Keeping Our Problems in Perspective
by Jack M. Lane
Sometimes our problems seem larger than life, larger than they really are. At times like these, if we can keep our perspective, and step back and see the larger picture, it helps us to cope with the problems we may face in life. This sermon transcript might help us to see how to do that.
There’s an exhibit in town for the next couple months that Marty and I plan to go see. It’s called Bodies Revealed. I wanted to go see it because I studied the human body, and Marty joined me several times in the anatomy lab at the doctor school. She enjoyed looking at the cadavers with me, seeing what a beautiful creation these human bodies are. So we wanted to go see this exhibit.
Here’s some information from their web site:
Come and be inspired by the innovative new show about the amazing and complex machine we call the human body at BODIES REVEALED.
This Exhibition—which features actual human specimens—allows people of all ages access to sights and knowledge normally reserved only for medical professionals. Take the opportunity to peer inside yourself, to better understand how your elaborate and fascinating body works, and how you can become a more informed participant in your own health care.
Marty and I have often remarked that the existence of design, and architecture, and natural law, and form and symmetry, and orderliness in the universe all the way down to the microscopic level, all point to the existence of a great Designer, a great Architect. And the obvious design engineering of the human body is one of those pieces of evidence that points to a Creator God. In fact, after we had looked at the insides of cadavers for some time, and grew to understand more about how the body works, we actually came away from that experience being more creationist in our outlook than we had been before! There’s simply too much intentional engineering, too much intelligent design, to think anything else!
In Psalm 19, King David fairly gushes with his admiration of God’s creation:
Psalm 19:1-4 (NIV):
1 The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
2 Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.
3 There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard.
4 Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.
David didn’t even need anyone to tell him that God is creator. The heavens themselves declare it! Every day and every night, the creation itself utters speech and reveals knowledge. In Psalm 8, he goes on about his appreciation of God’s creation:
Psalm 8:3-4 (NIV):
3 When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
4 what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?
David had a good sense of where we are in the grandeur of the universe, or as much of the universe as David knew. He was aware that mankind didn’t really amount to much compared to the enormity of the earth and the sky and the stars.
Even the apostle Paul, in Romans chapter 1, seems to be reaching down into today’s evolutionary thinking when he writes:
Romans 1:18-23 (NIV):
18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness,
19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.
20 For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.
21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.
22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools
23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.
We really do see that line of thinking quite a bit in our textbooks these days. According to modern textbooks and modern classroom teachers, we came from reptiles, and animals, and birds, and some corrupted image of mortal man. That’s where we came from, according to the educated intelligentsia of today.
So when we go to see the Bodies Revealed exhibit, I’m planning on keeping an eye open to see if there are any signs or placards, or booklets or videos, that make mention of the design engineering that went into the human body. We’ll just see.
[Author’s note: There was one placard early on in the exhibit that mentioned that the arm and the leg were designed according to modifications of the same plan. At the end of the exhibit, there was a sign that used the word “miraculous” in reference to the human body. However, there were also references to evolution throughout the exhibit. We didn’t see anything that could be viewed as being in defense of intelligent design or creation.]
As I was reading the Bodies Revealed web site, one thing that fascinated me was the way they preserve these actual human specimens to use in the exhibit. Their web site explains how they do it:
How were the specimens on display in our exhibition obtained and prepared? All of the bodies and organs came from individuals who chose to donate their bodies to medical science for the purpose of study and education. They were then preserved using a process called polymer preservation. In this process, tissue water is first removed by submersion in acetone. Then the acetone, too, is removed in a vacuum chamber. During this step in the process, known as impregnation, the tissue spaces within the specimen, formerly filled with acetone, become filled instead with liquid silicone rubber. Lastly, during a step called curing, the silicone rubber is treated with a catalyst and hardened. The end product is a rubberized specimen that can be easily examined without any chance of it deteriorating due to the natural decay that otherwise would have rendered it unfit for study or public view.
These specimens have gone through several steps in their preparation before they’re ready for the exhibit. First the people decide that they are going to will their bodies to science. Then the bodies are embalmed. Then they are put through a process where acetone replaces the water in their cells, then the acetone is replaced by a liquid polymer. Finally the liquid polymer goes through a curing process and turns into a rubbery polymer. From that point on, these specimens are never, ever, ever going to decay.
