This message will explain God’s purpose for suffering in the creation, His Son and you. This reassuring explanation explains the pathway to achieving man’s potential in the Kingdom of God.
[Victor Kubik] Each year, from the president’s office, we send out six letters to our co-workers. In my first letter this year, I asked our readers and I included a card: “If you had one question that you could ask God, what would it be?” Well, hundreds of responses came in over the next month. I was surprised as to how many people sent the card in with a question. And what moved me was the types of questions that our co-workers asked, there were many, many of them, hundreds. By far, the largest category had to do with why does God allow suffering and evil? They asked about the suffering in the world, and they also asked about their own suffering and the suffering of their loved ones. And why does God seem so silent?
Here are some of the questions that came in, just a few. “Why is there so much evil in the world and why don’t you stop it?” “Where is God in our trials and tribulations?” “Why do good, kind people suffer and why do evil people prosper?” “Why does God allow evil to exist from the beginning of humanity?” Another one,” God, are You sad at the state of the world?” Another one, this one touched me, “Why am I a slave to people?” People don’t realize but there’s a 46 million people who live in some type of human trafficking around the world right now, 46 million people are slaves in the growing worldwide enterprise of human trafficking.
But I do want to talk today about suffering. Why we must suffer, it was the purpose in point of it. But why talk about it at the Feast of Tabernacles? Aren’t we supposed to be having a good time? Aren’t we supposed to just leave the world behind to all the cares, and be looking forward to the world of Jesus Christ’s return, a time when the lion will lie with the lamb, a world free of suffering. And let’s just think about that and get away from the world that we’re in.
But, you know, brethren, we’re all affected very, very deeply in this world right now by suffering at different intensities. And some of you have gone through unthinkable trials this past year. We cannot be in denial of or ignorant of the reality of our suffering planet. Also, we need to ask the question, does a loving God, as was sung today, use evil and suffering to accomplish a greater good, and if so, how?
We need an explanation. Actually, we need more than an explanation. We need a hug. If you ever had somebody try to explain something to you when you were hurting, you say, “Just shut up, you know, just give me a hug. I need comfort.” I do believe that we need comfort from God. Why am I talking about this? Why did I choose this subject? Well, I answered it partially. But I grew up in a displaced person’s family. My parents were DPs, I grew up with that term, DP. These are people who are people from refugee camps in post-war Germany that came to the United States and found a new life.
My parents were teenage slave laborers taken from the USSR forcibly by the Germans to work in German factories. My father was in a concentration camp actually the last several months of World War II where his job was to go through rubble, bombed buildings and to pick up and to pick out unexploded ordinance. Refugees pardon me… the slave laborer of that time was used to do jobs like that. If they blew up, well, that was their problem.
As a child, I listened to many, many stories of my parents talking about the hardships that they had gone through in the suffering of World War II, but really what really struck me and even in the talking with my parents was that so much even their suffering, but all the people who perished, their friends, people who were killed in the bombings, people who died of starvation, people who suffered intensely in World War II.
My father had a scar on his face, we never asked him about it. We just didn’t feel like we should. We were just afraid to ask him about this scar on his face. Later, one of my sisters found out from my mother that that was from some of the beatings he had received in the concentration camp. I thought of my father, “Why would somebody want to do something like that to my daddy?” I felt so badly when I learned about that. These things made deep impressions upon me, and have led me to want to help people who live in suffering conditions.
That’s why I value the work of Good Works and Lifenets because of alleviating suffering in our small way when we can. You know, to fully appreciate, though the bright future ahead of us. We need to have context between the world we live in now and the world we’re going to be celebrating, we need to have a bridge. We can’t just kind of run out of this world, forget it, and have just rejoicing, eating, drinking, rejoicing and having a good time. And that bridge is found in Romans 8.
Romans 8 speaks about a context between the current world we live in that the apostle Paul understood and knew and felt and the world of the future. In Romans 8:18 Romans 8:18For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.
American King James Version×Paul writes, “Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory that He will reveal to us later.” And believe me, a lot of people suffered in the Roman Empire at that time. People suffered not only for religious reasons but also from the cruelty of the Romans.
“For all creation,” verse 19, “is awaiting eagerly for the future day when God will reveal who His children really are… the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children and glorious freedom from death and decay. For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.” And since Paul’s time, we’ve had another 2000 years of groaning of this planet just twisting and turning in pain. “And we believers also groan,” talking about those who’ve come to conversion. We feel badly about the people outside who have no context, but we, too, ourselves in the Church baptized, “also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering.” This is what Paul wrote to the brethren. And this puts context to the title of my sermon, which is “Understanding Suffering in Order to Rejoice.” It encapsulates the theme of what I want to talk about.
Well, there are various answers and reasons that are given about sufferings place in humanity. And believe me, in a one-hour sermon I can’t possibly cover all the permutations. It’s a big subject, huge subject. Much has been written about it, much has been said. What is the answer in building character is suffering just a result of cause and effect. Is it just something to test us? Is it to learn compassion and empathy or to be humble? Is it to teach us humility? Or is it to become stronger, you know, no pain, no gain? Is it just God’s will?
