PART 1: OPENING THOUGHT

From time to time we all face difficulties in life. Some of our own making—or to which we have made a contribution—and others apparently totally beyond our control. Sometimes those difficulties may seem to relate to the one big event, and other times it’s just one thing after another. Sometimes there can appear to be a reason for what we are going through, and other times . . . it’s like we don’t deserve it, or it just doesn’t make sense.

Now, what I want to do this morning is to go through the main issue involved—the main cause of our struggles. After all, it helps to know where things are going wrong. And, after that, I want to examine the resource—the help that is available to us all.

And to illustrate what I want to talk about today, I’m going to use some visual illustrations—some water, a few containers, and a bit of food colouring.

PART 2: THE PROBLEM OF SIN

A. INTRODUCTION
Now one of the things I’m going to tell you right from the outset is that it is normal to have troubles in life. It’s not normal to go through life smoothly, with absolutely no hiccups on the way. So one of the things that can give us comfort as we struggle though life, then, is the knowledge that we are not alone. That every single person who has ever lived, lives now, or will live in the future will face difficulties in life.

And even the bible confirms that. Because one of the things about the bible is that it is particularly blunt about people and about their relationship with God. The bible tells it like it is, warts and all. And one of the things it tells us is that no matter who we are, no matter what we do, we will all face struggles in life—Christians and non-Christians alike. It’s part of what life has become. It’s not how God created the world, but it has become part of the world to which we belong.

So, if we all have to face life’s struggles—and none of us are exempt—what is the cause? Well the short answer is: every single one of us. And I’m going to use these things I have in front of me to show you why.

B. THE PROBLEM OF SIN (Deut 31:14-18)
Now one of the things that you often hear are the words “I’ve done nothing wrong” or “I didn’t deserve that” or “Why did God allow that to happen?” So what I’m going to do is to demonstrate how wrong all of those statements are, why we all have struggles, and why we all suffer.

1. No One Is Innocent
[Two beakers with water in them]
Now, I want you to imagine that these containers with water in them are two different people. And I’ll leave it up to you decided if they are good people, bad people or something in between.

[Food colouring]
I also have here some food colouring—and I want you to imagine that the yellow represents the minor things that we do wrong; the blue for when we do major things wrong; and the red for all things in between. And I’m going to show what happens to each of these people every time they do something wrong:

a). Container One – A Good Person
Now the first person has been noted for doing three things in the last week that were wrong.

The first thing is that he brought a pencil home from work the other day—but it was a genuine mistake. But rather than take it back he decided to keep it instead. After all he needed a pencil at home.

Now we need to put a dob of colour in the water to represent his mistake. But which one?
[Yellow – a minor thing, blue – a major, red – in-between]

The second thing is that the other day this same person became aware of someone who was in need. He had the means to be able to help them, but decided that he wanted to keep what he had for himself. And so he did nothing.
[Yellow – a minor thing, blue – a major, red – in-between]

And the third thing is that last Sunday it was a bit cold. And when he woke up he decided it was far too cold to go to church. So he decided to stay in the warm and stay at home.
[Yellow – a minor thing, blue – a major, red – in-between]

b). Container Two – A Bad Person
Now this second person has been noted for doing three things in the last week that were wrong too. The first thing is that on Monday he was involved in a bank robbery—a robbery in which he stole a lot of money.
[Yellow – a minor thing, blue – a major, red – in-between]

The second thing is that the robbery on Monday was an armed robbery, and someone was killed.
[Yellow – a minor thing, blue – a major, red – in-between]

3. And the third thing is that as he was running away from the bank, he was heard to swear. He was heard to take God’s name in vain.
[Yellow – a minor thing, blue – a major, red – in-between]

c). Summary
Now the interesting thing is that these two containers are two different colours. And yet both stole what wasn’t theirs, both showed a lack of care for human life, and both didn’t give God his proper due.

Now we may treat different mistakes with different degrees of seriousness, but what we should realise is that we call good, bad or indifferent isn’t necessarily what God calls good, bad or indifferent. After all, remember both stole what wasn’t theirs, both showed a lack of care for human life, and both didn’t give God his proper due.