I couldn’t help but draw a spiritual analogy from that process. We go through life, we go through experiences, we go through conversion, we go through many problems in life which we use as learning experiences. We try to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18), and at some point (we sincerely hope) we will finally be ready to live forever in bodies which will never decay.
I think back to the time when God came knocking at my mental door and introduced Himself to me. Oh, I had heard about Him, of course, but it seemed as though He wanted to have a personal relationship with me. So at one point in my life, I decided to pursue that direction.
As I studied the Bible and learned more and more, my carnal thoughts were being replaced by thoughts that were more appropriate for a Bible student. And, as it happened, after I was baptized, there was a distinct change in both my physical health and my personality, as God healed me of several afflictions and gave me the power to become a better person over time.
I’m still following this analogy. I’ll bet you can see some of the same parallels in your life, too.
I submerged myself in Bible study, and going to church and various church activities, and spent less time in the world, with worldly people, following worldly pursuits. I enjoyed being with the brethren. I looked forward to Sabbaths and holy days. And there was a time that I could easily stay up most of the night following some Bible study thread, because I was simply too interested to stop reading and go to bed.
The “water” in my spiritual cells was being replaced by “acetone,” if we follow this analogy. Through the power of God's Spirit I was growing to be better able to resist decay and corruption. But you know, when we look at Paul’s list of the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians chapter five, we don’t see things like, “able to resist corruption,” “able to withstand temptation,” “able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.” But we do see some really great gifts from God:
Galatians 5:22-23 (NIV):
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
There are laws against many of the works of the flesh that Paul was describing earlier, but there are no laws against this fruit of having God’s Spirit. But in addition to all these things, Paul goes on to say, in verse 24 (NIV): “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.” The NKJV says, “And those who are Christ's have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”
We, as a church, have willed our bodies, our flesh, not to science, but to God, so that our savior and high priest can remove the corruptible spiritual “water” from our spiritual cells and put in something more permanent. Verse 25, continuing in the NKJV: “If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.” In other words, if you’ve been submerged in acetone, live in the acetone. It’s a preservative.
A long process
Have you ever stopped to wonder why Christians are not immediately taken away to heaven, or whisked away to a safe and comfortable life, the moment they accept Christ and are baptized? Wouldn’t it seem fair if all our problems would vanish the moment we become believers? What purpose does God have in leaving us in this life, in our situations, facing our trials and problems? The answer is simple enough: God wants us to go on to live the Christian life, learning to overcome, learning to put away sin, learning to make wise choices in our lives, learning to grow and mature to be more Christ-like, more like God, as we grow up to maturity in this life.
As we look at this analogy of the preserved body tissues, we see that being submerged in acetone isn’t enough. We might think it is at the time, but it’s only a start. God knows that we’ve only gotten so far along the path to immortality; we’ve only developed so much in various areas where God wants us to be useful to Him. You see, if we repent, and are baptized, and just sit back and wait until it’s time to punch out and go to the place prepared for us (John 14:2), we’re not growing and developing. We’re not learning how to be useful to God.
Sometimes I wonder if that wasn’t what was happening in Acts chapter 8. Sometimes it seems to me that God gave the new church a little time to get organized, to rehearse what they were going to tell the world, but they were a little reluctant to get going. So God gave them a little impetus to get things moving. Acts chapter 8 relates what happened right after the stoning of Stephen in chapter 7.
Acts 8:1-8 (NIV):
1 And Saul was there, giving approval to his [Stephen’s] death. On that day a great persecution broke out against the church at
Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and . Samaria
2 Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him.
3 But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off men and women and put them in prison.
4 Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went.
5 Philip went down to a city in
and proclaimed the Christ there. Samaria
6 When the crowds heard Philip and saw the miraculous signs he did, they all paid close attention to what he said.
7 With shrieks, evil spirits came out of many, and many paralytics and cripples were healed.
8 So there was great joy in that city.
So the church got moving, the word was being preached all over the place, people responded to the preaching, and churches were raised up.
