Summary: It is about hope. It is about positive expectation. It is about a Creator God who is at work bringing order out of chaos, joy out of pain, character out of conflict
Forever Hopeful even when things don't go to plan
Romans 8: 12-28 - Forever Hopeful
Although Paul’s passage is primarily an encouragement to the suffering persecuted church at the time, it should also be an encouragement to today’s church. That includes both the persecuted church, where in the last 100 years worldwide more Christians have lost their lives than the previous 1900 years since Christianity started and also those of us who make up the church in such countries like the UK where we have an easy ride so to speak.! At the present time here we don’t come under such persecution, our lives are not under such a threat as places like Pakistan, India, China, Syria or Phillipians just to name a few, however nobody, including Christians are exempt from other forms of suffering. Although it’s vitally important that we never forget and prayer for our brothers & sisters facing persecution, today I want to look at some of the other issues of suffering we are and will face!
I guess many here including me have in the past and if honest still do sometimes ask this question “Why God?” or “How can there be a God with all this suffering” Sometimes life hands us some tricky situations. Former President Ronald Reagan likes to tell a story which he says is true about a newspaper photographer out in Los Angeles who was called in by his editor and told of a fire that was raging out in Palos Verdes. That's a hilly area south of Los Angeles. His assignment was to rush down to a small airport, board a waiting plane, get some pictures of the fire, and be back in time for the afternoon edition. Breathlessly, he raced to the airport and drove his car to the end of the runway. Sure enough, there was a plane waiting with all the engines all revved up, ready to go. He got aboard, and at about five thousand feet, he began getting his camera out of the bag. He told the fellow flying the plane to get him over the fire so he could take his pictures and get back to the paper. From the other side of the cockpit there was a deafening silence.
Then he heard these unsettling words: "Aren't you the instructor?"……………
Some of us have been in situations like that one. Our lives have been going along smoothly, flying on cloud nine. We thought we were in control, when "oops!" something changes and we realized we are in trouble. Illness, Bereavement, Marital or Financial problems, the list goes on!
Our text for this morning is a recognition that life does not always operate according to plan. St. Paul writes, "I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us." Some of us know about those "sufferings of the present time, as do those effected by the awful events of 7th July 2005. Certainly for over 700 people their day didn’t go according to plan, and many more people shared in their suffering. Praise the Lord that on 21st July, the bombers plans didn’t go to plan!
Dr. Norman Vincent Peale the famous Author & Methodist Minister who wrote the book “The power of positive thinking” writes about walking down the street, when he saw his friend George approaching. It was evident from George's downtrodden look that he was deeply concerned about something. Dr. Peale asked him, "How are you, George?" While that was meant to be a routine inquiry, George took him very seriously and for fifteen minutes enlightened him on how bad he felt. Not being unkind but I know a few people like that, you learn not to ask how they are if in a hurry! Finally Dr. Peale said to him, "George, I'm sorry to see you in such a depressed state. How did you get this way?" "It's my problems," George said. "Problems - nothing but problems. I'm fed up with problems. If you could get me rid of all my problems, I would contribute $5,000 to your favourite charity." That got Peale's attention. He said, "Yesterday I went to a place where thousands of people reside. As far as I could determine, not one of them has any problems. Would you like to go there?" "When can we leave?" answered George. "That sounds like my kind of place." "If that's the case, George," Peale said, "I'll be happy to take you tomorrow to Woodlawn Cemetery because the only people I know who don't have any problems are dead."
That's true. To be alive is to have problems. Some problems are big. Some are small. Some of us have health problems. We're not alone. Each Christmas and sometimes at Easter choirs all over this country perform Handel's immortal "Messiah." This work has endured and thrilled audiences for almost 250 years. The next time you hear it try to remember that five years before composing Messiah at the age of fifty-two Handel suffered a stroke. Isn't it comforting to know that people can often come back from strokes, cancer, heart attacks, the loss of a limb, etc. and live noble, productive lives?