Back up in the hills several years ago the mountain folk pondered a mystery that has vexed mankind from the earliest days – “Why do bad things happen to good people?” Their musings produced a gospel standard that is sung at camp meetings everywhere.
“Tempted and tried, we’re oft made to wonder why it should be thus all the day long. While there are others living about us, never molested though in the wrong.”
Indeed, why do the righteous suffer, and the wicked prosper? Surely you’ve wondered as much from time to time. The only solution those Tennessee highlanders could come up with, still remains the only answer anyone can give to this very day –
“Further along we’ll know more about it. Further along we’ll understand why. Cheer up my brother; come sing in the sunshine. We’ll understand it all by and by.”
Job, in bitterness of soul, pointedly asked, “Why does God let evil people even live? And not only live; but live well. They grow old and prosper! No calamity comes to their homes.” (see Job 21). Yet, he wisely concluded, “But who are we to tell God how to run his affairs? He’s dealing with matters that are way over our heads” (21:22, The Message).
Jeremiah took a more tactful approach, and appealed directly to the Lord, “You are right, O GOD, and you set things right. I can’t argue with that. But I do have some questions: Why do bad people have it so good?” (Jer.12:1, The Message).
The Psalmist Asaph, in the typical self-disclosing style of all poets, put it this way, “When I looked at the prosperity of the wicked I became envious. They aren’t troubled like other people or plagued with problems like everyone else. Why then should I even try to be righteous?” (see Psalm 73)
How about you? Have you ever had one of those seasons when you got hammered from every side, and there seemed to be no end in sight. And no matter how much you cried and called out to God, He was silent….or, at least, very slow to answer? I have. In fact, I’m still walking through it – although, the Lord willing, the worst is over. Nevertheless, I am what I am by the grace of God.
There are times when we are tested far above and beyond what we think is bearable. Yet somehow, by the grace of God, we make it through the fire and come out on the other side unwilling to trade anything for it. So rich are the treasures we find in those dark and lonely places. The great Charles Spurgeon, Prince of Preachers, said, “Many men owe the grandeur of their lives to their tremendous difficulties.” He then added, “The Lord gets his best soldiers out of the highlands of affliction.”
So, what’s the deal? What is the Lord doing in times like these? How are we to stand, and make our way through the fire when the furnace seems to heat up more than ever before?
There may be no other disciple in the New Testament with which so many believers today can personally identify than Simon Peter. He was passionate and headstrong; quick to repent, and even sometimes quicker to blow it once more. His life unfolds before us in great drama, speaking time and time again to the issues that lay within our own hearts.
So let’s take a look at what happened to Simon Peter when he passed through the fire, and see if we can learn something for ourselves.
Peter’s Fiery Trial
Simon Peter had no idea that night in the Garden what Jesus meant when He said,
“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren” (Luke 22:31-32).
A brief outline of this verse gives us each a look into the way the Lord works when He lets the devil loose in our lives. Five things stand out to me.
#1 – The Fact – “Satan has desired thee.”
The word means “to beg for one’s self, to ask that one be given up to one from the power of another; to claim back.” In effect Satan was saying, “He belongs to me; I want him back under my power.”
The devil actually thinks that he still has the right to assault you, yet he clearly knows that he is hindered by The Lord, and so he begs. “Let me at him,” the devil says. “Give me just one shot, and he will curse you to your face!” (see Job 1:11)
#2 – The Honor – “Satan hath desired THEE.”
This is where it gets personal. The devil knew that Peter posed such a threat to his dark kingdom that he wanted to keep him from ever becoming all that Jesus had in mind for Peter to become. Friend, surely it is a high honor to be in such a place – the kind of person the devil wants to eliminate at all cost.
I remember hearing Leonard Ravenhill preach from this text, sounding like thunder as he stood behind the pulpit – “I want to be on Hell’s Most Wanted list! I want my name written in 10ft letters on the hallways of Hell, “Get Leonard Ravenhill!”
Not many today would dare even say such a thing – so great is their fear of Satan. What a shame!
#3 – The Purpose – “to sift as wheat”
Sifting means to shake as grain in a sieve so that the wind blows away the chaff while the seed passes through. Figuratively, this means to agitate and prove by trials and afflictions. While the devil means to harm us, God is only permitting him to improve us!
You would think the devil would have learned this by now. Each blow he lands only makes us stronger! He truly would have been better off if he had just left us alone. And while I’m on the subject, let me pointedly ask you, “Is the devil leaving you alone?” Surely you realize this is not a good thing.
I heard once that if you wake up in the morning and don’t meet the devil head on – you’re both going in the same direction!
#4 The Promise – “I have prayed for thee”
What consolation is this! Think of the many times you have been overwhelmed to the point that you ask a trusted friend to pray for you; someone you esteem as being close to God. Well who can top this?
The Lord Jesus says, “I have prayed for you!” And what is He praying? He tells us in His own words, “that thy faith fail not.”
In other words, the storm is going to hit with full force in all its fury – but your faith will stand strong. You are coming through it on the other side!”
#5 The Result — “strengthen the brothers”
You cannot give away what you do not have. If you would be a source of encouragement and hope to others who are going through severe trials, then by necessity you must pass through them yourself.
