The problem of evil
There comes a time in our lives when we experience what has been called “disappointment with God.” I think in some ways and on some level, we all experience disappointment and discontentment in our lives.
It is part of our Adamic emptiness. We were born incomplete, always lacking something, never able to be satisfied. This is what makes contentment so elusive, but yet so cherished.
We’re all looking for something to fill the void in our lives. This is also what makes Christ such a prize. He is the solution to the emptiness in our souls and the seemingly insatiable pursuit we are compelled to join.
Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ. – Philippians 3:8 (ESV)
Wholeness comes from the LORD (Colossians 1:28), but it is a process to understand, attain, and enjoy this kind of completeness. We are not born sanctified and by implication this means there is an internal struggle in our souls.
Our solution is to find regular communion with something outside of ourselves in order to be saved from ourselves. Before we found Christ we got our fixes from many different things. Like a bee flitting from one flower to the next, we could not be satisfied.
Then we found Christ or more accurately, Christ found us. Nevertheless, our days of flitting around, searching for the next best buzz was over. The curse was reversed and wholeness was gained through Christ alone.
He is the cessation of our disappointments. He is the end of our sorrow. He is the solution for everything which is wrong with us. He is the only One who is worthy of our adoration.“Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.” - Revelation 4:11 (ESV)
The response to evil
Though Christ is the answer, it is still hard for some people to see Him as something more than a factual reality–intellectual knowledge vs. functional knowledge. Knowing Christ and resting in Christ are world’s apart for some Christians.
“I know the truth, but I’m having a hard time applying the truth to my life.”
Christ is the answer was never meant to be a factual reality without a relational response. The answer for discontentment and disappointment is not found on a cold bumper sticker–read, but not applied personally.
The answer is found in a responsive and reciprocal relationship. This implies there is a requirement on our part if we want to rid ourselves of the discontentment and discouragement in our lives.
We see this in Revelation 4:11, a text which is more than black letters on a white page, tucked in the back of our Bibles. These words represent a relational reality about a group of sad people who overcame their sadness by responding to the truth about Christ.
They saw the fact–Christ–and they responded to Him with praise. The solution to the problem of evil in your life is responsive praise, which is based on the ability of Jesus Christ to overcome evil.
“Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.” – Revelation 5:5 (ESV)
Do you see your role in working through your discouragement and disappointment? Our relationship with Christ is not passive at all. You are to weep no more (your job) because you have a Victor (His job).
In the next chapter (Revelation 5:11-14) we see the same kind of relational responsiveness to the finished work of Christ. Note the lack of passivity in the ones who were acknowledging the greatness of the Savior.
Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice,
“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!”
And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!”
And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” and the elders fell down and worshiped. – Revelation 5:11-14 (ESV)
They looked. They heard. They said. They fell down. They worshipped. I hear the echo of our old friend, Job, here (Job 1:21-23). Christ can takeaway your discouragement, but it will require you to relationally respond to Him.
The solution for evil
Jesus is the blood spilling Lamb who died for our sins (John 1:29). He is the only One who can make your story make sense. He is the only One who can make your life make sense.
And the LORD God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them. – Genesis 3:21 (ESV)
Even in the beginning when sin first entered the world, the solution was the same. God’s way to solve our problems has always been through the shedding of blood (Leviticus 17:11).
It has always been an eye for an eye when it comes to solving the problem with evil (Exodus 21:23-25). The ultimate eye for an eye was the death of Christ. The death of Christ was the remedy for the problem with evil (Genesis 3:15; John 19:30).
Jesus, as the Lamb, is worthy because by His blood people are redeemed. Through His death the holiness of God was vindicated, evil was defeated, and we, who were captivated, have been set free (Hebrews 2:14-15).
There is no other solution. Jesus is the final and comprehensive right answer for our problems, but this is not a passive truth. This places a responsibility on us. These truths demand a response from the hearer.
- Is the death of Christ enough for you and your problems?
- Was the execution of a Jewish carpenter 2000 years ago enough to make sense out of your life and your problems (1 Corinthians 1:18-25)?
- Can His work give you hope for today and for your future (Philippians 1:6)?
You can quickly answer these questions by assessing the responsiveness of your mind to these truths right now. Are you resting in the finished work of Christ? Are you content because of the finished work of Christ?
