Time change Sunday.
Snow storm Sunday.
But not so much snow we’d cancel church; just enough so that attendance would be dramatically impacted (halved).
So what do you do?
Give the people who show the best you got.
And I like the message a lot as it takes Romans 8:18-23 IN CONTEXT and serves up this bottom line:
God frustrates you in this life so you will anticipate the next one.
I want you to try something, OK? 1. Lift your right foot off the floor and make clockwise circles with it. Got that? 2. OK, while continuing to do that, take your right hand draw the #6 w/ it in the air. Try it! Impossible, right?! Your foot always changes direction! It can’t be frustrating when you can’t outsmart your own foot!
And so much of life is sort of frustrating, limiting, isn’t it? You want better, long for better, but you’re not there. Like every morning I have to take a Celebrex and do all this painful, groan-filled stretching (A-V). Why? Because I have a disc that has degenerated to the point of nothingness. So I can’t run and can’t play tennis (remember, the older I get, the better I used to be). There is this inevitable decay. Of course, it’s true of more serious areas of my life as well: I see my own continual failures to be holy, to be loving, to be godly. I long for what I could be, what I should be and then see what is. It’s tough.
You know what I’m saying. You’ve got limitations and frustrations. For some of you it may be this inability to stop smoking. You’ve tried, you’ve failed, and you no longer know what to do. Or maybe you’re even like that good friend of mine who called me the other week and simply cannot stay sober from drugs. He hates it, doesn’t want to do drugs, it’s not a matter of mere willpower, but he cannot currently stay off them for long periods of time. Others of you may have frustrations and limitations around your health, your relationships, or even your ability to believe. Yeah, you want this “thing” that happy Xns seem to have, that glow when they sing & worship, but you can’t quite embrace. A longing for what could be; a frustration with what is. I even experience that here; GS is good, great, but far from perfect. I’ve got this longing for what could be & a frustration with what is.
These frustrations we have go along with the POMR because most of what we struggle with not only seems like a POMR but a Life of Most Resistance! And just when I get to thinking that all these frustrations and limitations are the ultimate enemy, the great obstacle to be overcome, Scripture comes along with the most mind-blowing, jaw-dropping contrarian view on all this. And the section of Scripture I’m talking about comes from Romans 8 & before we get to the mind-blowing, jaw-dropping part, let’s start at 8:18:
I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.
Oh! What an anthem! A clarion call! We’re going to return to it, but what a great verse this is to ppl in the midst of a trial. It is such a great verse that the GREAT TEMPTATION of it is to rip it out of its context, have it stand on its own & become a mantra. And it’s a good mantra. But if you do that, you have good mantra, but bad bible. But if you do that, you miss the riches of Context Is Everything, not only as it pertains to Romans 8 but more importantly to the activity of God.
Because look at 8:19:
For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed.
So all of creation – not only we humans but the comprehensive created order, from the microscopic to the telescopic – is waiting for something new. On the edge of its seat, longing for better. Then 8:20:
For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it,
Look at that carefully. All of creation has this sense that life could and should be better – like, ya think gazelles LIKE being ripped to shreds by lions? – and v. 20 reminds us that life has a built-in frustration to it. But look who the agent of this frustration is: “the will of the one who subjected it.” Well, who is the “one” with the power to limit, to restrain, to frustrate all of creation? Satan? NO! He can harass but he sure as the devil (get it?) can’t CONTROL CREATION! The only possible answer is THE CREATOR. The one who made is the one who frustrates it. Discontent is part of his plan. That’s why you can’t get no satisfaction, Mick!
Wha-what? Why? Why would a good good Father have master planned frustration into the system? Great question! Because Romans 8 has a greater answer; look at 8:21-23:
in hope 21 that[a] the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.
22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.
See that? It is to put us on the edge of our seat for this great unveiling at the end of time when the Lord returns (more on that in a bit) or the end of OUR time when we die. When we go to the Lord or when he returns to us. It’s the end of the world as we know it (clip?). Every limitation, every frustration is part of God’s grand plan to make us long for the ultimate, the perfect, the eternal. Frustration is not your enemy; it’s your friend because God uses it to grow your anticipation for the next life. He doesn’t just ALLOW stuff; he DESIGNS it! Here it is: God frustrates you in this life so you will anticipate the next one. Yes! God is so mean! He is so mean that he overflows in kindness and mercy. He limits you here so he can liberate you there. He restrains you now so he can restore you then. He wants you on the edge of your seat, longing for his return, and his perfection of all that’s messed up. You can’t get no satisfaction & that’s how God made it. God frustrates you in this life so you will anticipate the next one.
