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Jack Graham - When Life Doesn't Make Sense


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    Jack Graham - When Life Doesn't Make Sense
TOPICS: Essential Gospel

I want to talk to you today around that theme and the subject "When Life Doesn't Make Sense". So open your Bibles, that's what we do here at Prestonwood, to Romans 8, open your Bibles. Beginning in verse 18, "For I consider that the suffering of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is going to be revealed to us. For the creation eagerly awaits with anticipation for God’s sons to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to futility not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in the hope that the creation itself will also be set free from the bondage to decay, into the glorious freedom of God’s children. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together with labor pains until now. Not only that, but we ourselves, we have the Spirit of the first fruit, we also groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.

Now in the hope we were saved, but hope that is seen is not hope because who hopes for what he sees? Now if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with patience. In the same way", verse 26, "the Spirit also helps us in our weakness because we do not know what to pray for as we should, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with inexpressible groanings", there's that word again, "And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God".

Three times the word groaning shows up in this passage of Scripture. There is the groaning of creation, the world is wounded, a broken place. There's a thing now: people will often say to you when you place your order at the nearest fast-food joint, and you put your order in, you put it in well, they'll say, "Perfect"! You hearing that? You ask your kids, you know, "how's your day going"? Perfect! Perfect! Ask, you know, how's the sermon? "Perfect"! I don't know that I've heard that too much, nor have I ever delivered a perfect sermon, but I'm going for it! But, you know, it's a thing.

"Perfect". How's your dog? "Perfect". Well, I get it but this is not a perfect world, is it? There's really nothing perfect this side of the beauty and the glory of heaven. This is not paradise. Paradise was lost in the garden of Eden when the man and the woman sinned against God and this virus of sin filled the world and we're all infected and affected by the result of sin. And, therefore, we live in this broken world, and as a result we often ask, why or why this or why now or why me because sometimes life just doesn't add up, sometimes it doesn't make sense, does it? When we don't understand what we're going through, when it seems the plan is broken. And yet God has promised us a hope and a future.

Jeremiah 29:11 says "I know the plans that I have for you; plans not to harm you, but to bless you to give you a future and a hope". And this is our hope in the midst of the groanings and the griefs of this life, that all of the groanings will be lost in the glory that is to come. The glory that is to come when Christ comes for us and receives us and we live in a perfect place, then a perfect world. A new world is coming when Christ comes again. Then it will be perfect. But until then there are these groanings and we wonder why. We wonder how we could suffer, how can take it. All of creation is groaning.

Now it's true, and I do love the song "He's got the whole world in His hands". But the world that God holds in His hands if it's ours is a very broken world. And yet He holds it in His hands and He's making things new by this new creation the church and the Spirit of God working in and through His people to establish this eternal kingdom. But until then we live in a world that is subject to futility. That's what the Scripture says here. This world is subject to futility, a word which means empty. A word which means without purpose and it is subject to disease and decay and destruction and death. And it's not creation's fault; it's not the world at large, not nature's fault.

The natural world is broken by the fault of man and our sin, and the curse that falls upon us. No, this is now a polluted and imperfect world. And we groan. There's so much about this world that is beautiful, isn't it? You look at the glory of creation and you see the beauty of all that God has done, and all that God has made and in so many ways it is beautiful. I am reminded of a little girl who asked her mother, they were out looking at the stars one evening. Such a beautiful evening and they were looking at the stars and how glorious it is to see that "the heavens declare the glory of God". To see that. And she said "Mommy, if the wrong side of heaven is so pretty, how pretty must heaven really be"?

So in so many, many ways we see the beauty, the touch of God's hands and we can celebrate the creation and we're to be stewards of what God has made, but we must admit that this world is groaning, and that includes me and you, because He also says in verse 23 that not only does creation groan but the Christian groans. Look at verse 23 again. Let's just review it one more time. For it says: "Not only that, but we ourselves, who have the Spirit as the first fruit, we also groan within ourselves, eagerly awaiting for adoption, the redemption of our bodies". We are the family of God. We possess the spirit of God, the children of God. We're adopted into His family. And adoption is a big deal.

I heard about two brothers that were talking and one was a biological child and one of the young men was an adopted child. And they were having a fight one day and so the biological child pulled his biggest weapon he thought, he said, "Well, you know what, you're not even a member of this family. You know, I was born into this family! I'm a natural child in this family". To which the adopted child said, "Well that's right. But I was actually chosen to be in this family. They were struck with you"! You are a welcomed child into the family of God! And we are born again into this family. We are adopted; we are made sons and at the same time we are awaiting for the adoption of the sons. In one sense we are already adopted, we're already there, but we're also, according to the Scripture, awaiting the redemption of the body.

