Lew Wallace (4/10/1827 – 2/15/1905) was a lawyer, governor, Union general in the American Civil War, American statesman and author. According to an article in Israel My Glory magazine:
He and his famous ungodly friend, Robert Ingersoll, once agreed to write a book that would forever destroy the “myth” of Christianity. For two years, Wallace gathered information from the leading libraries of Europe and America. He got no further than chapter two when he suddenly found himself on his knees, crying out, “My Lord, and my God.” He had found his evidence, and it overwhelmingly and conclusively supported the deity of Christ. He could no longer deny that Jesus Christ was the Son of God. So Wallace abandoned his project and became a Christian. Later he wrote one of the finest novels ever written concerning the time of Christ, Ben Hur.
Instead of disproving the deity of Christ and His resurrection – Lew Wallace ended up defending it in his famous epic Biblical novel Ben Hur: A Tale of the Christ, described as “the most influential book of the nineteenth century.”
While working out at the YMCA in San Diego, I overheard two businessmen discussing death. One said, “I am not sure what’s beyond the grave, but no one will immortalize me anyway, or remember me years from now.” The other man said, “I figure that whatever is out there will have to accept me as I am.” I said, “I don’t mean to jump in, but don’t you think eternity is a long time? Therefore, it might be wise to spend a little more time considering its implications. Pause to reflect on the complexity of the human body and your DNA, the diversity and splendor of nature, and the vastness and awesomeness of the universe which contains billions of galaxies with billions of stars. If there is a God who created us and this universe – are you going to say to Him, “You must accept me on my terms?” Their look affirmed I was relating, so I continued. “No, if there is a Creator, then I must come to Him on His terms, not mine.”
They listened intently and their body language indicated they agreed with what I said so far, so I shared how I had rejected Christianity and spent many years searching in atheism, occultism, Eastern disciplines, and New Ageism until my search for truth brought me back to the God of the Bible. The one guy asked, “Then Jesus Christ is the only way?” I said, “Without a doubt, because He alone has the overwhelming evidence to validate His claims.” After sharing some of the evidence for the inspiration of the Bible and the claims of Christ, I thanked them for listening and they thanked me for sharing.
Bill Rudge has hundreds of witness opportunities every year. The preceding is from a new book he is writing entitled, Impact Evangelism – Sharing Your Faith Anywhere and Everywhere.
My 11 year old daughter asked me a question that I am sure all of us have asked at some point in our lives, “Why does God allow bad things to happen to us?” In thinking of how best to answer this question and make sense to an 11 year old, I recalled the story of the “Wolfpack” kids.
These kids were members of the Angulo family. They lived in a small apartment on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. The six sons and one daughter were home-schooled by their mother Susanne, and except for rare occasions they were not allowed to the leave their apartment. Their father, Oscar, was a Peruvian immigrant and he felt New York would “contaminate” his children. In order to protect them from the dangers outside their apartment, he not only kept the door locked, but he possessed the only key to unlock it. In this environment, the father had complete control over their lives, and as the mother stated in an interview, “I felt like I didn’t have control over my choices.” Their father may have created an environment to protect them from danger, but in the process he deprived them of their freedom.
While God is sovereign, He permits human freedom. Thus, He did not create us like puppets, controlling our every move and decision. Nor did he place us in an environment where, like a tyrannical dictator, we were compelled to honor Him. Instead, as we see in the Garden of Eden, He created mankind with the freedom to choose whether to obey or disobey Him (Genesis 3). With the potential of choice came the consequences of choice. As we find in Genesis, Adam and Eve chose to disobey, and with their choice (sin) came the consequences: pain, suffering and death (Romans 5:12; 6:23).
Adam and Eve
At this point, you may be asking the same question my daughter did, “How is it fair for us to be punished for the sins of Adam and Eve?” While it is true that we are all subject to the consequences of Adam and Eve’s sin through birth, we are all still as guilty as they are, for each of us has also used our freedom to disobey God’s commands. In other words, each of us is accountable for our own sin (Romans 3:23; 1 John 1:8). Yet, despite our consistent abuse of the freedom God has given us, He still chooses to be a Father that extends mercy and grace to those who ask for it (John 3:16-17; Romans 6:23).