Of course making a mistake isn’t just a one-off event, it has ongoing consequences. Not least of which is the danger of getting into the habit of making mistakes. But making mistakes have other consequences too. And the worst of these is that each time we make a mistake we effectively put a wedge between ourselves and God. So if we think that we are good or even believe ourselves to be innocent, nothing could be further from the truth.

2. Corporate Sin
But you know that’s only the first part of the story—that only explains the problem from an individual point of view. But the situation is far worse than that, as we are about to find out. Because we don’t just live lives on our own, we also live in a community—in fact we belong to many communities. We have our family group, our group of friends, our colleagues, etc., but we’re also part of groups who live in the same town, the same state, the same country, and the same world.

[Big bowl]
So, as an example, I want you to imagine that this bowl represents the local community in which we live. Now in our community are people—some of whom we might call “good” and some we might call “bad”. And there would be some who would be in-between as well. And what happens is that just as individuals are coloured by the things they do themselves. So is the community coloured by what it does (and doesn’t do) too.

So in our community are some apparently “good” people [pour half of the contents of beaker one]. And mixed with them there are some “apparently” bad people [pour half of the contents of beaker two]. And obviously there are some in-between people as well.

Now in this bowl can you tell the good from the bad? No!

But what happens on a community level is interesting too. Because in the last week three things happened regarding the community too:

And the first thing is that the local council received some money to upgrade their roads. However the council realised it was a mistake—that the money actually belonged to another council. But instead of giving the money back, the council decided that they needed the money for their own roads. So they decided to keep quiet about receiving the money in the hope that the mistake wouldn’t be picked up.
[Yellow – a minor thing, blue – a major, red – in-between]

The second thing is that within the community it became clear that there were people living in poverty—people who just didn’t have enough to live on. But as a community, were people trying to do something about it? No! People just didn’t want to seem to know. All turned a blind eye to what was going on.
[Yellow – a minor thing, blue – a major, red – in-between]

And the third thing is that despite it being a Sunday there was a group of people—sponsored by the local council—who put on all sorts of activities, at a time that would compete with Sunday worship—effectively discouraging people from worshipping God.
[Yellow – a minor thing, blue – a major, red – in-between]

Now one of the interesting things is that just as our individuals make three mistakes, so did the community of which we they were apart. The community stole what wasn’t theirs, they showed a lack of care for human life, and they didn’t give God his proper due either. And we are all part of communities just like that.

3. Summary
Now each of those things that required a drop of colour has a name. And it’s a word we don’t seem to like to use much these days—sins. And each of those drops shows us not only that we have done wrong, but it indicates a wedge we have placed between us and God.

And that is a real problem. Because the problem is that in order for us to be acceptable to God we need to be this colour. [show beaker with clean water in it]. But in reality as individuals we are this colour [show half full beakers]. And as members of a community we are this colour [show community bowl].

You can see the problem.

C. CONCLUSION
So let’s get back to the question of why do people suffer? Well it’s principally because of what we do and don’t do as individuals. It is also principally because of what we do and don’t do as members of the various communities to which we belong. And the implications and flow on effects of what we do and don’t do have far reaching consequences.

So who is innocent? No-one! No-one meets God’s standards. So when you hear someone say “I’ve done nothing wrong” you should know that just isn’t true. And when you hear someone say “why do the innocent suffer, when bad people seem to be exempt?” Well you should know that that isn’t true either. Because no-one is innocent.

Furthermore, the distinctions we make between good and bad are not the distinctions that God makes. After all, in all three scenarios each person and the community to which they belonged broke the same principles that God has set. It’s only us human beings who have come up with a system of differentiating between sins—between sins that are more acceptable and sins which are not.

So we have a dilemma—a dilemma that needs a solution. But fortunately there is an answer to our dilemma.

PART 3: HELP IS AT HAND

A. INTRODUCTION
Of course the reality of the struggles of life is that we need help. It’s not something we can resolve on our own. We need someone to rescue us—someone who can deal with the situation, someone who can restore our relationship with God. And fortunately that’s exactly what we have.

Because throughout the bible God promised his people, that he wanted to be with them in the difficulties of life, as well as in the good times. And underlying that was God’s promise of a permanent solution to the problem of sin. And it’s a very simple solution, which can be very easily demonstrated using our containers, water and food colouring.