The adoption is not complete. We will be adopted. Until then we are groaning and we groan in this world because there is sin and therefore, suffering, because Satan is loose in the world, Satan is alive and well and living on planet earth, and so sin ravages and Satan ravages everyone and every person it touches. And if you are a believer and a follower of Jesus and most of you listening to me right now, you are, you know this is a vexation; this causes us to groan. You know what groaning is. It's what you do when you get older. You know, when you get out of that chair. You know you're older when you get out of that chair and you grrrrrr! That's the same sound my dad made when I was growing up getting out of that chair.

And so there is this groaning as we get older. And you know, I was thinking, when we were younger for the most part we weren't all that concerned about the future. When you're young and free, you know, it's all about today, it's all about what's happening now. Not much interest in the future. Happy go lucky, lots of smiles. I'm not saying that young people don't face hard times because they do, but I just think for the most part if you think back when you were young, you didn't think a lot about what is yet to come. Yet when life gets harder and we take some body-blows along the way and we begin to hurt and suffer and at times it's not even the physical pain, but the emotional pain that we face.

C. S. Lewis said this: "Mental pain is less dramatic than physical pain, but it's more common and also more hard to bear. The frequent attempt to conceal mental pain increases the burden. It is easier to say my tooth is aching than to say my heart is broken". And so many live with broken hearts and we groan and we groan deeply, and we wonder why? Like the psalmist in Psalm 44. We'll put the words on the screen. Psalm 44: He says: "Wake up, O Lord! Why do you sleep? Get up! Do not reject us forever! Why do you look the other way? Why do you ignore our suffering and oppression"? And then the next verse, 26 says: "Rise up; and help us! Ransom us because of your unfailing love".

One of the reasons we appreciate and love the psalms so much is the writer, most often David, is so real, so raw, expressing our burden, our pain and our struggle. I know when I’m going through things in my life I so often turn to the psalms. In fact, I read the psalms most every day whatever my day is like. But the psalmist is saying here, "God, are you asleep"? And sometimes we wonder. "God, are you asleep"? "God, do you no longer hear my prayers"? "God, I’m hurting! Rise up! Wake up"! You know, it's okay to ask God questions. I often say it's not okay to question God's character; to question God, who He is. But certainly, God welcomes our questions. Jesus said on the cross, "My God, My God, who are you forsaking me"? And that was not false pain, that was real pain in His life. At that moment He was experiencing separation from God the Father, and was taking our condemnation and the wrath of judgment of God upon sin. And He cried out, "God, why have You forsaken Me"?

Certainly, we can ask God why, because we do groan, don't we? And suffering is real. But there's another way that we groan within us and that is I would say is the groaning for the world that is to come. There is something, if you are a Christian, if you are a follower of Jesus, there is something deep within that begins to long for heaven and home. This inconsolable longing. That's the way, to quote C.S. Lewis again, He says, C. S. Lewis described this awareness of something more out there. He said, "There have been more times when I think we do not desire heaven, but more often than not, I find myself wondering whether in our heart of hearts we have never desired anything more, or anything else". He went on to say, "It is the secret signature of each soul, the incommunicable and unappeasable want; it is the inconsolable longing".

You get that? In the midst of the pain and the problems that we have in life, there is this groaning within, there is this inconsolable longing to see Jesus! And because of Christ and His work on the cross and the resurrection, we live also and we live now with this longing, this looking for Christ to come. It's the hope that we have in Him! That He would turn every hurt into a hallelujah, that He would turn every dark Friday into Easter! That we would experience an anticipation of this, the longing and the groaning for God and His kingdom which is to come. Hope is like oxygen for the soul. Just as you cannot live without oxygen, you cannot live without hope.

So many in our world are living without God, and therefore, without hope. All the bad news is draining the hope out of the hearts of so many. And if you do not know Christ, if you are living a Christ-less life, you are living a life without hope. Hope is medicine and a miracle for the soul. And the problem that we have in the world today is that so many people are trying to live a normal life without an eternal hope! And you can't live life without hope. The Bible calls this "the blessed hope" when Christ comes again. Whatever you're facing, I promise you according to God's word the certainty is this, "That the best is yet to come". Because Jesus is coming again.

That's why verse 23, back in our text, says: "Not only that, but we ourselves have the Spirit as the first fruit; we groan with ourself, eagerly waiting for adoption, the redemption of our body". And on the other side we are healed. We no longer hurt, no more sin, no more sorrow, no more suffering, for all these things are passed away. And one day all the groaning that we've experienced as Christians, that will be over and the pain will be no more. And as a follower of Jesus Christ, you will be welcomed home into the presence of God and you will live a life without sorrow and without suffering in the perfect place that God has prepared for us.

