"Hope Worth Waiting For" #81-46
Presented on The Lutheran Hour on July 20, 2014
By Rev. Gregory Seltz, Lutheran Hour Speaker
(Q&A Topic:How Can You Tell God's Truth From Falsehood?)
Copyright 2014 Lutheran Hour Ministries
Text: Romans 8:18-27
Christ is risen, He is risen indeed and hope in Him is hope worth waiting for. Amen.
Wait for it. Wait for it. Have you ever heard someone say that before? It's a very popular phrase. It's a phrase that's found all over the place in modern TV shows and movies. It's a signal that something big is coming. It gives a person a sense of anticipation or suspense; you can hear it in the phrase itself, you can feel in the word wait!
But this phrase goes back away. It goes back to the old music hall days. It first appeared in print in the 1936 play called "Red Peppers."
Noel Coward, the writer and director, put the phrase, not in the dialogue, but in the direction to the actors right after a big punch line. Why, because he didn't want them to miss out on the applause and the laughter that was coming. He wanted them to let the punch line sit out among the people a bit, to trust the words, to trust the writer.
So, listen to the dialogue, here it comes, ready?
GEORGE: I saw a very strange thing the other day, Lily.
LILY: What was it, she said.
GEORGE: Twelve men standing under one umbrella and they didn't get wet.
LILY: How's that?
GEORGE: It wasn't raining. (Wait for it; wait for it.)
Let the line do its job; wait for the laughter to end before you resume the dialog.
Wait for it. Give that word, that line, that thought, time to settle in, to make its point, to deliver the goods. Anticipation, suspense, promise. Wait for it. Wait for it. Something big is coming!
Well, today, that phrase could actually sum up Paul's encouragement to the Romans. If you believe in Jesus Christ, no matter what's happening in your life right now; there is always hope, hope that things will change, hope that things will work out, hope that even struggles have purpose for this life now and for the world to come. Wait for it in hope, with confidence; for such hope gives us power to endure, to persevere, to conquer!
In that hope, Paul says, "I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed."
But this hope is not merely other worldly. It is hope for the real world, now.
There's a "in spite of this, that" character to this hope.
Paul doesn't minimize the real world. He says it like it is no holds bar, no holding back. Just look at how the real world is described in our text in Romans 8. There are sufferings of the present time, a world subjected to futility, groaning as in the pains of childbirth, and weakness in knowing what is valuable and enduring, and weakness even to know what to pray for. Suffering, futility, groaning, weakness; that is the real world. Just look at the news headlines. Paul's got it just about right, wouldn't you say?
But, in full view of that, look at how real hope is also described in our text. In spite of all this, that real hope of Jesus is here for you now! Paul says that there is "Glory to be revealed to us, revealing of the sons of God, creation set free from bondage to corruption, and an eager waiting for the redemption of our bodies." Glory, revealing, set free, and eager expectation while we wait.
Why, because a believer's trust is not in one's circumstances, in one's personal abilities or efforts. No, all these things are eventually overwhelmed with the effects of sin, the reality of death. A believer's hope is in the person and work of Jesus Christ, the sin-cancelling power of the cross, the overcoming promise of the resurrection of Jesus in your stead, for your life. That's real hope for the real world!
Even if you have to wait; that's hope worth waiting for.
As our text says, "in this hope we have been saved." Why, because God gives that hope something to really cling to, our adoption in Christ as sons and daughters of our heavenly Father. Paul says, even in the midst of this real world, we are already God's adopted children. God has literally washed that hope all over us when He put His Name on us in Baptism. And that Baptismal hope, that promised hope will eventually culminate in the reality of eternal life with Christ in heaven.
Paul also writes in Philippians 3:21 that this hope is one we will experience personally, bodily, when he says, "Jesus will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him to subject all things to himself." Now if I'm reading that correctly, that's real hope. I guess we can wait for that.
But even with this hope, we still have to deal with a real world in the midst of real futility (the fact that, in this world, there is absurdness due to sin) and we wait in the middle of worldly corruption (the fact that all things seem to forever fade away). All of us struggle at times with waiting with hope in the midst of the trials and temptations of this world! We even wonder at times, what good God is doing amidst all this waiting?
"In Charles Colson's book, Loving God, he tells the story of an incredible ninety-one-year-old woman, known affectionately as Grandma Howell.
As she moved into the twilight of her life, she had more than one reason to let depression take over--to just give up, to die. Her youngest son had died. Her oldest son was in declining health. Many of her friends were dying and she had begun to believe that she had nothing left to live for. One day she prayed with all of her heart and told the Lord that if He didn't have anything more for her to do, she was ready to die. According to Grandma Howell, three words came to her: write to prisoners. That simple task was laid on her heart and mind while she waited for the day when she would see Jesus face to face.
