Tuesday, February 24, 2009

When Bad Things Happen To Good People

"When Bad Things Happen To Good People" is actually the title of Rev Kong Hee's article on sg.christianpost.com. I am not writing to comment on what Rev Kong said in his article but the title reminds me of five persons.

Persons No.1 and 2 - Jesus and the rich young man

Mark 10:17-18
17 Now as He was going out on the road, one came running, knelt before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?” 18 So Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God.

What do we mean when we say "Good People"? Are Christians considered "Good People" just because they are Christians? How about Christians whom you know are not living holy lives? How about non-Christians who are moral and upright?

Rev Kong Hee, in his article, tries to explain why bad things happen to Christians i.e. good people as implied by the title of his article. The term "Good People" brings to fore the subconscious belief that many of us Christians have: we deserve to have good things happen to us because we are "good". When "bad things" happen to us, we subconsciously question God why it is happening since we have been "good" - we attend church faithfully, serve in the church, tithe faithfully, pray regularly, etc or conversely, we rationalise that the bad is happening because we have not been "good".

This is the belief that is no different from other religions i.e. good begets good rewards and bad begets bad rewards. There is a Chinese saying for this: 善有善报 恶有恶报

However, Jesus in Mark 10:18 says that no one is good except God, hence we should always remember that God IS good, and we are "God's People" rather than "Good People", therefore we can expect good because God is good, and not because we are good. But if God is good, then why are bad things happening to God's people? This brings me to persons number 3 and 4.

Persons No.3 and 4 - Master Oogway and Master Shifu

Master who? Well, if you need to ask, then obviously you have not watched the animated movie "Kung Fu Panda". Master Oogway is the grand master of martial art and Master Shifu is his student.

Master Shifu was rushing in panic to report to Master Oogway the "bad news" that Tai Lung (the very highly skilled bad guy) had escaped from prison and coming to attack them. However, Master Oogway very calmly replied,"It is bad news ... if you do not believe that the Dragon Warrior can defeat Tai Lung." (the as yet untrained Kung Fu Panda is supposed to be the Dragon Warrior)

Similarly, when "bad things" happen, they are "bad things" only if we do not believe that God is good and will take care of those "bad things" for us. "Bad things" may look bad to us at first but God will turn around those "bad things" for our good - "And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them." (Rom 8:28)

Consider the case of Joseph who was sold as a slave by his own brothers and later thrown into prison in Egypt. These were really "bad things" that happened to him but everything was turned around when he was promoted straight from prison into the palace to be the second-in-command of the whole of Egypt because "the LORD was with Joseph" (Gen 39:2).

When you know deep down in your heart that God is with you and for you, then you know that the "bad things" are not from God but are attacks from the evil one. However, God will turn these "bad things" into instruments for Him to bring about good in your life - "You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people." (Gen 50:20)

This leads me to person number 5.

Person No.5 - Pastor Joseph Prince

How do we transfer this head knowledge of "God so loves us" into heart knowledge? We have to keep listening and listening to preaching that confirms to us from the bible of how much God loves us and therefore we can expect good from God, for "faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ". (Rom 10:17)

I recommend the following sermons preached by Pastor Prince:

1. God Will Turn Your Evil Day Into Good Days - 08/10/2004

2. Why You Can Expect Good Things To Happen To You - 29/5/2005

3. Good Things Happen To People Who Believe God Loves Them (CD Album)

I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.

And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.
(Ephesians 3:16-19, NLT)


Joo said...

Hi Malcolm,

If you are reading this,I would like to borrow those 3 CDS mentioned in this blog.

Will donate 24 dollars (cost of 3 cds) to 1 North!

Jeffrey said...

Yup ! It's not about making bad people good but dead people live !

The Law is the ministry of death engraved on stones (Tombstone).But the Spirit is the ministry that gives resurrection Life (Empty Tomb) 2 Cor 3:6-8

Those who insist on the Law (external - Thou Shall Nots) don't really understand what the new covenant is all about.He has already written His laws (internal)in our hearts and on our minds.

We now live out the desires(I wills) the HS put in us.The Law represents Moses on the outside.Grace represents Jesus in the inside of us.

God doesn't need to put His Laws (demands) on us bcoz He Has already put them (desires) is us. Heb 8:10-11

Anonymous said...

