Is God Mad at Us? How to Respond to Evil
(Excerpt from message by John Piper)
What are we supposed to do with evil? This is very important because there are people, I am told, like me, who believe in the absolute sovereignty of God over the devil, so that the devil never has the upper hand, and God remains God at every moment and in every place totally sovereign — allowing what he allows, doing what he does for totally wise purposes.
There are people like me who draw the inference: evil is not so serious, then, and surely you wouldn’t want to fight evil because you might be found fighting God. Well, I want to give you eight things you should do with evil and four things you should never do with it.
Eight Ways to Respond Rightly to Evil
1. Expect evil. “Do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you” (1 Peter 4:12).
2. Endure evil. “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends” (1 Corinthians 13:7–8).
3. Give thanks for the refining effect of evil that comes against you. “[Give] thanks always and for everything to God the Father” (Ephesians 5:20).
4. Hate evil. “Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil” (Romans 12:9).
5. Pray for escape from evil. “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (Matthew 6:13).
6. Expose evil. “Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them” (Ephesians 5:11).
7. Overcome evil with good. “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21).
8. Resist evil. Fight evil. “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7).
Four Ways to Respond Wrongly to Evil
But on the other hand, there are also four things you should never do with evil.
1. Never despair that evil is out of God’s control. “[He] works all things according to the counsel of his will” (Ephesians 1:11).
2. Never give in to the sense that, because of random evil, life is absurd and meaningless. That’s a great temptation if you read world history. World history is a conveyor belt of corpses — horribly murdered corpses. We’re not naïve about how much evil there is in the world — at least, we try not to be.
“How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! . . . From him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever” (Romans 11:33, 36). Never give in to the sense that, because of what appears like horribly random evil, life is absurd.
3. Never yield to the thought that God sins, or is unjust, or is unrighteous in how he governs the world. “The Lord is righteous in all his ways” (Psalm 145:17).
4. Never doubt that God is totally for you in Christ. I wish that could be true of every one of you. Never doubt that God is totally for you in Christ. If you trust him, you’re in Christ. And if you’re in Christ, no evil befalls you except what God ordains for your good — hard as that may seem.
When he took damnation out of the devil’s hands, and he nailed your sins to the cross, do you know what happened in the mind of God at that moment, which he planned to happen? All of his wrath toward you was absorbed by Jesus. It’s gone. If you get cancer, if you are on a bridge that collapses, if a dog attacks you, if you’re trapped underground in a mine, you might be tempted to feel, “He’s mad at me. There’s no explanation. He’s mad at me.” And he’s not. He’s absolutely not if you are in Christ.
Some of us — old or young — he just wants us home now. We’re his. We’re his. He can take us whenever he wants us, however he wants to take us. We have no claim upon this life. He has a claim upon us. And I promise you that, for those who this very week have perished in Christ, they are very happy.
I hope you are all renouncing the designs of the devil in your heart right now. I hope you say in your heart, “I renounce the devil in all his ways and all his works. I renounce him. I don’t belong to him. I say no to him.” I hope everybody is doing that in your mind and in your heart right now.
When you renounce the designs of the devil, and you trust in the power and the wisdom and the love and goodness of God, do you know what happens? The supreme value of Christ is put on display. It’s put on display for the principalities and powers. It’s put on display for the world. And the purpose of God in tolerating this demonic, murderous, deceiving being is fulfilled in your faith and your love and your sacrifices for people.