“Suffering and Security”                                                            April 8, 2012

Romans 8:28-39

 

SI:  Many consider Romans 8 to be the greatest chapter in all of Paul’s writings—

   and certainly a contender for one of the greatest chapters in the Bible.

 

It’s a magnificent description of the Christian life—the suffering and the glory. 

And throughout this chapter the theme of resurrection.

   Paul mentions specifically twice and refers to once more.

So it’s a great passage for all times, but especially on Easter.

 


 

INTRO:  What are some of the proofs of the Resurrection?

Every Easter I like to re-read a few chapters from Lee Strobel’s book,

   The Case for Christ.  Strobel was the legal editor for the Chicago Tribune.

He was a skeptic when it came to Christianity, then his wife became a Christian.

   And in a story that has been repeated through history, he set out with his legal

   mind to prove once and for all that all the Bible says about Jesus is false.

Instead he was converted, and he wrote a book presenting the evidence for

   Jesus and the resurrection.

 

Some points he and other historians have made:

1.  If the resurrection never happened, how do you account for the Apostles?

How could men who were dispirited over the death of their leader, turn around

   and become a force that upset the whole Roman world? 

How could they do that, and how could they willingly die if they knew they were

   basing everything on a lie? 

 

2.  If the resurrection never happened, how do you account for Christianity?

How do you get a religion with such a high ethical standard, and a book of such

   power and authority, and a weekly Sunday worship based on the teachings of

   a man who was either delusional or religious quack.

 

3.  If the resurrection didn’t happen, how do you account for the Apostle Paul?

He was completely skeptical of the claims of Christians. 

   As a religious Jew he was the last person to believe in a resurrection in the

   middle of history.  He was the last person to believe the Messiah would die.

He was a persecutor of the church.  And yet he claimed to have met the risen Christ.

He was one of the most powerful intellects and influential minds in the history of

   the world.  None of his enemies able to prove his testimony fraud or hallucination.

 

4.  If the resurrection is a hoax, how do you explain that the Gospels do not have

   any of the common characteristics of an invention or hoax?

The prominence of women witnesses, for example, debunks the claim that the story

   is a fabrication.  No one, in that culture, wanting to fool people with a false

   account would have made women the first and prominent witnesses.

And even more recent discoveries, since Srobel’s book written, have fragments

   of the Gospels from the first century.  Would anyone believe a book written today

   claiming John F. Kennedy rose from the dead? 

Of course not, eyewitnesses would come forward claiming the opposite.

  

Skeptics and unbelievers who have really looked at the evidence have a very hard

   time accounting for it.  Some bring up the same old arguments again and again.

   That it was hallucinations, that it was a fraud, even that Jesus never existed.

And then there are some who admit:  Yes, something happened, maybe even a

   resurrection.  But we’re not going to believe in Christ.

Geza Vermes, the famous Jewish scholar of the Dead Sea Scrolls, wrote:

   “In the end, when every argument has been considered and weighed, the only conclusion

   acceptable to the historian must be...that the women who set out to pay their last respects to

   Jesus found to their consternation, not a body, but an empty tomb.”

 

It’s not that we believe primarily because of the historical evidence.

   We believe because the Holy Spirit has convinced us of the truth of God’s Word.

But the historical evidence is powerful and it can aid your faith.

   The Christian faith rests on historic events, the resurrection is chief among them. 

 

But now let me ask another question. 

I’ve asked what are some proofs of the resurrection?

   What does the resurrection prove? 

   What does it prove about your life?

 

That’s the question I want us to consider as we look at this passage in Romans.

What we see is that because Jesus rose from the dead, because of Easter,

   you have a basis for joy in every circumstance of your life.

The resurrection proves that even if the world takes everything away from you,

   you can have a balance and a hope that sustains you.

 

Let’s look at the way Paul puts it.  Three points:

 

1.  Easter proves that your bad things will turn out for good.

2.  Easter proves that your good things will never be taken away.

3.  Easter proves that your best things are yet to come.

 

Before I go any farther, want to give credit where credit is due.

   A sermon on this passage by Dr. Timothy Keller very helpful to me.

 


 

MP#1  Easter proves that your bad things will turn out for good.

Think of Easter.  It begins with the worst event in history.

   Jesus Christ, the perfect, good and loving Son of God crucified by sinful men.

