WHEN BAD THINGS HAPPEN

Luke 13:1-9

Have you ever been asked by an unbeliever, "Why does God let bad things happen to good people?" Perhaps youíve wondered the same thing yourself. For quite a number of years, one of the best selling books on the secular market has been a book by Rabbi David Kershner asking this same question. The book is appropriately titled: "Why Do Bad things happen to Good People?" He wrote the book after the tragic death of his son. In the book, he suggests one of two possibilities.

Rabbi Kershner rejects this view. And so do I. The Bible teaches that God is righteous and good and that He is a just judge over the earth.

After all, God is overworked and underpaid and He just isnít up to the task of averting tragedy and so bad things will continue to happen to good people. This is the view to which Rabbi Kershner subscribes. It is NOT a Biblical view.

As we come to Luke 13:1-9, we see Jesus dealing with this same issue. Letís look at it.

Now on the same occasion there were some present who reported to Him about the Galileans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.

And He answered and said to them, "Do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered this fate?

"I tell you, no, but, unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.

"Or do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower of Siloam fell were worse culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem?

"I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish."

And he began telling this parable: "A certain man had a fig tree which had been planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it, and did not find any.

"And he came to the vineyard-keeper, `Behold, for three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree without finding any. Cut it down! Why does it even use up the ground?í

And he answered and said to him, `Let it alone, sir; for this year too, until I dig around it and put in fertilizer; 9 and if it bears fruit next year, fine; but if not, cut it down.í" (Luke 13:1-9).

The popular folk religion of the day said that bad things only happen to bad people. They had a "prosperity theology." They reasoned that, since God is always good and God is all-powerful, then when someone is prosperous it is because he has been good and when something bad happens, it is because there is some sin that has taken place.

What is more, this was no mere theory. This discussion comes on the heels of news that a tragedy has taken place. And not just one tragedy, but two...

1. The first was a political tragedy.

Now on the same occasion there were some present who reported to Him about the Galileans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. (Luke 13:1).

Pilate was the Roman governor. He was not at all popular among the Jews. There was a saying in those days about Roman governors. It was said that a Roman governor spent his first year in office collecting taxes to pay off the bribes that got him into office. His second year was spent collecting taxes to pay off the bribes to keep him out of jail once his term of office was up. And the rest of his term was spent in collecting taxes for his retirement fund.

Pilate had been governor for several years and he was planning a very big retirement fund. To this end, he helped himself to the Temple offerings. This brought about an immediate reaction among the worshipers in the Temple and a number of Jews were killed. This may have been the incident which is described in this verse.

Think about it. These people had gone to the Temple to worship the Lord and instead of being blessed by the service, they had been killed. Why?

2. The other incident was an "act of God."

On the southeast side of Jerusalem was a tower. It overlooked the pool of Siloam where spring waters flowed to bring water to the city. This tower had collapsed, killing 18 people who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Why? They hadnít been doing anything particularly wrong. They had just come to get water. Why these particular people and not some more deserving of such a fate (a gambling house or a place of prostitution)?

What shall we say to these? Why do bad things happen to good people?

Notice the answer of Jesus. He doesnít answer the question. Instead, He says that they are asking the WRONG QUESTION. They are asking, "Why did these men die?" They should have been asking, "Why didnít I die, too?"

It is not that bad things happen to good people. It is that you arenít qualified to ask about good people because that doesnít concern you and you donít fit into that category. There are NO good people. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. That is the bad news. But the good news is that God sent His own Son into the world to be a sacrifice, to die in our place for our sins.

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through Him. 18 He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. (John 3:16-18).

Do you remember the movie, "The Sound of Music?" Itís a wonderful story full of splendid songs. There is one in particular that caught my attention. It is where the Captain first expresses his love for Maria. She sings a song about how, in the midst of her wicked childhood, she must have done something good. It is a pretty song, but it is not Biblical. God doesnít bless us because we did something to earn His blessing. He blesses us in spite of the fact that we are undeserving. He blesses us on the basis of His own GRACE.

We enter into the blessing of His salvation through repentance and faith. This is what Jesus says.

And He answered and said to them, "Do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered this fate?

"I tell you, no, but, unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.

"Or do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower of Siloam fell were worse culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem?

"I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish." (Luke 13:2-5).

When you see bad things happening in this world, the question isnít "why did this happen?" The real question is, "Why didnít it happen to me?" For unless I approach God in genuine repentance, then there is a governor or a tower out there with my name of it.

Now you might be thinking to yourself, "Wait a minute, John. I did this a long time ago. When I was nine years old, I walked down an aisle in my church and made a profession of faith, trusting in Him as my Lord and Savior. Thatís over and done with. I donít need to hear any more about repentance."

What you need to understand is that repentance is an ongoing occurrence in the heart of the Christian and that true repentance bears a continuous fruit.

