Why Does God Allow the Devil to Live? (and a Couple Other Good Questions)

A friend of mine posted these questions, which her children had asked her, on Facebook today.  They were such good questions, and they struck me as the kind of questions people are asking at every age–certainly not just in childhood. I humbly submitted my response (which were written for kids, mind you), and I share that now with you.

The questions:

  • Why did God just not send Satan to death?
  • Why didn’t God just restart the world?
  • God knew that Satan was going to keep doing bad stuff so why didn’t He just put him in a cage or something?
  • Why did God create Satan if He knew he’d do bad things?

My response:

The Bible answers these questions, but not always exactly in the way we would like! There are three perspectives the Bible offers to the question.

First, God is God, and His ways are not our ways. We know He is good, but He is also WAY smarter than we are (obviously! He’s GOD!). Romans 9:20 says “But who are you, a mere man, to talk back to God?” In other words, at some point we just have to trust Him, that He knows what He’s doing!

Second, God is so GOOD, that He has a plan to make everything work out for good. He has already planned it out ahead of time. He has even planned it so that, when bad people or spirits (like the devil) choose to do evil things, God makes those bad things work out for good in the end. That’s pretty amazing, right? Romans 8:28 says that, “We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” In Genesis 50:20, Joseph tells his brothers (who had been super evil to him), “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good!” The worst thing that ever happened was when the Son of God, who had NEVER done ANYTHING wrong, was killed. Satan probably thought he had won–that he had beaten God! But God used that terrible sin to save all His people! The joke’s on the devil, because Jesus wins every time!

Third, we can have peace about these questions, the more we get to know Jesus. In Philippians 4:7, God tells us that “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” The more we live with God, trusting in Jesus, following the Holy Spirit who lives inside God’s children, the better we feel about life, and God’s control over the world. The Bible says (in Romans 1:17) that the righteousness of God is revealed in the Gospel (the good news about Jesus) “from faith for faith.” In other words, when we trust in Jesus, God gives us His Holy Spirit who helps us trust in Jesus more and more and more.

So to summarize it…

  1. God knows what He’s doing… even though we don’t!
  2. God’s plan is not just to make a good world, but to bring about a good world in which good completely wins the victory over evil. God will bring every bad thing that the evil devil does around for good. Take that, Devil!
  3. God will help you understand and trust Him more and more–even when you don’t totally get it, because He’s always with you!

Teaching Whole Families in God’s Household (Titus 2:1-8)

I have been working through the Pastoral Epistles–the Apostle Paul’s personal letters to his young pastor proteges–and outlining them to gain important knowledge, training and mentorship on how to be a pastor. Today, I am looking at Titus 2:1-8. As I exegete this passage, I imagine that I’m interviewing Paul. After the interview, I’ll attempt to summarize the passage. Then I’ll talk about what it means for student ministry, which is my particular area.

Joel : Paul, as a pastor what should I speak? Sometimes I think it would be better if I just don’t speak, and let them learn for themselves. After all, there are so many false teachers speaking out there; maybe what the church needs now is less talking, more walking? 

Paul: (verse 1) But you are to speak. Speak the things that are suitable for instruction. The instruction is to be sound.

J: Paul, what does this sound instruction look like? For starters, what should I tell the older men in my congregation?

P: (verse 2) Tell older men to be vigilant. Tell older men to be honorable. Tell older men to be sober. Tell older men to be sound in the faith. Tell older men to be sound in love. Tell older men to be sound in perseverance.

J: Okay, and what about the older women? What should I teach them?

P: (verse 3) Here’s how you should teach them: Tell older women in the same way (as you told older men). And here’s what you should teach them (there are four things): tell older women to be reverent in behavior. Tell older women to be neither slanderous nor enslaved to much wine. Tell older women to be teaching good things, in order that they may discipline the young women.
J: Ah! So the older women are supposed to be teaching the younger women. What should they teach them to be? (seven things)

P: (verses 4-5) The young women are to be lovers of their own husbands. (Young women, love your husband, and love only your own husband.) The young women are to be lovers of (their) children.The young women are to be sober.The young women are to be chaste. The young women are to be workers at home. The young women are to be good. The young women are to be these things, while being subordinated to their own husbands. They are to be subordinated to their own husbands in order that the word of God may not be defamed.