If not, then what is it about the Gospel which you still need to work through and apply to your life so you can enjoy His rest today? The death of Christ on the cross was enough to solve our two most perplexing problems.
- The intensity of our sin and rebellion against God needed to be removed.
- The depth of God’s love needed to be our provision and eternal sustenance.
Without His death on the cross our ability to overcome discontentment, disappointment, and discouragement would never happen. But He did die. He did defeat sin and evil.
The intensity of our sin
We are more wicked than we ever dared to believe and we’re more loved than we ever could imagine. – Tim Keller
Think about the seriousness of sin. In the passage below we can see and feel the intensity of God’s view of sin. This is an amazing, stunning, and God-sobering passage. Read it reflectively.
If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey the voice of his father or the voice of his mother, and, though they discipline him, will not listen to them, then his father and his mother shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of his city at the gate of the place where he lives, and they shall say to the elders of his city,
“This our son is stubborn and rebellious; he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton and a drunkard.”
Then all the men of the city shall stone him to death with stones. So you shall purge the evil from your midst, and all Israel shall hear, and fear. - Deuteronomy 21:18-21 (ESV)
Sin is intense and the LORD takes it seriously. Before the death of Christ the Hebrew families had to resolve the problem of evil by making payment for the evil. You see this in the passage above.
God is just and He could not allow a person to sin and get away with the sin. The Old Testament is a faithful and sobering record of men and women paying for their sins. God’s justice was vindicated (Genesis 2:16-17).
But He had a plan. He was navigating His people to a Person who was able to make a payment which would forever solve the sin problem. The intensity of sin was overcome by the depth of His great love.
The depth of God’s love
Some have complained about God creating a world with so much evil in it. They question His character with such accusations as this: Why do you allow so much suffering and death in our world?
What they don’t see or won’t acknowledge was His willingness to come to this dark planet, become like us, and die in our place (Philippians 2:5-11). He is not a distant deity who doesn’t care about His creation (John 3:16).
The love of God is greater than all our sin. The more complex question is, “Why did you allow so much suffering and death for your perfect Son?” The answer to this second question is found in His profound love for us (Romans 5:8, 2 Corinthians 5:21).
Keller was right: We are more wicked than we ever dared to believe and we’re more loved than we ever could imagine.
The way you can practicalize these truths of God’s Gospel to your life is by assessing your focus. If you are struggling with contentment or if you are discouraged, this means your focus is more on the evil in your world than the love of God which overcomes evil.
- If your focus is more on the evil in your world than God’s great love for you, then your faith will sink and discontentment, fear, and anger will rise.
- If your focus is more on the victory we have in Jesus, then your faith will rise and your discontentment will soon go away.
The gaze of your heart
What has captured the eyes of your heart? What governs your soul today? Is your heart cry directed to Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb who is blessed with honor and glory and might, forever and ever!
The angel said, “To weep no more.” The reason he could make this appeal was because he was living in the good of the Gospel–the Lamb who sits on the throne. Understanding the Gospel and living in the good of the Gospel is a matter of taking your soul to task.
Either you believe and rejoice that evil was defeated by the death of Christ or you continue to weep as though Christ’s death was not enough. The continual weeper needs more than the death of Christ.
- The sad news is there is nothing more.
- The good news is Christ is all you need.
I do not want to know anything among you, but Jesus Christ and Him crucified. – Paul, an apostle
If you are working with a person who lives in discouragement and/or is problem-centered, then you must take them to the cross. Walk them through the passage in Revelation 4 & 5.
Talk to them about the victory they have in Jesus, the intensity of our sin, and the love of God which overcomes our sin. Initially, they will probably not want this kind of truth. They will want something else, something new or sophisticated (1 Corinthians 1:19).
They may even tell you they have heard this before. Still yet, the truth remains the same and it’s the only solution we have to offer. Don’t be tempted to stray from the Gospel because it’s not what they want to hear and apply.
Stick with Christ. He is what they need. If Christ does not turn their weeping into rejoicing, then there is no hope for them. If they do find hope in something else, then they have a false hope, which will not last.
Ask them this question: What would make you happy? If they answer anything other than Christ, then you have an idolator on your hands. Give them Jesus.