Michael Youssef - Why Does God Allow Evil? - Part 2
One of the books that came out in the late '80s, a very popular book, was a best seller by Rabbi Harold Kushner, and the title of the book was "When Bad Things Happen to Good People". The tragedy of this erroneous, heretical book is that from that time on it has been preached from thousands of pulpits in churches. That is really the sad part. I'll give you the thesis of it. Here's what the rabbi said. Either God is all powerful but not all good, or if God is all good then he is not all powerful. And Kushner concluded that God is all loving, but not all powerful. "God," Kushner said, "was doing the best he could, and God is growing and learning and evolving just like we are. God hasn't figured things out yet".
Now it doesn't say whether he will ever figure them out, but he said he hasn't got them figured out yet. As a matter of fact, his final conclusion was that we need to pray for God. Now, the first time I heard this I said, "Really? If we need to pray for God, to whom shall we pray"? I got no answer. This pure blasphemy of the highest order is both blasphemy in Judaism or Christianity, both, for the Old Testament and the New Testament again and again and again tells us that God is all powerful, that God is all good, that God is almighty all at the same time. The Old Testament and New Testament tells us that none of us are good, and so when you ask the question, "How can bad things happen to good people"? Who are the good people?
If you look in the Old Testament Isaiah says without God "all of our good works is like a filthy rag in his sight". You go to the New Testament in Romans 3:23, and it tells us that "we all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God". So the question is the wrong question. The right question should be, how come good things happen to bad people? In Matthew 5:45 Jesus said that the rain falls on the righteous and the unrighteous, so good things happen to bad people. In fact, the Bible tells us that evil, which manifests itself in suffering and pain of all kinds, appears to us humans with our finite mind or our limited capacity, it appears to us to be senseless, appears to us to be pointless.
God doesn't argue with that. God doesn't say, "You shouldn't do that". God says, "Well, yeah, we, from our point of view, we see this". Ah, but the Bible immediately goes on to say but God is a sovereign God. He is all-powerful God, but he's all-loving God at the same time. And evil, it can only be a stepping stone to serve his ultimate purpose which is for good. I had gone through some suffering and pain in very early parts of my life, and to me that appeared to be pointless and purposeless and senseless. That's how it appeared to me at the time, but then I look back now, and I see that the very evil that was abhorrent to me, God used as a stepping stone to accomplish his good purpose in my life.
And to those who refuse to believe in God because they say, "If God is all loving, then he must not be all powerful because he's not stopping evil," I can say to them that evil is precisely what causes people to believe in God. To believe in God is to be able to see that he has all power and all might over that evil, for God did not and does not just sit idly by watching carelessly, observing the suffering of his creatures. No, he enters into our suffering. He shares in our suffering. He endured the crushing pain of seeing his Son, the second member of the Trinity, experiencing a cruel and shameful death upon the cross, seeing his Son endure hell itself so that everyone would come to him, would be able to defeat sin and death and evil that afflicts the world.
Part of that life of obedience, part of that life of trust, part of that life of surrender to a sovereign God is what I call learning to develop the 50-20 Vision. The 50-20 Vision is uniquely given to those who accept these two facts, number one, that evil exists, number two, that evil can never, never, never frustrate God's perfect plan for his children. But before I explain to you what the 50-20 Vision is, I want to remind you that, basically, there are two kinds of evil if I use that word with the implication of suffering and pain. There is an evil that I bring upon myself by my own choices. God doesn't cause it. God didn't do it.
Let me explain. The old proverbial hand on the stove, when you tell a child, "Don't put your hand on the stove. It's hot. It's gonna burn you," but they do it anyway. And when they burn they said, "Oh, Mommy, I'm sorry. Daddy, I'm sorry," we'll forgive them, of course, their foolishness. And when we do the same thing, choose wrong things, wrong people, wrong relationships, wrong things and then we cry out to God, "Oh, God, I'm sorry for my foolishness," God forgives us because that's his promise. That's his promise, but the scar will remain. You see, now you can expound this to any area of your life, all the wrong choices that you made, and you paid the consequences for it.
