Summary: We need to trust God because He knows what He is doing: Though our lives may seem very confusing at times, though it may often seem that God is far away and has forgotten about us, we still need to trust.
Who would have thought it? The St. Louis Rams were the best football team in the NFL this past season. They compiled a 13-3 record, then beat the Vikings and Bucs in the playoffs, and finally edged out the Titans to win the Super Bowl. But, six months ago, if you would have said the Rams would win Super Bowl XXXIV, most people would have said you were crazy. After all, last season the Rams had a 4-12 record. Their starting quarterback was injured and would be out for the year. In his place would be a fellow named Kurt Warner who a few years before was stocking shelves in a grocery store and had just been playing in the Arena Football League. It seemed foolish at the beginning of the season to suggest that the Rams would be this year's Super Bowl champions. As they kept winning each week, many folks still insisted the Rams and Kurt Warner really were not that good. The fact that they ended up being the best team in the NFL this year was a big surprise. Now, a couple of months after the Super Bowl, football fans may be getting used to thinking of them as champions, but six months ago that idea seemed incredible.
Friends, the Christian gospel, the message of God bringing us salvation through Jesus Christ, was also a big surprise. Those of us who have grown up in the church maybe view the gospel as an obvious truth, as a no-brainer. We sometimes think, "Of course, Jesus died on the cross to save us." But, as we will see in our text today, though the gospel is very true, it is a very surprising, shocking truth. Who would have thought that God would choose this way of bringing salvation to His people? It is a far bigger surprise than a Rams' Super Bowl victory. As we continue our journey through the Book of 1 Corinthians, we will be exploring Chapter 1, Verse 18 through Chapter 2, Verse 5. Here Paul helps us understand how foolish Christianity seems to some, in both the 1st and 21st Centuries. Yet, we also see what a marvelous plan God has implemented through Jesus. Let's pause and pray that the Lord would speak to us through His Word today.
Paul says God surprises us with the gospel, the good news that God brings us salvation through the death and resurrection of Jesus. God has worked in a way that human beings would never expect. 1:20 Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? People have always been good at giving God suggestions on how He should do things, suggestions that are really foolish. Paul speaks of three ways God has surprised us:
First is through the cross of Jesus Christ. 1:18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. To those who are not Christian believers, the message of the cross seems silly. Those who have experienced its power, however, know it is God's means of salvation. He explains what has happened in 1:22-24 Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. First Century Jews had some great advice for God. Send us a Messiah, a Messiah who will conquer the Romans and destroy all our enemies. Send us a Messiah who will be king and who will make life much better for us. So the Jewish people kept looking for signs or indicators that the Messiah had come. Some of the things Jesus did: healing the sick, calming the storm, and feeding the 5000 made people think that maybe He was God's anointed Savior. But then He was crucified on a cross. God would never let that happen to the Messiah. Didn't the Old Testament say, "Cursed is anyone who hangs on a tree?" The cross was certainly a stumbling block to these Jews because from their perspective it was proof that Jesus was not the Messiah. Of course it is not the cross, but their perspective which causes them to miss the truth. The cross also is a barrier to other folks. Paul says this message is foolishness to Gentiles, which includes Greeks, Romans, the Irish and all the rest of us who are not Jews. People often react with scorn to the message that the Son of God brought salvation by willingly dying on a Roman cross. "God would never do something like that! It sounds so gory and primitive. Certainly God would come up with a more proper way to save people." This negative reaction to the cross is seen today, even in the church. A professor at Louisville Presbyterian Seminary recently said, "We don't need a Jesus dying on the cross and other weird stuff like that." There are plenty of folks who would prefer a bloodless, much more pleasant Christianity. But that is not the gospel message.