B. THE SOLUTION TO SIN
Because if this is you and me [show counter with half coloured water], and somehow our contaminated water could be substituted for clean [show beaker with clean water], then the consequences of sin can be solved.

And you know that’s exactly what God’s solution is. Because God’s solution to sin is about God substituting the things we’ve done wrong, by effectively making us totally innocent all over again. However, for this solution to work it required a person who had done nothing wrong to take on our mistakes, with all the consequences that entailed.

And that person was Jesus [show beaker with clean water]. And what Jesus did was to take on all the muck and gunk which is ours [show beaker with coloured water], and substitute his life for ours [switch containers]. God, then, dealt with all our sin, by sacrificing his son, Jesus, on our behalf.

C. OUR CHOICES (Matthew 6:25-34)
1. Free Will
Now it has to be said that just because God provided a solution to the problem of “sin”, doesn’t mean to say that everyone has accepted it—or will accept it. It’s not automatic. Consequently even if we accept God’s solution, we will still have to live in the “murky mess”, because of others who don’t want to get clean.

And although we might like God to interfere—to automatically put things right—he can’t do that. He created us with a free will—a will to choose for him, and a will to choose against him—and we wouldn’t be human beings without that.

Consequently just because he has provided a solution to “sin”, he can’t impose that solution on anyone—he can’t take away our freewill. Because to do so, we would cease to be human, and become mere puppets. So God’s solution is not automatic—but is a matter of choice.

2. Two Alternative Choices (Matthew 6:25-34)
And what are the choices?

Well we can carry on as we are—be as “bad” as we like, or as “good” as we like—and leave God’s solution out of the equation. And it’s business as usual. We will then continue to sin, and continue to suffer. And that will have repercussions for us in this world, and in the afterlife too.

Alternatively, we can accept God’s solution, and have our sins forgiven (even the ones we haven’t done yet). Now this won’t exempt us from the problems of this world. But with God walking beside us and helping us through, life should be much more bearable. And, when the world comes to an end, we will have life in eternity with God.

3. Ongoing Effects
Having said that, however, simply accepting God’s solution doesn’t mean we will stop making mistakes. Indeed we will continue to make mistakes as long as we live. And we will not be exempt from the repercussions of what we have done, or will do, in this life.

So we may be forgiven by God for what we have done, but we may still have to face up to the consequences of our actions in the communities in which we live.

D. CONCLUSION
Now with the two alternatives in mind—carrying on as usual, or accepting God’s solution—the reality is that many (if not most) people still want to hold on to life—as is [show coloured water jars]. Many, if not most, people want to hold on to the world, and are not willing to let go. Very few people choose for God [show clear water beaker].

When life gets tough, then: We should always remember the cause of most if not all of our troubles—sin. We should remember that no one is innocent—that no one can really say “what have I done to deserve this?” We should remember there are repercussions for our actions (and inactions), both as individuals and as being part of a community. And, most importantly, we need to remember that there is a solution. But one that requires us to give up our old ways, and accept God’s solution to our sins.

PART 4: CONCLUDING THOUGHT

From time to time we all face difficulties in life. Sometimes we might think: “I haven’t done anything”, “I’m innocent”, “What have I done to deserve this?” Or even “why has God allowed this to happen?”

The reality is, however, that what we face is invariably the result of our own actions, or the result of the actions of the community to which we belong—and the repercussions may be the result of something that has developed over time.

Now whilst things may seem at times to be very unfair, none of us can genuinely claim to be totally innocent. We all make mistakes—we all sin—and we are all part and parcel of communities that sin too.

The problems and traumas of life, then, are the repercussions of sin, to which none of us are exempt.

However, God has provided a solution—a way to deal with the cause of the problem. His solution is to take away our sin, and treat us as though we have never sinned.

[show beaker with coloured water]
[show beaker with clean water]
[switch containers]

It is a way that he can walk with us in the troubles of this life, whilst we wait, and are guaranteed, a trouble free existence in the next. However, it’s a solution that is not automatic. And it is one which we are free to decline.

So we can accept God’s solution or we can reject it. The decision is up to us.

 

PROPS:
apron, food colouring x 3, 3 jars, 1 bowl, water, card table, tea towel

Posted: 16th February 2016
© 2016, Brian A Curtis
www.21stcenturybible.com.au

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