Hi, Rob here. The plight of the missing airplane, Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 has captivated the interest of the world over the last few weeks. In the state of Washington in the U.S.A, a massive mudslide has devastated a community and killed dozens if not more. Recently massacres have occurred in Iraq, Nigeria and Syria. Everyday we hear of evil acts like murder, abuse, fraud and rape. Even the natural world seems to have an evil streak: Earthquakes, tsunamis, eruptions, animal attacks and the like. When you add it all up you have to ask the questions: Is God really in charge, and if he is, does he know what he’s doing?
We can’t avoid these questions. At some stage we are all hit by suffering and the effects of evil upon us. What we believe about God in those moments is crucial to the life of our heart. If we believe that God did it to us and we make an agreement with that then you begin walking the long road of bitterness and resentment. Or we could believe that God is passive in the face of our suffering which turns us into fatalists who shrug our shoulders and walk through life in permanent disappointment – like Eeyore in Winnie-the Pooh. Or we could believe that God created free creatures and made a commitment to honour that freedom no matter what happens. This would lead us to conclude that the cosmos is at war between those who used that freedom by choosing to rebel against God and his goodness, and those who align themselves with God’s kingdom. As we examine scripture we would see that the writers agree with that conclusion. They also tell us something else; that God has acted decisively in the person of Jesus Christ, through his life, death, resurrection and ascension, to deal with evil, to consign it to a certain defeat and to guarantee that the kingdom of God will reign fully upon a restored creation.
Jesus shows us two ways for us to live in a world that is filled with all kinds of evil. One is to fight and the other is to hope. Jesus confronted evil. He cast out demons, he corrected Pharisees, he preached the kingdom, he fed the hungry and healed the sick. He didn’t just fight against what was wrong; he fought for what was good. Sometimes he showed anger. Sometimes he used a loud, commanding voice and at other times he confronted evil publicly. Other times though, he was calm, quiet, private and humble. It depended on what achieved the most good at the time. So we are invited to pray for healing and freedom, ask people to sign petitions against acts of injustice, advocate for the poor and the powerless, protest evil acts, testify in court against criminals and so on. But we remember that the defeat of evil began with a cross where Jesus took upon himself all the evil of the world, past, present and future, absorbed it and put it to death. By becoming powerless, he rendered evil ultimately powerless. The resurrection vindicated what happened on the cross and proved that evil does not have the final say. It won’t win, can’t win. God wins, life wins, the kingdom will come fully.
That brings us to hope. Jesus preached the good news of the kingdom of God. He assured us that God reigns, he is still in charge and if we will trust him, we will share in that victory. We need to believe that the coming kingdoms glory will not just outweigh the sufferings of this world, but will fully enter us and make the past like a fading dream. In the words of Paul, who suffered immensely for the sake of Christ:
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)
This doesn’t minimise our suffering. God never does that. He honours it and in Christ suffers with us and brings redemption. But it is to emphasise the vital role of hope and the glory of the coming kingdom. In the words of Jesus in John 16: “Take heart. I have overcome the world.”