So as a youth intern at Valley Church, I have been asked to begin giving messages. Yesterday was my first time teaching in front of the high schoolers. Talk about a learning experience, but an exciting one. The more I studied and prepped to minister to these high schoolers, the more the Lord really ministered to my heart. It was the coolest thing. The more I spent time studying the more truth seemed to be revealed to my heart. The Lord definitely breathed life into scripture I had never experienced before and I, in turn, was able to share those truths and excitement with the high schoolers.
When I was given my topics a few weeks ago I was a little disheartened. I was given three weeks to teach on three different subjects and to me, there seemed to be absolutely no cohesiveness between the topics and that bummed me out. I spend some initial time studying and praying before I began writing my lessons out, and in my prayer time I spoke to God about my concerns with the lesson topics. I asked that regardless of my apprehensions that He would speak through the scriptures and calm my nervousness, and man oh man did he do just that. Just when I thought the lessons couldn't be more distinctly different he wove scripture together and revealed to me how they led perfectly into one another. It seems every time I deal with my doubt by turning to God, he calms and answers prayers.
So my first weeks lesson is So Wrong (why does evil exist) my second week will be Still Strong (are Christians weak) and my last week will be on hypocrisy. I am most intimidated by my last week, but I am leaning on the Lord to continue to stir boldness in me. I thought that after each week I would post my write out for my talk, so without further ado here is the first week:
This could be an endless list of evil things that have saturated the world we live in. There is no hope in these things, no promise of life renewed, no peace or rest of the weary. At the surface of the evil around us there is hardly even evidence of our God. A God who we know to be kind, loving, restoring, and just.
So why does evil exist? Why does God allow evil to exist and perpetuate? Why doesn't God step in and stop evil?
That is a hard question. A question I've wrestled with time and time again. When I was entering my senior year in high school I was, by all outward appearances, a strong Christian young woman. I wore t shirts from mission trips to school, I didn't hesitate to stand up for my faith in front of my peers, I volunteered my time for all sorts of worthy causes, but my heart was becoming filled with doubt. I was, and still am, the only believer in my immediate family. My childhood was riddled with all sorts of things you would never hope for a child, things like divorce abuse and abandonment. When I was in jr high, I was invited to church with a friend and I clung to the life it seemed to breath into my heart. But my foundation of Christianity was shaky from my younger years and I didn't have a home life with a family that would emulate what a strong Christian walk truly looks like, so my comprehension of my faith was shallow. Fast forward to being 16 and 17 and my home life still sucked. I was surrounded by addiction and negativity and suddenly my doubt turned to resentfulness. I found myself asking God why he wasn't doing "what I thought was right" "And why wasn't he giving me what I wanted" Talk about a shallow relationship with the Lord. I was pissed that he was allowing these evil things to continue to surround me. I figured that I should be "rewarded" for my so called commitment to him. Clearly I had several issues to work through with the Lord and mature believers around me, but at that time I pushed God away. I didn't see the difference in being surrounded by evil things with or without my relationship with Christ.
That was a scary time to live through and looking back I have learned that God had SO much to teach me but my resistance forced me to learn the hard way.
I want to readdress a question I opened with.
"Why does God allow evil to exist and perpetuate?"
There is a lot of blame in that question. But it is directed the wrong way. We need to figure out where evil comes from before we blame God. Romans 5:12 states that "When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam's sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned." One man. One sin. That was all it took to put humanity on the path for an evil and wicked existence.
Evil was not God's intentions for us. An existence separated from him was not what he created Adam and Eve for. God walked and talked with Adam and Eve. Gen. 3:8 says, "And they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God amongst the trees of the garden."This verse indicates that Adam and Eve were not surprised to hear the voice of God. Instead they knew exactly who he was, and they were afraid because they had done wrong. They expected God to be walking with them in the garden. If Adam and Eve had not sinned, they could have remained in this close relationship with God forever. But, when they chose to disobey God and eat of the forbidden fruit, they were expelled from the garden. The close relationship between God and man was broken. From this point on, humanity proved over and over that we are not capable of keeping away from sin and walking with God in this close relationship. After the fall as Adam and Eve began to populate the world evil continued to spread. Our sin nature had been put into place. Evil and sin spread so quickly that it only took 950 years before God used the great flood and Noah to start again. God's creation needed a Savior to take away his sins so the close relationship with God could be reestablished. Jesus is the answer, and the church is to be the spiritual paradise he has prepared in which Christians can live and walk with God while on this earth.
So who is responsible for the world's evil? Why?