Those of you who were at our Holy Week Service this past Wednesday

   remember how we traced Christ’s suffering and isolation through the Gospels.

   How the darkness surrounded his soul.

But out of his terrible suffering and death came the greatest possible good—

   salvation for mankind. 

His isolation and rejection brought about a people who are adopted into God’s

   family and bound to God and to each other with bonds that can never be broken.

 

Paul says that in all things God works for the good of those who love him.

This is not a superficial, Pollyanna view of life.  It’s not stupid cliches. 

   Look on the sunny side.  Behind every cloud is a silver lining.

No—the Bible very realistic about the badness of life.

   We live in a fallen world and everything is not sunny.

 

Do you remember the way Jesus responded to the death of Lazarus in John 11?

   He knew he was about to raise Lazarus from the dead but he was not chuckling

   to himself.  He was not saying—Just wait till they see what I’m going to do.

Told that Jesus wept and then, even more strongly, agitated, deeply grieved.

   Why?  If he knew in just moments he would raise him, why so bothered.

   Because death is bad.  And suffering is bad.  A distortion of God’s good world.

Jesus did not say to Mary and Martha, this isn’t so bad, look on sunny side.

   He grieved.  Then he worked in the bad, used the bad to bring good and glory.

   In the resurrection of Lazarus there is a greater glory because of the grief.

 

How does the Lord do this in your life?  If you love God and suffer bad things.

   How does he work those for the good in your life? 

Two ways—One is easy to grasp, even easy to see in your life.

   The other is usually impossible to understand and see.

 

The easy way God works all things for good is in verse 29. 

   It says that he saved you to conform you to the likeness of his Son.

In other words, one way God works all things for good, especially the bad things,

   is that he uses them to work good in your character—

   to make you more like Christ.

You may think the biggest problem in your life is your circumstances—

   maybe your money problems, or your marriage problems, or health problems.

But your biggest problem is your character. 

   Your foolishness, your pride, your self-pity, your rage, your defensiveness

   your selfishness—those things can hurt you worse than circumstances ever can.

Those character flaws don’t respond to good times.

   It almost always takes bad times and suffering to knock them out.  Old poem:

 

I walked a mile with Pleasure She chattered all the way,

But left me none the wiser For all she had to say.

I walked a mile with Sorrow, And ne’er a word said she;

But oh, the things I learned from her, When sorrow walked with me.

 

You know how much the Bible has to say about our trials and tribulations.

Christ himself, we read in Hebrews, had to suffer in order to develop his holy

   character in its fullness.  As a man, even a perfect man, he had to suffer

   in order to become what he needed to become.

So this is a way God works all things for good that we can see—

   the development and perfection of Christ-like character.

 

But there is another way he works that we can’t see or understand.

   He has purposes that he is fulfilling and working out that we may never know.

Do you remember how the disciples responded to the crucifixion?

   They thought all was lost.  All they could see was this man they had followed,

   who they had hoped would be the savior of Israel was cut off at age 33.

All they could see was that God had abandoned him. 

   He even said it:  My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

The disciples looked at all the facts and concluded that it was impossible for God

   to bring anything good out of the death of Jesus Christ.  Their faith was shaken.

But what they could not see until it was revealed to them, was that even in the

   darkest hour, God was working out his purposes.  Working the greatest good.

 

There may be times in your life when you feel that God has abandoned you.

   Or at least you cannot see that there is any possible way that God could be

   working the terrible things you are going through for good.

But just like the disciples who shook their heads in despair all through that

   dark weekend while Jesus was in the grave, you would be wrong.

He’s God.  He has reasons for doing things that you can’t comprehend.

   Even in your darkest hour, you are called to trust him.

And when you doubt—remember Easter.  The resurrection proves that if you love

   God and trust Christ, then all your bad things will turn out for good.

MP#2  Easter proves that your good things will never be taken away.

We live in a fallen world.  Change and decay are all around us.

   Moth and rust destroy.  Thieves break in and steal.

Many good things you once had are now lost to you.

   The hand you once held is now cold in the grave.

   The circle of family and friends is broken.

But for believers that is not the whole story.

 

The resurrection of Jesus Christ proves that the truly good things God has given

   you can never be taken away—even when you go through the greatest loss.

Here’s the way Paul puts it:

   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. 