J: And what about the young men? Same thing—teach them by speaking to them?

P: (verses 6-8) Exhort the young men to be sober while living as a proper example. How you should teach them: exhort them in the same way (as you exhorted the others). Young men need to be exhorted. Exhort them to be sober. Young men learn by example. So live it, and they’ll catch it:

Exhort while, concerning everything, you are exhibiting certain things in your life and in your teaching. In your life: exhibit yourself as a model of good work.

In your teaching: exhibit three things. Your teaching should exhibit purity. Your teaching should exhibit respectability. Your teaching should exhibit a sound message above reproach.

Exhibiting these things for the young men will have a secondary effect, too—on the outside world. Be exhibiting these things in order that the opponent may be confounded. The opponent will be confounded in that he has nothing wicked to say concerning us.

Joel’s summary of the passage:

The pastor is to speak what accords with sound doctrine. (A common theme is sobriety: everybody ought to keep a clear head and think critically. Stop numbing your pain with alcohol, entertainment and distractions. Get your head in the game, people!)

The pastor must teach to older men to be upstanding. These are the men who will teach and oversee the church.

The pastor must instruct the older women to be respectful and to learn to teach. It’s the responsibility of the older women to disciple the younger women to be godly wives and mothers.

The pastor should exhort the younger men to be sober. Don’t just teach the young men—exhort them! Show them what hard work looks like. Whatever you’re teaching them, do it in such a way that they see how a godly man is like.

The bonus effect of living and teaching in a way that is above reproach: your opponents will be ashamed that they oppose you, because they’ll have nothing bad to accuse you of!

Finally, how all this applies in a youth ministry context: This passage has some great instruction for how to deal with parents, guys and girls, and also how to have an effective witness to outsiders. 

  1. For dads: tell them to watch out for their families and against temptation, to be honorable, to stay sober and thoughtful, to maintain a healthy faith, to live out love toward their families, and to stick with their commitments—especially when it gets hard.
  2. For moms: tell them to behave in a reverent way, not to gossip or tear people down—including their own husbands and children, to be careful not to fall into needing a drink (even wine). Moms are responsible for teaching the young women, so they need to learn how to teach good things.
  3. For gals: the older women (their moms, their friends’ moms, the “moms” of the youth group) are supposed to teach them. They should start learning about marriage and how to love their husbands and children—should God grant them a family. They need to learn to be sober—not obsessed with partying, smoking up, or even getting carried away emotionally, but thinking critically. It’s important for them to learn to be chaste—in how they dress and how they act toward young me. The older women should teach them domestic skills, and general goodness. Something that is going to be difficult to teach in our day and age is subordination to their (future) husbands. This is important, but it’s also important to remember that that is for husbands, not boyfriends or any other young man. Young women give Gods’ word a good reputation when they learn the skills that will be necessary to submit to their husbands—and only their husbands. Some girls are tempted to let their boyfriends control them; but it gives God a good name when they refuse to do this (after all, he ain’t your husband!).
  4. For guys: they need to be not just spoken to but exhorted—but in the same way as you speak to the others. Exhort them to be sober—not obsessed with partying, drinking, smoking up, or numbing their minds with video games, porn, or immaturity. Young guys learn by example, so it’s my responsibility to exemplify hard work in my life and purity, respectability and a sound message—one that is above reproach—in what I teach.
  5. For those who oppose the Gospel or the Church: those who would oppose the church and/or my ministry will be put to shame when I set a good example by working hard and teaching well. Suddenly, the opponent will have nothing bad to say about us Christians.