Is there a definition of "good" in the bible ?

friend said...

I asked "Is there a definition of "good" in the bible?". From reading this article, I guess the answer would be GOD is good, which I can't use for my discussion. So let's not use the word "good" in this discussion.

My questions is: If a person accepts JESUS as his SAVIOUR, why do "bad" things happen to him? There are some answers given in the article. But I don't have an answer for the situations below. For the respect of the dead, I'll not quote the person specifically.

Person No 6 was a good school teacher and a Christian. The person drowned while on holiday in a nearby country. Did the drowning result in anything good for the person?

Person No 7 was a pastor. He went to see a Christian who was ill and was infected by the person. In the end, the pastor also passed away. What was the "good" that came out of this?

You article implies after the bad had happen, there is a turn around which is far better & greater than the bad. And Rev Kong Hee's article also seems to imply that:

Suffering is a good cure for PRIDE
Suffering presses us into God's GRACE
Suffering is a training ground for STRENGTH
Suffering reveals the true nature of our FAITH

These explanations does not address the above situations for 2 persons.

Is Rev Kong Hee's "Broken Down World" the only explanation for them? With no seemingly benefit out of the whole situation?

Stanley Wong said...

Hi friend,

I quoted from Mark 10:18 where Jesus says "No one is good but One, that is, God." In this context and the context of the next paragraph, I mean that Jesus is saying that the moral standards that man judge people by is worth nothing compared to the standard of God - as Isaiah 64:6a says "All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags."

Even though in man's eyes we may seem to be good in terms of moral standards and therefore are called "good people", this level of goodness is nothing in God's eyes. Hence, I say that it is better for us to rejoice in being "God's people" rather than "good people"; we rejoice that we are accepted by God even though we are not worthy.

As for your examples of Persons no. 6 and 7, I don't know how to answer them. I am still on this journey of trying to understand the ways of God.

As for me and my family, we believe in God's word and pray it over ourselves.

Psalm 91

1 He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.

2 I will say of the LORD, "He is my refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust."

3 Surely he will save you from the fowler's snare
and from the deadly pestilence.

4 He will cover you with his feathers,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.

5 You will not fear the terror of night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,

6 nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
nor the plague that destroys at midday.

7 A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand,
but it will not come near you.

8 You will only observe with your eyes
and see the punishment of the wicked.

9 If you make the Most High your dwelling—
even the LORD, who is my refuge-

10 then no harm will befall you,
no disaster will come near your tent.

11 For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways;

12 they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.

13 You will tread upon the lion and the cobra;
you will trample the great lion and the serpent.

14 "Because he loves me," says the LORD, "I will rescue him;
I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.

15 He will call upon me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble,
I will deliver him and honor him.

16 With long life will I satisfy him
and show him my salvation."

friend said...

Yes, it’s a difficult question why Person No 6 and 7, being good Christians in earthly terms died a tragic death. And there are many more of such examples… eg the number of Christians who died in the Tsunami, Twin Tower etc, etc. It’s one of the hurdles I have in understanding Christianity.

You have brought up Mark 10:18 where Jesus says "No one is good but One, that is, God." This is another hurdle I have.

In the epic Ten Commandments, there are 2 episodes which, to me, are not consistent with Mark 10:18:

- killing of the first born in Egypt
- drowning of the Egyptian army at the Red Sea

With all the powers and miracles that GOD can do, why did HE need to kill all first born in Egypt? HE could have done many other things, eg. given Ramesses a terrible sickness and pain till he had to beg Moses to cure him and released the Hebrew. May be I’m a little idealistic and that Ramesses was more stubborn than I think, but I believe it is not necessary to kill so many innocent people. One can argue that Ramesses first ordered the killing of the first Hebrew born. But Ramesses is not GOD. He is not GOOD.

The 2nd episode is the crossing of the Red Sea. A pillar of fire blocked the Egyptian army while the Hebrew crossed the Red Sea but before the Hebrew has finished their crossing, GOD removed the pillar of fire and the Egyptian army advanced into the Red Sea and were drowned. Why did GOD not keep the pillar of fire burning until the Hebrew has reached the other side? The drowning was totally unnecessary.

In my first contact with Christianity, I learned “if any one strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other to him as well” but from history, I can see hatred and anger on the virtuous side.

So in Mark 10:18, what does good really mean?