Pastor Mike has started a new series called "LifeSavers" at SBCC (StoneBridge Community Church) and it's going to be a great one! The question today is: When the storms blow through (your life) where do you turn?
Two women from our congregation shared of times in their lives when the verse Romans 8:28 was a lifeline for them. For anyone who doesn't quote scripture and verse (that is, anyone else out there like ME!), the verse reads: "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." I realize that a lot of Christians will throw this verse at you when something bad happens as if it makes it all better. It doesn't. That's not the point. As a matter of fact, one of the points Pastor Mike made was that "life happens" to everyone ... good stuff happens to bad people as well as good people and indifferent people ... and so does bad stuff. So, the question is, what do you do when the bad stuff happens to YOU? What do YOU hold on to? What is YOUR lifeline? For these women, the lifeline was holding on to the promise that God can and WILL use our life's happenings "for the good of those who love Him". Now, if you read that carefully, you'll understand that it does not say for the person experiencing the storm. So, I can totally see where non-believers or even believers might find this a bit annoying at first. The hard part is actually looking for, finding and accepting the "good" as well the idea that we may never see that good this side of life. But I digress. This is, as Mike says, one of the "lies" that you must recognize. As Christians, we must remember that Jesus died that we might have eternal life (after our physical death or when He returns), NOT so that we may live a comfortable life without pain.
The first woman shared a time in her life when this verse held her together. She had divorced from an unhealthy marriage, had three children to take care of and finally met a wonderful man. Shortly after they were married they found out that he was diagnosed with cancer. The short version ... he died. Not a happy ending. Why, after finally meeting someone who could make her happy did he have to die? She held on to this verse as a lifeline to keep her from sinking. Life has not been easy for her since then. But, I can tell you personally, that she has been a constant inspiration in my life and that she has an incredible, positive impact on the children that she works with at church! Her life experiences make her the person she is, and how she deals with those experiences are an example for others to follow. Like most of us, someone else is watching us to see what we do in any and every situation. Whom are you watching? And just as importantly, who is watching you?
So, what is it that makes us different? It is our perspective on "pain" and on "the good life". When pain and suffering come, which they most assuredly do, what is our perspective on it? The apostle, Paul wrote that any pain we suffer is dwarfed into miniscule proportion compared to the glory that will be revealed in us (Romans 8:18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.) Jesus didn't die for us to have the "American Dream" so what exactly are the good things that we can expect? I think that this is a difficult answer to swallow, especially in our "get it now" immediate gratification society. The good thing(s) that we can expect, that we are promised is that nothing can separate us from Him. What good is it to have all of the material good things that we keep striving to own and to achieve if, in the end, we do not have eternal life, but eternal damnation. His forgiveness of our sins is the ultimate good thing that we can expect in return for the pain we have here on this earth. He has justified us, made us not guilty, by His pain and suffering on the cross. Our sins are erased, like an Etch-a-sketch drawing (Mike's illustration, not mine). You still have to shake that toy to get the drawing to go away, but it is erased, permanently.
Now, this is not for everyone. There is a condition to this, which is found at the end of 8:28. It is for those who love Him and have been called to His purpose. So, the next question is where is your purpose? Where do you find your treasure? If your heart is where your treasure is, then you will be seeking your treasure. In other words, what are your goals and where are they leading you? I found this to be an interesting, even toe-stepping-on, question. What is my goal? In what am I investing my time and energy? It is easy to say my family, my son, my husband, my job and that these things are all God-given and glorifying to Him. And this is true, but, in reality, am I doing this for Him or for me? What do I expect to get out of it? Is Jesus really my treasure or am I pursuing the American dream with a Christian flair? Of course, to those who don't believe, does it matter? If Jesus isn't the One, true God, then what is the purpose of life? If this is all there is, then you may as well do as you please. That is not my belief. If it is yours, I ask you to consider the Christian viewpoint. I think I would rather believe in Jesus to find out that I was wrong than to not believe and find out I was wrong!
Sorry, back to the issue of problems and pain and suffering in the world and in our lives. God does not waste our troubles. He uses them for His good. What exactly is that? It is that we should be conformed into the image of Jesus. My troubles may not make me more like Jesus. But my reactions to them may help someone else be more like him. I don't know about you, but I don't necessarily like the idea of conforming. Sometimes it is good, but generally speaking, I like to think that I am myself, unique and sort of non-conformist, so the idea of being "conformed", while great when speaking "Christianese" is less than palatable. However, if you really look at this, the idea is like metamorphasis; being morphed into the image of Christ. I like that a whole lot more!
The final word-picture that Pastor Mike used was incredibly eye-opening, if you'll pardon the pun (you'll get it later). Have you ever seen Extreme Home Makeover? You know the moment when they bring the homeowners back in, blindfolded and then reveal the great new home? Well, when we, as believers, finally meet our Maker, His glory will be revealed to us. If the new homeowners are awed by what has been refinished in their homes, how much more will we be awed by our own refinishing? When our blindfolds are removed, we will see everything as God wants us to see it! We will have new bodies, no pain, no sin, none of the pain and suffering, none of the troubles that we have on this earth! We have no idea what splendor awaits us!
The moral? Hang in there. Don't bail out now. There is hope, in Jesus, even if it is on the other side of this life. When the storms of this life blow in, where will YOU turn?
Want to know more about StoneBridge? Visit at www.Sstonebridgedp.org You can listen to podcasts of Pastor Mike's sermons there too! :)