THE SORCERER'S STONE!

 CHAPTER THIRTY-TWO: WHY SO MANY PROBLEMS?    

“Well, uh, I’d like ask the first one,” said a student hesitantly. “Why do we have so many problems down here on earth? Why does all this happen to us? There seems no end to it.”

“Because we sinned,” replied Larry, “It’s not the Lord’s fault. We did it to ourselves. Man fell into sin in the Garden of Eden; and, ever since then, we’ve continued sinning. So Christ came to earth to save us. If we’ll cooperate, He is going to take us to heaven. That’s why He lived and suffered and died. He did it for us. He became a ‘Man of Sorrows,’ so we might have everlasting joy in a better land.”

Another student asked, “Yes, but if all this is happening down here, does God really love us?”

“Another good question,” said Larry, “Jesus did not die on Calvary to get the Father to love us. That great sacrifice was not made in order to create in God’s heart a love for man. Oh, no! The Bible says, ‘God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son’ [John 3:16]. The Father gave Jesus to us because He loves us. Only the Son of God could accomplish our redemption. And all members of the Godhead—the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—worked on it together.”

“That makes us pretty valuable, doesn’t it?” said a boy.

“Yes, what a value this places upon man!” said Larry, “Through transgression we became the subjects of Satan. Through faith in the atoning sacrifice of Christ we can become the sons and daughters of God!”

“But there is so much suffering down here,” said a girl, “it seems like, if God really loves us, we shouldn’t have all these problems.”

“Every one of our problems,” replied Larry, “is the result of our own sins and mistakes or the sins and mistakes of others. Every one of them. Never forget that. The Bible is clear about this. God is not the cause of our problems. He is not the cause of any of our problems.

“Here are a few examples from the beginning of the Bible: Adam and Eve fell into sin by their own act. Abel died because of his brother’s angry temper. The Flood came on the world because of its wickedness. Sodom was destroyed because of the sins of its inhabitants. Korah and his associates rebelled against God’s authority, so the earth opened up and swallowed them. Lots of other examples could be mentioned.

“Whatever difficulties there are, the cause can always be traced to a problem with people, not with God. The cause may be traced to an accident, a bad diet, a genetic flaw, meanness, crime, or something else. But the cause is always people, not God.

“If you always remember that, you will be less likely to question the goodness of God, less likely to leave Him.”

At this, a boy rose to his feet. “Even though God does not directly do all those bad things, why does He not stop them from happening?”

“It’s like this,” Larry explained, “sin entered the universe through Lucifer. Why? Because Lucifer made a devil out of himself. God didn’t make him bad; he made himself bad. When that happened, something had to be done about the situation.

“Now, God had infinite power. If He did anything to put a stop to it, no one in the universe would understand what had happened. Satan had made lying charges; and if God liquidated him in a moment, this would leave a question in everyone’s mind.

“So, in his infinite wisdom, God gave Satan time to show what would result from his method of government. The devil had declared that God was selfish and His law unjust. Therefore God permitted time to elapse so everyone could see Satan exposed for the liar and murder that he was.

“The devil said his ideas would wonderfully improve life. So God gave him time to demonstrate what happens when created beings rebel against God.

“And what is it that happens when any of us rebel against God and refuse to obey Him? We become more like Satan. There are no exceptions. On our own, we always get into trouble, hurt ourselves and everyone else.”

“But why do we have to suffer because the devil has to be exposed?” said another student.

“We are part of this terrible experiment in rebellion because we were born into this world,” answered Larry. Someone may say, ‘Well, that’s not fair. We had no say about being born, so why do we have to go through all this suffering because we are in a world filled with devils tempting men?’ There’s a beautiful answer to that:

“As soon as Satan won a large number of angels in heaven and they were cast out, he successfully overcame Adam and Eve. That victory gave  Satan the opportunity to tempt and harass all of Adam’s descendants. Any history book will tell you the result: murder, intrigue, and wars. Plus famine and disease which Satan helped produce. That’s what the devil gave us.

“Yes, it’s true that we are all born into this miserable world, without any choice in the matter.

“But—and this is the important part—God makes up for it in a most wonderful way! He says, ‘Child, if you will prove faithful to Me and, amid the hardships of this life, patiently remain loyal to Me,—I will reward you with eternal life!’

What a reward is that! In exchange for accepting Christ as our Saviour and faithfully submitting to His rule throughout these few brief decades on earth,—we will be able to live with Him through eternal ages in heaven!”

“I see what you mean,” said that same student.

“Think about it a minute,” said Larry. “There is simply no loss in such an arrangement. For a few decades of problems and suffering down here, we will be with Christ in heaven forever and ever!”

“Well, that’s okay for those who accept Christ,” another student asked, “but what about all those people down here who don’t? They have to suffer and die down here,—and still miss out on heaven!”

“But remember,” said Larry, “no one need be lost. God’s Holy Spirit and the good angels work with everyone who has ever lived on earth, seeking to draw them to God.

It is only by our own decision that any of us will be lost. Here’s a couple Bible verses about this:

Titus 2:11 says this: ‘For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men.’

