John 9:1-11 – “As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?"
"Neither this man nor his parents sinned," said Jesus, "but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life. As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world."
Having said this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man's eyes. "Go," he told him, "wash in the Pool of Siloam" (this word means Sent). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.
His neighbors and those who had formerly seen him begging asked, "Isn't this the same man who used to sit and beg?" Some claimed that he was. Others said, "No, he only looks like him." But he himself insisted, "I am the man." "How then were your eyes opened?" they demanded. He replied, "The man they call Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes. He told me to go to Siloam and wash. So I went and washed, and then I could see." NIV
Here we see a blind man, alone on the side of the road or the edge of a building, sitting, begging, waiting for a hand out. Jesus and the disciples pass by and take notice of him.
The disciples want to know, whose sin caused this man’s blindness, his or his parents. The common belief of the day was that suffering, disease was sent by God as punishment for sins. Since this man had been blind from birth and obviously he had not sinned, whose sin was he being punished for? Sin was not why he was blind, God’s power, God’s glory was why. He had been born blind for one reason, so that on this day Jesus could glorify the Father by healing him of his blindness. Jesus does not challenge the belief about sin, does not say that they are wrong about disease, just that this time, for this person, he was blind for God’s glory. And then Jesus moves on to healing the blind man.
With icky spit and dirty dirt he changes the man’s life, a man born blind can now see. The glory of God transferred from the mud to his eyes. The transaction, the healing was completed by the man’s faith, humility and obedience. He had to go to the pool, walking through the town with mud on his eyes. It was only after he washed in the pool that he could see. No questions, just faith. He thinks he knows who does it, but he is not sure who Jesus really is until later in the story.
The response of his friends? Confusion and questions – “Are you who we think you are?” he looks, walks, talks like the blind beggar, could it be? If so, who did this? So the ex-blind man witnesses to them. Jesus did this and he tells them how. He had received the glory of God and he now gives glory to God.
Later, the friends of the blind man would tell the Pharisees and they would put the man on trial, as well as his parents. Even the miracle comes at a cost for him and his family.
An unnamed man and his family – their whole lives a struggle and even when a miracle comes their way – trouble comes with it. You wonder if some of the people thought if the blind man would ever catch a break. His blindness has been healed and instead of rejoicing, he finds himself and his family put on trial. Born into darkness, now he can see the light. But instead of rejoicing in seeing, he experiences more trouble and stress.
The blind man and his parents had done nothing wrong and yet he was blind from birth. He had done nothing wrong in receiving the miracle. But He can’t catch a break - no celebration yet. This type of experience is not an isolated story. There are similar stories with Job in the OT and Lazarus in the NT. Lazarus’ story is very similar to the blind man – they both clearly had their trial so that God would be glorified and both had issues with the Pharisees afterward.
John 12:9-10 “Meanwhile a large crowd of Jews found out that Jesus was there and came, not only because of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well,” NIV
Lazarus, minding his own business, falls ill, and dies. Then he is miraculously raised from the dead by Jesus after 4 days, only to have his life threatened by the Pharisees. Jesus loved Lazarus and yet he allowed him to die so that God would be glorified. This miracle too comes with a price, a bounty on his head from the Pharisees.
Does this seem cruel? A God that would not give sight to someone at birth so that he could work a miracle? A God that would cause someone to die so that he could be glorified?
Tough questions with difficult answers. Remember God grants us all that we have. None of us earned the right to be born and to continue to live today. Life is a privilege that God grants us, each breathe a precious gift. Isn’t a blind life better than no life, and how well, for those that can see, do we use that gift to see God? God created us and as a righteous loving God, he has the right and the power to seek to be glorified by his creation. Nature speaks to the glory of God, shouldn’t his best creation, mankind, do the same?
Matthew 24:36-42 - "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left. "Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.” NIV
Jesus quickly moves from the question of sin to doing the Fathers will. If God gets the glory, does it matter why? We have a limited time to serve. When the end comes for us, we can no longer do any work for God. Our chance to create a witness, a testimony for God is now.
We do not know when time is up. Matthew tells us that the end will come and catch the world unaware. Christians have been waiting for the rapture for over 2000 years, and honestly, no one here really believes that it will happen soon, or even in their lifetime. Yet the reality is that it is coming, sooner today than yesterday. In the blink of an eye it will be over. Some day Jesus will come and life will change for all of eternity. One will be gone, one will be left.
We must always be ready for Jesus to come into our life. The blind man, just sitting there and boom, Jesus comes and everything is different. A better life for sure, but new issues as well. It may not be the rapture that changes our life, it may be God that comes and changes our life before then.
It was March 23rd, a routine Monday morning. Things were slow at work. I remember telling Janet how slow the week was going to go. We were scheduled to go to OSU on Friday for a consult to start another round of cancer treatments. The anticipation and anxiety of that, and coupled with a slow work week, it seemed like a long week was in store. By 4pm, all that had changed. In a split second, a freak accident at work sent me to the ER with a crushed foot, pulled hamstring, a severely sprained ankle, and a cut hand.
On the way home from the ER that afternoon, I got a phone call from our family doctor with the results of an MRI that I had a week prior on my neck. Instead of physical therapy, which was the hope, I needed to see a neurosurgeon, quickly. What was just a mild neck issue a year ago was now severe.
This was not in my plans.
A slow week was suddenly in chaos. What does neck surgery mean, how serious is it. I’m on crutches, I can’t bend my left leg and I am supposed to go to OSU on Friday. Why all of this now? Cancer, injuries, neck surgery, enough already.