Others were cast into prison, where things might not have been very pleasant, but they understood they were being persecuted because of the name of Christ, and it counted for something. They were living their testimony of faith by being in prison. And I believe the word was preached in prison, too! This reminds me of the messianic passage that says, "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor" (Luke 4:18-19, NIV). I have no doubts that those early Christians, thrown into prison for their faith, preached the word to the others in prison.
Now let’s fast forward to today. Let’s put it in perspective. Christianity is legal, and as a result there are many different forms of Christianity. Some churches and individuals try to get their ideas about Christianity out of the Bible. Other people are content to get their Christianity from their denominations, or from what other people tell them. And some people just make up stuff and call it Christian.
Today, Christians in this country don’t find themselves being thrown in jail for being Christians. Unfortunately, that’s not the case around the world. There are many people today dying for their faith, being wounded and maimed for their faith, being persecuted for their faith, being burned out of their homes and churches for their faith, being chased from town to town because of their faith, being sold into slavery because of their faith. It’s going on right now. In some countries, Christians put their lives on the line for simply owning a Bible! These are the Christian heroes of today. God loves them and has a special crown for these martyrs and sufferers.
I look at this horrifying situation around the world, and it gives me some perspective I need. That's why it’s hard for me to get all worked up about some of the picayune little details some people argue over in the various denominations and groups there are today. It really doesn’t matter! None of it matters, if you have the bigger picture in your mind, that some people lose their lives over their faith. If I keep that thought in my mind, I tend not to get involved with all the little squabbles over the various doctrinal understandings that keep people apart. It just isn’t that important to me. (For more information, see the article, “Doctrine Divides!”)
There are also a lot of folks who tend to complain, and look on the negative side of things, as if they have real problems. What in the world would we have to complain about?
Poor health? There are people around the world, people who look to God and to Jesus, whose health is so poor it makes us look like supermen! And they seem to stay in good spirits about it, too.
Not enough money coming in? There are a lot of people around the world in the body of Christ who don’t even have a floor, let alone wall-to-wall carpeting, and heat and air conditioning.
Driving an old clunker? There are people who have to walk wherever they go, including to services and to the Feast of Tabernacles. It takes some people several days to get to the Feast by foot, by overloaded bus, by hitch-hiking, across rugged terrain and non-existent roads.
Let me take you on a brief side trip in our minds. I can imagine that I see these faraway pilgrims in the back of my mind, possibly riding a crowded jitney or bus in
Africa, chatting with other travelers as they go. I pretend I can hear their conversation, over the noise of the bus or truck as they bounce along bumpy, dusty roads. I visualize two people chatting as they bump along. One says, “Where are you heading?” The other replies, “I’m going to the Feast of Tabernacles in .” The first one says, “The Feast of what? What is that?” The other one says, “Let me tell you. We have time.” And the story is told once again. Nigeria
In the meantime, there are Feast goers in
who wonder if their hotel accommodations at the Feast will be plush enough to suit their tastes. The contrast disturbs me. America
That’s how I feel about the little inconveniences in life we have to live through. I’m sure there are people in the faith around the world who are baffled that we have anything to complain about at all. And yet, I know that, even though we are among the richest people in the world, the cost of living here flattens us anyway. Our health concerns can still affect our disposition. And tough economic times can bring even the strongest businessman to his knees. It’s real. We do go through problems, as individuals and as a nation.
Tough Times Never Last
In 1982, Robert Schuller, the minister at the Crystal Cathedral in Southern California, was invited to give a motivational speech to a major convention in
. 1982 was one of those times in our history when many companies were going under, people were being thrown out of work, unemployment was rising, and times were tough everywhere. As a result of these difficult times, there was a spirit of negativity in the land. Chicago
So Robert Schuller accepted the invitation to go to
Chicagoand speak to this group of farmers from Iowa, Michigan, Illinois, and . He had a nice speech all prepared, with some jokes to tell. When he was backstage getting ready to go on, he was approached by a couple of men from the convention, the men who had invited him to speak. They had very serious looks on their faces. They said, “Dr. Schuller? Thank you for coming.” Minnesota
That sounded more like what people say when you arrive at the scene of a tragedy. Schuller later said that he had heard those words before, many times, in hospitals, courtrooms, mortuaries, and cemeteries: “Thank you for coming.”
