If God is in Control . . . Why Is There So Much Pain?
Pastor Joel Sutton, September 22 2013; If God is in Control . . . Sermon 2
Stories of pain.
- Teaching thorns (2 Cor. 12:7)
- Satanic attacks (Job 1)
God's sovereignty presents a great mystery, but it also offers us magnificent promises.
- God is with us in the dark. 39:2-3; 21-23; Rom. 8:31-39
- God is working everything together for good. 45:4-8; Rom. 8:28-30
- God is good. 50:19-20; Psalm 34:8
Take Home Idea: Evil is not ultimate or final. The first and last word is with God - who is sovereign, just, and good.
Sermon Discussion Guide
- Pastor Joel preached this Sunday from the story of Joseph. Reflect on the story (or browse through the story of Joseph in Gn. 37-45) and make a list of the various kinds of suffering Joseph endures:
- The emotional pain of betrayal by the family he loved, of separation from his family and friends, of the loss of the life he knew, of slavery, of false accusation and wrongful imprisonment for years
- The physical pain of being beaten and sold into slavery, being a slave and enduring imprisonment
- The spiritual pain of question the visions given to him by God early in his life
- Where do you see evidence of the presence of God with Joseph in the midst of this suffering?
- Joseph's brothers decide against their initial plan to murder Joseph
- Joseph is taken as a slave to the very place his family will go when they are in desperate need of food
- Joseph is bought by Potiphar in whose household he is able to gain skills in administration
- Joseph is put in prison with someone who has direct access to Pharaoh
- Pharaoh is given dreams, and Joseph is given the ability to interpret them
- Pharaoh has the wisdom to promote Joseph, though he is from a different people, though he is a former slave and criminal
- Joseph's brothers come to Egypt, and then directly to Joseph for help
- Despite the famine, Pharaoh invites all of Joseph's family to Egypt and gives them choice land
- Ultimately, Joseph is raised to a high position and blessed with a family of his own and the favor of the Pharaoh. He learns the very skills he needs to thrive in his future position - and is then put in exactly the right position. Through Joseph, God will save two nations, including his chosen people.
- The story of Joseph testifies to the presence of evil and pain and it testifies to the presence and purposes of God through that pain. How does it testify to the victory of God over evil and pain?
- God brings Joseph through significant pain and suffering to a place where he is able to forgive his brothers.
- **Note: In many ways, this has the hallmarks of a classic revenge tale. When Joseph's brothers bow before him, it seems the perfect opportunity for vengeance. The ancient world, just as our own, was filled with such tales - wherein violence was met with violence, where pain multiplied pain. And here too, we might expect the pain of Joseph to be multiplied to his brothers - but it is not. The violence, betrayal and evil of Joseph's brothers was met and overcome by forgiveness.
- Joseph's story affirms the reality of evil, pain and suffering in our world. Why might this be important? Can you think of a time when this was a comfort for you?
- Christianity does not pretend that suffering is not real, nor does is belittle the profound pain we may encounter in life. It does not ask us to pretend that things are fine when they are not.
- Joseph's story affirms the presence of God in the midst of pain; it reveals and reminds us that God's purposes are good and that he works for us against evil - and that he has the power to accomplish them. How should this truth impact the way we confront suffering in our own lives and in the world?
- We not only are called to affirm the reality of suffering and to name evil when we see it, but to hope - and provide others with hope - in the midst of it.
- We should remember that hope is rooted in the goodness and power of God - and not in how the situation looks from our perspective.
- We should be compelled to pray, recognizing that God is the one with the power and wisdom to overcome evil and suffering.
- We should testify to the triumph of God in Jesus Christ as the final and only answer to suffering.
- How might this story and these truths shape the way that we pray about personal and global suffering or pain?