The Ugly, Bad and Good
(The Good, Bad and the Ugly)
As I was working on this message I received an email from Sports Illustrated with the story of Lindsey Vonn, the US skier that crashed on the ski slope. I sort of wished that I hadn’t turned the TV on to watch the accident and her cries of anguish. You could hear her screaming in pain. The more hospital visits I make the more uncomfortable I get with pain and suffering. Difficulties and suffering seems to happen everywhere.
We live in a suffering world. And we, too, suffer.
- If you really honest you have to admit that everyone somewhere and sometime has experienced suffering, hardship – bad things happen.
- Life is not necessarily easy in fact it is rather complicated.
- And just because we are a Christian it doesn’t minimize our difficulties and sufferings.
- We are saved and we are looking forward to the coming of Christ. But at present we are like everyone else struggling to make it through life.
- Here is how the Apostle Paul puts it; as Karen reads Romans 8:18-25 listen for words like suffer and glory and suffering and hope; groaning and future glory.
Romans 8:18-25 (NLT)
Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later. For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are. Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us. We were given this hope when we were saved. (If we already have something, we don’t need to hope for it. But if we look forward to something we don’t yet have, we must wait patiently and confidently.)
- In this passage Paul tells us that we are at present suffering stage. And he underscores the fact of suffering by using the word “groaning”.
- When you hear someone groan it is not a pleasing sound. It signals that a person is either hurt or exhausted. Just like hearing Lindsey Vonn cry out Paul depicts the whole world as groaning even the Christians (vv. 22-23).
- Watch the news, read the headlines in a newspaper or online and you’ll witness the groaning of the creation. The unprecedented rise of crimes, the decline of morality, the food crisis, and the continuous increase of prices of goods and services are just manifestations of that groaning.
- We hear people- both old and young- dying of cancer, AIDS, and other diseases – news one popping up and old ones that we thought we had conquered coming back.
- If you look around you today you will see a world in fear, and most arrestingly a world in suffering!
- How do we address this kind of issue? There are many voices in the past as well as in the present that try to solve or at least give their opinions about the issue of suffering. Some deny the existence of God (the position of atheists), others believe there may be a god but he does not care at all.
- Even in the community of faith we have false teachings.
- One of the most popular voices that offered a solution to the problem of suffering is that of Harold Kushner, a Jewish rabbi. He has a big following in Christian circles. He penned his opinion some 30 years ago in a best-selling book entitled, WHEN BAD THINGS HAPPEN TO GOOD PEOPLE which is still used and quoted.
- After the loss of a son during his teenage years and after a decade of encounter with people who suffer loss and injustice, Rabbi Kushner concludes that yes, there is a God and he is all-good, but he is not all-powerful!
- Rabbi Kushner attempted to give comfort to his suffering readers but he fails miserably!
- For what he offered is not a message of comfort or encouragement and obviously not hope but disappointment; and definitely not biblical. Of course he is missing a key component – the hope found through Jesus Christ because he is not a believer.
- The best place to look for a guide to address the issues of difficulties and sufferings is God’s Word, the Scripture.
- The Bible tells us that suffering is real and inevitable. Our very passage tells us at present we are suffering. But it does not end up there. The Bible perceives suffering in the context of God’s glorious purpose.
- The Apostle Paul tells us we are indeed suffering for a moment but after that comes glory. Paul tells us a great deal about this glory in this passage. Let’s look at it closely
- The section of Scripture we are looking at begins with a pronouncement that future glory outweighs present suffering in verse 18. "Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later.”
- Paul is saying that he is convinced / he is settled on the matter of suffering – he is convinced that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed…
- He was speaking from one with experience and authority. He has suffered for his faith in Christ Jesus:
- 2 Corinthians 1:8-10 (NIV) 8 We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. 9 Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. 10 He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us,
- 2 Corinthians 11:23 (NIV) Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again.
- Even while writing this letter he was preparing to leave on a mission trip to Jerusalem that would endanger his life (Rom 11:31). Yet he insists that the sum total of these trials does not deserve to be even mentioned in the same breath with His coming glory.
