Service Video Message Video Message Audio The service video is unavailable at this time. The sermon video is unavailable at this time. The sermon audio is unavailable at this time. Scripture Verses Romans 8:18-39 Downloads & Resources Promise and Hope Dr. Jon Morrissette - 9/22/2002 I do not know how old Lorene was. She was probably eighty years old, perhaps older. I met Lorene one Sunday afternoon in a local nursing home while bringing communion to a shut-in. She was one of four residents who were sharing the same room. Lorene seemed interested whenever we brought communion to her roommate. She would make eye contact, follow our conversation, and smile. One day I introduced myself and asked her if she would like to join us for communion. Her face instantly lit up with a bright smile! As I got to know Lorene it was obvious that she had serious health problems. Her spine was twisted and contorted in every direction. She couldn’t even sit up in a wheel chair. It was hard for her to get comfortable in her bed. She seemed to have arthritis with all the chronic pain that accompanies that condition. I assume that she also had diabetes because the doctors kept amputating her legs a little bit at a time until she no longer had either leg. Over time I watched her become more dependent on grouchy staff to take her to the bathroom, bring her food, change her clothes, and everything else! Too often the staff wouldn’t get to her in time and she would mess herself. It was so humiliating. On the wall over her bed was a chart detailing her daily schedule. Once every hour they had to rotate her position in the bed to prevent bedsores and gangrene. The poor lady. My heart melted every time I saw her. Each week we prayed with her. But there was something mysterious about Lorene. It is hard to explain in words, but you could see it in her eyes and in her demeanor. You could hear it in her voice. She was so incredibly gracious and kind and patient. She never spoke an unkind word to anyone. She didn’t snap at the staff. She didn’t curse her circumstances. She didn’t grow more selfish and demanding like some other residents. She was contented. She had joy. She always seemed to have a smile on her face. Outwardly, her body was wasting away. She daily faced pain and discomfort. She had outlived most all her friends. But she was so strong! And yet, so frail. There was something inside her that was so real and alive. It was God’s Spirit. It was Christ living in her. It was extraordinary. I always took another person with me when I’d make communion calls. They would see it too! They would shake their heads and say, "Wow! That’s what it's all about. What she has is what everybody needs." In suffering, some Christians grow weaker in their faith. Lorene and Christians like her have been an inspiration to me as I preach the gospel. They are spiritual giants cleverly disguised in frailty. They are the arbiters of God’s all-sufficient grace and eternal power. Because of their hope in Christ they confidently taunt death and suffering. "Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?" 1 Corinthians 15:55 (NIV) I’m not in a position to judge any of us here this morning, but only to offer an observation. Most often we use the occasion of our suffering to doubt God. Our faith grows cold and wobbly as we cry out, "Why, God? Why me? Why this circumstance? Why this pain? Why this sorrow? Why this grief? Where are you?" And then we get very personal with God. We say to him, "I thought you were a God of love. I thought you were a good God. I thought you were a powerful God. Where is your grace? Where is your salvation? God, I don’t even know who you are anymore! Do you even exist?" And at times we use the occasion of our suffering as an excuse for licentiousness, for living according to the flesh instead of living in the Spirit. We use the occasion of our suffering as an excuse to resurrect the old nature in all its hideousness and darkness. And soon our souls are flooded with bitterness, rage, jealousy, covetousness, hatred, discontentment, impatience, rebelliousness, greed, impurity, filthy language, slander, and evil desires. We start grabbing and grasping. We get demanding. We get self-centered. We idolize this life. We idolize our bodies, our relationships, our experiences, and our pleasures. We adopt a narcissistic and ungodly philosophy of life that says, "Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die. Live it up!" And we cast God to the sidelines as we plow ahead in life, full of hurt and pain. We don’t always do so well with suffering. The Lorenes tend to be the exceptions. The devastation of September 11 got our attention because that day became an epicenter of unimaginable suffering and pain and evil. But September 11 was just a magnification of what we experience in part every day. September 11 stole the headlines, but we have our own headlines. These are headlines that don’t get printed in newspapers or get broadcast on television. They are private headlines. They are only talked about around the kitchen table in our own homes. Every day it seems that we are victimized by evil. We are harassed by death. We are worn down by pain. We are overwhelmed with grief. We are burdened by other’s hurts. We are shaken, beaten up, broken, frustrated, and weak. We want everyone around us to think that we are strong. We want to appear composed and in control. We want to look convincing. We boast, "No fear!" But when we look in the mirror we know the truth. Being a Christian doesn't exempt us from pain. As we all know, being a Christian doesn’t exempt us from human frailty or from pain. The ground on which we walk is still under a curse. Surely you didn’t forget the story. In Genesis 3:17-19 (NIV) God said, "To Adam he said, 'Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, 'You must not eat of it,' 'Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.' " The power of sin is visible in our suffering and especially in death. The