You see, that is one kind of evil, but then there's a second type of evil, a suffering that happens totally out of your control. Somebody bring you pain that you did not see come from out of left field, that evil that happens to you whether it be the storms and the hurricanes and the earthquake and all the things that are totally out of our control. That is the one that the Bible said God uses as a stepping stone to turn it around and bring good out of it for his children, and that's what I will be focusing on today, and that's what I call the 50-20 Vision. It is Genesis chapter 50, verse 20. Joseph looks at his wicked brothers who did wicked things. These brothers were wicked. They did wicked things, and they were wicked. Evil is evil, and good is good, and don't mix the two. But now we're calling good evil and evil good.
When Joseph looked in his wicked brothers' eyes and he said to them, "You meant it for evil, but God turned it for good," having the 50-20 Vision will give you the ability to see this, see that even in the times when the wicked appear to have the upper hand, God is working his purposes out. In fact, the story of Joseph is so familiar. It's a story that's well known, a young man whom God gave a dream of achieving great things. He naively as a teenager blabs it out to his older brothers and then tell 'em about his dream. They get mad, and they get envious, and they determine to destroy the dream by destroying the dreamer. First they throw him into a dark pit, but then they decide to make some money out of it and sell him to slave merchants. Then they took the coat of many colors, dipped it in the blood of a goat, and took it over to their father. And they said, "Your son has been devoured by a ferocious animal".
Then the slave merchant to whom they sold the boy, they take him to Egypt, and there they sell him to the chief of security of Pharaoh. And there he gets... this is really where the most injustice, blurring injustice, where he gets accused of the very sin that he rejected, the very sin that he refused to commit. Talk about injustice. And he ends up in Pharaoh's dungeon where only the high officials were sent to prison, and there he ends up interpreting dreams of these high officials who fell out of favor with Pharaoh. And those dreams come true. One gets killed, and the other one gets promoted into chief of staff of Pharaoh. The man who gets promoted into the chief of staff, Joseph says to him, "Remember me to Pharaoh". He doesn't for 2 years. He forgot by accident, right?
When Pharaoh himself had a disturbing dream, the chief of staff wanted to kiss up to Pharaoh and tell the boss, "I got some information," and all of a sudden he remembers Joseph. "He can interpret that dream for you". So Joseph is brought out of the dungeon, cleaned up, and he comes in, and he interprets the dream for Pharaoh and ends up running the country, the superpower of the day. All of the evil that Joseph has experienced for 13 years, not just once but several times, all of that appeared to be unnecessary and senseless and pointless suffering of this injustice that was taking place, not once but several times.
That does not make sense. But I want you to think with me just from the human point of view. We're not gonna look at it from God's perspective yet, just from the human point of view. What would have happened had Joseph at the first sign of experiencing injustice, unfairness on the part of this brothers, or even able to run away from them or run away from the slave merchants who were taking him down to Egypt, suppose he cried out to God, "Oh, God, get me out of this, God! I am not happy, God. You want me to be happy". Where is that in the Bible? He wants us to be holy.
And suppose he managed to escape and run away from these people. Okay, he escaped, got back home. Okay, his daddy will be happy. Jacob would have been delighted. His daddy would have loved it. His daddy would have been delighted. Ah, but his brothers probably would be more angry than ever, and this time they really kill him, and what would have happened? A few years later when the famine hits all of the children of Israel would have died. All of the future prophets from Moses all the way to the birth of the Messiah would not have taken place. The people of God would have been destroyed. The promise to Abraham would have been destroyed. The Egyptian civilization would've vanished.
Now, that may not move you deeply, but it would upset me. I wouldn't be here. But in every step, God used evil as a stepping stone and stepping stone to serve the ultimate good. Think about this. Of all the people of the earth Joseph is sold to the Egyptians. I mean, they could've sold him to Ammonites and the Aramites and the mosquito bites and all the other people of the earth, but of all the people of the earth, they sell him to the Egyptians, why? Very important point here and maybe lost on a lot of people. Egyptians are clean shaven. They saw the hairy Hebrews as unhygienic. This is a fact of history, and so they would not intermarry with them.
