We all have heard the phrase, “Bad things happen to good people.” Often it is said when we believe ourselves to be undeserving of what comes our way. Perhaps we are speaking about someone who we deem to be a “good person,” who gets handed a “raw deal,” and we think that should only be reserved for those who are “bad people.”
The truth is that there are no “good people,” so we cannot say that “bad things happen to good people.” In Romans, we read that there is no one righteous – no one who is good. We are all bad. We all fall short. Therefore, the only way this phrase is true is to say that bad things happen to people. We know that to be true. We live in a fallen world—a broken world. Even as we find ourselves following God’s leading, we will find “bad things” will happen. We are promised persecution (2 Timothy 3:12). We are promised families will be torn apart (Luke 12:53).
Today, let us remember that bad things only happened to the One Who is Righteous. He suffered a lot of “bad things.” He carried all of our sins on the Cross. He did not deserve the wrath of God. He never sinned (2 Corinthians 5:21, Hebrews 4:15). But the “bad things” that happened to Him at Calvary were endured to the finish so that through Him we could be righteous, redeemed—that we, too, would follow Him to the Cross and the Resurrection to a new life—a life that will be all good when we are called home.
“As it is written: ‘None is righteous, no, not one.’” – Romans 3:10 [ESV]
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” – Romans 3:23 [ESV]
Tonight as I walked the dogs, I proceeded down a street I walk every day. As I continued forward, I heard the sound of a drill sergeant from what I imagined. I couldn’t make out the words because it was in the distance, but I envisioned the scenes I had seen again and again in movies. When I got closer, I noticed the all-familiar face of a soldier I spoke to in passing many times.
As this soldier sat on his porch swing, he looked forward, staring at the flags before him—the American flag and the Gadsden flag (“Don’t Tread On Me”). He shouted orders as he stared until he saw the dogs and I approaching. Then he apologized and confided that he got papers today—a red one and a white one. These papers are not what you are probably thinking; they were divorce papers. We spoke for a bit. He was somewhat incoherent. My dog was getting antsy due to an approaching dog so I told him to “hang in there” and continued walking. He returned to his shouting. I felt great sadness.
I ended up crossing the street and passing by again. We again spoke briefly. I told him to “take care.” I started praying for him as I journeyed onward. A short distance ahead were police—two police officers speaking with a neighbor. In little time they made their way up to this man. I continued to pray as sorrow began to weigh me down. Why did I not stay longer to speak with him? Why did I not pray with him? So tonight I pray, I pray for this man who knew I didn’t understand. He said it numerous times during his incoherent mumbling. But I know a God Who understands. He understands even the groans when we cannot speak. He understands all the hurt, all the pain, all the temptations, all the struggles. He understands it all. Sometimes I cannot understand but I’m thankful He always does. Sometimes I cannot find the right words, but He always has a Perfect Word. And I’m thankful that the weight I felt from the burden of sorrow I can give to Him and rest in His promises.
Please pray for this soldier. I don’t know his name. But God does.
“Now that we know what we have—Jesus, this great High Priest with ready access to God—let’s not let it slip through our fingers. We don’t have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He’s been through weakness and testing, experienced it all—all but the sin. So let’s walk right up to him and get what he is so ready to give. Take the mercy, accept the help.” – Hebrews 4:14-16 [MSG]
When I recently asked my daughter to give the dog his food, there was a bit of a mishap. She had some difficulty getting the food out of the can because she had never done it before. When she finished getting out what she could, she tossed the can (still with food) into the recycling bin. The dog quickly noted that there was food still in that can and he retrieved it from the bin. From the next room, I heard the sound of a can moving along the kitchen floor. I quickly retrieved the can and verbally scolded the dog. Then I noted that the can had a good deal of food still in it and realized why he was behaving that way. He saw the good stuff was still inside and could not see the danger—the danger of getting his tongue cut on the can.
