Evaluating Evil: Overcoming Evil
Romans 8:28, 35, 37-39
Rev. Sandy Johnson
February 7, 2016
This morning we come to the end of our series on evil. I don’t know about you, but I am glad to get it behind us. This has been a hard series to preach. There is so much evil and suffering in the world that we attempt to hide or ignore and having it sort of “in your face” for the last few weeks has been difficult. This morning we will wrap it all up as we consider how we survive, how we overcome evil and live in God’s creation as Godly people.
Prayer: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable to you O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. Amen.
“There were two evil brothers. They were rich, and used their money to keep their ways hidden from the public eye. They didn’t want anyone to know how awful they were. They attended the same church and looked to be perfect Christians. No one knew the truth. “Then, their pastor retired, and a new one was appointed. Not only could he see right through the brothers’ deception, but he also spoke well and true, and the church started to swell in numbers. A fund-raising campaign was started to build a new wing. “All of a sudden, one of the brothers died. The remaining brother sought out the new pastor the day before the funeral and handed him a check for the amount needed to finish paying for the new building. “I have only one condition,” he said. “At his funeral, you must say my brother was a saint.” The pastor gave his word, and deposited the check. “The next day, at the funeral, the pastor did not hold anything back. “He was an evil man,” he said. “He cheated on his wife and abused his family.” After going on in this vein for a short time, he concluded with, “But, compared to his brother, he was a saint.”
We know evil exists, don’t we? We have heard a number of ideas about where it came from, how it exists in the world and how it is dealt with. Once we accept the knowledge that it does exist, probably the thing we most need to know is how to overcome it. How do we work around or through the evil before us, to be the people that God has called us to be? How do we overcome evil and not be squashed in the process?
First and foremost we must be connected with God. Through prayer, worship, and community we must be seeking God, reaching toward God and surrounding ourselves with the people of God. We can’t do this life solo and it is much better for all of us when we align ourselves together toward the will of God for our lives.
Our scripture this morning from Romans 8 is one of my favorite because it reminds us that God will make things right. In the midst of the worst trial or suffering, God is there offering his love and protection, his healing and his comfort.
We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.
Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
That’s some promise. In the midst of trials we can rest assured that God will make something good, something beautiful. Think about the diamond. Do any of you know how a diamond is made? From a chemistry point of view it is made of pure carbon. It is only through extreme heat and pressure that diamonds are formed. The recipe would go something like this:
Bury carbon 100 miles deep inside the earth, heat it to about 2,200 degrees Fahrenheit, apply no less than 725,000 pounds of pressure per square inch and complete the transformation from carbon to diamond by quickly rushing it to the Earth’s surface to cool, most likely through volcanic activity. The part that gets me is the incredible temperature and the pounds of pressure that are required to create a diamond. And out of this severe environment and under the utmost pressure, we get the diamond.
All things work together for good. In the midst of trial and suffering God will take the pressure we are under and create something absolutely breathtaking. What about forest fires? Some believe that a forest fire should be extinguished immediately, saving the forest from destruction. That is not entirely the case. Every forest will at some point burn.
It is a natural process that is required for the overall health of the forest. “Fire is the mechanism by which the forest is continually regenerated.” Fires consume dead, decaying vegetation accumulating on the forest floor, thereby clearing the way for new growth. Some species, such as the jack pine, even rely on fire to spread their seeds. The jack pine produces “seratonous” (resin-filled) cones that are very durable. The cones remain dormant until a fire occurs and melts the resin. Then the cones pop open and the seeds fall to the forest floor.”
Out of the ashes of a forest fire comes new life. I want to suggest that enduring suffering is not always the horrible, awful, to be avoided at all costs, event in our lives. Of course we don’t wake up one morning and say, “gee, I’d like to suffer today!” “How about a tall cup of suffering to go with your breakfast?” But what we do know is that when the suffering comes, and it certainly will come, we know that we are capable of enduring it and ultimately thriving as a result.
But we are to surrender ourselves to God in prayer and allow him room to be God. We aren’t to come to God with our own self-serving list of wants and desires, nor are we to tell God how to run his universe. God speaks to us through our prayer life and also through the actions of others. “I will suggest that God walks with us, that God walks through us, that God takes the evil and suffering that occurs in life and forces them to serve us, and that God ultimately will deliver us.”
“Faith in God is the Christian response to the problem of fear. Among the primary affirmations of Scripture is simply that God is with us. God promises never to leave us or forsake us. God is as near as the air we breathe. As we trust this truth, and experience God’s presence, we find that “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7) begins to replace the angst of human existence.”
