Faith Under Fire
Why does a loving God allow pain and suffering? Does He have some purpose, or is He simply unable to stop it? Lee Strobel answers that question in this episode.
today on the johnny Karberg show. My guest is lee Strobel who graduated with a master’s of study in law degree from Yale University and became the award winning legal editor of the Chicago tribune. An atheist turned christian lee left the tribune after 14 years and is now a new york times best selling author of over 20 award winning books. He wondered what evidence shows the most astonishing miracles that got his perform. So he began writing a book called the case for miracles and he did so by first inviting America’s foremost skeptic Michael Shermer to build his strongest case against miracles. Then lee began to dig out evidence, responding to charmers, arguments by interviewing experts, scholars, scientists and doctors in those fields. Li also commissioned a national scientific survey by the barna research group to ask american adults, have you ever had an experience you can only explain as being a miracle of God. Nearly two out of five U. S. Adults for 38% said they had such an experience. This means an astonishing 94,792,000 american adults are convinced God has performed at least one miracle for them personally Are also surveyed 1100 medical doctors who said they were convinced that miracles occurred today because they had patients who had less than six months to live but after prayer were completely healed. But Lee also wondered why does God heal some and not others to hear lead present the most astonishing miracles God has performed. That convinced tim that God’s miraculous activities today are both credible and astonishing, join us for this edition of the john Ekberg show. Welcome to our program, Jonah Goldberg and my guest is lee Strobel and we’re talking about his new book the case for miracles. And today we got a tough topic and that is a question that most people ask. But I want lee to introduce it because he did an actual survey on this one and it it’s coming your direction folks. So don’t move away from this one here. What was the question you asked to have professional researchers asked people in America, they asked a question uh, if you could ask God any one question and you knew he’d give you an answer right now, what would you ask him? And so we got the results and by a enormous margin like five times the number one question was some permutation of why does a loving God allow pain and suffering? I mean that is the question that vexes philosophers, it vexes the everybody at one time or the other. And you divide it up. Let’s start at it. Why is there suffering if God is all loving and he cares for us and he does, why did he permit this thing of evil and suffering in our world? Well, I think the first thing to understand is God is not the creator of evil and suffering and you know, how did it come about then? Well God from eternity past has existed in perfect harmony, Perfect community, Perfect love God the father God the Son God the holy spirit in this community of love from eternity past when he decided to create humankind, he wanted us to experience that greatest value in the universe which is love. Well in order for us to experience love, he had to give us free will. Why? Because we have to have the ability to either choose to love or not to love. When my daughter was little, she had a doll and you pull a string in the back of the doll and I would say I love you. Did that doll love her? No, of course not. It was like a robot. It was programmed to say it because it doesn’t have free will. So here’s the problem. Humankind took our free will and rebelled against God denied God suppressed the knowledge of God turned away from God and acted selfishly and so forth. And that introduced two kinds of evil into the world. God is not the creator of evil and suffering. And so a couple of things happened. Yeah. Yeah. No one moral evil came in the world. That is when you and I make selfish decisions or we heard other people and so forth. It’s been estimated up to 90% of the suffering in the world. Is this kind of moral evil where we hurt each other. In other words, I can take my hand and I can feed a hungry person or I can take that same hand and pick up a gun and kill someone, but it’s a little disingenuous to pick up a gun and kill someone and then blame God. He gave us free will. We’ve introduced moral evil into the world and then natural evil, the bible tells us that our sin, our rebellion has caused the world to react so in other words, it’s almost as if we told God to shove off and he partially honored our request. Nature began to rebel, genetic breakdown and and illness and so forth, entered into the world, earthquakes and and viruses and so forth. Came into the world. The bible says the earth is groaning for redemption. But right along this line, you put those two together, 95% of the world’s suffering results from the sin of ourselves. But you’ve got a statistic here that says the world produces enough food for each person have 3000 calories a day. Well, put those together, there’s something wrong going here. People aren’t allowing other people to get the food. Exactly. And we think, you know, where is God in the midst of famine? Well, hello, we raise enough food in this world for 3000 calories a day for every single person. Why aren’t people being fed because of selfish governments because of inaction of people? Because of a lack of empathy and caring. It comes back to us. You know, we’ve seen the enemy and the enemy is us. So the question is, did God create evil? The answer is, the answer is no, he did not. Secondly, even though suffering is not good, God can use it for good. And we see this in scripture, time after time we see it, how God used it to bring people to faith romans 8 28 says if you love God, if you called according to his purpose, God will take the things that happened in your life, even the negative things and turn them together for good. We see the story of joseph who was imprisoned, who was falsely accused a dozen years, he’s in prison and yet he ultimately is elevated to a place where