curse still afflicts us. Suffering and death is all around us every day. But what should our response be to suffering and death? Should we respond by cursing God? By questioning his love? By doubting his goodness? By casting him aside? Should we respond by plummeting into a downward spiral of godlessness, by resurrecting the old man, and by living in the flesh? Maybe, just maybe, we haven’t understood our suffering or even how God works. I am speaking of that which I only partly understand this morning. When Jesus was being nailed to the cross, it was a moment of tremendous suffering. It seemed as if the power of sin was getting the last word! Appearances suggested that death was victorious, and that God was weak and disinterested. Jesus' suffering on the cross was a symbol of God's power. The cross was every bit as dark and sinister as September 11. But oddly enough, all of us know that the cross was anything but a symbol of weakness. In reality the cross became a symbol of God’s power. The world quickly realized that the cross was God’s power cleverly disguised in weakness, in humility, in suffering, in sacrifice, in pain, in grief, in loss, and in death. The cross was also a symbol of God’s love, his goodness, his grace, his mercy, his forgiveness, his salvation, his presence, and his very character! Could it be that the cross is God’s word to us in our suffering? Could it be that through our suffering, God wants to accomplish some of the same things that he accomplished through Christ’s suffering? Could it be that God wants our moments of greatest weakness and frailty to become the greatest manifestations of his power and grace? That through our weakness and frailty God might display his true character and purposes to the world? Could it be that the moment of our greatest weakness, when we are ready to give up, when we are about to break, when doubt is knocking at the door, is also the moment in which God’s miraculous intervention is most likely to occur? The cross was great, but it was just a sideshow compared to what God did a few days later. The cross was the prelude to the resurrection. On that day God harnessed all his power and raised Jesus Christ from the grave. He silenced death. He disarmed sin’s power. God vindicated himself in the face of our shortsighted accusations. And he exalted Christ for his faithfulness and gave him the name that is above all names. The resurrection is part of our road to God. It isn’t just the cross that is God’s word to us in our suffering, but also the resurrection. If Jesus Christ is the way to the Father as Jesus claims in John 14:6, then we must prepare ourselves to follow in his footsteps. Jesus’ way to the Father involved suffering and death before it involved resurrection and exaltation. Just a thought for our consideration this morning. If God could prove his goodness and love in Jesus’ suffering, death, resurrection, and exaltation, then why can’t he also prove that same through our suffering and pain? Romans 8:28 (NIV) says, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." We tend to equate our suffering with God’s lethargy, God’s detachment, God’s anger, God’s rejection, and God’s powerlessness. But that just isn’t the case. Because in our darkest moments, God is working for the good of those who love him. Because when we are standing in the shadow of the cross, we are really standing in the shadow of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. And we are ultimately standing in the shadow of our own resurrection! In Romans 8:18-21 (NIV) Paul says, "I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God." And consider what Paul says in Romans 8:22-25 (NIV)."We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently." Right now we are suffering. Our bodies, along with all of creation, groan. We are subject to frustration. We are in bondage to decay and death. But God is working for the good of those who love him. He is leading us through our suffering and death, through our cross, and down the road to resurrection and exaltation. He is giving us the assurance of salvation and eternal hope. He is reminding us that the best things come to those who wait patiently. Resurrection! Life! Hope! In Romans 8:31-39 (NIV) Paul speaks to this truth powerfully. "What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all— how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died— more than that, who was raised to life— is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: 'For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.' " "No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." Our suffering is the occasion for the power of God to be seen in our lives. The cross and the resurrection of Jesus Christ is God’s word to us. But, are we listening? Our suffering isn’t an occasion for doubt and ungodliness. Our suffering is the occasion for the power of God to be seen in our lives. In our suffering we wait patiently knowing that the cross is just for a day, but our resurrection in Christ will be forever. We are victorious. We are confident. We are strong. We are hopeful. We are optimistic. We are assured. We are composed. We have no fear, but it's not because of our weakness. It is only because of God’s power working in us. There is a lot more that can be said about how God works in our suffering. But this morning is all about the big picture. The grand scheme of things. As we transition from ungodliness into godliness, we will face hardships. But those hardships aren’t the final word for the Christian. They are only the final word for those who live in rebellion to God. We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Lorene was a spiritual giant cloaked in weakness and frailty. Her faith and hope in the resurrection carried her through the darkest days of her life. Through her life, God magnified his love and goodness for all to see and marvel at. The road to resurrection and exaltation runs through the cross, but doesn’t stop there.