- In this context the sufferings include all suffering that has come as a result of the fall. All pain (physical, mental and emotional), sickness, disappointment, unemployment, poverty, frustration, etc.. All that we suffer until Christ comes again.
- But all that suffering will not compare to the glory that we will participate in. When Christ comes His glory will come to us and will be revealed in us. We will not only participate in the glory, we will be part of it. The Angels will behold it in us, and will be filled with thanksgiving and praise to God.
- Emperor Nero was fascinated by the look of glory on the faces of a small band of Christians going to their death in the coliseum. After prayer they looked up and gazed far out into the beyond. Wondering Nero said to an aide, "They see something." Yes sire" the aide replied, "they see the glory of the resurrection from the dead."
- Not only is their hope in suffering. Next we see that the relationship between afflictions and future glory is also seen in the whole of Creation. Nature suffers because of sin.
- Verses 19-22 describe creation's involvement both in man's bondage to sin and in his hope of redemption. Verse 19 is charged with anticipation. Romans 8:19 (NLT) For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are.
- Paul is looking ahead at the return of Christ. The manifestation of the sons of God will take place when Jesus comes back, when we see Him, when we are made like Him, and then, at last, we will be the kind of people we've longed to be.
- Who, then, are the manifested sons (children) of God? We are (1 John 3:1, 2)!
- Paul is excited about the coming. Are we? Christ's return will become a matter of public knowledge how much God loves His adopted children and how richly He will reward them.
- Matthew 13:43 (NIV) Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.
- Daniel 12:3 (NIV) Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever.
- In Romans 8:20 (NASB) “For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope…” three reasons are expressed or implied for why creation so awaits the revelation of God's children:
- First, since man's sin nature has been subjected to frustrations (NIV). Creation's potentialities are curbed and confined. Creation cannot fulfill God's intended purpose. Sin defeated Eden.
- Creation is subject to constant decay not able to achieve God's intention for itself.
- The word futility or frustration can mean "emptiness" or “uselessness.”
- Pascal was right when he said there is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every man, for here, Paul is telling us that we have a hole in our heart—and although we try to fill that hole with materialism, sexual experience, or recreation, nothing can fill the emptiness but God.
There's a story of a goose who chose a mailbox for a mate after its partner died when it was accidentally run over by a snowmobile. The goose flailed wildly at the letter carrier and nipped at anyone who came to get the mail from the box. It stood by the box night and day. Finally, the goose itself died, standing guard next to its chosen mate—the mailbox.
- A lot of people are looking for something to satisfy them, some relationship to fulfill them. But in the end, we all find that anything short of God is a mailbox.
- Second reason why creation awaits the revelation of God is because its futility was not voluntary but imposed by sin. Adam sinned deliberately and nature paid the consequences. God said:
- Genesis 3:17-19 (NASB) 17 Then to Adam He said, "Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, 'You shall not eat from it'; Cursed is the ground because of you; In toil you will eat of it All the days of your life. 18 "Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you; And you will eat the plants of the field; 19 By the sweat of your face You will eat bread, Till you return to the ground, Because from it you were taken; For you are dust, And to dust you shall return."
- The third reason why creation awaits the revelation of God's Children is because God did not designate the fall to be creation's final condition.
- The Christian has the opportunity to view suffering in a much more realistic light than others because he not only understands the sufferings of Christ but also has insights into the suffering creation.
- The hope of God's creation is expressed in Romans 8:21 (NASB) "that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God."
- When God intertwined nature's destiny with man's destiny He gave creation hope that when man is set free creation will be set free also. For nature is to share in the glorious redemption that comes with Christ’s return.
- This world is one where beauty fades and loveliness decays but it is waiting for its liberation from all this and the coming of the state of glory. Since it was subject to corruption when Adam sinned and fell it will be release when man is completed and glorified at the second coming.
- What a glorious day that will be when all the restraints due to man's sin will be removed and God's creation shares in the revealing and unleashing of the Sons of God's with all their expanding eternal potential. God’s prophecy in Isaiah "Behold, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind. Isaiah 65:17 (NIV)
- Yes, One day the creation will be set free from its bondage to decay.