he can help other people um and save his family and he says what they intended for evil God used for good and you know, sometimes john I’ll have people say to me, oh yeah, sure God can use suffering for good, not my case. You know, how much I’ve suffered. Well, let me tell you something, when I hear something like that, I say, think about it, God took the worst thing that could ever happen in the universe, which is decide the death of the son of God on a cross. The worst thing that could ever happen and he created out of that, the best thing that could ever happen, which is redemption for us to put our trust in him and the opening of heaven forever. Yeah, and I love this one part of your book where it says, uh you know, and I’ve had critics at the university always asked me this question, alright. So God permitted it. And we blew it. We sinned. But couldn’t God have foreseen all this in advance and stopped it? And you’ve got a great deal about parents having kids, right? I mean, I’m a parent, you’re a parent. Uh did you foresee that if I have a child, that child might rebel against me, that you might learn to hate me, might reject me in the end? Well, yeah, that possibility exists. Um and yet yet Children anyway, why? Because of the love that you knew was potential between you and and that’s not a perf analogy, but certainly God knows it. In light of the fact that there would be millions if not billions of people who would put their trust in him and he could have a loving um personal relationship with um that was worth it all. Yeah, we can go really wrong, but he’s ultimately he’s drawing us to himself because of what he did with jesus on the Cross. Talk about. Yeah, I mean, hebrews 12 says God disciplines us for our own good. That we may share in his holiness. There’s a difference between how God disciplines us and would punish us, punishment is sort of retribution for something you’ve done in the past to discipline us, is to look to the future and say you need to go the right path because it’s the best for you. It’s the best way for you to live. And so he’s income encouraging us. Perhaps some of us are hardheaded and we need a little hit in the head in order to um take the right path. And that allows that to happen before we go on. Let’s stop right here and talk a little bit about what God did when jesus was on that cross, he was atoning for the sins of you and me. Um you know, he was paying the penalty so that we don’t have to, I mean this is fantastic that he said, you know you sin, you’ve fallen short of my glory. Um you deserve eternal punishment as a result. You deserve to be separated me forever. Let me take the penalty on myself, I will pay it in your place and then I will offer to you as a free gift of my grace, you can receive it or you can reject it and picked up all the sins of every person in the world, Will they know him or not, picked it up. And when jesus was on that cross, he said, my God, my God, why are you forsaking me? God? Put that sin, all of our sins on jesus. And he took our hell if you want, he was punished in full for everything. Everything that was necessary for us to be accepted by a perfect and Holy God was done by jesus. So we don’t have to work our way into his presence. We don’t have to do this or that or the other thing jesus did it all. And the thing is what’s really mind blowing is he made it as a gift. The gift of God is eternal life. And it comes through jesus christ. So I want people to get the messages that listen, if you are in a mess, God knows all about messes. Okay, he knows about your mess. And the fact is he can still love you. He loves you right where you’re at. I don’t care if you’re a drug addict. I don’t care if you are divorced. I don’t care if your kids have gone wrong. I don’t care if you lost your job. I don’t, you know what your problem is, name it. I don’t care if you’re starving on the other side of the world. You got Covid or if you’ve got cancer or if you’ve got a disease and there’s no hope for you. God still loves you and will save you. He will take that sin out of your life. But you’ve got to ask him and give me your john 1 12 verse again before you go on here. Yeah. After I realized this is all true. Um, I read john 1 12 says, but as many as received him to them, he gave the right to become Children of God, even to those who believe in his name. And that verse forms an equation, I call it the faith formula of how to become a follower of jesus believe plus receive equals become so believing in and of itself is not enough to have intellectual knowledge, is not enough to know about. Jesus is not enough. We need to receive him as our for giver and as our leader. Yeah. Then some kids on campus have said well look, Jesus died for our sins and all of that and God he permitted us to blow it. But is it worth All of our suffering in this life? Just to know God personally. And John Eareckson Tada gave the best answer to this one. Johnny is a friend of both of ours. She has got quadriplegia. She still has a beautiful woman who at 70 years of age and she’s been in a wheelchair for over 54 years. Got a face that’s perfect yet her hands don’t work, Her feet don’t work. And her answer to the fact is is it worth suffering? Do you remember what she said? Yeah, she said I would rather be in a wheelchair knowing God than on my feet without him. And that blew my mind is so true. There’s a story that pastor in Britain tells about having gone to visit a man in the hospital and this man had fallen down a flight of stairs when he was a toddler and had terrible back injuries as a result. And so he goes to the hospital. And this young man made the statement that he believed God is fair. And the pastor said, wait wait a minute, how old are you? And he said 17 years old? He said, how many years have you been in the hospital? And he said 13 years? And the pastor said, and you’re telling me you think God is fair. And the young man looked at him and he said, well God has all of eternity to make it up to me. And in light of Heaven, in light of what we’ll experience as followers of jesus forever in his perfect presence and a place of joy and wonder and adventure. Um, you know, the sufferings in this world is one famous christian once said, uh, you can live the worst kind of life, the most suffering in this world in light of heaven. It will be looking back no more worse than one night in an inconvenient hotel. Yeah, I want to talk to the people that aren’t like johnny that we’re going to the extreme of pain or relying on a deathbed. The fact is they’re just christians that are going to church. Uh, God is correcting them little bit by little bit. And uh, I would say to them, don’t be discouraged with God disciplining you bit by bit by bit. You have a little saying from folks that you know that have gone to the olympics, no pain, no gain. If you want to really become a sharp christian, if you want to become a sharp athlete, you gotta work at it a little bit. You’ve got to do the legwork, you’ve got to do the running, you’ve got to do things that are unbelievable. But if you’re a christian God brings these things in to shape our lives as christians because he wants us to look like his son, jesus. You know, john the verse that I keep coming back to personally, when I go through difficult times uh is a verse that where Jesus is honest about our condition. You know, other religions aren’t like this. And in some Eastern religions, suffering is an illusion. It’s Maya bologna, the suffering that my wife goes through every day is not an illusion that is real. She is suffering. And and yet jesus said something that the minister so deeply me said, I tell you these things so that in me you may have peace in this world. You will have trouble but take courage. I have overcome the world. What’s he saying there? He’s saying, I can give you in the midst of your suffering, the two things you need the most I can give you peace for the present and courage for the future. And I love that because I think that’s what I need, I need right now, I need God’s peace, I need a supernatural infusion of the peace of God into my life when I’m suffering and I need courage to look down the road. But I know that at the end of that road, when I close my eyes for the last time in this world, I open them in the presence of God, for eternity, in a place where there will be no more pain and everything, you know that that I go through in this world will kind of fade into oblivion. Um and I just I love the honesty of jesus. He didn’t paper it over, he didn’t try to diminish it. He say yes, in this world, Why? Because we live in a sin stained world. Not only that, but he himself experienced this discipline. He was without sin, but he was 58 says. But even though he was God’s son, he learned to be obedient by means of his suffering. Think of that, I mean, if if jesus, the son of God, learned to be obedient through his suffering, what does that say about us? Shouldn’t we expect the same thing? Shouldn’t we say God use the difficulties of my life to shape my character, to draw me closer to you, to make me more empathetic towards others, who are suffering to make me more generous with my time and resources to help others. God use my suffering to transform me to be a more um devout follower of you. Yeah. And I would say this, let’s say that your discipline gets rugged, Let’s say it goes the way of johnny, you go into a wheelchair, let’s say it gets into a disease, all of us are going to get something because we’re all gonna die. But I think of jesus, the perfect son of God and uh when he was suffering and he knew he was going to the cross, he actually said to the father, Yeah, I’ve known the plan from eternity. But you know, is there any way that we can get around this? Is there any way that we could, I don’t have to take this cup and drink it and take this suffering. And then he said, but not my will years be done. He was perfect all the way, but he experienced suffering. I don’t mind asking God and saying, Lord, you know, I think I’ve had it. I just, I just don’t know if I can keep on doing this. There’s sometimes I wake up doing these programs in the morning, okay? And I say, man, we got programs. I got least struggle coming on the program. And I’m saying, man, oh, man, how in the world am I gonna keep up with him? And I say, Lord give me the strength to wake up today and to hang in there with him. And God gives the strength and something you said to me john before we came on today, you’re in your office and we were talking about pain. And when you talked about and your mother having gone through a very difficult time before she died and so forth. We were kind of sharing that kind of thing. And you said something to me in private that I hope you don’t mind me sharing, but you said but then I picture the nails in jesus hands and I picture the blood flowing from those nails and it puts everything into perspective. And I thought, yeah, that that is the jesus paid it all, he will heal us all, ultimately he will open the door of heaven for us. And sometimes we just got to go back to that picture of jesus on the cross and say, you know what, I’m never gonna suffer like that, probably I’m and diminish the suffering that I do have, but I’m gonna never suffer like that. And he willingly did that. He willingly went to the cross. Why? Because he wants to spend eternity with me and with you and with our viewers. That is the most profound story of all of history. That’s the one point. Whenever I get down, I come back and I put that into my mind and I say, anchor, berg keep going, remember this, he did it for you, you belong to him, he hasn’t left you, he’s got the holy spirit in your life, okay, whatever you need next, he’s gonna be there with you and lee as we come to the end of this program, There’s too many people we’ve been talking to that haven’t experienced these same kind of problems. Either discouragement or disease or discipline or maybe they’ve blown up. They’ve, they started good with the Lord jesus and then they turned away and they went their own way and they blew everything apart, They went to the drugs, they went into the alcohol, they got divorced, they got all kinds of problems. Does God still love them enough to bring them back? And they start over the answer folks is yes, okay. And lee, I’d