Now I know there's some people who say, "Well, that's just pie in the sky, by and by. You Christians! You know, your religion is a crutch". NO, our faith in Jesus Christ is life itself! It's not a crutch. It's more like a ventilator! And we need every breath we take. The oxygen of the soul which is the hope that we have in Christ, the blessed hope. And when God redeems our suffering, that God takes our suffering and turns it around. God allows trials to strengthen us and to grow us. I want to mention briefly some of the things that we experience when we suffer trials in life. The Apostle James said, "Count it all joy when you fall into various trials". And so what does suffering produce? What does the stewardship of our suffering? How can we know that we are not wasting our sorrows?

Number one, it proves the reality of our faith. Suffering and how we endure it, proves the reality of our faith. First Peter 1:7 "So that the proven character of your faith more valuable than gold, which though perishable is refined by fire, may result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ". The revelation of Christ means the return of Christ. And so the fiery trials that we experience in life, these demonstrate, they prove the reality of our faith.

And then secondly, these trials and struggles and suffering in this life deepens our dependance upon God, deepens our dependance upon God, and ultimately, therefore, our obedience to God.

Thirdly, our trials, our suffering in life energize our endurance. It's like going to the God's gym. How many of you like going to the gym? Not one, that I can see, yes, some people. I don't like it either! But I go because I know I need it, and to get that exercise, to take that walk, to get the aerobic conditioning going. You know what aerobic means, Dr. Ken Cooper who invented the word aerobics, it means with air or with breaths. So it's like oxygen for the body. And the spiritual exercise of our faith during times of struggle, the endurance that is built, it's like God's gym. It's working out. As we work out our salvation in fear and trembling, it exercises our endurance. And we become stronger, we become more mature in our faith as a result of these trials. God does not pamper His children. There are times He pushes us and provokes us. And may hurt us in some way to teach us lessons. While He may hurt us, He will never harm us because we're in His grip.

The Apostle Paul was hurting. He had a thorn in his flesh and most think it was some kind of physical illness or limitation in his life. He said, "I prayed again and again that this thorn in my flesh", literally, this sword in my flesh, "could be removed. But God said to him, while He did not remove the thorn in his flesh, that, 'My grace is sufficient for you. And that my power is made perfect.'"There's that word! Power is perfected, made mature in weakness. And so it is in those times that we groan and we cry out to God, "God, would you wake up"? "God, would you rise up"? That He does redeem it for His glory, and He exercises our endurance. And then He propels our witness.

Our witness for the Gospel of Christ is stronger and better because of the things that we go through. When we are comforted by God, He is the God of all comfort, and with the comforted that we are comforted, we comfort others. And we also are enabled and empowered therefore, to share the Gospel. I think of people who have suffered greatly through sharing the Gospel so effectively. People like Johnny Erickson Tada. In a diving accident when she was just a teenage girl, severed the spinal cord and she has been paraplegic ever since. But she has used that brokenness and that pain in her life, that wheelchair as a lifelong opportunity to share the love of Jesus Christ and the hope that is in Him.

I think of my friend Marine Tim Lee who's been here on a number of occasions. In Viet Nam he lost both legs in service of our country, returned a broken man. And yet, in the healing and the hurting, God raised him up, strong in the Lord and the power of His might, and Tim Lee has crossed this country without legs. For all these years preaching the Gospel of Christ, and thousands and thousands of people have come into the family of God because Tim Lee has used his pain as a pulpit to preach Christ. While these are extreme examples, all of us can use whatever pain we may experience and problems in life, when we are healed of our hurts and our brokenness, we can stand up again, and rise again to use this as a testimony of the fact that God is good, that He does good! And that He's working "all things together for good too them who love the Lord and who are called according to His purpose".

And that is our witness to the world. And never forget that you have a Father Abba, who loves you and who will never let you go. Do you need hope today? Do you need Christ today? Because the only one who can bring us hope in a broken world, a world in which we groan and suffer. You see, everyone sufferings. Everyone has pain in life. People who know Christ and people who don't. It doesn't matter how beautiful you are, how wonderful you are, how successful you are, how much money you have, you're still going to have pain and suffering and brokenness in your life. And so do Christians. Just because we're Christians doesn't mean that we don't get cancer or we don't have brokenness in our emotional lives. It doesn't mean that we don't have pain and struggles and suffering in our life.

Jesus said, "The rain falls on the just and the unjust". The difference that Jesus makes is that we have hope! And this hope is always about the future. That's what we read earlier. If you see it today, it's not hope. Hope is all about looking forward and knowing that our future is in His hands. Just as the world is in His hands, you are in His hands and that is hope. And you can live with the certainty and the confidence of knowing that in this life you can live in victory, even your hurts turn to blessings in your life, that God is working everything together for good. And then when life is done and Christ comes for you, you will be perfect in His presence forevermore.
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