An eight year-old boy loved taking risks. He especially got a thrill when he could combine climbing and risk-taking. More than once his father caught him in the act. Each time his father warned him of what could happen and the painful consequences that could result.

But the boy was eight years old. When you are eight years old, nothing really bad can happen. Anything can be fixed! So he continued to climb, and he increased risks. Oh, he was careful. Very careful! Very careful to see that his dad did not catch him.

One day he made his most daring climb, a climb higher than he had never attempted. He successfully made the climb, and his confidence soared. So...he took the greatest risk he had taken. Just when he was certain that he had accomplished his greatest stunt with no consequences, he slipped. In an instant that passed so fast that his mind could not grasp it, he was on the ground in great pain.

At first he could not catch his breath. The fall knocked his breath out of him. When he finally caught his breath, the pain began to scream. Both arms were broken. One was so severely broken that a bone pierced the skin. He landed so awkwardly that he also sprained both ankles. He lay in agony unable to move.

Later after surgery, he opened his eyes and saw his dad leaning over him. In a voice barely louder than a whisper, he said to his dad, "This is your fault! How could you let this happen to me?"

  1. This has been an unbelievable month!
    1. If in July anyone had prophesied accurately the events of September and early October, we would have declared the person crazy.
      1. The destruction of the World Trade Center towers?
      2. Almost 6,000 casualties?
      3. The Pentagon severely damaged with casualties?
      4. Anthrax?
      5. Military action in Afghanistan?
    2. I actually have heard people ask the question, "How can God let such things happen?
      1. What does that question mean? When people ask that question, what are they saying?
        1. Some are saying there is no God.
          1. If God existed, He would not allow things like that to happen.
          2. If there was a God, and if He was all powerful, He would use His power to stop horrible happenings.
        2. Some are saying that God exists, but all this is God's fault.
          1. God has the power to stop such horrible things.
          2. When they happen, they happen because God did not use His power.
        3. Some are saying that they are confused.
          1. They do not understand how horrible happenings and God's power fit together.
          2. They simply do not know what to think about what happened.
      2. This is the common thought in the question: some way, some how it is God's fault.
        1. It is the idea that God will not allow bad things to happen to good people.
        2. It is the idea that God protects Christians from bad happenings.
      3. That is a very curious idea, a very confusing conclusion.
        1. We celebrate the fact that God allowed His son to die on a cross.
        2. We admire Stephen for being the first Christian martyr.
        3. We honor Paul for enduring suffering and execution.
        4. But we conclude that today God will not allow bad things to happen to good people.

  2. We find the reality of bad things happening to good people perplexing and confusing, but it is an old, old question.
    1. Before Christianity existed, Israelites asked the same question.
      1. It is the central question that stands as the heart of the book of Job.
        1. Job was the godliest man on earth.
        2. Job had horrible experiences.
        3. He did not understand how a godly person like himself could have such horrible things happen to him.
        4. His friends give him awful explanations of why he suffered.
      2. God revealed to Habbakuk the horrible consequences that Judah would experience.
        1. God warned Judah for the majority of 300 years, and Judah refused to turn their lives around.
        2. So God revealed to Habbakuk the consequences Judah would pay.
        3. Habbakuk was deeply shaken by God's revelation.
        4. He even asked God, "Why are you silent when the wicked swallow up those more righteous than they" (Habbakuk 1:13).
      3. Judah was extremely confident nothing bad could happen to them.
        1. They were God's people.
        2. They had God's temple sitting in God's holy city.
        3. When God sent teachers like Habbakuk to tell them they needed to repent, they would cry, "The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord!" (Jeremiah 7:4)
          1. What they meant was, "Nothing bad can happen to us!"
          2. "We have God's temple, and God would not let anything bad happen to His temple!"
          3. But the temple of the Lord was destroyed, and they were conquered by the Babylonians.
    2. In the last fifty years, we created a huge lie by believing our society should exist without consequences.
      1. We created and we live by a "no responsibility" mentality.
        1. Years ago we began to learn the factors that contribute to specific problems in human behavior, and that is good.
        2. Years ago we began to learn the many ways we are influenced as we develop, and that is good.
      2. But we took good understandings and used them for bad purposes.
        1. We should have taken those understandings and used them to become more responsible people.
        2. Instead, we allowed those understanding to deceive us. Now we believe we are not responsible for who we are or what we do.
      3. Now we live in a society that believes:
        1. No matter what happens, someone else must be blamed; it is always someone else's fault.
        2. We should be protected from all forms of liability.
          1. We should be protected from bad food regardless of how we eat.
          2. We should be protected from medicine's side effects.
          3. No matter how we use any product we buy, we should be protected from harm.

