Full text of Ravi Zacharias’ sermon titled “Where is God in the Midst of Suffering and Injustice?”
Best quote from this sermon:
“The marvelous thing and the marvelous reality is that He pulls the threads together and when you see the ultimate design, you will be the most shocked.”
Ravi Zacharias – Apologist & Bestselling author
Thank you very much, Robert. What an honor to be here! A real delight to always come back here and we rough it out; we always come the evening before and go to our sacrifice meal at the closest barbecue, so that we can enjoy, begin the year in good order and find out where the beef is. We did that last night, had a great with Robert and Steve.
It’s not too often we get to do an extra day frankly. We’re always coming in at the last possible flight, leaving out at the first possible, and I am leaving first thing tomorrow morning.
The year began in full speed. I ended on the 22nd of December and I told Margie the rest of the year is off; she said big deal. Nine days, you know, 22nd of December and then began at the Passion Conference at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium. What an exciting! I think a historic event… 65,000 backing that arena, mainly those in their 20s had the privilege of teaming up with our hosts Louie and Tim Tebow and several others and see what God is doing to see 65,000 of them with their hands raised worshipping. I mean it’s a foretaste of really what our eternal joy will be.
And then I’ve come here and early tomorrow morning I fly out to go to a country I cannot name; we’re in a closed country. I was there about four or five weeks ago and drove through the desert for about four hours to speak to a full audience, turned around, drove back four hours, took a flight and flew out of there, the two cities in that country and as the Anglicans would say this the third time of asking, so I’m there again for just one night, we go and do it and get out.
But we do it with a visa and I ask you to just pray as one man said, he’d been praying for 33 years in that land that we could have such an event. So I’m not to name it for you; after it’s all done I might just give you a little report. But that’s the way it is; we hit the ground running and the media may often talk about all that the churches are losing, maybe some of those churches needed to lose… some but where the gospel is preached, being preached, I want you to know there’s a greater hunger than I have ever seen and I have heard repeatedly that the fastest-growing church in the world today is in Iran, of all places and primarily amongst the young.
So here we are, but you know the fact of the matter is time flies tonight. So just so you know because you may have children, you may have plans, I’d like to follow a Robert Morris example: I’ll be speaking to you for 32 minutes. And then you can do everything after that so you can keep your concentration powers on and they’ve given me a good reminder.
But English is the only language that I know in which the watch runs. Every other language I know the watch walks. In Hindi, they say gaddi chal rahi hain… the watch is walking, and maybe that’s where we’re going nowhere where I come from but at least we… maybe that’s why we get less ulcers along the way as well.
Robert, a wonderful New Year to your friend. When you were in that critical stage, my goodness, I was another part of the world and our eyes were filled with tears. I was keeping in touch with Steve; it was touch and go; I was going to say nip and tuck but that would be too much of an irony. There was the nip and tuck going on but it was doesn’t go and God’s got some wonderful things for this man and this church to still do; it’s always thrilling to see how he intervenes.
You know, we often think… we often think that we are the only ones who ask questions, that all the great Saints before us never struggled with these issues. Nothing could be further from the truth. The man whom Jesus brought onto the Mount of Transfiguration, and both of them — Moses and Elijah gave God some of his biggest challenges, one on the verge of despair; another one saying why on earth do you want me to even do this? His prayer was: Here am I Lord; send Aaron. He didn’t want to go; he simply didn’t want to do it.
If you go through the Scriptures, you will see some of the most passionate people who served with a very devoted heart, had the toughest and the most emotionally driven questions. You know, faith is a perpetually defeated thing which survives all its conquerors.
“Faith is a perpetually defeated thing which survives all its conquerors,” so says GK Chesterton. It’ll always be hammered; it’ll always be attacked, but the Bible will always rise up to outlive its pallbearers. Those who try to bury the word find out it survives all those attacks.
So here’s a man struggling with questions and I’m calling this message: Though The Fig Tree Does Not Bud because as you look around what we see seems like a lot of death and destruction and despair. And a man raised those questions; his name was Habakkuk. Scattered verses beginning from Chapter 1.
The oracle that Habakkuk the Prophet received:
How long O Lord must I call for help? But you do not listen.
Or cry out to you violence but you do not save.
Why do you make me look at injustice?
Why do you tolerate wrong?
Destruction and violence are before me.
There is strife and conflict abounds,
therefore the law is paralyzed and justice never prevails;
The wicked surround the righteous so that justice is perverted.
Some of you might remember the war that was titled Desert Storm. That phrase was taken right out of this particular book when you see in verse nine: they all come bent on violence; their hordes advance like a desert wind. And so even our military was aware of all the kinds of oppositions that we were facing almost two decades ago and the storm in many ways still rages.
What Habakkuk raises here are three particular questions. I will go with them as time permits and give to you the answers that Habakkuk got.
But let me just prepare you for this: no other worldview, no other worldview, immanent or transcendent brings together such a coherent set of answers as the biblical writers do on this issue of pain, warfare, evil, suffering, even when history seems to be turning the tide against those who wish to follow him.
Three things he raises: how long must I cry out to you violence, injustice, evil, but you do not listen; you do not save. For a prophet to have raised that question was a challenge given to God and a constant demonstration of the grace and patience of God to listen to us when we raise such issues and how he answers.
It took Job volumes of complaints before God says to Job: Stand up like a man now and I am going to speak to you. It was about in the mid-thirties, nearly the 38th chapter that God began to respond to Job and so it is here with Habakkuk: