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Dr. James C. Denison
President, Center for Informed Faith, Dallas, TX
January 26, 2011

Our Sputnik moment

“We have to out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world,” President Obama declared in last night’s State of the Union address. Likening this moment to the Soviet Union’s launch of the Sputnik satellite more than 50 years ago, he called on our nation to rise to the challenge of global competition.

We are a country facing great problems, to be sure. At the same time, every time I travel overseas I am so glad to come home. Today is no exception. (Whenever I write an essay which doesn’t refer to the day’s news, you can know I wrote that devotional before traveling to a place without Internet service.) A team from our ministry returned yesterday from ten days in Bangladesh, where we saw the hand of God at work in miraculous ways.

In an area where there were no Christians three years ago, there are more than 700 believers today, all of them former Muslims. I will tell some of the stories we encountered in blogs beginning later today. The Holy Spirit is moving in Bangladesh and around the world in unprecedented ways.

If our God is so powerful, why is his creation so broken?

We have been surveying ways Christian theologians address the challenge of evil and suffering. After looking at wrong approaches, we discussed spiritual warfare, the role of misused freedom, the fact that God uses suffering to grow us spiritually, and our hope that one day we’ll understand what we cannot comprehend today.

Let’s close with the “present help” approach: God suffers as we suffer and gives us strength to withstand and even redeem our pain. Our Father walks with us through the valley of the shadow of death (Psalm 23:4). The One who wept at Lazarus’ grave weeps when we grieve (John 11:35). Jesus faced every temptation and pain we feel (Hebrews 4:15). He is present with us now in the hardest places of life.

This approach does not attempt to explain why we suffer. Rather, it offers us the practical assurance that our Father walks with his children through their pain. He will never allow us to face more than he will give us the strength to bear (1 Corinthians 10:13).

Tomorrow we’ll begin concluding our series. For this morning, let’s claim the fact that we are in Jesus’ hand (John 10:28), so that nothing can come to us without coming first through him. He therefore feels your fears and worries at this very moment. You do not face your problems alone. As St. Augustine reminded us, “God had one Son on earth without sin, but never one without suffering.”

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