In one of the phone calls that night with co-workers, I heard one of life’s ultimate questions - Why would God do this or allow this; I don’t remember the exact wording. Why do bad things happen to good people? At the moment of the accident, there were two of us in the way, myself and a co-worker. One got hurt and one was spared. The friend walked away, I got hurt.
The ex-blind man shows us the proper traits that we need to be able to move through the bad times. His faith (in Jesus and mud) led to obedience (going to pool) with humility (going to the pool with mud on his face) and then glory to God (Jesus did this).
Why do bad things happen to good people?
“IFHOGG” – increased faith, humility, obedience, God’s glory. Each of these needed at varying degrees to allow us to live when the world seems to be caving in on us.
1 Peter 1:6-7 “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith — of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire — may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” NIV
Faith refined and worth more than gold leads us to give glory to Jesus. The bad things reveal Jesus to us in a new way so that we can show God to the world in all ways. Bad things authenticate our faith. Faith opens our eyes to God at work in all the things around us.
Luke 18:18-19 – “A certain ruler asked him, "Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" "Why do you call me good?" Jesus answered. "No one is good — except God alone.” NIV
No one is good except for God, so get over yourself. Remove pride and the question changes - it becomes “Why do bad things happen to good people?” Remove pride and the “why me” question melts away as well. When bad things come, pride needs to take a back seat. Pride wants you to stay put; humility allows you to move forward. The removal of pride is the first step of obedience.
John 14:23 - “Jesus replied, "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” NIV
The natural evidence of love in all cases is obedience. Obedience carries us through the trial. Jesus wasn’t just obedient to the cross, but through the cross and back to heaven with our heavenly Father. Obedience continues the work of humility and moves the focus from ourselves and puts it on God and others. Past obedience does not offset future obedience.
God’s Glory first, then glory to God
John 11:4 – “When he heard this, Jesus said, "This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God's glory so that God's Son may be glorified through it." NIV
The power and work of God is just a part of his glory. We have the chance to experience that glory when bad things happen and to return glory to God by telling our story.
While the bad things in life may cause us to suffer for a while, remember that Jesus himself has already suffered the most. And it was through his suffering that he reentered glory with the Father in heaven. We suffer not just to suffer, but for many reasons, most far beyond our understanding. There will be tough days, but instead of why me, how about why not me.
Perhaps the bad things in life are just like the man being born blind, things that allow us to experience God’s power and for a chance to glorify him. Seem cruel, can you think of a greater privilege than being chosen and trusted by God for a special purpose to bring glory to him.
We easily recognize that we are blessed to bless others – I offer to you that sometimes bad things happen so that we can experience God in a unique special way, so that we can bless others. Because we have experienced God’s glory personally, we can now proclaim his glory with even more importance.
Even in the accident I experienced God’s glory. If the equipment had hit me in the neck, first, instead of the right shoulder, it could have easily paralyzed, or killed me with the neck issue that I didn’t even know at the time that I had. This is evidence of God’s great providence looking out for me.
If not for the accident at work, perhaps I would have opted not to have the neck surgery, reasoning why, because what are the odds that I would be in an accident. Clearly the accident erased that argument before I could even use it. God leading me to the proper decision before I even knew that a decision was going to be made. And if I needed more proof, the oncologist at OSU said that she recommended waiting at least six months on the cancer treatment. Time that would allow me to have the neck surgery first, which in her opinion needed done now, anyways.
Actually being off of work on FMLA and STD has protected my job for when I am able to return to work, in an economy where employers are laying off everywhere.
You never know how much time you have, not just before you die, but before your life may totally change. We take so much for granted. The accident brings clearly into focus the importance of time. You may question how you can give glory to God when bad things are happening. Yet, when do we give God glory just for today?
Why do bad things happen to people? What about disease – is it a tool used by God as punishment for sin, for repentance, for his glory, is it just fate, luck, bad genes? Is an accident just fate, luck, or chance? Are these things part of God’s plan or just something bad that God can bring good out of? Is a little discomfort now worth an eternity with God in glory?
Bad things may be Gods way of correcting our direction when we get off course. Or it may be to help us to become more mature as a Christian. Or it may be to refine us by removing the scum from our life. It may be so that we will recognize God’s power or to make us more Christ-like. It may just be to show the consequences of our sin. It may be just the fact that the world hated Christ first, so it is then that the world hates us as well.
Gods ways are higher than our ways – and the reality is that we may never really truly know why bad things happen and isn’t that good. If we knew all that God knew – wouldn’t that make our God pretty small and our faith of little value? Even Jesus does not know all that the Father knows, should we really expect more.
Did God do it or just allow it isn’t really important. We need to spend less energy on the why and more time cultivating the proper response to the bad things. Trust fully in the God of the universe that knows all things. If the why is important, then God will reveal it.
Whether we know the why or not, God’s hoped for response from us is the same, an increase in faith, obedience, humility, and glory to him.
Jesus ended his earthly ministry with a horrible physical death and then returned to Heaven so that he could live a spiritual life through his Spirit in us. He showed us love and called us to a life of love that is shown by obedience to his commands and the laying down of our life. This is how we bring glory to God.
It is your life story that is your witness. It is your life through the good and bad things that shows God’s love for us. The blind man had no idea that morning that his life was going to change. I had no idea that on that morning on March 23rd, that my life would change completely for several months, at least, if not forever.
There will be tough days, days and events that seem to make no sense. Those just require more faith and hope. Remember that you were chosen for a special reason by the God of the universe. The Christian response to bad things must be an increase in faith, humility and obedience that allows you to experience His glory and to give glory to God. It prepares us to witness by telling our story, by having true empathy for someone else that may be struggling. Share with others, today. Give glory to God today by giving your life to him and letting others know where your hope is.
And remember –
Why do bad things happen to people?