Now, after prayerfully arguing with the Lord about that; about her lack of education and her age to do this writing to prisoners thing, Myrtle decided to be obey Him and she wrote her first letter. She wrote....
I am a grandmother who loves and cares for you, you who are in a place where you had no plans to be.
My love and sympathy goes out to you. I am willing to be a friend to you in correspondence. If you'd like to hear from me, write me. I will answer every letter you write.
A Christian Friend,
When the letter was sent to the Atlanta Penitentiary, the prison chaplain sent Myrtle the names of eight prison inmates. That was the beginning of an unbelievable ministry of encouragement. Over the next months, this elderly woman carried on an extensive written ministry with hundreds of incarcerated men and women; and all of it was done from her little room in a high-rise home for the aged in Columbus, Georgia.
According to Colson, writing to the prisoners was only the beginning of Myrtle's joy, for they wrote back! And their letters were warm, rich epistles of gratitude. One inmate who signed her name, 'Grandmother Janice,' wrote this in return....
Dear Grandmother Howell,
I received your letter and it made me sad when you wrote that you think you may not be alive much longer. I thought I could wait and come see you and then tell you how much you've meant to me. But now I've changed my mind. I'm going to tell you now.
You've given me all the love and concern and care that I've missed for years and my whole outlook on life has changed. You've made me realize that life is worth living and that it's not all bad. You claim it's all God's doing, but I think you deserve the credit.
I didn't think I was capable of feeling love for anyone again, but I know I love you as my very own precious grandmother."
A waiting hope can do that for people, especially when it's shared with others.
Paul's reminds us again that this hope is sure because it is rooted in the work of Jesus, your Savior.
We face the world as it is because in Christ we've been reconciled to God again. We've been given life and salvation anew. Paul says that this status is like the status of being adopted as sons and daughters, already, now by faith in Jesus, who are children of God and fellow heirs with Christ.
But to be Christ's people for others in this sinful world, means that there's going to be times of suffering, at times struggles as we seek to share Him with others. But even then, we suffer with Christ in view of the promised glory that is to come. Real hope, rooted in this status and identity; it empowers us to be patient in our present tensions as we wait for it and wait in that hope now, the reality that is to come. So, be careful when you are tempted to measure God's grace and blessing by how many good things may or may not be happening in your life now. That view misses the cross, misses the shared suffering in Christ that love often demands, and misses the promised glory that is forever there for those who trust in Jesus as their Savior.
Paul almost can't find the words for such a real world hope in Christ. He says this in verses 37-39; he says, "No, in all these things (he means, "in all the real world things that we might be dealing with"), in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." Now there's some real hope. And Paul would say, "Wait for it, Wait for it because you haven't seen anything yet!"
I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed.
So, in that confidence, realize today that even the strain and struggle that you might be enduring for doing what is right, even suffering for a time so that someone else might be saved, all that has meaning and purpose when your life is in God's hands. Because not only did Christ share our suffering, take our cross, become our weakness, and endure our folly and evil, but He also did a little groaning Himself so that through it all, we might know God's love, receive God's life, and be saved in Him.
When our Lord was on the cross, He cried out Psalm 22:1: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?" It was the ultimate "wait for it, wait for it" from the Father through the Son so that you and I could be saved!
Cling to the accomplishment of His groaning on the cross and hope in action as Jesus Himself is willing to be vulnerable to the law of God, to the judgment of God so that through His work, you and I could have hope that is sure, a real hope for the real world as we wait to see with our eyes what we know is true now by faith!
You know, Paul gives us another glimpse of that kind of hope when he calls our attention to something many of us have experienced at one time or another; the birth of our child. He speaks of hope amidst the birth pains. If you were to ask a woman in the midst of the 8th or 9th month of her first pregnancy, I bet that she'd tell you that she's had better days physically. I'm sure she would be able to understand the words of our text, "pain, suffering, and yet hope." There might even be a little groaning in the discussion. And, hey, even for the fathers out there, there's a lot of uncertainty, of feeling helpless to really help the woman you love. But, what about the child's perspective? What are they feeling? Have you ever thought about that?
In the 9 months of being in the womb, there is safety, there is an unlimited supply of food, there is warmth and the care of a mom who's willing to literally put her life on the line for you. But, there's no imagination of a life outside of that. The darkness in the womb is all the child knows. To get to really living on one's own, the child must go through the pain of childbirth, the struggle, the confusion, the challenge of the birth canal. When the doctor taps the child's backside to breathe on their own, there are some who speculate that the baby is crying because it thinks that it is dying. But in reality, it's only begun to live!