They said to him, “There are thirty-five hundred people in there, waiting to hear you speak. These people are going through tough times. They don’t want to hear your funny stories. They don’t want to see you grinning like you do on TV. They don’t want a pat on the back with a hollow promise that everything’s going to be okay. These people are losing their farms. Their businesses are going bankrupt. Terrible pressures are being placed on their marriages and families. They need help. And more than anything else they need hope. Give it to them.” With that, the sound man pinned a microphone on him, he heard himself being introduced, and he was on.
His carefully planned speech was out the window. The jokes he brought didn’t seem appropriate. He walked across the stage without any idea what he was going to say to these depressed and anxious people. He paced back and forth on the stage, looking at the audience, trying to collect his thoughts. Finally he said, “They tell me that you’re having tough times. Is that right?” Well, he had their attention. But he didn’t have a speech.
He later recalled that he didn’t know what he was going to say next. He stalled for another second by saying, “Well, let me tell you this.” He didn’t have any idea what it was he was about to tell them, but they were definitely paying attention. Then he opened his mouth, and out came these words: “Tough times never last. But tough people do!”
He said the place exploded in loud applause and cheering. He was grateful that God had given him a key phrase, which became the main thesis of the speech he extemporized that evening. He later rolled that into a book by the same name, and a set of audio tapes, which is where I heard the story.
There’s no doubt about it. As human beings, living in a fallen world, we face trials and problems. We get hungry and thirsty. We get tired. We get sick. We get old. We get fed up. We get worried. We get scared. We get sick and tired. We’ve all been through tough times. If I wanted to admit it to myself, we might still be going through tough times. Things don’t always go our way.
The Way of Suffering
A number of years ago we went through some hard times, and it was hard on us. And I got depressed. At the same time, the church I had pinned my hopes on turned out to be less than advertised, and the daughter church we attended for awhile turned out to be largely a dysfunctional bunch of groupies. So everything was pulled out from under me. And I got depressed.
I began to work through my depression and the religious confusion, and tried to get my mind off myself. I started writing articles about what I had learned from the Bible. I began to publish these in a subscription newsletter called TheWAY. At least this kept my mind busy. It was a distraction.
As time went by, and I started to climb up out of the depression, I wrote an article about suffering that came from that place where I had been. The article was called “The Way of Suffering.” It’s still posted on our web site, www.LivingTheWay.org. In this article, I explained that Christ had to suffer, and the disciples had to suffer, and we, too, have to suffer.
To give you an idea about our suffering, let’s look at Philippians chapter 3.
Philippians 3:8-14 (NKJV):
8 Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ
9 and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith;
10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death,
11 if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.
Now, there’s a phrase that grabs my attention: “the fellowship of his suffering.” It sounds like he’s saying, “Join the club.”
12 Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.
13 Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended [I don’t think I already have what I have been promised]; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead,
14 I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
That’s the point I wanted to make. Paul suffered loss. He went through a number of trials, persecutions, beatings, shipwreck, and all sorts of things we haven’t had to face. But he counts all those losses, his standing as a Pharisee, the things he enjoyed in Judaism and the things he suffered as an apostle, as joy because of what replaced those earlier things: “the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord,” so that he could gain Christ, and be found in Christ, through his faith in Christ. And the way to do that, Paul found, is to submit ourselves to joining Christ in his suffering and death.
Paul explains this further in Romans chapter 6, where he tells us that we join Christ in his death so that we may join him in the resurrection of the dead. We do this by picturing our dying in Christ at our baptism and then going on to walk in newness of life when we come up out of the water, and never look back. The rewards for doing this are tremendous. And it’s that hope that keeps us going.
We have a definite hope. The words "faith" and "hope" can often be used interchangeably. Our faith is our hope.