When I visit my relatives in Ukraine who live in very difficult conditions, they talk about all the different things that have just gone wrong when almost everything goes wrong, everything from the economy to peace and so forth. And they say, “Well, it’s just got to be God’s Will, it’s just got to be God’s will.” Is the reason for suffering God’s will or is it to teach us lessons similar to Job, and the Bible has a lot to say about suffering. One of the longest books in the Bible is about suffering.
Well, I want to actually dig a layer deeper. I want to go down below this layer of reasons and answers. I want to understand more fully where God is in the pain. Where is God in the pain for whatever you’re suffering physically, emotionally, and what this planet creaking and waiting for redemption before the return of Jesus Christ is experiencing. Where is God in all the pain? This is a question that’s been a primary one for all religions and for a secular philosophers.
You know, man has even developed deities to fit their understanding or lack of understanding of God’s silence. For example, pantheism, you may have heard of pantheism that’s where God is everywhere and in everything. Pantheism regards the universe as a manifestation of God in everything we see as God. He doesn’t do anything for mankind or interacts with mankind. Neither does He expect anything from that mankind. This is the “Blob God” some call it.
Then there’s deism, which was also part of a philosophical way to understand the relationship between this earth and mankind and God. In deism, this was an intellectual movement in the 17th and 18th centuries that accepted the existence of a Creator. Oh, yes, there was a Creator, a God, but rejected belief in a supernatural deity who interacts with mankind. “He’s created all this. And the reason He doesn’t see anything is because He’s gone somewhere else creating new things or whatever He is, He’s not here.” But there was a God who created all that we have. This is called the “Snob God.”
So you have these variations and deities that are created in the minds of people to understand the relationship or lack of relationship between God and mankind. But while we want a big answer for the entirety of the world, we also want one for our pain, for our suffering, for our injustice, hurt, anger, disappointments, tragedies, and catastrophes. Who has got the best answer, and why do we have suffering and evil? Who has the truth, and what is the truth? That’s what we want to get closer to today.
The clues and answers about why evil and suffering emerge in the Garden of Eden shortly after the creation of man. And actually, for God, the answer for suffering an evil occurs long before that. Everything that God created in the Garden of Eden was good. In Genesis 1, from the very beginning, we see that God created an environment that was beautiful, that was good. Everything was good. Genesis 1:3 Genesis 1:3And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
American King James Version×“God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light. And God saw the light and it was good. And God called the dry land Earth, and the gathering together the waters He called Seas. And God saw that it was good.” Wonderful. Verse 17, “And God set them in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth, and to rule the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good.”
And then the crowning aspect of God’s creation was to make man in His image and likeness, to have qualities, to have abilities as God Himself has in reasoning, in creativity, and many other aspects. “God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them,” on the sixth day and His pronouncement about this in verse 31 was “Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good.” Everything was wonderful and beautiful. And He’s created these beings, the highest level of creation that are made His image and likeness.
So did God create evil then somewhere along the line? No. Evil is not a thing. Evil is what people do. Evil is what the people and Satan has done and brought forward. Where evil comes from is given to us in Isaiah 14:12 Isaiah 14:12How are you fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how are you cut down to the ground, which did weaken the nations!
American King James Version×. Isaiah 14:12 Isaiah 14:12How are you fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how are you cut down to the ground, which did weaken the nations!
American King James Version×, which we know very well as the origin of evil as its come into existence. “How were you fallen from heaven,” in verse 12, “O Lucifer, son of the morning! How will you cut down to the ground, you who did weakened and damaged the nations!”
Here, we’ve got somebody who’s come in here to destroy, to hurt and weaken. “You have said in your heart: ‘I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will sit on the mount of the congregations on the farthest sides of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I’ll be like the Most High.’ Yet you shall be brought down to Sheol, the lowest depths of the Pit.” And we know that he was cast down to the earth, from Ezekiel 28 and Revelation 12.
For “Those who gaze at you,” here we see the character of this being and what he did. “And consider you, saying: ‘Is this the man who made the earth tremble, who shook the kingdoms, who made the world a wilderness and destroyed its cities?’” In other words, here’s the one who has left this world, a mess. And that’s all pinned onto Lucifer. Lucifer was an embittered angel who wanted God’s position and caused as much collateral damage as he could in the process and Lucifer then became Satan.
Now in the dialogues that followed now in the Garden of Eden, between God and man, here’s what we see. God presents a choice to Adam and Eve. Now we’ve heard the story so many times but listen carefully to some of the subtleties of what had happened, and where it’s led to, or what it’s led to. God gave Adam and Eve access to everything in the Garden of Eden including the tree of life, and man was encouraged to eat from it. And by what it was called, it’s suggested that it perpetuated life by eating its fruit, the tree of life, and He said, “You can eat it. No worries, the more you eat it, the more life you’ll have.”
