A husband comes home from a late day at work expecting to see his smiling wife, but instead he is greeted with a house full of silence. As he makes his way through the house, he begins to hear the sobbing sounds of his wife in the bedroom. There is news, it is not good, and the next words she will utter will shatter the calm of the world he thought he knew.
All of us know stories of devastation. All of us know someone who has suffered greatly, and some of us have stories of our own that would sunder the hardest heart. In the moments of great despair, there is no greater problem in the world at that moment than the one we face, precisely because of its proximity and nearness to us, because its effects are immediate in our lives, and because for the rest of our lives we will always have an easy path to that moment and relive and feel everything all over again.
Whether we hear of such stories or live through them, the inevitable question comes: "Why?" In the case of children or innocent victims, we often ask "Why would a loving God allow such bad things to happen to good people?"
It is a tough question, and one worth considering. There are many who would point to these exact moments in life as though they were proof that God is not real, or that if God is real, then He is a heartless, careless God. While we as Christians with a firm faith in God do not accept such judgements, even I must admit that I have sometimes in the silence of my soul pondered why such things happen.
In another familiar story mentioned last week that makes a great example is the story of Cain and Abel. We are all familiar with the actual story, so I will not retell it here, but suffice it to say that we would all agree that God knows everything and therefore knew of Cain's murderous intent before the crime was committed. On the other hand we have Abel. Abel had done nothing wrong, in fact, God was pleased with Abel. The death of Abel was not a judgement of God regarding sin in his life. In the end, we also know that God could have easily prevented the murder, but did not.
With such knowledge we must go where the unbeliever goes . . . God knew, God could have prevented it, but God did nothing to stop it. Why?
One hard fact that we all must understand is that we are not physical beings. This is crucial, because this understanding opens up a larger picture of what is going on. With a word, God from the spiritual realm spoke and everything we take in with our senses was created. The world and universe we know is but a fraction of reality. Some few men in the Bible were privileged enough to see into this spiritual realm, but suffice it to say that the spiritual reality is far greater than the physical one, and things that happen in the spiritual realm affect the physical world we see.
Another hard fact, is that we are spiritual beings with the shroud of a physical body, and we are called to fight in spiritual warfare (Ephesians 6:12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. II Corinthians 10:4 For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;)
As in battle, when there is victory, there are results, but also when there is no victory, there are consequences. The battlefield is in the hearts and minds of men, and there where we wage our war, God has given us free choice, thus God will not interfere.
Cain lost at least one spiritual battle before murdering his brother. God does not condemn Cain, but tries to encourage him to do better. Instead, Cain loses the spiritual battle of the heart and mind, and the consequences of that loss result in the murder of his own brother.
You see, when we lose the spiritual battle for our hearts and minds, there are consequences, but they need not all be so dire as murder. Bad attitudes, back-biting, resentment and anger, and a whole list of consequences can be found in Galatians 5:19-21. Read the list, and if you see any of these things true for you in your life, then rest assured, you are losing spiritual battles somewhere. If you are the victim of such things, then others around you have lost spiritual battles, and your proximity to them can mean that you endure some of the consequences of their failure on the battlefield.
Galatians also lists results of victory in spiritual warfare in 5:22-23. See, we often pray for the fruit of the Spirit as though it is a gift that God simply grants, but that is not how fruit is born. Fruit is a result of a process. Win the spiritual battles in your life, and the fruit of the Spirit will be yours, and not just for you. For as every victor celebrates a victory with others, so your life can become an inspiration for others around you with every spiritual battle you win.
You were given a sword, armor, and a shield for a reason. Defend yourself, my fellow warrior. You are called to fight.