This week evil asserted itself on the streets of Boston. Some individual, group, organization, or political force executed and maimed numerous innocent people and struck fear into the hearts of a city and threatened the security of a nation. Parents, spouses, family members, friends, and America are left with questions that are all too familiar.
Why did this happen?
What is the purpose of it all?
What should we have done to prevent it?
How will we prevent it the next time?
Where was God and why did He allow this to occur?
These are among the questions heard from believers and non-believers. They are similar to the inquiries made after natural disasters like hurricanes, earthquakes, and tsunamis. We heard them after Newtown, Virginia Tech, 911, the Oklahoma bombing, and Columbine. There seems to always be a part of man that is surprised, and shocked, by the presence of evil and the devastation it can wield.
Many today feel frightened, angry, and uncertain. We turn to one another for support and call out to supposed experts for answers. But the world and all of its wisdom can offer no answer for willful, violent sin. The field of medicine cannot explain it; psychology does not interpret it; and law enforcement will never completely contain it.
Yet, Scripture provides a word of encouragement—a word of assurance—a word of promise and sufficiency.
God Almighty reigns eternal (Ps 47:8). He is sovereign and perfect (1 Tim 6:13-16). He is merciful and long-suffering (Ps 86:15). He is a God of order and purpose (1 Cor 14:33, Prov 16:4). His love endures forever and ever (Ps 89:2) and His judgment is righteous (Gen 18:25).
Satan, Scripture tells us, is the ruler of this world (Jn 14:30); but his reign is brief. He is a mocker of God, a liar and deceiver, and the truth is not in him (Jn 8:44). He loves destruction, he deals in chaos, and he rages against this world because his time is short (1 Pet 5:8). His power is a counterfeit imitation—it will not prevail! (Rev 17:14).
Even so, how do we explain the murder and destruction, the bloodshed and chaos? How do we answer the questions of the grief-stricken and give reason to madness?
Satan would have us believe that his force is so great and his darkness so intense; there is no explanation. He counts on our confusion, he delights in our fear, and he thrives on our despair. He creates the illusion that God has been overpowered and all hope is gone. He turns truth upside down.
When we submit to his rendition of reality, we lose our way; we disconnect from the truth; and we begin to manage death rather than embrace life. Instead of looking to God:
We generate our own explanations for evil…We call it mental illness and disease. We blame genetics, environment, and past experiences. We focus on the failure of our system, our laws, and our leaders.
Then we search for worldly remedies…We say, identify and hospitalize these deranged individuals–create medications, train more police officers, change our gun laws, and elect new political leaders. Then we will have peace and confidence again.
We adopt a reactive, passive response to terror rather than gird ourselves for battle…We stop serving the Kingdom, we surrender our territory, and we cower rather than fight. In short, we hide from evil and hope it does not find us.
But Jesus said: “I am the way, the truth, and the life…” (John 14:6). The Bible is clear: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” (Heb 13:8).
There is no new direction or undiscovered way for us to take. There is no emerging truth about biology, medicine, or human behavior that will heal the devastation wrought by evil, lawless, and murderous sin. There is no political negotiation that will bring peace.
Yet Jesus does not change…His character does not bend…His teachings and requirements are absolute…His Word is reliable and prophetic…and His hope and mercy cannot be undermined by a fallen angel; an angel created by His very hands. We must not let the energy of evil divert us from the reality of Christ and all that we know Him to be.
For the believer, Truth is a Person; Life is a relationship; and our Way is defined within our abiding walk with the Savior Jesus Christ. So when evil pierces the veil and darkness shadows the landscape, we are counseled to draw near to our Lord and rest in the surety of His grip. Jesus said:
My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand (Jn 10:27-28).
We listen for Him through His Spirit who indwells us. We are guided by His immovable moral code. We find comfort in the embrace of His Word and the integrity of His promise. By knowing and holding to Christ, we will be found prepared and equipped for all circumstances this world can produce.
Through Scripture, our Father has taught us to identify the times and season and to anticipate evil that grows from our fallen state. He has warned us that our battles are spiritual, not physical. And He has made it clear that apart from Him we are helpless.