But there was also the dangerous tree of the knowledge of good and evil that had dire warnings attached to it. And God read that warning to Adam and Eve in Genesis 2:17 Genesis 2:17But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you shall not eat of it: for in the day that you eat thereof you shall surely die.
American King James Version×. Genesis 2:17 Genesis 2:17But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you shall not eat of it: for in the day that you eat thereof you shall surely die.
American King James Version×, “but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in that day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” This is the first time that death is mentioned. God says, “If you eat from this tree, you won’t be the same. You’ll come to a knowledge of things that are different from what you know now. You’ll become an altered being. If you taste it, you will suffer and you will die. I advise you to choose life, don’t eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.”
But man made the mistake that he did. Adam and Eve disobeyed and made a choice of their own free will to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Eve was persuaded by the serpent in the Garden of Eden that it was okay to eat of this forbidden fruit and both she and Adam willfully, knowing what the consequences were, they were spelled out by God made the decision to eat the tree of knowledge of good and evil.
As a consequence, both were expelled from the garden, which was the Kingdom of God, a type of Kingdom of God. God dwelt with them. Everything was wonderful. There was harmony. And they were thrust into another kingdom, the kingdom of Satan, the serpent who was the god of this world. They were not put into a neutral world. They were just kind of cast outside the Garden of Eden into a neutral world. They were cast into the kingdom of Satan, the devil.
But there was more than that happened in this expelling process, because God pronounced sentence to the three parties, the serpent, Eve, and Adam. And here’s what he said, and one of the great prophecies of the Bible and the first prophecy of the Redeemer Christ to come. Genesis 3:14 Genesis 3:14And the LORD God said to the serpent, Because you have done this, you are cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; on your belly shall you go, and dust shall you eat all the days of your life:
American King James Version×, “So the Lord said, God, said to the serpent.” Verse 15, “I will put enmity between you and a woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.”
War is declared between the Seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent. There’ll be a continual struggle between the righteousness and corruption, between the wicked and godly in this world that was prophesied. And when God when Jesus Christ spoke later of the hateful Jews, he spoke about the Jews that he had contention with his “you are of your father the devil.” That was a seed of Satan. But the Seed of the woman and it was a Seed of the woman that is mentioned here this prophecy, not of the man, was the allusion to the virgin birth of Christ.
So notification in these verses is given concerning a Redeemer coming in the flesh, His suffering and death. Right away from third chapter of Genesis, we have a prophecy of the coming of Jesus Christ to redeem, and the final conflict between Him and Satan the devil. Satan would bruise Jesus Christ by causing Him to be crucified, but Christ would bruise Satan’s head by rising from the dead and triumphing over him. “Then to the woman,” in verse 16, “He said: ‘I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; in pain you will bring forth children.’”
Then to Adam, in verse 17, He said, “Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten of the tree which I commanded you, saying, ‘you shall not eat of it’: cursed is the ground for your sake; in toil” in hardship, and an unpleasant circumstance “you shall eat of it all the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles shall it bring forth to you… In the sweat,” verse 19, “of your face you shall eat bread so you’ll return to the ground, for out of it you are taken; for dust you are, and for dust you shall return.” It’s going to be hard, painful, and you will die when you could have been eating from the tree of life.
Human beings now have very short lifespans. Yes, they did at first live to be 700, 800, 900 years old. Methuselah, 969. But now mankind basically lives 70 years, plus or minus. Why couldn’t humans just have a longer life? This universe is billions of years old. The earth is at least two billion years old, and mankind just 70 years. The crowning aspect of God’s creation, the crowning thing of God’s recreating himself last only 70 years. With life being so sacred, why is it so short?
You know, a little child at grandma’s funeral asked your parents, “Why does God create new people all the time? Why can’t He just reuse the ones who have died?” Smart kid. Well, God had a plan thought of long before the creation of man. We are not living out a plan B, God had this all pre-arranged. In Revelation 13:8 Revelation 13:8And all that dwell on the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.
American King James Version×, when I said earlier that God knew long before about evil and the redemption of mankind. In Revelation 13:8 Revelation 13:8And all that dwell on the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.
American King James Version×we read, “Those who dwell on the earth will worship him,” the beast, “whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain for the foundation of the world.” The Lamb, the one who became Christ, the reference to Jesus Christ very clearly was slain that decision was made long before the foundation of the world. It was a decision that God the Father and Jesus Christ had made
So we’re not living out of all. Adam made the wrong choice, it just really upset everything. And we’re going to have to start something different, and go with what we did. Now this is not a plan B, this is what God knew what was going to happen. We live in a kingdom of Satan, he was cast down to the earth. And we know right now that we live in that world right now. Part of our job is to come out of the world, come out of the attitudes of the spirit of that world.
In Ephesians 2:1 Ephesians 2:1And you has he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins;
American King James Version×, it’s very, very clear as to what a Christian life ought to be. Ephesians 2:1 Ephesians 2:1And you has he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins;
American King James Version×, “And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of the world,” talking about Christians, talking about us, “according to the prince of the power of the air,” in this world, with its attitudes, with its spirit, with all the transmissions through this environment. We live in a world of Satan the devil, the prince of the power. They are the one who weakens nations, ones who causes political tension, one who’s kept the world at war.