You have an intercessor.  It’s Jesus Christ, who lived in this fallen world.

   Who is a sympathetic high priest because he knows your temptations.

   He not only died for you, he’s alive and praying for you.

 

And then Paul asks one of his great rhetorical questions:

   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.”

Those are all terrible things that involve losses of every kind.

   A person going through them might think that he had lost every good thing,

   even the love of Christ.  But Paul answers that with a resounding No!

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 

 

Then he elaborates:

   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.

Jesus’ love, and God the Father’s love, and your adoption into the family, and

   your justification, your forgiveness of sins can never be taken away from you.

The resurrection of Jesus Christ proves it. 

 

This week I ran across the story of Horatio Spafford. 

   You probably don’t recognize his name, but you will in a minute.

Spafford was a prosperous Chicago attorney,

   an elder in his Presbyterian church, and a devout Christian.

He met his wife Anna Larssen when she attended his Sunday school class.

She was just 15, a recent immigrant from Norway, and he was 29 when they met. 

   He was smitten, they married three years later in 1861 and quickly had four girls.

Then their troubles began.  The Great Chicago Fire of 1871 destroyed most of

   Spafford’s real estate holdings.  Two years later, as his fortune was recovering,

   they made plans for an extended vacation to Europe, mostly for wife’s health.

At the last minute, a business matter came up so Spafford sent Anna and daughters 

   ahead.  While crossing Atlantic their ship collided with another vessel and sank.

Anna, was pulled from the water unconscious but the four girls—

   Annie, Maggie, Bessie, and Tanetta were drowned.

 

After she reached England nine days later she sent the news to her husband.

   He immediately boarded a ship for England, and during the voyage the

   captain summoned Spafford to tell him they were passing over the spot where

   his girls had died.  He wrote a letter to a relative in which he said:

“On Thursday last we passed over the spot where she went down, in mid-ocean, the waters

three miles deep. But I do not think of our dear ones there. They are safe, folded, the dear lambs

   But the trials of this Christian family were not over. 

   A son, Horatio, was born in 1876, but four years later he died of scarlet fever.

 

After this last blow, the Spaffords felt they could not stay in Chicago.

   Together with some friends from their church, they left the US and moved

   to Jerusalem.  They set up a small Christian community there.

The purpose was to find peace for themselves and help those in need.

   They never intended to become missionaries, but that is what they became.

   They were a tremendous witness for Christ through their charity work.

Horatio Spafford died and was buried in Jerusalem in 1888. 

   Now, here’s how you know Horatio Spafford.  You’ve sung his hymn.

   He’s the author of that great hymn:  It Is Well With My Soul

 

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way, When sorrows like sea billows roll;

   Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say, It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come, Let this blest assurance control,

   That Christ has regarded my helpless estate.  And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight, The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;

   The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend, Even so, it is well with my soul.

 

The message of that hymn, the testimony of the Spaffords’ lives, is that because

   Christ is risen, your truly good things will never be taken away—

   peace with God, forgiveness of sins, and hope of eternal life.

And then . . .

MP#3  Easter proves that your best things are yet to come.

Paul says that all things work together for good for those who love God,

   who have been called according to his purpose.

And then Paul links together this golden chain of God’s acts of grace

   to his people—he foreknew us, predestined us, called us, justified us,

   and glorified us. 

One thing that every commentator has noted for centuries is that when Paul

   talks about our being glorified in verse 30, he speaks in the past tense.

 

Certainly we would say that our predestination is past tense,

   and our calling by the Holy Spirit to salvation, and our justification.

But our glorification is future.  It hasn’t happened yet.

   The reason Paul speaks about glorification in the past tense,

   the reason he says God has glorified you, is that it is certain in Christ.

It’s certain because of Easter.  Because Christ has risen, you can speak of your

   glorification as if it has already happened.

 

What is glorification?  It’s the resurrection and perfection of your whole person.

When a believer dies his soul goes to heaven to be with Christ. 

   His body goes into the grave to decay and turn to dust—

But Christians from New Testament times onward have said that they bodies of

   believers are actually sleeping, that they are resting in the grave.

 

That’s because the grave is not the end for believers.

Heaven itself is not the end for believers—there is something better.

   God’s intent for you is not your soul in heaven forever, but your glorification.

   That means a resurrection on the last day.  A resurrection like Christ.

