There are several vital questions that people ask about the big issues in life that, at their core, are mere distractions. People are not interested in the answers really. They do not agree with the way most people have convinced themselves that they believe. They are simply using the questions to avoid these big issues in life. Does God exist? If God is good, why is there evil? Why do bad things happen to good people?
We can spend a lot of time and effort trying to come up with answers to these questions that really do not work because there are no good defenses to issues that are issues of faith. The true answer we have to all of these questions that cuts through the distractions to the core of people’s needs is the Gospel. Paul says in Romans 1:16,17 that we should not be ashamed to simple tell the story of the Gospel because it is what people need to hear.
1. Does God exist? (Romans 1:18-23)
Paul tells us that the question of God’s existence is just a distraction. According to God’s Word, everybody knows that God exists. When people question this, or debate the issue, they are not interested in the truth, reality or really even thinking about the issue. The whole argument is a result of prior knowledge and fear. In Romans, Paul claims that everybody already knows the answer to this question. God’s existence is revealed to all.
Natural revelation is limited in its scope but universal in its reach. Everyone knows in their heart of hearts that God exists. He rules the universe with truth and standards. We have all at some point failed that standard. We all have earned God’s wrath as a result of that failure.
So our denial of God—the suppression of truth—is a reaction to the fear we have based on the universal knowledge we possess. We remain religious—for lack of a better word—because we cannot help but worship something (we were made to do so) and because we all seek redemption to our basic problem: sin.
This is why we are not ashamed of the Gospel. We do not need to convince people of the truth that they already know and mask. We have the solution to the problem that creates so much fear. We have the resolution to the shame and guilt people feel. Share that.
2. How can a loving God allow evil in the world? (Genesis 1:1-5)
When we look at the world, with all its suffering, pain, death and evil, many of us react with anger. We think: if there is a god who made this world, he could not be a good and loving god. We say: I refuse to accept that sort of god.
The fact is that there are two problems with these thoughts: a failure to understand the nature of evil and the failure to see that a truly loving God can and in fact must allow for that sort of evil.
In Genesis chapter one, we see God create and structure the universe. We see that everything God makes is called good. Where is the evil that we know exists in the universe? We do not see evil revealed until later in chapter three, but we do have a good analogy of evil here in the first act of creation on day one.
God creates light on day one. Who created darkness? It was already present. Does that mean that it is eternal? No. Darkness is really a non-thing. God makes light but in places where there is no light we say that it is dark. It is really just an absence of light. Light and dark are not equal opposites. You do not need darkness to have light, but you do need to know light to be able to understand darkness as a concept because it is no-light.
Evil is a similar concept. It is a non-thing. We do not need evil to have goodness, but wherever there is an absence of good you see evil. Good and evil are not equal opposites. You simply have good and no good.
God shows His love in allowing non-goodness to be. We have a choice when we are able to go our own way. Our way is different from God’s good way, and therefore our choices are often evil. God allows us to be free beings and not machines. He could spare us and the world from all evil, but we would not be free. He shows more love by allowing some people to freely choose Him rather than forcing all to do things His way.
He shows the most love by overcoming evil and death’s power on the cross so that we can escape sin and choose Him. Once again, we have the message of God’s love in the Gospel.
3. Why do bad things happen to good people? (Romans 8:18-25)
This is a third question that has no truly satisfactory—easy answer. The Bible tells us in Job that we cannot understand God’s ways.
What we can know, however, is that this suffering we see and experience now is nothing compared to the hope we have. We may not see the results of this hope yet—it is after all hope—but we are also not alone in our suffering now.
The Holy Spirit is in us interceding for us.
God the Father’s plan is being accomplished in the circumstances of our lives.
Finally, Christ has suffered everything for us on the cross to guarantee our glorification and future with God. Nothing can now separate us from the love of God.
The Gospel is the story we have—the experience we’ve lived—that defeats all the distracting questions people raise to numb the fear they feel from what they know to be true.