Transcribed from the Words of Life Radio Program

      Thank you for listening to these Words of Life radio broadcasts as we share the
Word of God, as we live out the Word of God ourselves, and as we share, we witness the Word of God to others. The title for the lesson is: “But Take Heart” the words of Jesus. Our main text is taken from the New Testament, John chapter 16 verses 28 through 33. Please listen to the Word of God.

     I came from the Father and entered the world; now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father.”
Then Jesus’ disciples said, “Now you are speaking clearly and without figures of speech. Now we can see that you know all things and that you do not even need to have anyone ask you questions. This makes us believe that you came from God.”
     “Do you now believe?” Jesus replied. “A time is coming and in fact has come when you will be scattered, each to your own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me.
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”  Wonderful words from the Lord Jesus which are certainly true to us by application today also.  

     Evil is undeniable. No matter education, religion, or technology, evil still lurks largely everywhere.

It’s difficult for most of us to ignore the carnage, for example, that the Ukrainian people are being forced to endure. Unrestricted bombardment, aborted efforts to evacuate besieged civilians has brought death and destruction into our very living rooms that can leave us numb as we watch it unfold on our televisions or hear it on the radio or read it in the newspaper.

     Suffering is undeniable. Whether it is the loss of a loved one, a battle with severe physical or emotional trauma; no one is immune to the reality of suffering.

People, whether dealing with evil in a war zone or people dealing with personal hardships in everyday life, often think or say aloud: “If God, why so much evil? Why so much suffering?

How can an all-powerful, all-knowing, loving God allow so very much evil and suffering?

This objection to God’s coexistence with evil and suffering is one of the strongest arguments of atheists, of skeptics, of unbelievers. The rationale is simple.

  • If God is all-powerful, then He can defeat evil.
  • If God is all-good, then He would defeat evil.
  • But evil is not defeated.
  • Therefore, the atheist argues, there is no all-powerful and all-good God.

As Christians how would we respond to this? Scripture reveals “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” First Peter chapter 3 and verse 15.

The apostle Peter is insisting that we believers understand what we believe, why we are Christians, and so be able to explain in our own words, our core beliefs reasonably and yet biblically especially regarding God Himself.

     The hope that Christians have is eternal life with God in heaven where there will never, ever be evil or suffering again.  Unbelievers of all kinds far, far, far outnumber us believers and so we are exhorted to “be prepared to give an answer” as God’s instruments to share the gospel which is Good News in a bad news world.

The tension between an all-powerful, loving God and suffering has challenged the human race for thousands of years.

     This including two of the last century’s most influential thinkers: Sigmund Freud, a neurologist and founder of psychoanalysis, and C. S. Lewis, a writer and lay theologian. Freud was an atheist, Lewis a Christian.

Both men endured much suffering and yet drew very different conclusions about God and suffering.

     Sigmund Freud lost a daughter and a grandson and suffered from a painful cancer. Suffering in part led Freud to conclude that God does not exist, for no loving God would permit people to endure such pain if He had the power to prevent it. Freud believer that men’s fates were determined by “obscure, unfeeling, and unloving powers.”

  1. S. Lewis lost his dear mother to cancer at the age of nine. He endured the evils of WWI, and watched his beloved wife, Joy, suffer an excruciating death from cancer. Yet, Lewis concluded otherwise – but not without a faith struggle. After his wife’s death, he wrote that the danger was not ceasing to believe in God but “of coming to believe such dreadful things about Him.” That is God.

     At first, similar to Freud, he wondered how a loving God could allow him to suffer so very terribly – and why evildoers appear to go unpunished.  Freud argued that the notion that good is rewarded and evil punished “by the government of the universe just does not square with reality.”

     Yet Lewis in contrast pointed out biblical principals about a “Dark Power, a mighty evil spirit, the power behind death and disease and sin.” (As he was paraphrasing in part Ephesians chapter 6 verse 10.)

     We are, C. S. Lewis concluded now living in “enemy occupied territory.” Lewis also reminds us of the relationship between evil and free will. The human tendency to abuse free will, to rebel against God and to violate the moral law, is what often leads to human suffering.

     Also, consider the words of the apostle Paul as he wrote in Romans chapter 8 verse 22 and following “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope, we were saved.” The consequences of sin continue in this fallen world.

     Accountable human beings have a choice, they can hold to a materialist worldview without God as Freud who despaired to “simply submit to the harsh realities that confront us.” Or like Lewis we can choose to put our trust in God in good times or bad times who loves us, having proved it by sending His one and only Son into the world to die on a cross, as an atoning sacrifice for our sin problem. He is a just God who one day will right all wrongs; so, we in the meantime must endure, we must be overcomers with renewing faith and hope.

     A simplified way to “give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” is as follows:

  • God is all-powerful, then He can defeat evil.
  • God is all-good, then he would defeat evil.
  • But evil is not yet defeated.
  • Hence, evil will one day be defeated.

Naysayers will respond: ‘How do you know that evil and suffering will one day be defeated?

Answer: Because I believe in the all-powerful God and also have faith in His promises revealed in the Bible. For example, Revelation chapter 21 verses 3 and 4 “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death, or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

     Moreover, consider the promise of Revelation chapter 21 and verse 27 “Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” That is only the saved will be able to go into the new Jerusalem, on the new earth into eternity!

     Let’s go deeper: How do atheists, and most unbelievers, know that some things are actually evil unless they know what is truly good? As evil is a lack of good. How can atheists know there is injustice in the world unless they have some ultimate standard of justice by which they measure it?

     Because if there is an ultimate moral, ethical standard, then reasonably there is an ultimate moral lawgiver. When it comes to right verses wrong, moral verses immoral, justice verses injustice in the attempt to eliminate God they actually presuppose that there is a God.

     But what else about the meantime, right now, with an avalanche of evil and suffering? About two thousand years ago Jesus Christ told His disciples the inevitable “In this world you will have trouble.” Nevertheless, believers can have the enviable “in Me you may have peace.” And Jesus always the encourager stated: “But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John chapter 16 and verse 33.

     Jesus Christ did not sugar coat the fact that we will have trouble in this life, in this world.

Yes! Since the Son of God has overcome – that is defeated death, defeated Satan, defeated sin; believers can also be overcomers in Him until He comes. The New American Standard Bible says: “But take courage!”

Here’s the reality of it all for the faithful.

  • In the very beginning it was Paradise.
  • Into eternity after Jesus returns it will be Paradise again for all glorified saints, all glorified believers.

Now? We’re in the messy middle.

But take heart! Jesus is coming to take us home!


David Johnson is minister of the Sellersburg Church of Christ in Sellersburg, IN.