Series: Why? Why Does God Allow Suffering?
Week of: February 3 – 9, 2021
Aim: Can you keep on trusting God when bad things are happening all around you – when the pain is sharp and the doubt is deep and it’s impossible to see the sense in it all? After studying this lesson, this series, students will find that they can do just that if they keep their eye on the big picture of who God is, what His purposes are, and just how passionately He cares about His children.
Why? Why does God let bad things happen to good people?
- to innocent people?
- to helpless people?
- to defenseless people?
- to children?
- to me?
Sometimes His ways seem so hard to understand!!
All of us have not suffered the same. Some have not suffered the death of a child; the betrayal or abandonment of a spouse; the abandonment of a parent or an illness that threatens our life. No! we haven’t all suffered the same but we all know what it is to suffer! And we also realize that there are no pat answers to the age-old question of suffering, and no “new truth.” Therefore, we must cling to the spiritual principle operating in the life of a child of God. That principle can be found in Proverbs 3:5, Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. When we cling to this spiritual principle and allow it to operate in our life, we find that God’s word. . .
- gives meaning to our meaninglessness
- and hope to our hopelessness
- and reason to our senselessness
- and purpose to our aimlessness
- and strength to our weakness
- and courage to our faintheartedness
- and blessed deliverance from our bitterness
This spiritual principle can also be seen in these scriptural paradoxes:
- Life Comes AFTER Death!
John 12:24 (NKJV) – Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain.
- Gain THROUGH Loss!
Philippians 3:8 (NIV) – What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ
Philippians 1:21 (NKJV) – For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
This principle emerged into sharp visibility when Jesus gave His life on the Cross, was buried, and on the third day arose from the dead to give eternal life to any and all who would place their faith in Him.
Romans 14:9 (NIV) – For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living.
Galatians 2:20 (NLT) – My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
1 Thessalonians 5:10 (NLT) – Christ died for us so that, whether we are dead or alive when he returns, we can live with him forever.
Paul somewhat understated this principle in Romans 8:28, a passage he wrote to reassure believers who lived in a city – by Nero, a madman with absolute power (sound familiar?). Paul wrote encouragingly, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” Phrased another way, Paul was reminding the children of God they can be confident that. . .
- all things work together for good
- brokenness leads to blessing
- death leads to life
- and suffering lead to glory!
In our world today, God’s children need that same reminder to trust Him when we don’t understand and nothing seems to make sense!
The principle that suffering leads to glory is illustrated in Scripture by a vivid description of clay on the Potter’s wheel – clay that was once cracked, shattered, and broken, clay that was totally useless and ugly.
Jeremiah 18:2-6 (NKJV)
2 “Arise and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will cause you to hear My words.”
3 Then I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was, making something at the wheel.
4 And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter; so he made it again into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to make.
5 Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying:
6 “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter?” says the Lord. “Look, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in My hand, O house of Israel!
- The Clay – Represents the house of Israel, you and me.
- Dug out of Egypt
- Darkness of slavery behind them
- Delivered to Canaan
- The Wheel – Represents God’s
Jeremiah 29:11 (NLT) – For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.
Psalm 40:5 (NLT) – O Lord my God, you have performed many wonders for us. Your plans for us are too numerous to list. You have no equal. If I tried to recite all your wonderful deeds, I would never come to the end of them.
- The Potter – Represents The LORD Himself – The clay is in the Potter’s (LORD’s) hand
Isaiah 43:13 (NLT) – “From eternity to eternity I am God. No one can snatch anyone out of my hand. No one can undo what I have done.”
Psalm 66:9 (NLT) – Our lives are in his hands, and he keeps our feet from stumbling.
- The LORD’s hand is a Place of Power
Habakkuk 3:4 (NLT) – His coming is as brilliant as the sunrise. Rays of light flash from his hands, where his awesome power is hidden.
Job 42:2 (NIV) –“I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
Psalm 115:3 (NIV) – Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him.
John 10:29-30 (NIV) – 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”
Psalm 89:13 (NLT) – Powerful is your arm! Strong is your hand! Your right hand is lifted high in glorious strength.
- The LORD’s hand is a Place of Love
Jeremiah 31:3 (NLT) – Long ago the Lord said to Israel: “I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love. With unfailing love I have drawn you to myself.
1 John 3:1a (NLT) – See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are! But the people who belong to this world don’t recognize that we are God’s children because they don’t know him. John 3:16 (NLT) – “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.