“The spirit and now works in the sons of disobedience,” verse 3, “among whom we also once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and mind.” Satan is the author of destruction, deception, and genocide. He hates mankind, he hates you, he hates me, he wants us all to die. As Christians, one of our responsibilities is to “resist the devil, he will flee from you,” as is stated in James 4 and 1 Peter 5. And also to “come out of this world” is Paul wrote in Ephesians 2 about a real spirit, a real God of this world, This is not God’s world, this is a world of Satan the devil.
When Jesus was tempted of Satan in Matthew 4 and Luke 4, one of the temptations was, “Jesus, if you bow down to me, I will give You all the kingdoms of the world. Just bow down to me.” Satan could say that because he could give Him the Roman Empire, he could give Him Chinese Empire, he could give the Indian Empire, all the empires of that time. Because they were his, he is the god of this world. This is not God’s world.
Now one thing that our daily prayers must include that we pray every day according to the model that Jesus taught His disciples, “Hallowed be Your name, Thy will be done, Thy kingdom come.” Now all those elements but there’s one element at the very end that is so very important that should be prayed for every day. “Deliver us from the evil one… Deliver us from the evil one.” In Matthew 6:13 Matthew 6:13And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For your is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.
American King James Version×, do we pray that, do we take that seriously? It is a very, very strong prayer. I have been adding that to my list. “Deliver us, deliver the Church, deliver our people from the evil one, because it’s his world.”
Well, let’s go back and talk a little bit more about free will. Now, people believe that there’s a conflict between God’s goodness and God’s power. Now, if He’d be good, He’d want to get rid of all the evil in the world. And if He was all powerful, He’d be able to. So there’s a problem. But evil exists, and therefore He’s either not good or He’s not powerful or He doesn’t exist, that’s the way people come on. The number one objection to the Christian faith… The number one objection to the Christian faith is how could there be a loving God with so much pain and suffering in the world?
At the Feast of Tabernacle in 2005 in Estonia, we were attending the Feast there. We also made some of our services public lecture, we opened them up to the public. And on one of the days towards the end of the Feast, there was a rotary club meeting in the hall just across from where we had our church services. So, I went there, I went there and met the Rotarians. I was introduced, and I gave a little speech. I gave a little icebreaker about who I was, what our Feast of Tabernacle was. And I invited the entire group to come over for the last couple of days, whatever it was, for the Feast of Tabernacle. It’s a very, very friendly environment.
And then after the club meeting, and the Rotarians were mostly professors from Tartu University, what an intelligent group of people. One of the professors came over to me and stuck his finger into my chest, literally touched me and says, “How can you say that there is a loving God,” because the tsunami had just occurred a few months before, “with all these hundreds of thousands who have perished, including little children, how can you say there is a loving God?”
“Please come…” I started talking to him about what we believe. I said, “Please come to our lecture on the next day,” which was the Eighth Day, Last Great Day, as we called it. I said, “I will be happy to explain this to you in a broader context.” I said, “I’ll explain to you what God is doing in this world, and what God’s overall design for mankind is.” He just got angry, he wanted just to stay angry. And so he just went away, I invited the whole group to come. I said, “We are here foretelling a new world that’s biblically prophesied.” I said, “I want you to hear these words.” Well, nobody came. They were the intelligentsia. But that was a question that bothered him, “Why does God allow for these terrible things to happen?”
Many people think that God being all powerful means that God can do anything, but the Bible is very clear there are things that God can’t do and won’t do. For example, the Bible teaches that God cannot lie. You can’t get God to lie. He won’t lie that’s… His nature is not to lie. God will not break a promise. In Psalms 89:34 Psalms 89:34My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips.
American King James Version×, “My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that has gone out of My lips.” Also, God is love, God is love. God cannot be hatred. God cannot be evil. God is very consistent and constant. But human beings, they can be good and they can be bad.
When you have moral freedom, which He did give to Adam and Eve is a possibility for great good, but there’s also the possibility for great evil, as there was in the duress and the persuasive power of Satan or the serpent in the Garden of Eden. If God creates human beings with the power of free choice, which He did, He may foreknow. He can predict what they’re going to do. But God can never determine what we will do. God can foreknow, He can prophesy. He can prophesy events of future history of how things will go, how things will develop, the return of Jesus Christ. He can predict all these things. But He can’t determine them of who will do what. Otherwise, they’re not free, you don’t have free moral agency if you are a puppet under the strings of God.
The evil entered into the world when people freely chose to withhold doing the right thing and instead, did the wrong thing. So if it was the free will of human beings that actually caused evil why didn’t God just create a world where moral freedom didn’t exist in the first place? Wouldn’t that be a much happier world if we couldn’t do wrong? And that way, evil and suffering wouldn’t exist either. God could have made a world without evil by just taking away our free will to do it. It would have been easy for Him to simply say, that He could have created this. “I’m going to make you all puppets, we’ll pull the strings and everybody will do what’s right.” Wouldn’t that be a happy world? Wouldn’t you like that? And nothing wrong would be done.