Why Does God Allow Bad Things To Happen?
The first time I asked this question there was a family which was very close to mine. Their daughter at the age of 13 was diagnosed with cancer. Within a year of her diagnosis she passed away. I found myself asking that very question, “Why?”
If it is true that God is all knowing, then certainly He knows how to prevent this girl from getting cancer. If it is also true that God is all powerful then He should be able to prevent her from getting cancer. And if it is true that God is all loving then He would want to prevent her from getting cancer and dying. Yet, this young girl in the prime of her life, died. Why?
A neighbor wanted to know why her husband of 45 years had to die of cancer and a friend wanted to know why his wife no longer loved him and was leaving him for another man. This very question probably pervades the thinking of every person who has been affected by a natural disaster such as hurricane Sandy.
With a heavy heart I watched the news and witnessed the devastation left by hurricane Sandy several years ago. I was grateful the damage in our area was not as bad as anticipated, but it was hard to see the many people who lost their homes and businesses. A friend of mine called to ask for prayer as their house suffered significant water damage from the storm.
Seeing the images of flooded neighborhoods, burning houses and people without electricity, a particular story stuck in my mind: During the storm, two young boys were killed when a large tree fell into their living room. I instantly thought of my own son and wondered how these families would cope with the loss of their sons.
I wondered why these boys had to die this way. My feelings at that moment were the same way as when I woke up on the morning of July 20, 2012. After going through my morning routine and following breakfast, I turned on the television to check the weather for the day; only then did I learn of the tragic shooting in a Colorado movie theatre. I am sure many of you had the same initial reaction I did, “How could someone do this?” This question (repeatedly asked through every tragedy) leads to other questions, which ultimately leads us to ask: “Why does God allow bad things to happen?”
It is not always possible to give a satisfactory answer for the Why question. But I can point them to the Who! By pointing them to Jesus Christ, I know from personal experience that even in the uncertainty of pain and suffering, we have hope. Several years ago my family faced the painful ordeal of a miscarriage. As I walked with my wife and children through this, the only thing we could hold onto was the hope we have in Jesus Christ.
I shared this hope with a friend of mine who was dying with cancer. When he was healthy, he and his wife did a lot of traveling. I asked him where was his favorite place, and he began to tell me all about Aruba and how beautiful it was; how nice the people were. As he described the beauty of Aruba, it was like he was back there sitting on the beach watching the waves.
A few days later in the hospital I reminded him of our conversation about Aruba, which instantly brought a smile to his face. I began to share with him of a place God had prepared for him that was so much greater than Aruba. I told him about how much God loved Him and how He demonstrated this love by sacrificing His life so that he can go to this place for eternity.
The Heart of Christianity
Like my 11 year old daughter and myself, we may not fully understand in this life why bad things and tragedies happen or why God did not prevent that tree from falling on the house that killed those two young boys. Yet, we can be assured of the depth of His love for us. We can be certain that in the midst of life’s difficulties He is with us – a God who responded to evil, pain and suffering by sending His only Son to die on a cross, offering us the opportunity to live in eternity with Him. We can know the love of a Father Who desires to provide His children not only true freedom, but also eternal blessings. This is the heart of Christianity, and it’s the best explanation of hope to a world full of pain and suffering.
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away… And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be His people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:1-4).
On the first day that my children took a pottery class, they were given a lump of useless clay. The teacher told them this lump of clay would eventually be turned into a beautiful vase. Despite a few imperfections, that is exactly what happened as my children made that piece of clay into a vase that sits on display in our house.
Many of us feel like a useless piece of clay. We look at ourselves and see no value or worth. However, this is not the way that God views us. He sees who we can become, in Him. Many people forget that the purpose of Christianity goes beyond the moment that we are saved. Instead, our faith in Jesus is an ongoing process where God works in us for the ultimate goal of conforming us into the image of His Son Jesus Christ (Romans 8:29).
