Hey y’all, hope everyone is having a blessed week so far. If you weren’t able to join us on Sunday for worship, you were missed!
Be praying about who you can invite to church this Sunday for our Easter service. Everybody needs Jesus and everybody is welcome at Pine Grove Baptist Church.
Our text on Sunday was Romans 9:6-24. The title of the sermon was Is God Good?
There are certain philosophical questions that just about everyone asks themselves at some point in their life. Questions like: what’s the meaning of life? What happens after we die? Another question along those lines that some people ask themselves is this one: if God is good, why is there so much evil and suffering in the world?
Have you ever thought about that? Have you ever considered that question before? Scholars call that the problem of evil. Some people spend years and years thinking through that question while others only consider it briefly, it’s just a passing thought that runs through their minds when they are confronted with another example of evil in the world we live in.
I want to tell you about two men who no doubt considered these questions at some point in their lives. These two men didn’t know each other, in fact they lived in two different centuries. They don’t have much in common at all, other than they both believed in God at one point in their lives.
I’ll start with Charles Templeton. Templeton was an evangelist that came to prominence at the same time as Billy Graham. He preached to thousands and had great success as an evangelist. But in the midst of that success, Templeton began to wrestle with doubts about God. Some of the things he read in the Bible didn’t make sense to him; they didn’t seem logical.
After wrestling with these doubts for a long time while he continued to preach regularly to large crowds, Templeton began to develop intense chest pains. He went to the doctor and got checked out and they found absolutely nothing wrong with his heart. The doctor talked with him and Templeton brought up the stress he was experiencing because of his doubts about God and the doctor encouraged him to make up his mind what he believed and move forward so he could put the stress and anxiety behind him. And that’s exactly what he did. Templeton made up his mind and left the ministry and the faith. He began to call himself an agnostic and he would go on to write the autobiography of his life called Farewell to God.
Many, many years later, towards the end of his life, Templeton did an interview with author Lee Strobel about faith and answering life’s biggest questions. At the end of the interview, Strobel asked Templeton what he thought of Jesus. He expected to get a dismissive answer but he was surprised by what Templeton had to say. “Everything good I know, everything decent I know, everything pure I know, I learned from Jesus. There have been many other wonderful people, but Jesus is Jesus….’ Strobel said, “That’s when Templeton uttered the words I never expected to hear from him. “In my view,” he declared, “he is the most important human being who has ever existed. And if I may put it this way,” he said as his voice began to crack, ‘I . . . miss . . . him!” With that tears flooded his eyes. He turned his head and looked downward, raising his left hand to shield his face from me. His shoulders bobbed as he wept.”
Logic drove Templeton away from his faith, but it seems that he never was able to find anything else in life that compared to knowing Jesus.
The second man I want to tell you about was named Allen Gardiner. He was a British missionary that went with a team of men to a remote island off the coast of South America named Picton Island in December 1850. The mission team encountered trouble from the very beginning. The island people were hostile towards them, they didn’t have nearly enough food and supplies and the additional supplies that were sent from England for them never arrived. After about 9 months on the island, Gardiner was the last of the crew to die. He died from disease and starvation. When the ship with the additional supplies finally arrived, all the men were found dead. Lying near Gardiner’s body was his journal. In it, Gardiner wrote of the extreme hunger and thirst he experienced, the painful wounds he acquired, and the devastating loneliness that he felt. And yet, in spite of all of that, the last entry that Gardiner wrote in the journal said this: “I am overwhelmed with a sense of the goodness of God.”
Two different men that came to two different conclusions. One walked away from his faith while the other one died for it. Both of them experienced suffering and both of them, I’m sure, wrestled with doubts, and yet one died experiencing God’s goodness and the other died missing the relationship with Jesus that he had walked away from.
The title of the sermon this morning is a question. Is God Good? Paul confronted this question and several other questions in this passage. In a strange way, Paul found himself defending God against objections, even though God doesn’t need defending to anyone about anything.
Paul was dealing with the fact that, in spite of God’s election of the nation of Israel as His chosen people, many Israelites rejected Jesus as the Savior. This truth caused many to wonder if God had failed to live up to His promises. It caused people to wonder if God was really good and just after all. Paul writes here in chapter 9 not so much a defense of God’s character but really just a declaration of God’s sovereignty. God is God and He is good and we are to believe that in faith, whether it makes sense to us or seems logical to us or not.