The Bible says Adam is responsible for the start of evil. Even if that's hard for you or your non Christian friends to swallow you still have to reckon with the truth: Each one of us is undeniably responsible for its spread.
But not only was sin not the intention for humanity, it was not God's intention for ANY OF CREATION. Not the animals not plants not even inanimate objects. Romans 8:20 says "Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse." So not only does our sin wreak havoc on humanity but the spread of evil reaches all ends of the earth. Nothing is as it was created to be, because of evil.
This really sunk in a few weeks ago for me when I was in yosemite with some of the leaders and other young adults and we were standing in awe taking in the beauty of God's creation. And as we were sitting around the campfire on saturday night Michael says, "How crazy is it that Yosemite is so incredibly beautiful we can hardly comprehend what that says about God's majesty, BUT it is not even a sliver of how beautiful God intended the earth to be." Nothing is safe or exempt from the destruction of sin. Romans 8:21 goes on to say, "But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay."
The decay of this world and the disasters that worsen the decay of this world are all a result of sin. Creation suffers. The earth suffers because of evil. Natural disasters are not God's will, they are the result of sin. Earthquakes, hurricanes, tornados, tsunamis are not the work of God. And these things are happening all around us. The earthquake and tsunami that just destroyed parts of Japan and thousands of lives, and just this week the tornado that tore apart Joplin Missouri created so much devastation for both humanity and creation. And these happenings are being explained as "signs from God" that the end times are nearing. That it is God's "sovereign will" for these events to occur. And my heart aches when I hear Christians preaching these messages. Where is the compassion for the wounded in those statements? We are called to mourn with those who mourn and rejoice with those who rejoice. Where is the mourning there? Has the Lord given prophecies regarding the end times, absolutely. But we need to realize that these occurrences take place, not because God sits in the clouds like we imagine Zeus would and sends down lightening bolts, but because the sinfulness of man is becoming more and more present. James 1:13 says "God is never tempted to do wrong, and he never tempts anyone else." The creator of the earth is not going to purposefully destroy it. The infection of sin runs so deep that it is destroying the earth not God. Now don't get me wrong, God absolutely uses everything to his glory, and his glory is revealed in that he knew our sin would amount to this destruction so he sent us prophecies to warn us of the progression of our sin nature and more importantly he sent his son to save us and answer for our sin!
So why doesn't God step in and stop evil, even when we accept that we are to blame for the world's trouble? The fact is, he did. Even when human beings hated God, he sent Jesus to win forgiveness and new life for us-a far better alternative then taking away our freedom to choose or snuffing us out altogether. Romans 5:17 tells us we TRIUMPH over sin and death. "For this sin of one man, Adam, caused the death of many. But even greater is God's wonderful grace and his gift of righteousness for all who receive it will live in triumph over sin and death." At the cross Jesus struck a fatal blow to Satan and the forces of evil, but it's up to us to choose to participate in his plan. Colossians 2:14-15 explains, "He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross. In this way, he disarmed the spiritual rulers and authorities. He shamed them publicly by his victory over them on the cross."
But it get's better!! Not only did God send his son Jesus to die for us and answer for the evil we have created, when Jesus ascended to Heaven God sent the Holy Spirit to fill the earth and the hearts of the believers. 2 Corinthians 4: 7 tells us we are given a treasure in a jar of clay. Our bodies are the fragile jar of clay but the treasure inside of our bodies as believers is the unstoppable force of the Holy Spirit. God has given us the Holy Spirit to strengthen and equip us! When filled with the Holy Spirit we are force to reckoned with. The evil we have created can be defeated through the power of Christ. How else could the Kingdom of Heaven advance?! Matthew 11:12 says exactly that, "And from the time John the Baptist began preaching until now, the Kingdom of Heaven has been forcefully advancing, and violent people are attacking it." This gives us so much power over evil! The Lord saw past our wickedness and loved us enough to sacrifice his son and equip us for a battle for the kingdom. I know this can be a grandiose thought and overwhelming and you might be thinking things like,
"How could I stop war?"
"Or cure aids?"
"How do I rescue children who have been abused?"
With the power of God are those things possible? YES. But there are also so many more realistic battles that we can fight with the Holy Spirit. Are you harnessing the power of the Holy Spirit to fight the injustices around you? I'm talking in your social circles just at home and in school? I know that there are many situations in my life that have happened and I have passively observed as an in justice occurred. That is not what we are called to do. Violent people are attacking the kingdom. Not just physically beating it up but emotionally and spiritually trying to tear it down. This is our call to arms in the battle against evil and we all need to choose to be part of Gods work. If we are not participating in the advancement then we are contributing to the attacks