Jesus illustrates this with a parable in verses 6-9.

And he began telling this parable: "A certain man had a fig tree which had been planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it, and did not find any.

"And he came to the vineyard-keeper, `Behold, for three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree without finding any. Cut it down! Why does it even use up the ground?í

And he answered and said to him, `Let it alone, sir; for this year too, until I dig around it and put in fertilizer; 9 and if it bears fruit next year, fine; but if not, cut it down.í" (Luke 13:6-9).

Once upon a time there was a landowner. The Landowner owned a vineyard. I imagine that there were a lot of trees and vines in his vineyard, but we are only concerned with one.

You see, this isnít written to the person sitting next to you. It isnít about your wife or your husband or your neighbor down the street. It is about YOU. You are the tree. And the question is this: Are you bearing any fruit?

Not...
Are you a member of this Church?
Or are you Presbyterian?
Or have you been baptized?
Or did you walk down an aisle and make a confession of faith?
Or did you put money into the plate?
Or do you hold to proper Reformed Doctrine?
Or even, did you bear some fruit a number of years ago?

Another year has passed. And for most of you, the governor has not called for your execution and no towers have fallen on you (perhaps some little ones). But you are still here. And you are alive. And you are called to ask of yourselves, "Am I bearing any fruit for the Kingdom?"

Iím not talking about church attendance. After all, youíre here! Iím asking whether your life is producing the fruit of Godís Spirit. Is the Holy Spirit producing within you love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control? And are those qualities in your life being used by God to draw people into the Kingdom?

The Lord of the parable had a certain tree in his garden. And when he came to sample some of the fruit of his tree, there wasnít any. It had branches. And a trunk. And roots. And leaves. Yes, it was dressed in its finest Sunday fig leaves. It had all of the right religious trappings. But no fruit.

Such a little thing! But the Lord of the parable is not concerned with...


Branches.
Trunk.
Roots.
Leaves (remember Adam and Eve in the Garden?).
Or all of the right religious trappings.

He is only concerned with one thing. Is the tree bearing fruit?

1. The Lord of the Vineyard requires Fruit.

"...and he came looking for fruit on it, and did not find any" (Luke 13:6).

That is why we are here. We have a purpose for living and a goal to our lives. It is to bear fruit for the Lord of the vineyard.

We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." (Ephesians 2:10).

2. Unfruitful Trees will be cut down.

And he said to the vineyard-keeper, "Behold, for three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree without finding any. Cut it down! Why does it even use up the ground?" (Luke 13:7).

There is coming a day of reckoning. The Lord has demanded fruit from His tree and when that fruit is not forthcoming, the result is a cutting down and a casting forth.

You canít play games with God. You canít pretend at religion or "play church." He is looking for real fruit, not mere wood, hay and stubble.

I saw a bumper sticker a while back that said, "If you arenít living on the edge, then youíre taking up too much space."

The Lord says something similar. He says, "If you arenít producing fruit, then youíre taking up too much ground - ground that could be used for fruit-producers."

3. There is a Season of Grace.

And he answered and said to him, `Let it alone, sir; for this year too, until I dig around it and put in fertilizer; 9 and if it bears fruit next year, fine; but if not, cut it down.í" (Luke 13:1-9).

Winston Churchill was being interviewed by a reporter and Churchill mentioned that he had been twice through the tenth grade. "You failed the tenth grade?" asked the incredulous reporter. "No," replied Churchill, "I had a second opportunity to do well."

You are here for another year. The judgment of God has not yet fallen. You have not yet been cut down. For many of you, the past year has been one of spiritual fruitfulness. Youíve walked with the Lord, trusting in His grace and His mercy and He has produced the fruit of His Spirit within your life. To you, I have a word of commendation and encouragement.

As you have received Christ, CONTINUE to walk in Him (Colossians 2:6).

ABIDE in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming (1 John 2:28).

For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you shall continue to perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:6).

But I fear that perhaps there are some here today who are on borrowed time. If you were honest, you would have to describe yourself as a "fruitless tree."

You have roots. And a trunk. And youíve come to church this morning in your finest fig leaves. You look acceptable in every way. But there is no fruit.

For you, there is a warning. You have "another year." Judgment has been postponed, but not canceled. You are living in the postponement era.

Today there has been some digging at the roots of your heart and the application of the nutrients of the Word of God. What will be the result? Shall you bear the fruit of a repentant heart? Or shall you continue on the path of unfruitfulness that leads to the woodcutterís axe?

Donít wait until it is too late. You see, one of these days, tragedy is going to strike. I guarantee it. If the Lord delays His coming, then one of these days you are going to die. That is the tragedy you face. But you can be prepared for it.

The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9).

You have a call from God today. It is a call to repentance. It is a call to turn from yourself and all that you have ever been and to turn to the Living and True God. Trust in Him as your Lord and your Savior.

 


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