While man focuses on the immediate, God deals with the eternal. The Bible relates that this life is but a vapor (Jas 14:4). We must retain our knowledge of God, even while darkness has its brief moment.
In His Word, God has given evidence of His plan and power. His prophecies have been tested and proven time and again. They exist for our edification and preparation so that we are firmly established in the truth we will need as aliens in a world of anarchy.
The Lord has made multiple provisions in Scripture that alert us to the progression of evil, so that the Body, will not be dismayed. One example comes from the writings of Paul to Timothy:
But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these (2 Tim. 3:1-5).
This description defines the masterminds behind these murders. Whoever is behind this massacre provided an ideal vessel for demonic activity. The hearts of the killers had already denied God. Evil is not an expression of illness or political purpose, it is an expression of a life that is not only void of belief in God; it is a life invested in the hostile opposition of God. Paul wrote:
And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them (Rom. 1:28-32).
Again, the description is strikingly accurate. Our season is defined and the end time is at hand. Individuals like these are so defiant, God has given them over to a debased mind. Debased refers to a mind that is filled with depravity: one that is morally corrupt, disqualified, and rejected by God.
Often, what we define as mental illness or ideological zeal actually is rebellion that has become so chronic, so repetitive, and so vile, that it has provoked the withdrawal of God. We search for an organic, medical, or political explanation, but in truth, the absence of God produces madness.
In the Old Testament, the Israelites were warned that their willful, defiant sin would bring God’s curse:
But it shall come about, if you do not obey the LORD your God, to observe to do all His commandments and His statutes with which I charge you today, that all these curses will come upon you and overtake you (Deut 28:15).
The Scriptures then proceed to list a great number of dire penalties, illness, and suffering that would befall the rebellious people. But take notice of the description of one of those consequences:
The LORD will smite you with madness and with blindness and with bewilderment of heart (Deut 28:28).
In our culture we are witnessing the increase of disobedience, a broadening scope of evil, turning over of the morally corrupt for the works of Satan. With this follows madness, blindness and confusion and identifies our time on the continuum of eternity. But God’s Word not only marks the season, it also explains what our response should be. Even in the midst of the later days, there is an agenda to complete for God. Paul teaches:
But evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. (2 Tim. 3:13-15).
As our world grows “from bad to worse,” Paul points us to the “sacred writings” as our resource for coping. We are not to change our orientation nor surrender our work. We must not forget our education and training. He reminds us to remember Source of our learning; the Lord Jesus Christ. A solid reminder indeed to lean not on our own understanding (Prov. 3:5).
In spite of this warning, Christians become entangled in the thinking of the world. When the crisis comes and evil advances we often forget our source of truth and cease doing what we were instructed to do. In many ways, we are similar to the original disciples of Christ.
During Jesus’ time of earthly ministry, He often told the disciples of the events to come so that they, like us, might be prepared to persevere. Repeatedly the Lord revealed the truth and mystery of the ages to His chosen.
He shared the full truth of His identity, and His deity while explaining His purpose on earth. He informed them of His impending arrest and the persecution and torture He would endure. He openly taught that He would be crucified as a criminal and on the third day He would rise again. Jesus said:
The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed and be raised up on the third day (Luke 9:22).
Yet when everything He foretold came to pass and Christ laid down His life in obedience to the Father’s plan, evil appeared to triumph. Dead and buried, it appeared that His promises and prophecies had been false. His followers forgot His teaching, denied their allegiance, abandoned His call, and scattered like sheep.
Despair was unbearable. Questions were rampant. Doubt surfaced and faith wavered. Fear controlled their every move. In their grief the disciples lost hope in the salvation of the Lord. The anticipated Messiah had been murdered on a cross of shame…and God did not intervene.
It is easy to imagine that their questions were a lot like ours…
Why is this happening?
What are we to do?
Where is God and why is He allowing this to occur?
But while the disciples were hiding in the upper room, Jesus was completing the perfect plan of God—a plan yet to be understood, even by those who claimed Him as Lord.