In Acts chapter 23, Paul is addressing the Sanhedrin. The Roman commander had ordered this meeting to see why people in
started rioting when Paul showed up. In Acts 23:6 (NKJV) we read: “But when Paul perceived that one part were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, ‘Men and brethren, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee; concerning the hope and resurrection of the dead I am being judged!’” Jerusalem
It was a true statement. That’s what Paul preached wherever he went. That is, in fact, the gospel message: the hope and resurrection of the dead. We heard it, we responded to the calling, and here we are. And it might help to remember that, as dejected or oppressed as we can ever feel, we haven’t had it anywhere near as bad as the folks we read about in the scriptures.
If we read Hebrews chapter 11, we are reminded of so many of the heroes of the Bible. Then, in chapter 12, it gets personalized to us.
Hebrews 12:1-3 (NIV):
1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.
2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
Sometimes, when I read the gospels, I can hardly imagine how Jesus kept up such a good attitude, and held his course as a strong leader and teacher, knowing what he knew about his immediate future. But he did it, and he expects us to do it, too.
1 Peter 4:12-19 (NKJV):
12 Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you;
13 but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ's sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.
14 If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified.
15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people's matters.
16 Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter.
17 For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?
18 Now "If the righteous one is scarcely saved, Where will the ungodly and the sinner appear?"
19 Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator.
I often take passages like this one to mean that God’s people will suffer because they are followers of God, because they live according to God’s laws, because they try to be like Christ in their daily lives, and they generally stick out like a well thumb among a lot of sore fingers.
Throughout history, people have often ridiculed, rejected, chased out, and even killed other people, simply because someone didn’t fit in, or they were different somehow, and the majority weren’t comfortable having people like that around. It’s the same today, in our so-called enlightened and tolerant society. If you’re a different kind of person, with a different religion or worldview, or a different shade of skin tone, or if you dress funny, or have some kind of regional accent, or maybe worst of all, live a life of obedience to God, you’re asking for trouble. People are the same all over, and people are as bad today as they were millennia ago.
But what if you’re suffering through something that isn’t because of your faith? What if you’re suffering something because God just simply allows it, or from something that is “according to the will of God,” as Peter mentioned in verse 19? The NIV translates verse 19 this way: “So then, those who suffer according to God's will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.” In other words, just “keep on keepin’ on.”
We should realize that God hasn’t forgotten us, and that there are times when we go through experiences to strengthen us. Indeed, it is God's will that we go through life experiences that will strengthen us, not only for the tough times ahead, but so that we will be appropriate vessels in the service of God forever.
Paul writes, in 2 Timothy 2:20 (NKJV): “But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay, some for honor and some for dishonor.
You know what vessels are. They're containers; they hold things. Some are made of gold and silver, to be very special vessels, but others are made of wood or clay, to do things that are less honorable.
The NIV says, “some are for noble purposes and some for ignoble.” “Ignoble.” There’s a word you don’t often hear. It means dishonorable, shameful, immoral, base, low. Some things are made for honorable purposes, while other things might be used for some dirty work. We all have a porcelain vessel in our homes, to hold dishonorable things. We still call it “the pot.”
Paul continues his analogy in verse 21: “Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from the latter [if someone cleanses himself or herself from being dishonorable, shameful, immoral, base, low], he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work.”
Our Messiah actually learned lessons from the things He suffered as a real human being (Hebrews 5:8). What He learned has become a valuable part of how He and our Father deal with us, as children and as humans. We have a High Priest who understands our infirmities (Hebrews 4:15). We have a Savior in heaven who has suffered, feet on the ground, hands in the dirt, as we mere mortals have suffered. He knows our weaknesses, and He gives us His strength (Philippians 4:13)! And He knows that, once we have learned the lessons we need to learn, we will be much more malleable, as softened clay in the Potter's hands (Jeremiah 18:1-6).
Some of us are walking through life, suffering on-going health problems, marriage and family problems, financial problems, confusion over religion, unchristian behavior on the part of people we had known and loved, perhaps even having a sense of being cut off from God! But because of the joy set before us, we too can endure all things! Whatever your fiery ordeal is, or your ongoing annoyance, it is God's will that you learn and grow from the experience!
Some of our suffering comes in the form of natural consequences of our actions, so we may need to stop and re-evaluate how we live our lives, or how we do the things we’re doing. Sometimes, God is taking a direct hand in our lives and giving us a well-deserved spanking, to get us to wake up and stop making whatever mistake we have been making!
