Because of the temporal and geographical proximity of the event, and the tight-knit community where we live, last Sunday (June 15), Pastor Patrick took a break from the Matthew series to bring a special message about the Sovereignty of God, in order to help our members, attendees, and podcast listeners to be able to provide an answer to people who ask, “How could God allow something like this?” Here is a brief summary of the sermon.
In Luke 13, when some Jews told Jesus about some catastrophic events, they were coming with a mindset that said if bad things like this happen to you, it’s probably a result of your sin. But when Jesus replied, he said, “If you do not repent, you will likewise perish.” Similarly, on 9/11, some “Christian” preachers claimed that it was God’s wrath against the businesses residing within the Twin Towers. But Jesus indicates in Luke 13 that all who survive or are spared from such events, remain only by God’s mercy, and not because of their own lack of sin.
The parable of the fig tree in Luke 13, coming directly after this discourse, speaks of providing additional time for the tree to bear fruit. It is a picture of God’s grace in forbearance. Every person who remains after a catastrophe is given an additional opportunity to repent.
God is sovereign over every home destroyed, every blade of grass set ablaze. But why is there suffering? First, it is because of sin. No one is an innocent victim. Lamentations 3 says, “Why should a living man complain about the punishment of his sins?” Second, suffering serves God’s purpose (cf. Genesis 50:20). Third, to bring about salvation (Acts 4:24-28). If there was no suffering, we would not have the atonement of the Cross. Fourth, suffering exists to glorify God (John 9).
For believers, suffering shows us our weakness (1 Cor. 7). It makes our hearts more upright (James 5:7-11) by forcing us to be dependent on God. It also conforms us to Christ (Philippians 3:7-12), who was well-acquainted with grief. Do you want Christ more than anything else, even your own comfort? Your life? Finally, suffering is destructive to sin. It is the discipline of God (Hebrews 12), his refining fire.
No matter what, God is good, and he is in control, so trust him. If you are a Christian, nothing will separate you from the love of God in Christ (Romans 8:31-39).