1 John 4:9-10 (NLT) – 9 God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. 10 This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.
- The LORD’s hand is a Place of Fulfillment
Psalm 98:1 (NLT) – Sing a new song to the Lord, for he has done wonderful deeds. His right hand has won a mighty victory; his holy arm has shown his saving power!
Isaiah 59:1 (NLT) – Listen! The Lord’s arm is not too weak to save you, nor is his ear too deaf to hear you call.
1 Peter 5:6 (NLT) – So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor.
Psalm 37:23-24 (NLT) – 23 The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives. 24 Though they stumble, they will never fall, for the Lord holds them by the hand.
- The Vessel – the clay became marred even in the Potter’s hand
What caused the clay to be marred. . .
Genesis 3:1-15 (NIV) – 1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” 2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3 but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’” 4 “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5 “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6 When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked;
1 John 2:16 (KJV) – For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.
- The Process – He made it again into another vessel
- The Application – “can I not do with you as this potter?”
- The vessel may have been dishonored by resistance, but it was not disowned!
- This clay was once cracked, shattered, and broken
- This clay was totally useless and ugly
- The potter remolded, remade the marred vessel
- The potter took the clay and broke it down even further, grinding it into dust then moistening it with water before He put it on His wheel and began to remake it into a vessel pleasing to Himself.
- The cracks and chips and broken pieces disappeared as the clay became soft and pliable to the Potter’s touch.
- He firmly applied pressure on some areas, touched lightly on other areas, added more clay to a specific spot that needed filling, and removed clay that hindered the shape that would make it useful for His ultimate purpose!
- The Potter then placed the vessel into the fiery kiln, carefully keeping His eye on it as He submitted it to the raging heat.
- At a time He alone determined was sufficient, the Potter withdrew the pot from the furnace.
- The blazing heat had radically transformed the clay into a vessel of strength and glorious, multicolored beauty.
- Then the Potter put it in His showcase so that others might see the glory in the work of His hands.
Progress in the Journey. . .
Is the Potter molding – or remolding – you, using. . .
- Pressure or problems?
- Stress or suffering?
- Hurt or heartache?
- Illness or injustice?
Has He now placed you in the fire so that circumstances are heating up with intensity in your life? Then would you just trust the Potter to know exactly what He is doing?
For the child of God, suffering is not wasted. It’s not an end in itself. Scripture reminds us, “7 We have this treasure from God, but we are like clay jars that hold the treasure. This shows that the great power is from God, not from us. 8 We have troubles all around us, but we are not defeated. We do not know what to do, but we do not give up the hope of living. 9 We are persecuted, but God does not leave us. We are hurt sometimes, but we are not destroyed. 10 We carry the death of Jesus in our own bodies so that the life of Jesus can also be seen in our bodies. . . 17 We have small troubles for a while now, but they are helping us gain an eternal glory that is much greater than the troubles. 2 Corinthians 4:7-10, 17 (NCV)
The spiritual principle is that in some way God uses suffering to transform ordinary, dust-clay people into. . .
ü vessels that are strong in faith
ü vessels that are fit for His use
ü vessels that display His glory to the watching world
When I don’t understand why, I will trust Him because. . .
PRAYER PRINCIPLE: Pray that, no matter what circumstance you find yourself in, you remain faithful and trusting knowing something good will come out of that situation and God will get the glory.
SOCIAL JUSTICE PRINCIPLE: Encourage others that seem to be in a season of doubt how your situation changed when you trusted God no matter what.
EVANGELISM PRINCIPLE: Knowing that Christ experienced a painful for our salvation should encourage us to share his pain with others.
STEWARDSHIP PRINCIPLE: Give when you don’t understand why you’re giving; it’s important that God get the glory from your giving.
DISCIPLESHIP PRINCIPLE: Although you may have doubts of how you’ll get through what you’re going through, remember how God brought you through in the past to encourage yourself in your present plight.
NEXT WEEK’S TITLE: Does Jesus Care
SERIES: Why? (Why doesn’t God answer my prayer?)
NEXT WEEK’S READING ASSIGNMENT: Psalm 22:1-2; John 15:7; Matthew 15:21-28; Matthew 21:21-22; Mark 9:21-27; Matthew 17:20; Matthew 5:29-30; Luke 18:25; 2 Corinthians 12:7-9; Luke 22:42; Matthew 27:46; Isaiah 55:8; Romans 8:28; 1 Peter 5:7