1 Timothy 2:4 puts it this way: ‘Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.’

“So there you have it. God’s plan is to save everyone willing to be saved. And all those willing to cooperate with God and let Him work out His plans for their life will be saved.”

“Now, you sort of covered it,” said a girl, “but I’d like to ask this: Why doesn’t God protect His own loyal children from the problems of life? Why do they also have accidents? Why do they have genetic problems? Why are they robbed and killed? I guess I mean to say it this way: Why doesn’t God especially favor and care for His own?”

“Stop and think a minute,” said Larry. “Any time anyone in the world appears to have an ability a little beyond that of the normal,—everyone wants what he has. They crave his power, his authority, his money, his influence. The same would hold true for special protection.

“If it became obvious that Christians had a teflon coating; that is, that they were given very obvious, special protection from making mistakes or having problems—all the worldlings, without having true repentance or forsaking their sins, would declare themselves followers of God!

“But they would only be doing it for what they could get out of God—right now. Instead, God’s faithful ones love Him, in spite of the problems of life.

“God does care for His own, but He does it in ways that are generally unnoticed by the world. So the wicked, looking at the unselfish lives of true Christians, decide they will only lose, not gain, if they accept Christ as their Saviour.

Have you noticed that it always seems to require a sacrifice to become a real Christian? Satan is always standing there, tempting people to think they will lose a lot if they accept Christ.

“Yet, in reality, people lose nothing worth keeping when they accept Christ.”

"But why are Christians always suffering and persecuted?” A boy asked. “It’s happened for thousands of years.”

“Everyone not under God’s control is guided by the devil. We individually choose one or the other of the two great powers to rule over us.

“Satan constantly urges the wicked to give God’s people as much trouble as possible. The devil is hoping to discourage them and break their hold on God.

“As a result, down through history, we find that God’s people were maligned, ridiculed, persecuted, hunted, and slain. Satan works through the wicked to make their lives as hard as possible.

“Yet, in spite of it all, God’s faithful ones choose to remain loyal to God because of principle—and for no other reason. They don’t do it to gain fame, wealth, or honor in this world.

“They do it just because they love God and want to do what His Word tells them to do. They don’t do it because they are expecting Him to load them with benefits in this life. They serve God, not for what they can get out of Him, but because they love Him. They do it in spite of the treatment they receive from the ungodly. They are loyal to God regardless of any outward rewards they might receive in this life.

“Abraham is an example of this. God promised him great things, but he wasn’t going to get them until he could go to heaven. Hebrews 11:9-11 says this: ‘By faith he [Abraham] sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise. For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.’

Only in standing true to God, in spite of having to share in the problems down here on earth, could the genuinely faithful be tested—and show they really were on God’s side and not on the side of the rebels.

“Let’s put it this way: Isn’t it a fact that everyone would serve God if He would immediately give them everything they asked for and provide all their immediate gratifications?”

“Yes, you’re right,” said that student.

“Well, I think we’ve gone long enough tonight. Are these the kind of meetings you want?” asked Larry.

“Yes,” said the students.

“Okay then, next week, same time, same station,” replied Larry. “By the way, if there’s anyone here who does not have a Bible, you would do well to order one at the bookstore. You need to have a good, readable Bible you can read in every day.” 

CHAPTER THIRTY-THREE: HOW CAN I COME TO CHRIST?

 

During that week, both in the cafeteria and dorms, the students talked together about the new class. It was generally agreed that they were getting more of out of this class, that could help them in the future, than a lot of classes they could take.

It was because the meetings were interesting, because they were practical and met the needs of the students. For the first time, many questions were being answered.

As the students arrived for the next week’s meeting, they found that, once again, the entire faculty and staff were taking seats in back. But the students didn’t mind, because it was their meeting, not the faculty’s.

“Well, I’ve been talking to the acting president, Miss Stevenson,” Larry told the audience; “and she told me I could change the name of the course to anything I wanted. So I thought about that a little and selected “Principles of Life” as the course title. But I want your approval, for this will be the course name recorded on your transcripts at the end of the year.”

A student raised his hand. “That means there will be no record that we ever had any classes in witchcraft?”

“None at all,” said Larry.

Everyone was happy about that, and the vote was unanimous.

“Okay, it’s time we start our class,” said Larry; “and, you know what? We forgot to start and end with prayer last week. I really apologize for that.” Larry looked embarrassed. “I guess we all got excited about something new that we were beginning. Is this all right with you if we have prayer at our meetings?”

Every hand went up.

“Okay, who would like to give the opening prayer?”

A student raised his hand and then prayed.

“What’s the first question today?” asked Larry.

“According to what you told us last week,” said a girl, “God loves us as much as Jesus does! That sounds almost too good to be true. I got the idea from somewhere that God was vengeful and anxious to see us suffer.”

“Oh, no,” said Larry. “He is kind and loving. ‘God is love’ is what the Bible says about Him. Listen to this:

I John 4:7-8: ‘Love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God, for God is love.’

“Think of it a minute: Think of the matchless love of God for a world that did not love Him! Think of all that God does for us every day, even though we are so unthankful. He keeps our hearts beating and provides our food. He sent His Son to die on the cross to save us. Yet we killed Him. And He still loves us!