like you to say a prayer as we close for those people and you were there, you know, it was like when your life blows apart and you then come face to face with the evidence, he really did it for me, He loves me. What am I gonna do with this? And not only that john but the bible says, jesus is delaying the consummation of history. He’s holding back the final curtain of history. Why? Because some of our viewers have not yet put their trust in him and he loves him so much. He’s not, he’s he’s he’s being patient because there are still people maybe at this very moment so that these last people can come into my heart and look at the clock say I should come right now. But the fact is there’s a whole group of people over here that still don’t know me, I’m gonna wait until they at least have a chance to year. But pray for the folks that are suffering today from discouragement or they’ve given up or all of the things that we’ve been talking about and pray that God would encourage them and maybe say a prayer for the folks that haven’t even invited christ into their life. If you’re in that position and so many people are with the pandemic around the globe, how many people have suffered? I lost my brother during the pandemic. Um, uh, if you’re in that position or maybe you’re a caregiver for someone who’s suffering and you can’t help them and you wish you could and it and it drains you and it’s emotional, Whatever suffering you’re going through, let me just pray for you and say Father, I pray by your holy spirit. You would encourage those right now who are going through tough times, who are feeling drained of energy drained of encouragement, who are in desperate need of um you to kind of figuratively put your hand on their shoulder and to say it’s all right, I’m with you someday someday you’ll be in the perfect place with me. I pray you will do that figuratively to each person who is suffering right now. Just encourage them by your spirit. Help them remember that there is hope, there is hope why? Because your son has conquered death and we will conquer death as a result too. So we pray for each person who is suffering. Father encourage them, bless them. We pray for miracles that if you if it be your will that you would heal them at this very moment. Astound us Father with a healing that well below people’s minds and point people to you and father for those that don’t yet know you. And yet they’re sitting there. They’re listening. They say I need this, I want this. I’ve got to have jesus in my life. I need his piece. I need his courage for them. I pray at this very moment. They will pray these words with a sincere heart and pray and say Father save me through your son. Save me through your son. I have sinned. I’ve fallen short of your ways. I know that I don’t want to repent. I want to turn from that and right now in an attitude of repentance and faith I want to receive. I want to receive your son jesus as my for giver and as my leader, I want to receive this free gift of his grace. Thank you Father for loving me so much. You sent your son to die that we could be reconciled forever. We pray this in his name. Amen folks! Thanks for joining us today. And I hope that you’ll stay tuned because I got a personal word as we close the program. Stay tuned, john will be right back now if you’d like to watch this program again or share it with a friend. You can do so for free, right on your phone on our app. Just go to the app, store on your device and search for anchor burb. Once you download it, you can watch this series over and over again as well as 100 other programs anytime anywhere. Absolutely free. You can find these programs by tapping on the program’s icon on our apps homepage there. You can also find our large collection of question and answer videos where we have leading scholars answering your tough questions about the faith Along with this, our app lets you read and even listen to the bible and over 1000 different languages, simply tap on the bible icon displayed on the main page of our app. Once it opens, you can find your language by tapping on the box at the top. If you’ve never read or listen to the bible, I encourage you to find your language and check it out for yourself. The gospel accounts of Matthew, Mark luke and john are a great place to start. If you want to study a passage further, we have a large collection of bible studies by my friend Dr Wayne Barber. He does a great job of walking you through books of the bible verse by verse to help you better understand and apply God’s word. If you have not yet downloaded our app, I encourage you to try it out. These resources are also absolutely free on our website at J.A. And there we now have over 8000 articles to help you explore the evidence for Jesus and grow in your walk with him. It’s also an answer to those who say, hey you guys say that you can accept jesus and all of your sins are forgiven. Then you can live like the devil. No, you can’t because when you invite jesus to come into your life, you put your faith in him, he gives you the holy spirit who changes you and gives you this new nature and you don’t want to live like the devil. You want to live more like jesus christ because our desires are changed by God. We begin to love God, we begin to call God father. And this is so essential to understand, Let me ask you this, john let’s use this as an illustration, Okay, here’s a man who asks a young woman to marry him alright. And she knows he’s absolutely trustworthy so she can trust the engagement does she say, well now that my marriage is secure, it’s gonna happen. I’m gonna go sleep with some other men. Of course not she loves him. And therefore when we are changed, we are not only loved by God, but we love God. I remember a woman who struggled with alcoholism because even though we have a new nature, we still struggle with sin. But every time she prayed, she always began by saying father, I know that I have sinned against you. And she was in grief over her sin. She knew that the word father came out of her mouth. Why? Because Romans eight says the Holy Spirit of God when he comes within us, changes us and we begin to call God father. Mhm