I was listening to a sermon with a Pastor who was recounting a very touching story of faith and the power of prayer that occurred very early in his ministry. He started a youth ministry and was meeting in a public building. Unfortunately, there was opposition from a group who were hostile to Christianity and demanded that the city council force the pastor and his group out. On the day of the city council vote, two of the key members who opposed the pastor were nowhere to be found. Since they had a quorum and the meeting had started, they took a vote and the motion was passed to allow the pastor to keep his ministry in the building. About two hours after the vote, the two absent members arrived. They had decided to drive together and were delayed in traffic after an accident at a key intersection clogged up traffic for hours.
“Praise God!” the Pastor exclaimed. “God heard our prayers and allowed an accident to delay those two city council members from voting against us!” The congregation clapped and hooted in agreement.
I was uneasy. I was gratified that everything worked out for the Pastor and his church but what about the victims of the accident? Was I to believe that God caused the accident simply to help the Pastor? In this passage, Jesus is addressing the same disquiet that I was facing.
About this time Jesus was informed that Pilate had murdered some people from Galilee as they were offering sacrifices at the Temple. “Do you think those Galileans were worse sinners than all the other people from Galilee?” Jesus asked. “Is that why they suffered? Not at all! And you will perish, too, unless you repent of your sins and turn to God.
Luke 13:1-3 (NLT)
Jesus was commenting on a recent tragedy that occured at the Temple. Why did those people die while others were spared? God does not cause evil to happen but He does allow suffering to occur. Why? The answers are as diverse as there are people, and for many of these situations, we may never know the answer until we are in the presence of God in Heaven. Jesus cautioned His disciples that they should not be focused upon why evil is in the world and why some people are harmed and others are not. We are all sinners, no matter what we do. If God did not intervene, we would all be destined to spend eternity in hell when we die, forever separated from God and love.
Jesus pointed out to His disciples that they were asking the wrong question. Instead of focusing upon whether the magnitude or types of sins led some to suffer rather than others, they should be focused on the repenting of their own sins and turning to God. God can protect us but He is under no obligation to do so. It is only by His grace and mercy that we can live. We should be focused upon living right with God rather than comparing ourselves to others.
If Jesus were using this Pastor’s story, He may pose these questions to me, “Do you think the people who were involved in the accident were worse than other people in the city? Is that why they suffered? Not at all! And you will perish, too, unless you repent of your sins and turn to God.”
When we see suffering, we must recognize that we live in a fallen world. Our only hope is to turn to God and repent of our sins. Once we are saved, we should proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ to all who will listen. Anyone who accepts God’s invitation for salvation will never perish but have eternal life. Even if they were to die in an accident or be killed in a horrific murder, their soul will be with God in Heaven.
Love and trust the Lord; seek His will in your life.