Famous Christian apologist C.S. LEWIS pictures this bondage in his classic Christian Allegory "The Chronicles of Narnia." In the first book, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, they suffered from endless winter. And yet when the great lion Aslan, the Christ-figure, comes and vanquishes the witch, winter melts into spring. Creation is set free into the freedom and glory of the children. In this amazing cosmic perspective we learn that our final revelation in glory will engulf the entire cosmos, and reverse and transcend the consequences of the fall. [Schreiner, Thomas. Romans. Grand Rapids. Baker Books, 1998, p 437] Creation will be made new. Our winter will melt into endless spring where the flowers always bloom.
IV. REDEMPTION'S HOPE, 23-25. Verse 23-25 continue to give reasons for hope amidst our present trials. Not only is creation groaning but also so are we. Romans 8:23-25 (NLT) 23 And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us. 24 We were given this hope when we were saved. (If we already have something, we don’t need to hope for it. 25 But if we look forward to something we don’t yet have, we must wait patiently and confidently.)
- We are living between the times. We are engaged but not married. God's Son is on the way back, but He's not here yet. We are heirs, but don't have our inheritance. We've been adopted, but are not in our new home with our Father. We live between the already and the not yet.
- Yet hear the hope. We look forward eagerly to "our adoption, the redemption of our body." That grand expectation is The Hope of Glory. As we trust in Christ let us remind ourselves that one day we will have a new body and be a new creation.
- 6ft 2 inches, 30 inch waist, hair on my head
- Honestly I don’t know what that new creation will be but I am eagerly awaiting it.
- Why do we have such hope of Glory? We have tasted of the rich treasure of eternity and await even more precious treasure. We have received the "firstfruits," the first installment or down payment of the Holy Spirit as a guarantee of our resurrection life.
- 2 Corinthians 1:22 (NIV) set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.
- 2 Corinthians 5:5 (NIV) Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.
- Ephesians 1:14 (NIV) who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession--to the praise of his glory.
- And having received a foretaste of what is to be; we long for the full realization of what adoption into the family of God means. For with our adoption will receive a glorified body fit for an eternal existence.
- Yes we groan because of our suffering, but we also groan in anticipation because we know something of what we are missing.
- Verse 24 insists that this hope is part of our salvation and is legitimate even though man cannot see the Sons of God with their natural eyes. "For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees?"
- Saints are God's children, but men cannot see it. But when He appears who is the "firstborn among many brethren" (Romans 8:29), we will be like Him, for we will see Him as He is. (See 1 John 3:2 (NIV) Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.
- Verse 25 counsels us to wait patiently for our blessed hope. "But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it. There is blessing in the very anticipation of God, and along with that expectation is the expectation of glory that will be revealed into us. Though we cannot see it with our eyes, when we meditate upon our salvation it will produce such hope within us that we can be joyful even when enduring suffering. Such is the testimony of Paul who suffered far more than any of us.
Desmond Tutu on Hope, His Favorite Bible Verse
In Time magazine's regular column "10 Questions," readers are given the opportunity to interview celebrities and world leaders through questions submitted via e-mail. In the March 22, 2010, issue of Time, South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, author of Made for Goodness (HarperOne, 2010), was featured. Here are two questions readers submitted (in bold), each followed by Tutu's answer:
- After all you've seen and endured, are you really as optimistic as your book, Made for Goodness, says you are? (Zelalem Dawit, Addis Ababa)
- Tutu: I'm not optimistic, no. I'm quite different. I'm hopeful. I am a prisoner of hope. In the world, you have very bad people—Hitler, Idi Amin—and they look like they are going to win. All of them—all of them—have bitten the dust.
- What is your favorite Bible verse and why? (Satu Rahikainen)
- Tutu: Romans 5:8. "[While] we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." It sums up the Gospel wonderfully. We think we have to impress God so that God could love us. But he says, "No, you are loved already, even at your worst."
"10 Questions," Time magazine (3-22-10), p. 4