I will take the leap that he does as well since he is lead pastor. You can find his article here, http://www.christianitytoday.com/karl-vaters/2016/june/5-dumb-things-christians-must-stop-saying-when-evil-strikes.html?paging=off . This is my response.

 

Dear Karl Vaters,

I will wholeheartedly agree people say stupid things. Utterly. Stupid. Things. The more tragic, the stupider the comments. And that stupidity breeds hurt, pain, confusion. It will make you want to spit in the face of the person that uttered the stupidity. I know. I have lived through tragedy. I have been the recipient of such comments.

However, of all the things you stated in your post, it is number five on the list, I can not let go of because we do not live in a random, chaotic world ruled over by a God who sleeps or gets distracted or is oblivious to what is happening to His created. And you make it sound as if God has no control.

Here is what you stated:

5. “Everything happens for a reason”

No. It just doesn’t.

Evil has no reason. It is anti-reason. And anti-love.

And don’t spout any nonsense about evil balancing out the good. Evil balances nothing. It keeps everything off balance.

That’s why God hates it.

“Everything happens for a reason” is more pagan than Christian. It’s more about Karma than Christ.

Evil is not supposed to happen. It does. Obviously. But it shouldn’t.

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The errancy in these statements are astounding. A book could be written refuting them.

“Everything happens for a reason” No. It just doesn’t. 

Actually, yes it just does.

And Solomon explains this in Ecclesiastes 3:1-9:

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;  a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;  a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;  a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.

So with these verses in mind, I will submit the two following statements are true and supported by scripture:

No one can die without God’s knowledge or permission.

Evil can not be carried out unless God allows it to be.

 

IMG_1089No one can die without God’s knowledge or permission. (Matthew 10)

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. ~ Matthew 10:29

In Matthew 10, we have Jesus speaking to the disciples, giving them authority and sending them forth to do God’s work. He is instructing them and He is warning them. He tells them to expect persecution and not to fear death and then Jesus says, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.(v. 29-31)

Just to give some perspective… Sparrows were in such great quantity, they were insignificant apart from their nuisance behavior. They were everywhere. They were intrusive and possessive, and apparently, they had no reverence for even sacred places. David tells us in Psalm 84:3 that the sparrow even nests in the Lord’s altars. They were ensnared and disposed of with eagerness because they were a nuisance and they were cheap because of their seemingly never-ending quantity. But Jesus tells us that not even a sparrow dies without the Father’s consent or knowledge. He says that every single hair on our head is numbered.

Does this sound as if God were oblivious? Or unaware? Does it sound that evil just snuck up and caught Him off guard? I think not. Not only did God know who would die that day, he decided it was their time to die. Why He chose when and who He did is only for Him to know and not for us to question.

IMG_1088Evil can not be carried out unless God allows it to be. (Job 1:6-12, 2:1-10)

And the Lord said to satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand.” So satan went out from the presence of the Lord. ~ Job 1:12

In the book of Job, we learn about Job and all that God allows to befall him at satan’s hand. In the first five verses, we are given a glimpse into Job’s life and it is pretty sweet. God has blessed him mightily. But it is also revealed why…Job was blameless and upright, a man who feared God and turned away from evil. He offered burnt offerings to the Lord, not only for himself, but also for his children. Scripture says he did this continually.

Then things take a turn because evil is allowed an opportunity.

Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them. And the Lord said to Satan, “From where do you come?”

So Satan answered the Lord and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking back and forth on it.”

Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil?”

So Satan answered the Lord and said, “Does Job fear God for nothing? Have You not made a hedge around him, around his household, and around all that he has on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But now, stretch out Your hand and touch all that he has, and he will surely curse You to Your face!”

And the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your power; only do not lay a hand on his person.”

So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord. ~ Job 1:6-12

Here we have a perfect picture of 1 Peter 5:8, Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. And why does satan do this, prowl around in search of someone to devour? To destroy you spiritually. He roams and seeks opportunity to afflict us with so much pain and heartache that we will turn our backs to God.

And this is how he attacks Job. Satan lays waste to everything he has – his children, his property, his livestock -leaving Job to mourn and to say, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb and naked I shall return. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord.” Chapter one wraps up with these words, “In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.”

Another day comes, and the sons of God come before Him and once again satan joins them.  Again, he has been prowling around and up to no good and he tells God so. So God points out that he failed with Job – he was unable to persecute him enough to turn him against God. But satan, crafty and sly as always, points out God has not allowed satan to touch Job, only his possessions. This time satan wants Job and does he ever have plans for him. Once more, God grants satan permission to inflict at will, but refuses to allow satan to go as far as to take Job’s life.

And satan wastes no time. The moment he leaves the Lord’s presence, he strikes Job with loathsome sores from the top of his head to the bottom of his feet. As Job sits in his ashes mourning and scraping sores with a broken piece of pottery, his bitter sass-mouthing wife, spits the words at him, “curse God and die.” But he admonishes her, “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” Chapter two wraps up with these words, “In all this Job did not sin with his lips.”

Evil must ask permission from God before it may act and it may only act within the parameters God Himself sets.

