Sermon for Sunday March 25th, 2012

Why Does God Sometimes Let Little Kids Suffer? by Dr. Marc Axelrod

Isaiah 57:1-57:2

I love the kids of the church. I got my Doctor of Ministry degree two months ago, and one of the kids made me a card. On the left side, it says “Applause!!! Yeah!!” On the right side, it says “Congratulations Pastor Marc! You won a thousand dollars!!!!!”

Then on the bottom, it says “Just kidding. Good job for getting out of school!” I’m going to save that card forever. I love the kids of the church.

And I’ll never forget the time I was doing the children’s sermon on Christmas morning, and we were talking about the presents we got. I said “I got a hunting game for my Playstation! Now I can go hunting without having to go outside and freeze my toes off!”

Then Craig raised his hand, and said “Yeah, but if you go hunting that way, you can’t eat the meat.” I love the kids of the church! They make me laugh. They make me smile.

But one thing that doesn’t make me smile is when kids get sick. It breaks my heart. Why does God sometimes let kids get cancer, or get into bad accidents, or die unexpectedly?

The people of God have asked questions like this for centuries, and today, we’re going to get some answers, and get some comfort and get some guidance on how we can help.

Isaiah 56:1 says “Maintain justice and do what is right, for my salvation is close at hand and my righteousness will soon be revealed.”

But unfortunately, the people are NOT maintaining justice or doing what is right. Bad things are happening in the north country of Israel and the southern nation of Judah. According to 1 Kings 18:1-4, the wicked queen Jezebel has killed off almost all the Lord’s prophets.

And in Isaiah 5:23, the judges have become so corrupt under King Ahaz that they are letting guilty people go free in exchange for bribes, while at the same time, they deny justice to the innocent. Isaiah 10:1 says “Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue unjust decrees, who deprive the poor of their rights and who withhold justice from the oppressed of my people, making widows their prey and robbing the fatherless.”

And when the people of Judah finally get the best king they ever had in King Josiah, he gets killed in battle at the tender age of 39 in 2 Kings 23.

So the people should be crying out to God “Why are you letting all the good people die, and all the bad ones live? Why are you letting evil kings sacrifice children into the fire? What’s up with that?”

But they’re NOT crying out to God. Isaiah 56:10-11 says that “Israel’s watchmen are blind, they are shepherds who lack understanding,” and that’s true of the people, too.

So in Isaiah 57, the prophet says “The righteous perish, and no one ponders it in his heart.” Remember in Luke 2 when the shepherds and Simeon and Anna were saying all these cool things about the baby Jesus, and mother Mary pondered these things in her heart?

No one’s doing any pondering in Isaiah. A good person dies and people were saying “Oh well, life goes on.” No! When something bad happens, you’re SUPPOSED to reach up to God! These are the times in life when a person needs the Lord more than ever!

The prophet continues: “Devout men are taken away.” Literally, the Hebrew says “men of lovingkindness are taken away.” These are not bad people that are dying, these are kind and gracious people!

The same thing is said about Jesus in Isaiah 53:8: “By oppression and judgment, He was taken away. Different Hebrew word, same idea.

Billy Joel sounds like the people of Judah when he says “I’d rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints. The sinners are much more fun, because the only the good die young.” But WHY is it that the good are dying young?

Isaiah says “No one understands that the righteous are taken away to be spared from evil.” Last year, a freshman student at a local high school was suddenly taken from us. We asked “Why, Lord? Why take him now when he hasn’t even had a chance to live out the prime years of his life? Why are you doing this to his family and friends?”

But we need to remember that God knows the future better than we do. Perhaps he saw something evil lurking in the future, and said “It’s not my will for this person to experience this. It would be too much. So I’m going to take them out of here before it happens.”

There’s a scene in the movie Independence Day where the President authorizes the Air Force to attack one of the alien aircrafts. But it doesn’t go well. Fighter planes fall from the sky like flies.

The President said “That’s it! I don’t want them to go through this anymore! Get them out of there!”

I think God can see what lies ahead in someone’s life, and with some of the young people, God says “That’s it! I don’t want them to suffer through this situation! Get them out of there!” 2 Corinthians 10:13 says that God will not let us be tempted beyond what we can bear.

Another reason why good kids sometimes die young is because God loves the young people even more than we do, and some get chosen to live out the years of their youth in His presence. For reasons known only to the Lord, some are ordained to live life on earth until they are old and full of years, and others are chosen for heaven earlier. Psalm 139:16 says “All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”

Years ago, Muhammad Ali was getting ready to fight George Foreman for the heavyweight boxing championship of the world. Before he left for Africa, he stopped in at the Children’s Hospital to visit one of his biggest fans, who was fighting a deadly form of cancer. Ali said “I’m going to knock out George Foreman, and you’re going to knock out cancer.”

A few days later, Ali came back, and the boy was looking a little weaker. Ali said “I’m going to knock out George Foreman, and you’re going to knock out cancer!”

Two weeks later, Ali was called back to the hospital. This time, the boy was in really bad shape. His face was pale and gray. Tubes and wires were everywhere. Ali got choked up. He said “I’m going to knock out George Foreman, and you’re going to knock out cancer.”

The boy looked up at Ali and said “No. I’m going up to heaven to meet God. And I’m going to tell Him I know you.”

There’s nothing more heroic than a brave little boy fighting cancer, knowing that God is preparing a place in heaven for him and his loved ones. John 14:2-3 says “In my Father’s house are many rooms, if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you, and if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with Me, that you also may be where I am.”