And the God of all comfort walks with us in all our affliction so that “we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God” (2 Corinthians 1:4).
Peter came through the fiery trial and now stands in history as a great apostolic father in the Faith. What is his message to us today?
“Resist the devil, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. (1Pe 5:9-10).
I like the way The Message puts this verse, “Keep your guard up. You’re not the only ones plunged into these hard times. It’s the same with Christians all over the world. So keep a firm grip on the faith. The suffering won’t last forever. It won’t be long before this generous God who has great plans for us in Christ — eternal and glorious plans they are!–will have you put together and on your feet for good.”
Three Critical Mistakes to Avoid
There are three critical mistakes we typically make when the fire lights up and all hell breaks loose in our lives. First, we doubt and blame God. Second, we magnify the problem, convincing ourselves that it is more than we can handle. And third, we imagine that we are all alone as we face it.
Put them altogether and our complaints sounds something like this, “God has let me down! He’s putting me through something that is more than I can handle! Nobody knows what I’m going through, and nobody cares! I’m all alone!”
OK, let’s set the record straight.
FIRST, God is Faithful!
The Bible says, “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).
Did you catch that one phrase? “God is faithful.” There is no way, no how that God will let the devil have access into your life beyond the measure of His grace.
SECOND, this is not more than you can handle.
Have you ever seen a weight limit sign posted at a bridge crossing? It’s there to notify truckers of the freight load; what the bridge is built to handle. The same is true of you! God knows what you are made of, and just how much weight your life can bear. And He will not allow the devil to roll more over you than you can bear. NEVER!
THIRD, You are not alone.
There are few things the devil likes more than to get you believing that you’re the only one going through a tough time. He wants you to feel alone, forsaken, and forgotten. If he can pull it off — you will drop your guard and lower your shield of faith; becoming wide open for his more assiduous assaults. Don’t let him win — keep a firm grip on your faith.
The truth is – you are NOT alone. Everybody is going through it with you. No one is exempt, all are in some way being challenged and stretched to their limits; just like you. What you are experiencing is “common to man.” In other words — we all know what you’re going through, because we are going through it ourselves!The Apostle Peter put it like this, “the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world.”
So the next time you’re feeling all alone, and deep down inside you hear the rumblings of that old song — “O nobody knows the trouble I seen” — stop right there. EVERYBODY knows! In fact, we are all going through it with you.
Let this be your perspective during times of great trial and testing.
“Lord, You are faithful and true; You will never allow me to face a trial or temptation which is greater than what I can handle. You will always provide me the way to bear up until it passes. This is Your commitment to me, and to all others who are experiencing their own challenges. I am not alone, nor are my struggles mine alone. Others are facing the same fears, worries, anxieties, and dreads — show them what You have shown me, so that their hearts may be filled with faith and comforted with hope.”
A Closing Word
It is worth pointing out that these “fiery trials” are not a one-time thing. No, these “episodes” visit our lives somewhat randomly, and always inconveniently. And while, to us, they always over stay their visit; nevertheless, they pass like dark clouds, and the skies are blue once more.
Peter said, “Think of your sufferings as a weaning from that old sinful habit of always expecting to get your own way. Then you’ll be able to live out your days free to pursue what God wants instead of being tyrannized by what you want’ (1Pe 4:1-2 The Message). And then he goes on to say, “The suffering won’t last forever. It won’t be long before this generous God who has great plans for us in Christ–eternal and glorious plans they are!–will have you put together and on your feet for good.”
On a Personal Note — in the midst of my own trials and tribulations, as I’ve cried out to God for help, He put this short poem into my heart. It brought me great encouragement; maybe it will do the same for you.
“This is a test that I’m passing you through; I’m weighing your heart, to know what you’ll do. For I have purposed to use you in ways I think best – but, I only can do so if you pass this test.”
So, why do bad things happen to good people? ………………..That’s why!
Father in Heaven, bring comfort to those who are afflicted, and give them a faith that is greater than all their fears, and a peace that passes understanding. Strengthen their hearts with the hope that You are doing a great work in them – and will do a great work through them. Fill their spirit with courage to stand strong.
Make Your presence near and dear to them so that they have light in their darkest hour. Shame the devil with their victory, and let glory cover their faces as they stand to praise Your name with thanksgiving and gladness of heart! Amen
Questions for Discussion Group
Here is a way you can share this truth with others. Print out the PDF version of this Devotional — click 03 Why do Bad Things Happen – then, after you have printed the document, make copies and distribute among a group of friends. Meet together, read the devotional, and then use the following questions to help lead a discussion time.
- Describe a time when God brought you through the fire and showed you how it was actually a blessing in disguise.
- How do you feel about the Lord letting the devil have access into your lift, to sift you as wheat?
- In what ways have you been able to provide encouragement and strength yo others because of what the Lord has brought you through?
- Of the Three Critical Mistakes to Avoid — which one seems to be where you struggle in times of weakness and doubt?
- When it comes to serving the Lord with your gifts and abilities, what would be your dream come true?
TruthWorks Ministries is a non-profit ministry, depending solely upon love offerings or honorariums generated by speaking invitations; and upon the generosity of readers like you through contributions made online. For info on how you can partner with us click on the “Support TruthWorks” link located at the top of our website. Thank You!