However, God wanted a race of tested individuals who chose to love Him and to love others, it’s their choice. You cannot love someone unless you have the choice to not love Him. It’s a choice. God is love and love is a function of free will. That sort of love that humans can give to God into one another depends on them being able to do it from the bottom of their heart. That’s what God wants from us. From the bottom of our heart, we make the choice to love Him. As soon as it’s forced, it’s not love anymore. And so it was good for God to create creatures with freedom. That’s what He did when He created us. And that opened up the ability to actually express genuine love, not only to God but to one another in the closest of relationships.
This aspect of free will in science fiction there are a number of interesting scenarios about futuristic societies, perfect ones that have eradicated suffering by technology, curing diseases, eliminating war and poverty, controlling accidents, and even controlling deaths by artificial immortality. But in these stories, such as society is always a colossal fake. The abolition is apparently happy, but experiencing deep failure, apparently humane but really inhuman. The abolition suffering turns out to be the abolition of humanity. God’s scenario is a world that’s a perfect world, the Kingdom of God. In a society that is successful. We’re looking to that perfect world, the Kingdom of God. What is it that makes it succeed and be perfect?
Couple science fiction novels, maybe one of them you’ve read, many of us in high school had to read this one Brave New World by Aldous Huxley from 1931, ranked fifth in the top 100 English language novels of the 20th century. The story is set in London in 2540, the year 2540, and the publisher describes it as a streamlined, soulless Eden where there is no suffering. Everybody’s happy now. If you’re bored, there’s the endlessly fascinating game of centrifugal “Bumble-Puppy” like a video game. If you’re upset, there’s a wonder drug Soma. If you’re upset, you just take this drug. And, of course, there’s plenty of free love or rather free sex. Motherhood, childbirth and families are regarded as obscene and inefficient. The sources of suffering are all dried up.
Well, the characters in Brave New World are happy, because they are part puppet, part animal, and part vegetable. The only human character is this fellow called John, who could maintain his humanity and sanity only by suffering and death. And since his “brave new world” gives him no opportunity for either is driven to self-flagellation and finally, suicide. That’s the way man has been able to devise a perfect world that ends up nowhere.
Another science fiction novel with the same theme that nearly as famous was Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End . And this novel a benevolent race of extraterrestrials imposes peace on earth by force. The result years later is world so perfect, so boring, and so meaningless that suicide again is a consummation devoutly to be wished. Horrible stories about worlds that are created perfect without moral free choice.
What’s missing in society is not just suffering, but also the thing that causes suffering and that is free will. Free will is both the source and the solution to suffering. Let me say that again, free will is thus both the source and the solution to suffering. But now, I want you to turn to something very important, the most important to understand suffering with our free moral aspect already covered. I want to turn to the supreme demonstration of God’s use of suffering and evil for good in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The most incredible event in all of history was God, eternity, entering into time and space, entering into that world that Adam and Eve were vanished into. The mind of God, the word of life, timeless eternal life became human. This God came into the world of Satan.
In John 1, the first 14 verses are some of the most eloquent words in the Scriptures that describe God and what that God did. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” He was in the beginning with God. “All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was ever made. In Him was life, and the life was a light of men.” We have the Word, He was God and He was the Creator.
Verse 10, “He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become the children of God, to those who believe in His name: who are born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor the will of God [man], but of God.” In verse 14, very important, “And the Word became flesh.” God became like you and I “and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” God became man. This is the most incredible event in all of history. The One who created everything became part of that creation.
These are words of simplicity, elegance, and eloquence, and words that have been intended to be understood by everyone. His own people, that He came to, He prepared 2000 years for this event, could not digest it. The promise to Eve that there will be One sent, He came to His own. His own people received Him not. Even the disciples couldn’t understand Him, it was unthinkable that the eternal God would come into a birth. How could He stoop down to this level? How could the Maker of Mary’s womb be born in Mary’s womb? The ultimate paradox. But Jesus Christ was the I am before Abraham. He spoke in Jerusalem to hostile Jews and Pharisees were badgering Him. In John 8:58 John 8:58Jesus said to them, Truly, truly, I say to you, Before Abraham was, I am.
American King James Version×, we’ve been reading about this quite a bit. He said, “Truly truly I tell you,” Jesus declared “before Abraham was, I am.” He was that God, He was the Word. He was the one who pre-existed. And He’s the one who became man for a very, very special purpose.”
Now, even the devil didn’t expect this folly, that God just stepped right into Satan’s trap, right into the jaws of death. Christ was to face the greatest ignominy of a Roman execution. Crucifixion was invented a few centuries before Jesus. It was so horrific that Roman citizens were not permitted to be crucified. In Matthew 27:45 Matthew 27:45Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land to the ninth hour.
American King James Version×, we read about what this all came to God in the flesh, God who was rejected by His own, He created and He was able to perform this magnificent act of becoming human for a very specific purpose. Matthew 27:45 Matthew 27:45Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land to the ninth hour.