IMG_1086To say, “evil just happens,” is to say God relinquishes control of the our existence and the world in which we live; it would mean God is not omnipotent, omniscient or omnipresent, and it would mean we live in chaos.  And was this not God’s first task, to not only create, but bring order order to that creation? He methodically, with purpose and with intent and with great care, spoke each element of our world into existence, in its proper time and put it into its proper place.

To make such a statement is wildly reckless and wholly irresponsible. But to say it to people grappling with understanding in a tragedy, is cruel. Because you are saying that God is ignorant of the events befalling His created nor does He care. You are saying random things happen for no reason at all  and that breeds anxiety and fear in the living and in the left behind. You are saying their life had no purpose or meaning because God did not bother to count the cost of their death even though scripture says He numbered all the hairs upon their head and planned out all their days.

You are saying God is not in control.

If He is not, then evil is.

And that is the most errant insinuation of them all: God has no control over evil.

By saying this, you have peddled a lie to the hurting and multiplied their pain a thousandfold. It was worse than any false platitude that might be uttered because it was a lie and satan is the father of lies and you, a pastor who should be serving God, have just done satan’s work. It would have been better had you shut your mouth and said nothing at all.

To speculate on why God does what He does is foolish and arrogant. To go to scripture and seek the truth about the character of God is wise.

IMG_1135Here is a mere sampling of what scripture has to say about God:

God is omniscient. He knows everything. His knowledge is complete. It is limitless, boundless, and unable to be measured or calculated. Consider Psalm 147:5…

Great is our Lord, and mighty in power; His understanding is infinite.

God is omnipotent. He has unlimited power. He is able to do anything He pleases. He has no limits except those He imposes upon Himself. Consider the following:

Nebuchadnezzar praises Him for it in Daniel 4:35; Job declares it before Him in Job 42:1-2; Jesus says there is nothing too impossible for God in Matthew 19:26; an angel conveys it to Mary when sharing news of Elizabeth’s pregnancy in Luke 1:37; and Isaiah declares it to the Assyrians in Isaiah 14:27 when he says, “For the Lord of hosts has purposed, and who can annul it? His hand is stretched out, and who will turn it back?”

God is omnipresent. He is in all places at all times. Consider:

Psalm 121:4 Behold, He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.

Proverbs 15:3 The eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good.

Jeremiah 23:23-24 “Am I a God at hand, declares the Lord, and not a God far away? Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him? declares the Lord. Do I not fill heaven and earth? declares the Lord.

Psalm 139:7-12 Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me,and your right hand shall hold me. If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,” even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you.

God is immutable. He is unchanging. He is unable to be changed. Consider:

Malachi 3:6 For I am the Lord; I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.

Psalm 90:2 Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.

God is sovereign. He is free to act in whatever way He determines is best for us. Although scripture is full of God’s sovereignty, do we need to look any further than the beginning of our existence in Genesis?

I could go on listing attributes. He is love (I John 4). He is holy (I Peter 1:16, Leviticus 20:26). He is gracious, righteous and merciful (Psalm 116:5).

The evil allowed in this world has but one purpose: to cause people to seek God. Because evil is allowed for the simple reason we have turned our backs to Him. We have so far removed Him from our lives and our world that it seems He is not present. However, I can assure you, it is we who have moved.

But God is near.

So very near.

And He is waiting for us, His people, to return to Him.

Peruse the Old Testament and example after example can be found where God’s people drifted away from Him; God lifted up pagan nations to carry out actions against them to humble them, and then God punished the pagan nations for their eagerness to carry out such evil against His people.

Evil exists because without God in our lives, we choose it.

Why?

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? Jeremiah 17:9

For from within the hearts of men come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, debauchery, envy, slander, arrogance, and foolishness. Mark 7:21-22

Romans 1 describes how God will give men up to their evil, darkened hearts and their debased minds. Turn your back on God and He will let evil have its way because you have chosen it, not because it is what He wants for you.

What God wants for us is to live a holy, set apart life so that everything we do points others to His love and the salvation offered through Jesus’ gift on the cross. Unfortunately, most choose a fleeting, worldly existence to satisfy their fleshly desires. They flock to churches with pastors who tickle their ears with lies and pervert God’s word. They want to feel good and justified in their sin, and in this day and age are they ever catered to.

Sitting in church hearing God’s truth should be an unsettling experience. We ought to leave questioning how we need to allow God to work in our lives so that we are holy because He is holy. It ought to create change in us and by default in the people around us and that change should ripple out into the world.

But that can not happen when pastors make errant statements and publish them on the internet. I pray that you will take a step back, correct your words, and honor God by sharing His truth and not some filtered version of it that creates further distance between God and His people.

So while false platitudes are harmful, so are lies. And I believe that is why I find reason number five on your list so reprehensible. One might not know what to say and sometimes silence is better, and yes, we should cry with those who cry. But is it not far better to speak the truth?

Yes. It was tragic.

Yes. I know you are hurting.

Yes. Explanation escapes me.

But God…

He knows.

He has purpose in everything He does and everyone He created.

He is sovereign and just and merciful and good.

And we can trust in His word. And we can trust in His Truth.

Because above all, He is love.

 

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God will not protect you from anything that will make you more like Jesus ~ Elisabeth Elliot

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