This sermon is part of the sermon series Thorns in the Flesh.See series.
Here are two photos, both showing scenes from two earthquakes of similar magnitude that happened within just days of each other just last month. One quake happened at Paso Robles, California—very near to us. The other hit in Bam, Iran, halfway around the world. The quake in Paso Robles, where buildings are built with modern methods according to exacting standards, resulted in 2 deaths. The quake in Bam, Iran, where homes are built of mud brick, resulted in 50,000 deaths! Two equal magnitude earthquakes—two tremendously unequal results. Why are we fortunate enough to live where we do? And why are those who died in Iran unfortunate enough to live where they do?
John Stott, one of the most distinguished Bible teachers of the last three generations, comments: "The fact of suffering undoubtedly constitutes the single greatest challenge to the Christian faith, and has been in every generation. Its distribution and degree appear to be entirely random and, therefore, unfair. Sensitive spirits ask if it can possibly be reconciled with God's justice and love."
It is the age-old conundrum that most of us have encountered. Either God wants to stop suffering but cannot (which means God is really not all powerful, as we say he is), or else God could stop suffering but chooses not to (which means God can't really be all loving and good.)
I think of Lt. Dan in the movie Forrest Gump, who lost both legs in Vietnam and was embittered toward life and God. When Lt. Dan and Forrest are caught in a hurricane and waves are threatening to sink Forrest's shrimp boat at any second, Lt. Dan climbs the mast into the teeth of the wind and screams and shakes his fist at God in defiance. Suffering often produces this reaction. We ...
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