You say “Pastor Marc, I think I understand why some kids get picked to be with God. But I don’t understand why they have to SUFFER so much! Why should they have to deal with the pains and inconveniences of needles, nauseousness, biopsies and chemotherapy?

And why should a child have to be paralyzed for life because some idiot driving another car had a little too much to drink? Why does God let little kids suffer?”

First we need to find out where suffering comes from. Genesis 1:31 says that God saw all that He had made, and it was very good.

But sin entered the world through the disobedience of Adam and Eve and tainted every good thing God created. That’s why we have disease, disobedience, disability, decay, deprivation, and death. It’s also why we have suffering.

Genesis 3 is clear that it’s not God’s fault we have sin and suffering in the world. It’s because of Satan! It’s because of Adam and Eve!

You say “Well if God is all powerful and all loving, then why doesn’t He do something about it?”

He IS doing something about it. Number one: God so loved this fallen world, that He sent Jesus to die on the cross to reverse the effects of original sin! 1 Peter 3:18 says “Christ died for our sins once and for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body, but made alive by the Spirit.” And if you repent of your sins and ask Jesus to be the Lord of your life, He forgives all your sins and gives you eternal life.

Number two: Luke 12:40 says that Jesus is going to come back when we least expect it, and he’s going to eliminate sin and suffering forever! Revelation 21:4 says that “He will wipe away 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.”

You say “Marc, that’s fine and dandy for the future, but what is God doing RIGHT NOW about the problem of suffering, and in particular, what is He doing to help kids?”

Number three: God permits suffering and pain so that we will rely more on His strength and less on our own strength. Romans 5:3-4 says “we rejoice in our sufferings because we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance, character, and character, hope. God uses all of our pain to produce spiritual gain! When we’re hurting physically, we cry out to God for grace and strength, and He’s there for us!

Last year I watched the movie Letters to God. It’s about an eight year old named Tyler who is fighting brain cancer. Tyler sits on the top porch of the house every night talking with God and writing Him letters. “He says things like “God, since Dad died, I really miss Mom’s laugh. Please bring happiness back into her life.”

And he says “God, I pray for my older brother. He seems lost. He seems angry. He needs Your help.”

Another time he wrote, “Can you see the stars from where you are, God? My father told me you made them.”

The thing that amazes me is that Tyler never begs God to let him live longer, he asks for faith for those he loves, and someone to care for his mom. Instead of allowing his sufferings turn him away from God, his sufferings DROVE him to God, and his friendship with the Lord inspired the entire town, and lots of people came to Christ because of his testimony. God permits sickness and suffering so that EACH OF US might rely more on His strength!

Number four: Sometimes allows sickness and suffering so that He can do a miraculous healing in your life. John 9:1. There was a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. I’m going to do an awesome work of healing in this man’s life so that he can tell the world how great is our God!”

I pray for that a lot. You never hear me say “Lord, don’t heal this person. This guy’s a jerk. Let him learn some humility. Amen.” There are times I might be TEMPTED to pray that! But no! I want to see the person healed! Sometimes, that’s the plan.

A fifth reason why God allows suffering and sickness is because these bodies are temporary! They’re like cars! You get a certain amount of mileage out of them, and that’s it! Psalm 90:10 says “Man’s days are seventy years, or eighty if he has the strength.”

And let me say that sometimes, we don’t know why God allows suffering. In 2 Timothy 4:20, Paul says “I left Trophimus sick in Miletus.” Why was he sick? Why didn’t Paul heal him? We don’t know.

But we do know that children and grownups who trust Christ as their Savior experience His presence in a special way in times of suffering. How do I know that? Psalm 91:15 says “I will be with him in trouble. I will deliver him and honor him.”

And Matthew 28:20 says “I am with you ALWAYS, to the very end of the age.”

And God is with His Christian children even in the hour of death. Isaiah 57:2 says “Those who walk uprightly enter into peace, they find rest as they lie in death.

In verses 3-13, those who DON’T trust in God and Christ get rebuked harshly. But the righteous experience the peace of God even in the waning hours of their lives.

Years back, a famous Christian was lying in bed, close to the end of his life. Friends and loved ones faithfully sat and watched in vigil at his bedside. He beckoned for them to come closer.

He said “Soon, you’ll be reading in the obituaries that I died. Don’t you believe a word of it! Because I will be more alive than I have ever been before! Because the Bible says in 2 Corinthians 5:8 “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.”

The man was at rest and at peace with God because he knew His Savior. How many of you know the Savior? If the angel of death knocked on your door tonight, would you be ready? If you’re not a Christian, you’re missing out on the joy of knowing you’re going to be with the Lord and with your loved ones in heaven. You need to say “Lord Jesus, you died for me and rose again. I now choose to live my life for You. You’re the Lord, and I will follow you for the rest of my life.”

If you ARE ready, you demonstrate your readiness by reaching out to the children and adults in your life who are suffering. A few months ago, many of you donated Christmas presents to kids with cancer up at Bellin Hospital. Colton Brandenberg and his parents ended up taking like 1500 presents up to Green Bay! That was awesome!

And each year, you support our youth group as they raise awareness for the 145 million starving children around the world. I love the kids in this church, and I love the BIG kids in this church!

And you know what? JESUS loves you, this I know, for the Bible tells me so. Amen.