And a good chunk of you now think that either I have somehow lost it or that if God is really this way you’re not sure you want to follow him. But do you know why this is such genius in Paul and so kind of our God? Because if you could ever be completely content, without limitation or restraint or frustration in this life, you would not need God. Enough ppl think they don’t anyway. But every obstacle you face and every imperfection you inhabit is to grow in you that longing for the better day when your faith shall be your eyes. Reading Romans 8 closely is incredible in the sense that God is active and intentional in ensuring our frustration so that we will yearn for his restoration. Frustration is his design so that restoration will be your delight. God frustrates you in this life so you will anticipate the next one.
Now: please don’t hear what I’m not saying. First, this is not a call to hurry the process and take your own life (or smoke 6 packs a day or drive recklessly so that you’ll die quicker). It is instead an awareness that life with God on this side is good but life in God on the other side will be exponentially better. I know we have ppl who wrestle with self-destructive thoughts and I want you to know in the most loving way possible that taking that ultimate step is not God’s design for you, ever, at all. Second, don’t use this bottom line –God frustrates you in this life so you will anticipate the next one. – to become so heavenly minded that you are no earthly good. Actually, I want you to become so heavenly minded that you are MORE earthly good. You’ve got some good news and a new perspective to share with the world! You’ve got a serenity regardless of who is IN government or who is PROTESTING government that says, “My citizenship is in heaven.” God frustrates you in this life so you will anticipate the next one.
Because when you know this and internalize this as your foundation, 8:18 (remember him?) is so much better. Because you realize that it’s all God’s design. He doesn’t just tolerate our difficulties, he has designed this into the global system to make us yearn to be free of it. So no present suffering – not cancer, not divorce, not unemployment, not Arnold Schwarzenegger on TV – is worth comparing to the glory that awaits & will be revealed.
Like . . . cancer is a YUGO (AV) compared to the Rolls Royce (AV) of eternity. Divorce is Whitesnake (AV) compared to the Led Zep (AV) of eternity (the real thing!). Addiction? That’s just analog to the HD of Jesus’ glory! Unemployment? It a donkey compared to the thoroughbred of Jesus’ return! All those … there is no comparison. It’s a perspective that changes everything – not only how you endure today but, more importantly, how you anticipate tomorrow. This seems trite, but as a new Xn I still got pimples (as a 55 year old, not new Xn, sometimes I still do). And, for real, the only way I could cope was to realize: there’s coming a day when I and the rest of creation will be acne free! (And with thick, full hair, too, but that’s another sermon for another time). God frustrates you in this life so you will anticipate the next one.
See, what a great perspective on the suffering we ace – both self-inflicted and imposed by others. Why is it not worth comparing, even as soul-wrenching and life-draining as it is, with the future glory? Because our afflictions are but clay in the hands of the master working God who uses it IF WE PAY ATTENTION to heighten our anticipation for the next life. God frustrates you in this life so you will anticipate the next one.
And have you noticed how BODILY all this is? Think about it. So many of the frustrations and limitations we’ve been talking about – from cancer in you to pimples on you – are centered on your body. And, remember, ancient people like Paul didn’t think we so much have bodies but that we are bodies. So not only are the frustrations Romans 8 talks about centered on your body but so is the restoration it promises. 8:23 removes all doubt: the redemption of our bodies. And when I saw that in 8:23 all of a sudden 8:18 made more sense! Because I’d always wondered why it said “the glory revealed IN us.” Why not “to us”? But when you connect to what goes on in your body, here’s where it leads: that there is a glory, a perfection, a beauty waiting in heaven for us. And when it is fully revealed at the end of time, it will not only be shown TO us but INTO us. God’s glory will take up residence IN US! Why? Because we will have glorified, resurrected, perfected, FREE OF FRUSTRATION BODIES for eternity. That’s why Scripture says your body is a Temple of the HS – we believe that by faith NOW and it will be done by sight THEN. God frustrates you in this life so you will anticipate the next one.
All this anticipation is really centered on what we call the Second Coming of Jesus. That may be news to you (or old hat) but it is take-it-to-the-bank true: Jesus is coming back to usher in a new heavens, a new earth, a new YOU. And it’s so funny – people tend to make heaven & eternity all about them. Like listen to this newspaper note from daughter to deceased parents:
Mom I hope you can get Dad off the sports cloud every now and then and Dad, I am sure you have to pick up Mom from the game show cloud. Surely you can spend some time together on the casino cloud. Heaven – something for everyone!
As if eternity is about pleasing us. Nope. It’s not a man-centered splendor. It’s a Jesus-centered glory. Absolutely. His return is the end game to which all of time points; it is the moment of liberation for which all of creation longs. And how will we know when he is preparing to come back? That his bags are packed & he’s ready to go? Books have been written & movies made along those lines!
But here’s my vow: I will not spend a minute speculating on the WHEN of his return. But I will spend a lifetime anticipating the WOW of it.
Because who knows? When he comes back, I think I will even be able to make clockwise circles AND write the #6 at the same time! And I can’t wait. Can you? God frustrates you in this life so you will anticipate the next one.