Glorification is the ultimate and final deliverance not only from the presence

   of sin but from all its consequences.

 

On the last day of this old world’s history the bodies of believers will be raised

   immortal, incorruptible.  And as complete persons, body and soul, they will be

   transformed  into the glorious likeness of Jesus Christ.

   “We will bear the likeness of the man from heaven.”

We will be so glorious and shining with power and beauty that Bible says

   believers will be “co-heirs” with Jesus Christ and will reign with Him.

What will we reign over?

   As a result of our glorification, all creation will be made new.

   new heaven and a new earth—all the beauty and potential restored

Most beautiful tree, mountain, stream ever seen

   just a shadow of the beauty of the new earth.

   Bible just gives us hints and rumors of this place.

Truly, the best things are yet to come.

 

When you become a Christian you are not lifted out of this world.

   The Christian life is not life in a magic circle.

   You don’t enter it and then nothing happens to you

   You live in this world, wrestling with sin and the effects of sin.

 

Perhaps some of you have been through some long years of struggle.

Maybe you’ve been fighting with a particular sin—addiction, thoughts, attitudes.

   Maybe you have a child who has wandered from the faith, lots of grief

   Maybe you have long-term marital difficulties or financial difficulties, or work

   Maybe you have a physical illness, faced difficult death of a loved one

 

These are things you prayed about, wept about, searched Scripture

   shared with fellow believers, pleaded with God, had lots of ups and downs.

This has become a spiritual battle for you.  Devil comes and suggests to your mind:

   There’s never going to be any change in your life, it’s hopeless!

   Things are not only not better, they’re worse!

And you feel weary, despondent, discouraged.  You want to give up.

 

Virtually every place you see Christians dealing successfully with

   the hopelessness and weariness of life, especially long-term struggles,

   you see them finding strength by remembering the hope of glory.

How did Horatio Spafford end his great hymn?

And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight, The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;

   The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend, Even so, it is well with my soul.

 

Joni Earekson Tada is a familiar name.  Maybe you’ve read her books.

   As a teenage girl she broke her neck in a diving accident,

   paralyzed from the neck down.  That has been her life.  It’s hard to imagine.

And yet in this condition she has done great things.

 

What has sustained her?  Certainly the presence of Jesus Christ, daily walk.

   But also the hope of glory, her certainly that the best is yet to come.

This is what she wrote in one of her books:

“I can scarcely believe it, I with shrivelled, bent fingers, atrophied muscles, gnarled knees, and no feeling from the shoulders down, will one day have a new body, light, bright, and clothed in righteousness—powerful and dazzling . . .Only in the Gospel of Christ do hurting people find such incredible hope.”

 

How do you face the physical breakdown of your body?

How do you age gracefully? 

How do you handle the doctor’s words:  It’s malignant?

   Certainly the presence of Christ—and the knowledge that the best is yet to come.

   Jesus Christ died and rose in his body so that we can have glorified bodies.

 

CONC:  What does the resurrection prove?

   Your bad things will turn out for good.

   Your good things will never be taken away.

   Your best things are yet to come.

But there are a great many people for whom the very opposite is their reality.

   Your bad things will turn out for bad—your life will end with a groan.

   Your good things will be lost to you forever—you peace and comfort will flee.

   Your worst things are yet to come—you will spend eternity in hell.

 

Paul makes is clear, as the rest of the Bible does as well, that the blessing

   of the resurrection are only for those who love God,

   who have been called according to his purpose. 

How do you know if you love God? 

   How do you know if you’ve been called by him?

   You’ve heard his call and you’ve responded to him.

 

You’ve heard God say:  Believe in my Son Jesus.  Give your life to him.

   Trust him.  Follow him.  Love him.  Accept him.  Have you done that?

   Have you trusted Jesus Christ to make you right with God and get you to heaven?

You’ve heard God say:  Repent of your sins with grief and sorrow. 

   Have you done that?  Are you sorry for what you’ve done to God and other

   people and do you long for the Lord’s forgiveness?

And you’ve heard God say:  Live for me by the power of my Holy Spirit.

   Have you done that?  Are you walking by faith?  On your way to heaven?

 

Jesus Christ died and rose for your salvation. 

   Don’t let this beautiful Easter Sunday go by without being certain that all

   the benefits of his death are yours.