We have this same problem in life. There is danger (temptations) all around us. We sometimes cannot hear or see the danger warnings because we keep looking at the good stuff. We see a little good stuff and fall to the temptations. We do not always catch ourselves before it is too late. The devil does not put up flashing neon lights saying, “Danger, I’m going to try to get you to sin with this here.” You won’t hear a “temptation alert” sound when temptations are lurking around the corner. Usually the path to sin is a slow and winding road. C.S. Lewis wrote that the path to hell was gradual. It is when we see the little bit of good stuff and slowly slip away that gets us the easiest.
I cannot warn you of what is around the corner. I do not know what temptations you will face today. But I can point you to Christ who faced every temptation and did not sin. He is our only answer.
“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet he did not sin.” – Hebrews 4:15 [NIV]
“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are — yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” – Hebrews 4:15-16 [NIV]
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Temptation is something everyone has faced at one time or another. If anyone says they were never tempted by anything, I think it would be fair to be a bit distrustful of the individual. Even Jesus was tempted. I have lost track of the temptations I faced in the past few days. It seems when we are most vulnerable, Satan is always there lurking, waiting for us to break down. Jesus was fasting — He was hungry. I’ve gotten very little sleep this past week — I am tired. These types of scenarios are only a few of the ways Satan tries to sneak in the ideals that appear desirable.
It’s important to take a look at the cycle. The cycle begins with the temptation that Satan puts before us. If we are tempted and we falter, we have sinned. Sin leads to death per the Law; however, thanks to the grace of God, it does not end there. God gave us His only Son so that we are able to be redeemed. Only with God are we able to have redemption.
Some people have a problem with understanding temptation. I often hear people saying that they believed God was “testing” them. God does test us. He tests our faith in Him. However, temptations are different because they are evil. God has no part in evil. He may allow evil to persist for a period of time for a particular purpose (ex: transformation, glorification); however, He does not throw evil at us. He does put us through trials, not evil. Trials help to build up our faith. Temptations attempt to steer us away from following God’s Law.
It is important to know that as God allows us to be tempted by Satan, no one is being forced to sin. No one can say they had no other option. Jesus has proved that any temptation could be refused. Also important to note, is that Satan is very limited in what He is permitted to even use to tempt a person. Remember the story of Job. God did not bring evil upon Job, but He allowed Job to experience the evil that Satan brought. The entire time, God was in control. God knew what would happen. God did not allow Satan to snuff out Job. God never gives us more than we can handle. He knew what Job could handle.
God always provides a way out of every temptation. If we look at the temptations that Jesus faced in the desert, we discover that Satan used various human needs to tempt Jesus: the physical needs (hunger), the emotional needs (security), and the psychological needs (power). I think it’s important to remember that Jesus had supernatural powers, so when He was tempted, He had the option of making the choice to take things into His own hands. Even though He was fasting, and food would have been very tempting, He didn’t cave in to His desires. What was His secret?
If you read about the temptations Jesus faced in the desert (Matthew 4), you will find that with each temptation, He used Scripture to overcome a temptation. Scripture? Well we have that– so why are we not stopping at the temptation? We need to know Scripture. I am not saying we must necessarily memorize the Bible word-for-word; however, daily reading and Bible study allow for us to have God’s Word written on our hearts. We get to know His commands and the Holy Spirit does some miraculous things as well. I also think it’s important to mention prayer. Throughout Jesus’ ministry, more temptations came His way. His love of God’s Word and His continuous prayer kept Him strong to defend against any temptation that crossed His path.
Maybe temptations seem unable to be defeated. Perhaps our miscalculations of their strength allows us to falter. Lets not forget that Jesus never fell for a single temptation, and therefore was the only sinless human to walk the earth. We have a wonderful example, a great model for how to handle temptations in our own lives by looking at His life. Scripture and prayer are both important. I like to say I wear the “Armor of God.” If you have read Ephesians 6 before, you would know that the armor includes the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the sandals of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. Don’t ever think something can get the best of you. You are always under God’s protection– put on your armor.