American King James Version×, “For the sixth hour until the ninth hour,” as He was up there, crucified between noon and 3:00, an absolute horror of pain and suffering, God. “And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice saying, ‘My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?’” God is separated from God. Jesus Christ is separated from His Father, “Why have You forsaken Me?” And He died.
The worst thing ever that could possibly happen happened. Three hours of darkness and God Himself dies. Inconceivable. You know, God allowed that. God let it happen. He didn’t stop it, He could have at any point. And we think about our trials like why is this, and why did that happen? God did not stop His own son. Can you imagine how painful that was? I could not allow it, I could not bear it. Perhaps a little bit Abraham did maybe with Isaac as he was about to thrust the knife into Isaac’s chest. But God Himself allowed His son to die.
He allow the devil to creep into Judas Iscariot over the years of Christ’s ministry, to Caiaphas, to Herod, ultimately the Pontius Pilate, and allowed the worst event in history to take place. But this injustice was redeemed by an all-wise, all-knowing, all-loving, and all-powerful God. And He could turn this into the greatest goodness imaginable which is salvation, which is the return of His Kingdom, salvation for all of us. The Word became flesh and went into the kingdom of Satan to bring back to redeem mankind, all of us from our puny 70 plus years of life. From this horrific world that is governed by Satan devil, it is something eternal and great. And give us a nature that will never lie, where we can say that we too are love.
You know, the angels at first did not know evil. They invented it sort of speak. As Lucifer became Satan, we will have been in this world to know it. We’re told that we have a nature that is higher than the angels, and that is what makes us a part of being God. Because we will not lie, we will never do things, we will be love. What about our suffering right now? When we pray, it’s a question, maybe, in our prayers we pray this. Of a hurt child that needs not so much an explanation but a reassurance and a hug.
In Romans 8:15 Romans 8:15For you have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but you have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.
American King James Version×, we read “but you have received the Spirit of adoption” or sonship, “by whom we cry out, ‘Abba, Father.’” The word Abba is a diminutive form of father, it’s daddy, daddy. Do we ever come out and speak up to our Father in heaven. I do, I think that all of us do, “Daddy, do you hear me? Here are my concerns, here’s my prayer. Abba, Father.” We want more than just a cerebral, mechanical, clinical explanation. As I said, we want a hug. We want comfort, and comfort He gives us.
In the writings of John, there’s a Greek word that’s used four times. It’s only used in the book of John. Parakletos is the word first used in John 16:7 John 16:7Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send him to you.
American King James Version×is the word that comes across and is translated helper or comforter. It’s also used in 1 John 2:1 1 John 2:1My little children, these things write I to you, that you sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous:
American King James Version×for Jesus Christ as being that Comforter. The word you’ll find in your Bible is the word advocate for a parakletos . When Jesus Christ spoke to His disciples the evening before He was to go through this ignominious, horrific act that has taken place, He used this word three times to them. “I will send you My Comforter, My Helper, My Advocate.” The word advocate, this is a word that’s used for lawyer in certain countries. So giver of power, one who is an encourager, one who helps to stand on two feet is the comfort that enables us to pass the breaking point without breaking. It exhorts us to noble deeds and high thoughts. In my Ukrainian Bible, the word comes across as an encourager who brings cheer. So Jesus Christ, before He died, said, “I will send you My Spirit. I will be there with you. I will send you My Comforter.”
When Jesus came to this earth, He came fully giving Himself, and this once for all catastrophic event. The death of Jesus Christ will be spoken of through all eternity forever as a great act that brought many sons to glory and to the family of God. Because when Jesus Christ came, He came us… giving us not just a pep talk or some good advice or a pill, He gave us Himself. When you take a look as to what He actually did, He took Himself. He didn’t just speak from heaven from some great words, lofty words, encouraging us to go forward, He gave us Himself totally. He entered our space and time. And He came in love seeking closeness, presence, togetherness. He says, “I want to be part of this family. I want to be your brother.” Can we understand fully what it means to be a brother of God, to be brethren? It’s a relationship. It’s not just a little beings there somewhere it’s being part of that very family of God.
So, when Jesus Christ came to help us with our state and what God did is that He didn’t just come in to paint over and to spray paint our sins in our suffering. He came in like a dentist or a surgeon to get it all out. In fact, He became a garbage man, He touched and took away our garbage, which is the sin of mankind. And He could truly feel our pain. Do we feel that Christ feels our pain, God feels our pain? Now we hear people say “I feel your pain” and when you know that they don’t feel your pain because you’re hurting.
Paul understood this. In Galatians 2:20 Galatians 2:20I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.
American King James Version×, one of his notable passages. Paul writes in Galatians 2:20 Galatians 2:20I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.
American King James Version×, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” Paul was shipwrecked, beaten, stoned, imprisoned, and he knew that Christ was in him that he wasn’t abandoned. “I am crucified with Christ, and I know that Christ lives in me.”