So the next time you feel like a useless piece of clay, just yield your life over to the Master Potter and let Him mold you into a beautiful vase.
I have met many atheists, such as my former college professor who vehemently denied the existence of anything outside the natural world. He spent the whole semester trying to demonstrate the foolishness of believing in God and the Bible. From his perspective, faith in God was devoid of sound reasoning and mere wishful thinking. Although I earned his respect and we had some profitable discussions, he died several years later as a lonely alcoholic.
Many atheists, agnostics and freethinkers claim they have come to their conclusion through rational thinking and by thoroughly examining all the evidence. Despite not having the ability to know everything and be everywhere at the same time, they are certain God does not exist. They often portray themselves as being enlightened and intellectually superior, while those who believe in the existence of God are, in their estimation, delusional and in need of a spiritual crutch.
Atheism leads to self-centered worship,
where man, not God, becomes
the center of the universe.
However, Scripture indicates they are the real fools (Psalm 14:1) and are “without excuse” for denying God’s reality. Consider the insightful words of the apostle Paul:
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. (Romans 1:18-20).
As Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit says, not only has God instilled within each individual a conscience that bears witness to His existence, He has revealed His reality through His creation. On the Day of Judgment people will be “without excuse,” or anapologetous in the Greek (“without a defense”) for rejecting God because of a supposed lack of evidence. There is more than sufficient proof that He exists.
The Real Reason
While I have heard many arguments against the existence of God, most admitted their initial reasons for rejecting God were of a personal nature such as unanswered prayer, suffering and pain or unwillingness to change immoral behavior. For instance, while at a soccer clinic I met a man named John. Every time someone would bring up the subject of God, John would get very agitated and start yelling that God did not exist and all religions were false.
After a few days of his ranting, I had a chance to talk with John alone. During our conversation, I discovered why he was so hostile: He had family members who were survivors of the Holocaust, and he could not understand why God allowed this atrocious event to happen. Thus, behind all of his arguments and hostile feelings, John was denying God’s existence because of the pain and suffering his family endured.
The apostle Paul goes on to talk about the second step people take after rejecting God: substituting the worship of the true God to worship something within creation:
For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever (Romans 1:25).
When someone refuses to acknowledge the true God, he sets himself up as God. In essence, atheism leads to self-centered worship, where man, not God, becomes the center of the universe. This is the way John lived his life: He became accountable only to himself. He lived a life of self-indulgence as he pursued all forms of temporal pleasures seeking to find lasting fulfillment. Despite all of his attempts, he admitted he still felt a void in his life and a yearning to find purpose and meaning to his existence.
As John and I continued our conversation, I was able to share with him why I believed in Jesus Christ. I explained how my faith was not a blind leap in the dark but was supported by evidence. I specifically detailed the various Messianic prophecies that were fulfilled by Jesus as well as the historical evidence that surrounded His resurrection. When we were done with our conversation, this man who had been so hostile toward God and Christianity looked at me and said, “I never knew there was evidence to verify the Christian faith. In all my dealing with Christians, they never once took the time to share this information with me.”
As the week of the clinic moved on, I continued to build a relationship with John. A few weeks later I received an e-mail: John shared how much our conversation touched his life and that he was now open to further investigation. He closed by stating that just as in the movie It’s A Wonderful Life, George Bailey had impacted the lives of others; so too I had been a George Bailey in his life.
The following are three important principles I use when dealing with self-professing atheists such as John: First, be ready to give a reason for the hope you have (1 Peter 3:15). You never know when a John will come across your path. Second, speak the truth in love (1 Corinthians 13:1-3). Your motivation should be to represent Christ, not trying to win an argument. Third, get beyond what is being said to understand why it is being said. Remember, behind every argument and hostile feeling is a person like John, who is hurting and in need of the love and forgiveness of Jesus Christ (John 3:16, 17).