“The thought of God’s love humbles our hearts as we think about it. It causes us to want to love Him all the more. All heaven was poured out in the gift of Christ to us! Throughout the eternal ages we will praise Him for His inexpressible gift—eternal salvation through Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour.”

“I’m so thankful to hear that!” said a student near the front. “Listen, can you explain this: Why can’t we just save ourselves? Why do we need Jesus to save us?”

“Back in the Garden of Eden,” explained Larry, “before Adam fell into sin, man originally had great strength and a well-balanced mind. He was perfect in his being and in harmony with God. His thoughts were pure, his aims holy. But through disobedience, all that was damaged. Selfishness took the place of love. The nature of man became so weakened through transgression, that it was impossible for him, in his own strength, to resist the power of evil.

“And that’s where we are today. It is now impossible for us, by ourselves, to escape from the pit of sin in which we are sunken. Our hearts are evil, and we cannot change them. There is only one solution: There must be a power outside of ourselves, a new life from above, before we can be changed from sin to holiness.

“Now that power is Christ! Only by His grace can we be attracted to desire clean, pure lives. Only He can draw us to God in repentance for our sins.

“The Bible says, ‘Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world’ [John 1:29]. We have the power to choose to return to God. We have to come to Christ for that salvation. For it is only through Christ that we can be brought into harmony with God.”

At this another hand went up. “But how are we to come to Christ?”

“The first step is repentance,” Larry said. “Repentance includes sorrow for sin and a turning away from it. But we are not going to renounce sin until we see its sinfulness. And that is not likely to happen until we realize the sufferings Christ went through to save us. But until we turn away from sin in heart, there can be no real change in the life.

As we behold what Jesus suffered for us, something special happens and our hearts are yielded to the influence of the Spirit of God. Our consciences are quickened. It is then that we recognize that we are sinners and how sacred is God’s holy law that we have broken. We realize that God’s moral code is the foundation of God’s government in heaven and on earth. The law of God convicts us of sin. The law becomes a mirror [James 1:23-25], leading us to Christ who alone can save us. The law itself cannot save us. It can only tell us we are sinners.”

  “How can I know if I’m really sorry for my sins, so I can come to God?” questioned a girl. “It’s so easy to pray and not seem to get through to God.”

“The prayer of David, after his fall, helps explain this [Psalm 51:1-17],” replied Larry. “David had true sorrow for sin. His repentance was sincere and deep. There was no effort to cover over his guilt. David saw how greatly he had sinned against God. He was terribly ashamed of his sin. He wasn’t just praying for pardon, but for purity of heart. He longed for the joy of holiness. He wanted to be restored to harmony and oneness with God. This is the kind of repentance we need. But we can only have this experience with the help of Christ.”

“Sometimes everything seems hopeless,” said a student. “I try and just keep falling.”

“Christ is ready to set each of us, without exception, free from sin; but He will never force the will,” said Larry.

“As you see how terrible sin is, as you see yourself as you really are, do not give up in despair. It was sinners that Christ came to save. Remember that! When Satan comes to tell you that you are a great sinner, look to your Redeemer and talk of His merits. Acknowledge your sin, but tell the enemy that ‘Christ came into the world to save sinners’ [1 Timothy 1:15] and He wants to save me!”

“I like that!” said another student. “But how do I confess my sins?”

“That’s a good question,” Larry said. “This is what the Bible says. ‘He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy’ ]Proverbs 28:13]. The conditions for obtaining the mercy of God are simple. They’re not complicated.

“In sincerity of heart, you confess your sins to God. You know that He alone can forgive them, and it is true.

“But those who have not humbled their souls before God, in acknowledging their guilt, have not yet fulfilled the first step of acceptance. We must be willing to humble our hearts and comply with the conditions given in the Bible.

“Remember that earnest confession that is the outpouring of the inmost soul finds its way to God. He has infinite pity on the helpless sinner. He knows all your problems and temptations.

True confession is always of a specific character and acknowledges particular sins. All confession should be definite and to the point. The Bible says, ‘If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrigh­teousness’ [1 John 1:9].” 

“So what is needed is a sincere, full repentance; is that right?” asked the same student.

“That’s right,” Larry said. “God’s promise is, ‘Ye shall seek Me, and find Me, when ye shall search for Me with all your heart’ [Jeremiah 29:13]. The whole heart must be yielded, or the change can never be wrought in us by which we are to be restored to His likeness.

“We’re in a war and we’re the center of it. The deciding point is our choice: What will we choose to do? Whose side will we choose to be on? If we choose God’s side, good angels will instantly help strengthen our decision. But if we choose to waver, then evil angels will lead us into one of the devil’s traps.

“The warfare against self is the greatest battle that was ever fought. The yielding of self, surrendering all to the will of God, requires a struggle. But if we will submit our will to God’s will, we will be safe. Good angels will help us.

“Well,” we should close this meeting. Who would like to pray for us tonight?”

“I will,” said a girl near the front. 

GO TO CHAPTER 34 

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