In coming into our world, Christ comes into our suffering, now into our sicknesses, our injuries, and abandonment. John in John 16:33 John 16:33These things I have spoken to you, that in me you might have peace. In the world you shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.
American King James Version×when Jesus Christ writes and speaks, I should say to His disciples after they had met for the Passover. He said, “I have told you these things, that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have tribulation;” or trouble, “but take heart, I have overcome the world.”
You know, my parents when they came into the Church, my parents were both baptized. They both died very young, my father at age 42. A lot of it due to World War II events, my mother at age 58 due to leukemia. But when they came into the Church, and they saw what we taught, where we taught about the future, about events that were to take place before Christ’s return. They said, “We’ve already gone through the tribulation. We know it. We’ve been there, we’ve experienced it.” Christ tells His disciples, “In the world, you will have trouble. But take heart, I have overcome the world. I have beaten it.”
God’s answer to the problem suffering is not just what happened 2000 years ago, but it’s what’s happening in our lives right now. I truly in my prayers asked God to be with us, to be with us in the Church, to be with everybody who’s sick, anybody who’s gone through misfortune, everybody who’s gone through difficult times to be with them, to help them, to encourage them. Christ had compassion on us because He went through and suffered for us. And that way, we too can have compassion on others. Do we ever cry? Do we ever say, “Oh, no, not again. I can’t take it anymore.” Christ is described as being a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. Are we rejected? Do people despise us for not just our evil but for our good or attempted good. He, Christ was despised and rejected of men. Is our love ever betrayed? Are our closest relationships broken? He too came and loved us and was betrayed by those He loved. “He came to His own” as we read “and they received Him not.” He is in our sicknesses, our hurts, and catastrophes.
Jesus Christ was in the gas chambers and ovens of Auschwitz and Dachau, both places that I have been to. Yes, He was there. He was in Darfur in Rwanda and all the hideous places in this world. He is in the abortion clinics of this world. A great cleansing process will take place, and He will make it right. And God becoming a human means that He descends into the whole of the human conditions. He descends into all of our hells. People who have gone through hells testify that He was there with them.
Corrie ten Boom, a Dutch woman in a Nazi concentration camp, who survived. She went around the world talking about what she had gone through, and kept saying something which was so famously repeated, “No matter how deep our darkness, He is deeper still.” She concluded “There is no pit so deep, the love of God is not deeper still.” It makes me have a sense of confidence that God totally gets it. Regarding our pain, He’s been there, and then we can also understand other people’s pain.
I can tell you briefly a story of what happened with me in Africa in January 2011. I was on a trip, a very unpleasant trip to Africa to talk to people many of them who had betrayed us. It was a very tumultuous time, not something even that we were reporting on. The very last day of my visit in Zambia, took a shower, about to be picked up to go to the airport, and I slipped and fell backwards. And oh, it really hurt, and I landed on the bench where my suitcase should have been, but I had already removed it. I thought, “Well, it’ll be okay.”
And the gentleman picking me up, which is Major Talama said, “I’ll take you to the hospital.” I said, “Oh, no, no, no get me into the plane. I’ve just got a flight to South Africa, two hours and I’ll deal with it there.” I put my luggage on top of the rack and so forth and just wasn’t very good at all. I went to the hospital there, and they x-rayed me right away. They said, “Oh, you’ve really broken your ribs, good. In the back ribs, two ribs broken straight through.” And they said, “Well, you can just go back to the U.S., there’s nothing much we can do about it.” But through the day, this was Friday, I was feeling worse and worse and worse.
Finally, on the Sabbath morning, I even had a Bible study Friday evening, I was feeling horrible. I said, “Jason… Jason Webster, take me back to the hospital.” This time they x-rayed me and all of a sudden I hear emergency, bells ringing, lights flashing. I don’t know, it was just, I said, “I’m not supposed to be here. I visit people’s hospitals, I don’t go here for this purpose.” I had these crazy thoughts coming to mind. I was being wheeled to down corridors and so forth, and put into an ambulance and taken from this hospital to the big hospital of Pretoria, South Africa.
And here, the doctor is talking to other people saying, “What do we do with him?” They figure out what was happening is that my lung had collapsed and that was filling up with fluid, and I was in severe danger. What do we do? They decided they were going to just put a hole in my back and drain it, and put me into intensive care, where I was for, I believe, four or five days. The pain that I felt was something I had never experienced and never wished to experience, it was literally the same as a knife being stuck in my back. The pain from the tube was worse than the broken ribs themselves.
I lay there, and I watched the drippings go into a bucket. The second night, they were all bright red, and I was panicking, because here I am in Africa, and I asked the nurse, this guy, very uncaring person. I said, “What does this mean, you know, it’s red.” He said, “Ah, don’t worry about it.” Well, I was worried about it. And I called Bev in America who knew what was happening, but she said, “You’ll be in good hands.” I said, “Bev, you’ve got to come here, you’ve got to come. I am scared.” And I was in a lot of pain. And I was taken out of intensive care. The Webster’s took care of me, and nursed me back 10 days before I came back to United States.
