I just got through watching the movie “Billy” which was about the early years of Billy Graham’s life. The movie was staged as if an interview was going on with Charles Templeton, a famous evangelist and friend of Billy Graham.
The movie portrayed the friendship between the two men and ultimately the crisis of faith that Charles Templeton had that led to him walking away from the faith completely. To say that it was quite a tragic and sad scene would be a huge understatement.
Templeton’s struggles revolved around two main points of crisis: the truth that even though the Bible was written by man it is nonetheless the inerrant Word of God, and reconciling the problem of suffering in the world with the belief that God is real, good, and loving.
Right from the start I would like to say that we as humans will never, ever know what God knows. Someone once said, if all the knowledge that could ever be known in the whole universe could be measured by all the water in all the oceans of the world, the amount of knowledge any one of us have is no more than the amount of water that fills a soda can. What, then, makes us think that we can have everything even close to all figured out?
However, I would like to just briefly address these two issues stated above because they are very important to us, especially in this world that we live in where you hear on the news every day some other atrocity and dire injustice. We as Christians need to know how to handle these issues so that we can bring an answer to those who ask.
The first issue deals with the Bible. If the Bible was written by human beings, how can it be the infallible, inerrant Word of God when we know people are imperfect and fallible?
If we were to focus on the fallibility and imperfection of man, I can understand how this question would trip a lot of people up. But as the Bible itself says, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.” (Luke 18:27) In other words, the questioner needs to focus not on the imperfection of man, but the power and ability of God.
I ask you this question. Do you not think that God is powerful enough to make sure that man wrote down what He wanted him to? And another question. Isn’t God powerful enough and able enough to make sure that His Word is preserved throughout the years even through the translation into hundreds of languages?
I certainly believe He is. Further more, I don’t think He would simply trust such an important message to just the wisdom of man. His love for us is too great and the stakes are too high.
As everything else, it all comes down to the cross of Christ. God went to the depths of our pit and sacrificed it all to redeem the people He loves. Would He not also do everything in His unlimited power to make sure we got the message right?
So what about all the suffering in the world? Charles Templeton saw the thousands upon thousands of Jews that had their lives snuffed out at the hands of Hitler and the Nazis. We see tragedy occur every day where people suffer from disease and famine and the terrors of war and natural disasters. Children of mothers and fathers who die in their childhood or fall prey to physical and sexual abuse.
Where is God in all this? Why does He allow such suffering? And if He is good and all powerful, why doesn’t He stop it?
As in the last issue, the problem with the question lies in our perspective and our focus.
To answer this properly we have to first come to grips with the truth that it was our sin, the sin of mankind, that caused not only the fall of mankind’s soul, but also the fall of all of creation away from the perfection that God created. It is also sin that continues to wreak havoc in this world.
We also have to come to terms with the fact that God is perfectly holy and owes us nothing. Never forget that we don’t, indeed CAN’T, do anything to merit God’s mercy. God could allow the whole world to remain lost forever and suffer the full penalty of our sin and He would be totally and completely just in doing so.
We cry out, “Where is the justice in all this suffering?” But is it justice that we REALLY want? If God were to give us the justice we deserve there would be no hope at all, which brings me to my final point which, again, focuses directly on the cross of Christ.
God has given us the greatest gift of mercy and grace He could ever give through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ for our sins. Through the work of Christ, He called us “a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” (1 Peter 2:9-10)
My friends, I say this loud and clear as if shouting from the rooftops: THIS IS NOT OUR HOME!!! This world full of sin and suffering will one day be done away with and God will make all things new. (Revelation 21:1-5) Christ has paid the full penalty for the sins of the whole world so that one day all the effects of sin will be erradicated. As a song by Matt Redman goes, “Dying You destroyed our death. Rising You restored our life.” It is through His death that the sin that brought injustice to the world has been dealt a death blow, and it is through His resurrection that we have hope of new life! Jesus is our hope in this world of darkness and suffering. So why does He wait? Why doesn’t He do it now? He waits out of mercy for you to receive His offer of eternal life through faith in Him. He is willing that none should perish. Notice we are speaking ETERNALLY and not about this life.
This life we live in right now is but a vapor!
Does that mean that what happens here is not important? No, what happens here is important. However, we must have a proper perspective. An eternal perspective. And we must know, as the old hymn goes, “Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe. Sin had left a crimson stain, He washed it white as snow.”