If we continue in Hebrews chapter 12, we would see this:
Hebrews 12:5-11 (NIV):
5 And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: "My son, do not make light of the Lord's discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,
6 because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son."
7 Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father?
8 If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons.
9 Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live!
10 Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness.
11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
What is the end-result of this discipline and training? After we have suffered in this life, what will be the result?
Romans 8:16-25 (NIV):
16 The Spirit [it]self testifies with our spirit that we are God's children.
17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.
18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.
19 The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed.
20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope
21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.
22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.
23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.
24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has?
25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.
The lesson of this passage is in verse 28: “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.”
There’s a brighter tomorrow. There’s a wonderful world tomorrow. We still look forward to the time when our Savior will return, setting foot on this good green earth again (Revelation 19:11-16), with ten thousands of His saints (Jude 14-15), and put a stop to Satan and his reckless deception of human affairs and nations (Revelation 20:1-3). We look forward to a time when all tears will be wiped away (Revelation 21:4). We look forward to the conquering of the final enemy, death (1 Corinthians 15:26). Like Abraham, we seek a city whose builder and maker is God (Hebrews 11:8-10)!
These are the very reasons why we are allowed to suffer in our Christian life: in order to enter the
! Our Father, the Master Potter, has determined, in His love and wisdom, that we must suffer certain things in order to obtain the goal, and so that we may grow and mature into children in whom He will be pleased! kingdomof God
The preservation process
So when we go to the Bodies Revealed exhibit, I don’t know if they’ll talk about all this stuff. They’ll probably talk about what cholesterol does to your arteries, and what cigarettes do to your lungs, and what exercise does to your cardio-vascular system. But even as we see the intricacies of the human body revealed to us, we’ll know that those specimens, who used to be living, thinking, mortal humans like we are, living in a world of water—a fallen world of sin, corruption, and decay—first of all willed their bodies to science, then gave up those bodies when they were through with them, and then those bodies began the long journey from the mortuary to the science exhibit.
So we, too, are going through a process. It’s a process that begins when we give up our bodies, when we donate our flesh to God. From there, our shallow human thinking is changed as we replace our sinful thoughts with more godly thoughts. As time goes along, our carnal nature is replaced by God’s nature—not the righteousness that we can come up with, by our own power, but the righteousness that comes from God, from His spirit within us.
Romans 3:19-24 (NIV):
19 Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God.
20 Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.
21 But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify.
22 This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference,
23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
24 and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.
But even then, we need to have more spiritual preservative placed in us, through God directing our life experiences to toughen us up. You know, even Abraham had to go through a monumental test with Isaac, so that God could say, “Now I know” (Genesis 22:12). It was a growth experience like none other. But because of that, God made promises to Abraham that continue to enrich our lives, even today, this far away and this many millennia later.
But the final hardening, the one that will make our bodies last forever, is the resurrection from the dead. That’s our hope. We hope to come up from the grave in all new, energetic, youthful, never get tired, never wrinkle, never need ironing, never give up, spirit bodies that will last forever! We hope to be born into eternity, and never, ever, ever decay, wear out, give up, lose out, fall down, break, get sick, or even whimper.
That’s our hope. That’s the kind of permanence we seek. And it’s a strong element of our faith as believers in Jesus Christ that this will happen to us.
1 Peter 5:6-11 (NIV):
6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.
7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
8 Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.
9 Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.
10 And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.
11 To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.
Some of us may feel that this is the time when God is perfecting us, as if in a refiner's fire (Malachi 3:2-3). If so, after He has seen us grow and make progress in our spiritual maturity, He will restore us to positions of beloved children (see the story of the prodigal son in Luke 15), then strengthen us through His Spirit, and finally establish us, firm and steadfast, as His dear children, forever. God Himself will do this mighty work in us, and will see it through!
Philippians 1:6 (NIV): “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
God doesn’t give up. Why should we?
Finally, in Philippians 2:12-13 (NIV):
12 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling,
13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.
Martin Luther King said, “I have a dream.” You know, God has a dream, too. It’s a good dream. And you’re in it.
See you there!