“In Psalm 55:22a David writes, “Cast your burden on the LORD, / and he will sustain you.” He doesn’t say, “Cast your burdens on the LORD and he will immediately fix everything that troubles you.” He says that God will sustain you.”
“God not only promises to walk with us but God also promises to work through us to come to the aid of others in need.” God has a way of working though his people to help his beloved. God is a gentleman and doesn’t force his wishes upon us, he accomplishes his desires by influence, not force. It is up to us to listen for those gentle whispers, so that we can be used by God to answer someone else’s prayers. Then we will be privileged to see God working through others to answer our own prayers.
This past week I traveled to Tucson for a clergy gathering. I had the privilege of being the answer to someone else’s prayers. Pastor Linda Larson from Caliente was on our flight. She hadn’t made any transportation plans to get from the Tucson airport to the retreat center which was 20 miles away. As she and I talked I realized that she needed a ride. I immediately offered to drive her in the rental car I was getting. On the way there she shared that she has health conditions that make it difficult for her to walk very far. I assured her that when we got to the retreat center I would stay with her until she got her room and then drive her as close to the door as I could get. We both got our keys and low and behold, she and I were neighbors, right next door to each other. There were hundreds of rooms at this place and she and I shared a wall. In my willingness to be helpful, I was an answer to her prayer. I was able to help her with her bags and she felt blessed as a result.
“This idea – that God’s primary way of working in our world is through people – is assumed throughout Scripture. God instructs his people how they are to care for one another throughout the bible. The Law of Moses commanded that farmers were to leave the edges of their corps unharvested so the poor could have something to eat by gleaning the edges. God did not drop food down from heaven, but instructed the people to provide for one another.
“We see this idea repeated in Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) and the parable of the Sheep and the Goats (Matthew 25:31-46). In both of these well-known parables, Jesus teaches that the essence of love and authentic discipleship is to help those who are in need. By doing this we become the hands and voice of God for others and in this way God answers prayer and works in our world.”
We know that God uses each of us to help others, but did you know that God forces evil and suffering to serve us? “God brings good from evil. God takes our sorrow, suffering and sin and bends it, redeems it, and sanctifies us through it.” This is the rhythm of the universe. Over the course of billions of years galaxies have been born, died and reborn. Our earth has been formed and reformed by the destructive and creative powers of God. “All creation seems to follow this rhythm in which new life and beauty are born out of destruction and pain.”
“In our personal lives, when we place our sorrows and suffering in God’s hands, we find God redeems the suffering and uses it for our good.” This isn’t to say that we celebrate the challenges and suffering we are in the midst of, but it does mean that ultimately God will bring something good from the ashes of our sorrow. “God takes the pain and the grief and the wounds of our past, and transforms them into objects of beauty. The greatest example of God’s work through suffering is, of course, the death of Jesus Christ. Jesus’ death was the act of men who were threatened by his popularity (the religious leaders) and those who saw in his messianic identity a challenge to Rome (Pilate and the Roman soldiers). Jesus faced his own death with both angst and determination. God used his suffering and death for the redemption of the world. Through this act of evil, God would bring about good. Through Jesus’ death, humanity would see the reality of human sin and God’s willingness to suffer and die for it. Through his death on the cross, we would see the depth of God’s love and the costliness of grace.
“Through suffering, God changes hearts, which leads to changed lives and to good triumphing over evil. Ultimately, hardship and suffering, evil and sin, will not have the final word. That is the overwhelming message of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus was put to death by men whose hearts were evil. God, in Jesus Christ, is subject to the forces of darkness. Yet we cannot forget that the cross is not the end of the story. With great triumph Christianity affirms that though Jesus was crucified, dead, and buried, on the third day God raised him from the dead! The resurrection of Jesus Christ is itself a shout from God that good triumphs over evil, that the forces of light will defeat the forces of darkness, that life will vanquish death!” Sisters and brothers, “Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning.”
Let us pray: Lord Jesus, we are so thankful for the example you have set for us. Let us always strive to imitate you and to never forget that your resurrection proves to us that God triumphs over evil, that light shines over darkness and that we will experience joy in the morning sunrise. Amen.
 Hamilton, Adam. Why? Making Sense of God’s Will. Abingdon Press, Nashville, TN. Page 79
 Hamilton, Page 79
 Hamilton, Page 81
 Hamilton, Page 82
 Hamilton, Page 86-87
 Hamilton, Page 88
 Hamilton, Page 88
 Hamilton, Page 91-92
 Psalm 30:5a