Now it is not as though the word of God has failed, because not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. 7 Neither is it the case that all of Abraham’s children are his descendants.[a] On the contrary, your offspring will be traced[b] through Isaac.[c] 8 That is, it is not the children by physical descent[d] who are God’s children, but the children of the promise are considered to be the offspring.
Paul points back to Abraham, the father of the nation of Israel, to explain why God had not broken His promise in spite of the unbelief of many Israelites. That promise of course was the Abrahamic Covenant found in Genesis 12:1-3. It says, “The Lord said to Abram: Go from your land, your relatives, and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2 I will make you into a great nation, I will bless you, I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, I will curse anyone who treats you with contempt, and all the peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”
All the nations of the earth would be blessed through Israel, and yet, so many Israelites did not believe in Jesus. How could this be? Had God failed to live up to His promise?
There are people asking themselves that question still today? If God is so good, why do these bad things keep happening? Why do people who couldn’t care less about God seem to succeed at everything they do, while others who do their best to follow Jesus can’t seem to catch a break? Sometimes, we can read promises from Scripture and we look at the circumstances in our lives and we wonder why God doesn’t seem to be doing what the Bible tells us He will do.
Does God keep His promises? The answer is yes. God always keeps His promises!
Let’s look at another verse now. Numbers 23:19
God is not a man, that he might lie,
or a son of man, that he might change his mind.
Does he speak and not act,
or promise and not fulfill?
Even the best person will break a promise at some point. Even the best of people will let us down. But God is not a man. He doesn’t lie and He doesn’t change His mind. God always keeps His promises. God promises to never leave or forsake us and He never will. God promises to supply every one of our needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. God promises to work all things together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose. God promises that if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins. God promises that those who wait on the Lord will renew their strength. God promises to give rest to the weary and heavy laden who come to Him. God promises that for those who put their faith in Jesus, someday death, and sin, and pain will all pass away and we will be in His Presence forever and ever. God always keeps His promises.
God’s Word hadn’t failed because some Israelites didn’t believe. The children of the promise were those who believed by faith, not those who were simply born Jewish. Even when we can’t understand what is happening, we can trust that God always keeps His promises.
14 What should we say then? Is there injustice with God? Absolutely not! 15 For he tells Moses, I will show mercy to whom I will show mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.[a] 16 So then, it does not depend on human will or effort but on God who shows mercy. 17 For the Scripture tells Pharaoh, I raised you up for this reason so that I may display my power in you and that my name may be proclaimed in the whole earth.[b] 18 So then, he has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy and he hardens whom he wants to harden.
Paul asks, “Is there injustice with God?” Another way to ask that question is this: Is God good and fair? The answer is yes. You see, life isn’t always good and life isn’t always fair, but God is. Life isn’t always good and fair, but God is.
Would you agree that life isn’t always fair? Of course it’s not. All we have to do is look around our world and we will see plenty of evidence that life isn’t fair. Every time there is another murder, or abduction, or terrorist attack, we realize that life isn’t fair. Every time another person dies from hunger or preventable disease, we realize life isn’t fair. Every time politicians make laws that make it easier for babies in the womb to be destroyed, we realize life isn’t fair. Every time a natural disaster happens and people lose their homes and sometimes even their lives, we realize life isn’t fair. Every time a family has to bury a child, we realize life isn’t fair. When we consider the fact that thousands of kids right now in the state of Alabama don’t have a place to call home or a family to be a part of, when we think about that we realize that life isn’t fair.
Life isn’t always fair and life isn’t always good, but God is. Deuteronomy 32:4 tells us, “The Rock—his work is perfect; all his ways are just. A faithful God, without bias, he is righteous and true.” Psalm 34:8 says, “Taste and see that the Lord is good. How happy is the person who takes refuge in him!”
I often hear believers say something to the effect of, “I can’t imagine living this life without Jesus.” I’ve said that myself. What that means is, life is really hard, for the believer and for the unbeliever. Both face things in life that aren’t fair. Things that aren’t in any way good. The believer, through that relationship with Jesus, gets to walk through those difficult seasons of life knowing that they are not alone. God is with us and He knows what it’s like to suffer and to hurt. He knows all of our pains and our fears. God isn’t far away from us, whether we are happy or sad. The Bible tells us that the Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
That’s not just something I’ve read about. I’ve experienced that. I’m a self-proclaimed momma’s boy and proud to be one. My momma was incredible and I am so blessed to be her son. She went to be with the Lord 7 years ago. When she died, that was really painful. It still hits me every once in a while, and the pain is fresh like it just happened. But every single moment since my Mom passed away, I have never felt that I was alone in my grief. I’ve felt God with me every step of the way.