  3. Since we live in a no consequence nation and a no consequence society, we need a no consequence God.
    1. So we declare there should be no spiritual or moral consequences to any form of human behavior.
      1. We can live in any way we please.
      2. People can be as immoral and irresponsible as they wish.
      3. The world can be as unjust as it chooses to be.
      4. Greed can rule the hearts of the majority.
      5. People world wide can hate as much as they want to hate.
      6. Selfish pleasure can drive people to use and abuse other people.
    2. BUT...God is responsible to see that nothing bad happens.
      1. No matter how we behave, God is responsible to see that there are no consequences.
      2. No matter what emotions govern our lives, God is responsible to see there are no consequences.
      3. No matter how selfish, or greedy, or unfair, or abusive, or unjust, or pleasure centered, or materialistic, or morally irresponsible we are, God is responsible to see there are no consequences.

  4. I am not so stupid or arrogant as to think that I have THE answer to horrible consequences falling on good people, but I do have some thoughts I want you to consider.
    1. At some point in our existence, we must realize that evil produces consequences.
      1. The first great deceit declared by evil is this: there are no consequences.
      2. The second great deceit declared by evil is this: if by accident some consequences occur, they will be small.
      3. The third great deceit declared by evil is this: if by accident some consequences occur, it will always be someone else's fault.
      4. All three of those declarations are lies.
      5. Evil and consequences go together.
        1. Sometimes consequences are immediate: doing evil instantly creates problems.
        2. Often consequences are unintended: "I did not mean for that to happen."
        3. Sometimes consequences are progressive: things go from bad to worse.
        4. Sometimes consequences are long term: it is possible for involvement in evil to set in motion events that will hurt lives for generations.
    2. At some point we must realize that being free moral agents means we have responsibilities.
      1. We rejoice in the fact that God created us a persons of choice--that is what we mean by being free moral agents.
        1. Everyone of us has a right to choose.
        2. Everyone of us can choose.
        3. Everyone of us can be as evil as we choose to be or as godly as we choose to be.
      2. However, we must realize that responsibility is the price we pay for being free to choose.
        1. No matter what factors contribute to my problems, I must choose.
        2. The choices I make are my responsibility.
    3. At some point we must wake up to this fact: "God did not do that; wicked people did that."
      1. If a drunk driver kills someone in my family, God did not make the driver drunk.
      2. If someone in my family is raped, God did not fill the rapist with hate or make him a slave to his passions.
      3. If I suffer because of someone else's greed and injustice, God did not fill that person with greed and selfishness.
      4. Satan did, but God did not.

The cry of our nation cannot be, "God, leave us alone; let us live as we please; but do not let anything bad happen." The cry of Christians cannot be, "'God leave us alone; let us live as we please; but do not let anything bad happen."

The tragedy: we do not know evil when we see it. So we invite the consequences of evil into our lives and never realize what we are doing.

Hundreds of years ago Isaiah wrote these words to people who made our same mistake for the same reasons:
Isaiah 5:20 Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; Who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!

Only God can show us how to recognize good, see the light, and understand the true distinction between sweet and bitter.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 14 October 2001

 Link to next sermon

 Link to other Writings of David Chadwell