Frozen in dread the disciples lost their way, disconnected from the truth, and feared for their physical life. Beyond their worldly view, God was orchestrating the glorification of His Son and the salvation of mankind. But from their hiding place it surely seemed that darkness had overtaken the earth.
Apart from Jesus, the disciples were grieved and lifeless. They had no future and no direction. They did not even know how to proceed without Him. But when Jesus returned He appeared to them in that upper room in the midst of their despair. And when they saw the Lord, the Bible tells us, they “rejoiced.” Only a millisecond in His presence, restored their hope, vanquished their fear, and reestablished their peace.
So when it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” And when He had said this, He showed them both His hands and His side. The disciples then rejoiced when they saw the Lord. So Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit” (John 20:19-22).
From that moment forward, the disciples were never alone again. The Holy Spirit would forevermore be their Comforter, Counselor, Teacher, and Guide. With a single breath from the Lord, they would never again forget what they had learned. Each remained bold, faithful, and sacrificial to the One True and Living God. Even in trials, enduring persecution, prison, beatings, and death, their joy remained and their hope never failed.
Eternal life…God’s overarching plan, had trumped the forces of evil and continues in victory this very day. Paul wrote:
But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “DEATH IS SWALLOWED UP in victory (1 Cor. 15:54).
Like the disciples, we are waiting for the return of our Lord. But we cannot afford to wait for Christ’s return before we “rejoice.” Our season is at hand…our work is defined…and our Helper indwells us with a peace and truth that cannot be conquered. Jesus said:
But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you. Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful. (John 14:26-27).
Christ is our explanation. Christ is our remedy. Christ is our answer. He left us His Word and gave us His Spirit, and we are without excuse.
When we fail to read His Word we fail to prepare. If we ignore the road signs, we cannot understand where we are and we will not know where to go. His Word predicts and directs our every move. We should rely on it, turn to it, and consume it. This is not the time for the Body to be ignorant or lazy.
Without the Word, we lose sensitivity to the Spirit. The Scriptures and the Holy Spirit work hand-in-hand. The Spirit interprets the Word giving it power and meaning that we cannot discern on our own. In the unity of Word and Spirit we are equipped for the season and prepared for the work God gives us to do. There is no greater spiritual or emotional peace than to be found at the center of God’s will. To know His will, we must know Him. A simple biblical truth cannot be overstated:
Draw near to God and He will draw near to you… (Jas 4:8).
When we detach from Christ we become vulnerable to sin. We begin to compromise and make concessions. And, make no mistake… prolonged and chronic anxiety, fear, anger, and despair are sinful, toxic emotions that divide us from the Lord and give opportunity to the devil.
If we are lacking in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal. 5:22-23), then our relationship with Christ has been breached. We must repent for our unbelief, confess our error, and return to the only true source of spiritual nourishment that sustains and protects us. Jesus said:
I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing . (Jn 15:5).
If we are not drawing our nourishment from the Vine of Christ, then we are taking in the bitter root of the world and all of its distortions. In this present age, we are called to holiness, faithfulness, evangelism, and unity. We are to be a light in the midst of the darkness. We cannot accomplish anything in God’s perfect work if we are not tending to our own relationship and sanctification. Scripture relates:
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds (Titus 2:11-14).
Now is the time for the Body of Christ to acknowledge our fear, confess our crisis of faith, and ask God to restore our relationship with Him; individually and corporately. The Bible tells us:
There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love (1 Jn 4:18).
In fear there is “punishment” because we are in discord with God. In repentance we reestablish our union with Christ and His peace transforms us with His “perfect love.”
So we must challenge ourselves: Are we living “righteously and godly” in this present age? Are we light in the darkness? Are we “zealous” for good deeds? Are we joyously watching for the “blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus”?
Our peace, joy, and empowered transformation are just a breath away. In His presence, instructed by His Word and engaged in His work, we discover a standard of love, perseverance, and power that enables us to remain loyal even through this time of challenge and trial. Let us be faithful to wait on the glory of God to be revealed at His appointed time. Paul wrote:
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us (Rom. 8:18).
Ask God now, to make you a vessel for His glory and a point of truth in a world that is perishing.