I’ve spent essentially the whole time up to this point dealing with the question of why bad things happen to good people; so, now it is time to consider why good things happen to bad people. But before we do any theological study on the point, I’d like to invite you to come with me to the island of Sri Lanka. A number of years ago, my wife and I arrived in the country to minister in a youth camp that had been arranged for the Christian high school and college students in that Buddhist state. When our host picked us up at the airport, he announced that we were going to have to cancel the retreat. He then went on to explain that the country was encountering a severe drought and that there was no water in the cisterns at the retreat center. Without water for cooking, cleaning, and drinking, it would be impossible to house the group at the camp. I explained that we had spent a lot of money in advance to cover the camp expenses and had flown all the way from America for the event. In my mind, it was impossible to cancel the retreat. There had to be a way to make it work. I asked for just twenty-four hours before he made his final decision. That night we asked the Lord for the windows of heaven to be opened in some miraculous way, and God answered our prayer in an even more dramatic way than we had anticipated. That night, we had the most horrendous rainstorm I have ever experienced. It didn’t just “rain cats and dogs”; it was more like lions and wolves. I had never seen anything like it; the rain came down by the buckets full – no, barrels full. Not only did the cisterns fill to overflowing, the drought that was crippling the nation’s agriculture was immediately alleviated. As a result, we were able to go forward with our plans for the retreat where we saw many young lives changed and destinies set. It wasn’t until I revisited the nation almost thirty years later and was asked by one of the prominent pastors of the country to preach in his church that I saw proof of the remaining effect of the night that the windows of heaven were opened. That pastor, who is now a significant leader in the country, was called into the ministry as a high school student in that camp that would have been canceled had God not opened the windows of heaven.
Okay, so what does that have to do with good things happening to bad people? Well, I don’t want to randomly lump the entire population of Sri Lanka in the category of “bad people”; however, we must remember that the vast majority of the population are Buddhists and that most of the rest are Hindus. Maybe they are good moral, honest, kind people human beings; however, in that they are not Christian believers, they don’t qualify for the biblical definition of “good.” God could have sent the rain specifically on the campground that we had rented for the conference, and that would have been a miraculous answer to my prayer; however, He sent the rains over the entire island and broke the draught that would have devastated the crops that year and forced the country’s subsistence farmers into bankruptcy and even starvation.
Even though we have Old Testament biblical examples of God’s discriminating between the believers and unbelievers (Genesis 26:1-14; Exodus 8:22-23, 9:4-7, 9:25-26, 10:23, 12:12-13), the New Testament principle is that He allows the blessings that He intends for His people to spill over on the unbelievers around them. In the account of Paul’s shipwreck, we read the message of the angel that appeared to the apostle, telling him that his life would be preserved and that the added blessing would be that everyone on the ship would survive because of him. In spite of the fact that he could be sentenced to death if he allowed the prisoners to escape, the Roman guard jeopardized his own life by allowing all inmates to try to swim to safety – simply because he wanted to save the life of the apostle and had to spare everyone in order to rescue just one. It was a miraculous fulfillment of God’s plan to extend the blessing of righteous Paul to the ungodly prisoners and crew on the ship with him. (Acts 27:23-44)
Let’s get back to the discussion of the rain by noticing that Jesus Himself used rain to illustrate the principle of extending blessings to the unjust as well as to the just.
But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? (Matthew 5:44-46)
Notice that the context in which He made this reference is that of an obligation upon believers to love, pray for, and bless those that would be considered their enemies – a principle that we have already discovered as an essential element in dealing with the bad things that come into our lives. In other words, the reason that good things happen in the lives of bad people is that New Testament believers – with new natures produced by the regenerative work of the Holy Spirit – have finally taken on the heart of God and the nature of Christ who prayed, even as the executioners were nailing Him to the cross, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)
I’ve heard Christians comment – and even pray – about unsaved friends or relatives that God should strip them of all their prosperity and even take away their health in an attempt to make them desperate enough to call out to God for intervention and salvation. Although the idea that when everything is taken away and you have nowhere else to look except up to God may sound like a logical approach, it is actually contradictory to the divine system. God’s plan for bringing men to Himself is the old honey-versus-vinegar system for catching flies, “Despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?” (Romans 2:4)
In fact, the VERY best of all things in the history of the human race was done for the VERY worse of the people in every generation:
God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us…For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. (Romans 5:8-10)