Story - Message in a bottle.
An American minister once thought up a very unusual way of sending a message. Firstly he thought, if he was going to send a message in this novel way, what was the very most important message he could send? It didn't take him long to decide. Then the minister, with the help of some friends, made thousands of copies of this message, went down to the beach, put each copy of the message in bottles, and threw them into the ocean.
That certainly wasn't a very efficient way of sending a message as most of the bottles would have been broken up by waves or rocks, or simply lost at sea. However, after a short time, the minister began receiving replies from people who had found his message. They were so intrigued by it that they wrote to the minister to ask for more information. Altogether the minister received over 1,400 replies, from people in many different countries, all eager to find out more about this wonderful message.
What do you think the message was that the minister sent out? It really is the most important message of all, and is taken from the Bible, John, chapter 3 verse 16. For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that whoever believes in him shall not die, but have eternal life.
That is the best and most important message this world has ever received because it talks about a wonderful person, a wonderful fact, and a wonderful gift.
A wonderful person. That's God's Son, Jesus. And there is nobody more wonderful than Him. He gave up his life for us all.
A wonderful fact. God loves you. And there is nothing you could ever do to stop Him loving you, because God Is Love.
A wonderful gift. Eternal life! And there is absolutely nothing that can compare with that.
Your questions answered - Why does God allow suffering?
Because everybody goes through tough times sooner or later, we have all asked a question like this. We might ask "If God is all powerful and all loving, why does He allow suffering? Why doesn't God stop all the trouble in the world?" God's ability is usually not in doubt, but rather the question is why He does not appear to act. Surely the all-loving God as revealed in the Bible would do something?
Only God, Himself knows the complete answer to this. However, we can share some thoughts with those who are genuinely seeking answers to this problem.
1. God does not cause suffering - man does. God created people with free-will. This means we have the ability to choose to either obey or disobey our Creator. Our first ancestors chose to disobey God. This was in reality rebellion against their Creator. As a result of this rebellion (the Bible calls it sin), a curse came upon the whole earth so that everything in it was affected and began to degenerate to the state we find it in today.
Thus, man's original sin first brought trouble and suffering into God's perfect world, and our continuing sin results in continued trouble and suffering.
2. Although God does not cause trouble and suffering, He is often able to use it to get our attention.
The most important thing in life is our relationship with God who we can only know through a personal faith in Jesus Christ. However, if we all lived completely trouble-free lives, most people would never give God a second thought! As Jesus said "What would it profit a man if he gained the whole world and lost his own soul?" (Mark 8.36). It is often through trouble or suffering that God is able to gain our attention and make us aware of our need of Him. Numerous people have in fact only found a personal faith in Jesus Christ after a tragedy in their lives.
3. God is primarily concerned with our characters, that is what we are rather than what we do.
Our character can be defined as a measure of what we have overcome. Thus, as we overcome problems and difficulties, our characters are developed. A trouble-free life would, in fact, hinder this development. And whilst this life lasts for only a short time, our characters are for eternity.
It is an interesting fact that many of the men that God has used the most throughout history have been those that have suffered the most in their lives. The Apostle Paul, Martin Luther and John Bunyon (author of Pilgrim's Progress) immediately spring to mind.
4. God, being all-powerful, could stop all suffering on the earth in an instant if He chose to. But what would He actually have to stop? - People! Suffering is the result of sin, and to remove sin God would have to remove all sinners - everyone! But because He loves us, God would rather transform us than wipe us out. The good news is that through the death of His Son on the cross He has made it possible for that to actually happen.
5. God understands our suffering. He does not ask us to face suffering without having first faced it Himself. This He did on the Cross when Jesus suffered more than anyone. Through that Cross He now provides us with the grace and power to face suffering.
God then has done something about trouble and suffering. The basic problem in the world is us - self-centred people. But through a commitment to Christ, God, by His Spirit, is able to come into our lives and change us, giving us new God-centred natures. Then as individuals are transformed, the societies in which they live are changed. This is verified by reference to history. In times when large numbers of a particular community have committed themselves to Christ (this is called a revival) the crime rate in that community has fallen to almost zero. This then is God's plan for our world - to change individuals who in turn change the world in which they live.
The only real answer to suffering is to become a Christian, for then we have His unbreakable promise that all things (including our suffering) will be working together for our good (Romans 8.28).
6. The complete answer to mankind's problems and the end of all suffering is the coming again of the Lord Jesus Christ. Then, God has promised, the creational order prior to man's disobedience and rebellion against God will be restored. "The desert shall blossom as the rose, the eyes of the blind shall be opened, the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped, the lame shall leap and the dumb shall sing. The lion shall lay down with the lamb, swords shall be turned into ploughshares, and a government of peace shall be established." These are just a few biblical expressions of the future kingdom rule of Christ. The whole of creation is looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth. This is good news in a world of trouble and suffering.
Illusion - Standing up under pressure.
When things are going well, it is sometimes hard to tell the difference between the person who is trusting in Jesus, and the one who is not. However, when pressure - hardships, troubles, problems etc. - comes upon us, the person who knows Jesus is able to keep standing, whereas the person without Christ often crumples or "goes under."
Preparation. Take two plastic pen tops (Preferably different colours). Attach one or two plastic paper clips to the first top. To make the second top heavier than the first, attach one or two metal paper clips. Take about a two litre plastic clear bottle, and fill about 90% full with water. Drop the two plastic tops (with attached clips) into the water. They should both float. Screw the top on the bottle, and apply pressure to the bottle by squeezing it. A little "trial and error" may be required here. You may need to adjust your tops by adding or subtracting clips to ensure that when pressure is applied, the first top continues to float, whilst the second always sinks, or "goes under." When you release the pressure, the submerged top should rise to the surface again.
Presentation. You could give this demonstration to your friends. Explain that the two same-sized tops represent two people, one who is trusting in Christ, and one who isn't. When things go well (no pressure to the bottle), there is no difference - the tops both float. However, when pressure comes, one continues to float, but the other goes under. Repeat the pressure-on / pressure-off process a few times.
Lguah barek - Can you raed tihs?
I cdnuolt biveiee taht I cluod auiacity uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg. The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid aoccdrnig to rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinevtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoatnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Amzanig huh?