Why is that important? So God's people would remain distinct. Joseph is the only one who married an Egyptian. Thus the Hebrew people were able to remain as distinct people for 400 years in the land of Egypt. Not only that, but Joseph could have been sold to any old Egyptian family, but no. He would've been sold to the king's chief of security, why?
So that he would learn Egyptian culture, why? Because later he was going to be only a breath away from Pharaoh, but that's not all. That's not all. Joseph was thrown into a prison, not any old prison. There are a lot of prisons in Egypt, but not any old prison. He was sent to Pharaoh's prison. That's a special prison in which all these high officials that worked in Pharaoh's palace got out of favor, they were sent to, the all-government inmates, but why? Because there he's gonna meet the chief of staff. He would not have met him if he went to the other prisons, why? So that then later, in God's timing, the chief of staff will remember Joseph and introduce him to Pharaoh.
Now please, please, please just listen. Listen carefully. When a person accuses God of either incapable of overcoming evil or that he is the author and perpetuates evil, those who say, "I can't believe in a God who allows evil to happen to the innocent," these folks do not know the God of the Bible. They've never taken the time to know the God of the Bible. They never tried to crack the Bible to understand the God of the Bible, those who refuse to believe in God, and these folks would be the very folks who would look at those 13 years of Joseph's life, and they would have said, "All these 13 years that are filled with evil and hatred and injustice and false accusations and false imprisonment," they would see it as senseless suffering.
Ah, but the 50-20 Vision as Joseph expressed it goes exactly like this. Let me quote it accurately. "You meant it for evil against me, but God meant it or turned it for good, so that you may be kept alive". That's the 50-20 Vision. You see, an angry person would have said, "God, why? Why, God? This is a young man with great dreams. This is a young man with pure and righteous motives. God, this is a young man who sought to honor you. Why, God"? But Joseph's 50-20 Vision helped him to combine sight and foresight and hindsight, and that's what the 50-20 Vision does. You may be a person whose hope may be covered with a thick, dark cloud right now.
You may be a person whose pillar has been stained with tears. Your life may seem unbearable right now. Your dark pit and your dark prison may seem inescapable right now. Your future seem to have come to an end right now. Fear and worry is gripping you like a vice right now. Listen to me. I tell you on the authority of God's Word, hold on. Hold on. I am turning what was meant for evil to your good. I am turning your darkness into night. I am using evil as my slave so that it will not be your master. I am turning the wiles of men into the will of God. I am turning the schemes of man into the serving of God's plan. I am turning Satan's plots into my perfect purpose. I am turning the ugly and the bad into my eternal glory.
Now, beloved, like it or not, God is calling the shots. Believe it or not, he's still in charge, feel it or not. We're a very feeling culture now. Feel it or not, he is here with you. He's here with you whether you feel it or not, for he said, "I'll never leave you nor forsake you until I take you safely all the way home with me in heaven," amen.
I was thinking about this and the 50-20 Vision, and I'm reminded of a story read many, many years ago back in 1915. The Mexican boll weevil really got very, very bad, and it came to the southern part of the United States. The boll weevil really had become so bad particularly in the state of Alabama. In fact, that year, 1915, 60% of all the cotton crop, which was the mainstay of their economy, was destroyed. Their utter disappointment turned into despair, but the farmers of Alabama were forced to experiment and diversify their crops, and they experimented with peanuts. So by 1917, only 2 years later, a new crop proved to be not only a blessing, but a source of prosperity. On December 11, 1919, 4 years later, the city of Enterprise, Alabama, erected a monument not to the peanuts, to the boll weevil.
You see, when you have the 50-20 Vision you are able to erect a monument to all the pain that you've experienced with the following inscription: "In profound appreciation of the boll weevil and what it has done as herald of prosperity". What was thought to be a tragedy, the 50-20 turned it into a great blessing.