But then I came back to America, and I was still pastoring churches in Indiana. And I had a woman who says, “Please come and see me at the hospital,” which I did. And she said, “You know, I’m in so much pain.” And normally, I said, “Okay, let’s pray this, and I’ll anoint you and so forth.” You know, I just felt it so differently. I had just been there, I felt the horrific pain of what had just happened and I can give her a hug. I tell her, “I know what you’re going through. I feel your pain.” What are some of the painful things that you have gone through in your life, with your family, with other situations that have come up with your health? Have you not been able to be an encouragement to others? You’ve not been able to help others who are going through hardship. Jesus Christ entered into our lives, and He identifies totally with our pain.
You know, I’ve had difficulty at times with fully understanding the Passover service. I’ve always been able to do the wine part very, very easily, straightforward. Jesus Christ died for our sins. His shed blood for our sins is a payment that was made. And I have been able to do that very well. You know, I’ve had difficulty in fully explaining the broken bread. Yes, there’s a lot to it, it’s more complex. But what does the broken bread symbolize? We see the broken body of Christ, but what does that mean?
Now, Christ suffered a great deal before He died. I’ve always preferred somebody else to do that part because I just really felt like it was just more difficult to explain that part. I know now, Christ suffered for us. Christ has come into our lives, and He is hurt for whatever it is that you’re hurt. Have you lost someone that somebody died, have you had a sickness that’s terrible, have you gone through relationships breakups that have been painful, whatever it is, Christ has been there with you. He’s suffered for you. And the broken bread symbolizing Him suffering for us, not only our sins, the consequence of our sins, but also for all the suffering of mankind. Jesus Christ has been there with us, He suffered for our suffering.
So Jesus did three things to solve the problem of suffering. First, He came, He suffered, He wept. Secondly, He came and becoming a man, He changed the meaning of our suffering, because now it’s a part of His work of redemption and salvation. Our death pangs become birth pangs for eternity as we are preparing for a new nature. Something great is being done in our lives. And thirdly, most importantly, He died and rose. He was resurrected.
The Feast of Tabernacles, if you realize that the fall suite of Holy Days begins with the Feast of Trumpets, which is the first resurrection. The Fall Holy Days end with the Eighth Day, which is the Last Great Day. That day is one that really put it together in my mind. To me, I viewed it as I was growing up, as one of the very top truths that I came to understand. And I don’t see why more people can’t just see it for how beautiful it is. Because it really puts into perspective how God so deeply loves all of mankind. How people in North Korea will be saved. There’s no way it can be saved right now. How children who have died, how children who’ve been aborted, how those who have never had the opportunity or chance except for the Firstfruits. And at the Feast of Tabernacles we celebrate, we celebrate life through the resurrections. The Great White Throne Judgment is one of the greatest truths of all.
How does the Christian live and how do we live right now? I’d like you turn to 2 Corinthians 4:8 2 Corinthians 4:8We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair;
American King James Version×, where Paul writes, “We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed— always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. Therefore do not lose heart.” In verse 16, “Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment.” He talks about what we go through in this life. He describes it as “our light affliction, which is but for a moment,” and we understand why. Because of verse 17, because it “is working for us a more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.”
The subject of suffering is huge, but the number of biblical passages referring to it as a process that we go through in solutions and encouragement, and a big hug as well is included, is all the way through the Bible. There’s a list of over 100 passages that relate to joy and suffering. James 1:2 James 1:2My brothers, count it all joy when you fall into divers temptations;
American King James Version×, which I had in the column here recently. “My brethren, counted all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.” The word for patience there is a Greek word hupomone , hupomone I should say to have the character and incredible capacity to turn trials and troubles into greatness and glory.
The Word of God helps us to understand this problem of evil and suffering as followers of Christ. Because God can make all these things work for good in our lives, because we love Him in according… and are called according to His purpose. These momentary light afflictions are producing for us the eternal weight of glory.
So the story that begins in the Garden of Eden, the expulsion of men into the kingdom of Satan. The Bible also concludes with this story of the Garden of Eden. Garden of Eden appears the first two chapters of the Bible, the Garden appears… returns in the last two chapters of the book of Revelation. Amazing, how was put together. In Revelation 21:1 Revelation 21:1And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.
American King James Version×, talking about a new heaven and a new earth as God is not leaving us and we need to cling to these words is our hope. Revelation 21:1 Revelation 21:1And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.
American King James Version×, “I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. And there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down from heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men,’” as it was at the very beginning when God dwelt with men in the Garden of Eden.
And now, in this Garden of Eden, the tabernacle of God is with men, “and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.” In verse 4, “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes;” every tear that you have shed for your kids, for your parents, for whomever that you have had relationship difficulties with, for your pain for your suffering. All of us have cried. He’ll “wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, no more sorrow, nor crying.” No more suffering, so this time is promised in the future. “There shall be no more pain,” which was promised to Eve at the beginning “in pain you will give birth.” “There’ll be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”
So as we strive to understand this difficult subject, let’s rejoice as we keep the Feast of Tabernacles and what it means.