Many of you could testify of the same thing, of how God has carried you through your darkest times. Life may not always be good or fair, but God is always good and He is always fair and just in all of His ways.
“19 You will say to me, therefore, “Why then does he still find fault? For who resists his will?” 20 On the contrary, who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? Will what is formed say to the one who formed it, “Why did you make me like this?” 21 Or has the potter no right over the clay, to make from the same lump one piece of pottery for honor and another for dishonor? 22 And what if God, wanting to display his wrath and to make his power known, endured with much patience objects of wrath prepared for destruction? 23 And what if he did this to make known the riches of his glory on objects of mercy that he prepared beforehand for glory— 24 on us, the ones he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles?”
Paul here asks, “Why does God find fault with mankind?” This seems like a sensible question from a human perspective. If God shows mercy on who He wants and hardens who He wants, how can man be held accountable for God’s decision?
Well, here’s the answer: God is the Creator of all things and the Creator has the right to with creation as He wills. The Creator has the right to do with creation as He wills. Again, from the human perspective, that answer doesn’t satisfy our objections. It doesn’t make sense, but as the ones that were created, we have to accept it by faith. God is the Creator and it doesn’t have to make sense to us for it to be okay for Him to do it.
God can do as He wishes. He is God. His perspective is more complete than ours. Isaiah 55:8–9 tells us, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
and your ways are not my ways.”
This is the Lord’s declaration.
9 “For as heaven is higher than earth,
so my ways are higher than your ways,
and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
Another reason that God can do as He wishes is because He is in the position of Creator; we are not.
Back in Exodus, when God sent Moses to confront the Pharaoh, first Pharaoh hardened his heart and then later we read that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart. God did as He liked in Pharaoh’s heart because He is God and He is sovereign and He has the absolute right to do so. That is the first and main answer to any charge that God treated Pharaoh or anyone else in an “unfair” or “unjust” way. We have to remember that nobody deserves mercy. We are all sinners and the wages of sin is death. Hell is what everyone deserves because of sin.
But God is merciful and shows that mercy to His elect. I’ll say again what I said at the beginning: the concept of election and the concept of human free will are both in the Bible and therefore, I believe they are both true. I can’t logically explain it but I believe it.
In the text we just read, Paul uses the imagery of a potter and the clay that he is using and how it would be ridiculous for the clay to question the potter. I struggled to come up with an illustration that fits this concept. But maybe we can think of it like this. Say you have a piece of property that you want to build a house on. You clear the property and then go through all the steps, pour the foundation, all the electrical and plumbing and framework. About that time, as you are walking around the construction site, a little bitty ant crawls up on your shoulder and starts yelling at you for messing up the ant hill that he lived in. I know that is ridiculous but just go with it.
Would you halt construction and apologize to the ant for what you had done? No, you’d flick that little guy off your shoulder and get back to work. Why? Because the ant doesn’t have the right (or the ability for that matter) to question a human. Well, in the same way but multiplied by a billion, we human beings don’t have the right to question Almighty God. He is God and we are not.
So, just to recap, God keeps His promises, God is good and God is just even though life often is not and God has the right to do whatever He wants because He is the Creator.
We can’t fully understand everything that the Bible tells us about election. People have been studying it and debating it for thousands of years and we are no closer to understanding it. The bottom line is that we have to trust God. We have to accept what the Bible tells us in faith
To answer the original question: Yes, God is most certainly good. I’ve experienced His goodness in my own life. If you have never experienced that goodness because you have never made a decision to follow Jesus, you can change that right now.
Salvation is simple: people are sinners and unable to save themselves. Jesus died so that people can be saved. He rose from the dead and defeated sin and death forever. Simply ask God to forgive you for your sin and ask Jesus to save you from that sin. Then thank Him for what He did on the cross. Romans 1o tells us that if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and you believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.
Thank you for reading this sermon summary. I pray that God’s Word has blessed you. If you prayed to become a Christian or if you would like to talk about making that decision, please get in touch with me either on the phone at 251-937-2460 or through email at email@example.com