That's what Paul is trying to say to you and me about life; the certainty of life and hope this side of heaven. Now, there is the reality of the love and grace of Jesus Christ by faith, just like a mother's love was certainty when you were just an idea in her womb. Now is the certainty of your adoption by Him to be God's sons and daughters by faith, when the full reality of your resurrected physical life still awaits. Now is the time for forgiveness that is by grace through faith alone that will soon give way to a time when what you know by faith, you will see with your very eyes, in the midst of this real world, the real hope, the real life that is yet to come is God's promise to you in Jesus Christ alone!
Wait for it, wait for it!
There are things in this life that are worth waiting for, especially when it's a person who loves you. Do you know the name A.C. Green? He was a power forward in the NBA, and in this sex-crazed world, as an NBA star, about the last thing that NBA stars are known for, is that they are virgins, people who wait to have sex and intimacy with the one they marry, the one they commit to loving for their whole life.
In Los Angeles, in 2002, after a great career in the league, one of the NBA's most eligible bachelors was single no longer. He was married on Saturday, April 20 to Veronique Green.
"I have waited awhile for marriage to take place," A.C. Green said, "but my beautiful wife has been worth the wait."
Veronique said it even more wonderfully, "A.C. is the man I have waited for all my life. To know that he has also been faithful in waiting for me is the best wedding present I could ever imagine."
When he was asked after his wedding about a lifelong vow of purity until marriage, he said, "It was worth the wait."
There are challenges in this world. There are difficulties to overcome. There can even be pain and suffering in loving people that Christ brings into your life. But, in all things, Paul reminds us that in Christ it is always worth the wait, worth the faith, worth the confident trust to follow Him in all things, because Jesus Himself is the goal of our waiting. Paul says, "remember hope that is seen is not real hope." And the author of Hebrews concurs saying, "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." Jesus reminds us in His own words to Thomas amidst real world doubts, "Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe." Jesus even catered a bit to Thomas's weakness and doubting by showing up and being seen right before his eyes. Jesus caters to us too in our weakness and hopelessness by showing up and being seen in God's Word and Sacraments available to us all. So, with Thomas today, with me today, taste and see that the Lord is good, with His words, with His gifts, just for you!
Paul wants us all to know clearly today; real hope is in a real Person, Jesus Christ, who has delivered us from bondage, corruption, and futility, who makes even the sufferings of this world purposeful, as we love others in His Name. He alone is the source of real hope in the midst of this real world. And no matter what you're facing today, heaven is waiting for all those who trust in him. With faith in Christ alone, "wait for it, wait for it," because you haven't seen anything yet!
LUTHERAN HOUR MAILBOX (Questions & Answers) for July 20, 2014
Topic: How Can You Tell God's Truth From Falsehood?
ANNOUNCER: Once again, we are with Lutheran Hour Speaker, Pastor Gregory Seltz. I'm Mark Eischer. Pastor, in last week's message, you spoke about "truth having a voice." Nowadays we hear a lot of talk about spiritual things; how do you discern God's truth from falsehood?
SELTZ: Our listener makes a great point, Mark. People are interested in spirituality. People are seeking God. But there seems to be more noise out there than ever; noise that actually drowns out God's truth from being heard.
ANNOUNCER: With all those different voices coming at us, how do you tell if something is really true, that it's God's truth, as opposed to something that's just been cooked up in the human imagination?
SELTZ: Let me try to be succinct here and give a quick answer; God's truth is found in His Word, the Bible. Any spiritual claim, idea, assertion, it finally needs to be measured next to God's Word. Listen, if people read God's Word and get to know Jesus, there isn't any Word like this, or Person like Him in this world. Just see for yourself!
ANNOUNCER: We might think here of what St. Paul wrote to Timothy. He said, "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work" (2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV).
SELTZ: Notice, no supplemental sources needed for the discovery of God's truth. God's Word is a complete resource. But it's also important to remember that God's purpose is not primarily to be a question and answer book; it's a truth love letter, if you will, from God. It gives us foundational truth for our lives; truth that speaks into the many issues we might face. In fact, the verse right before what you quoted, 1 Timothy 3:15, tells us the main purpose of the Bible is to make us "wise unto salvation through faith in Jesus Christ." The Good News of the Jesus' life, death, and resurrection; it informs so many of the issues, then, that we face.
ANNOUNCER: If a spiritual teaching claims that the key to perfect peace is something we find within ourselves, what might the Bible say about that?
SELTZ: Well, Mark, what you first said there, too, underscores that we, first of all, need to understand the importance of being in the Word of God regularly so we know it. Colossians 3 says, "Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly." So, if the Bible is going to serve as a measuring stick for life and spiritual conversations, for issues, etc., we need to read it and learn it. We need to know what it says; so that as we read and hear God's Word, then, we can apply some of those foundational truths to some of these questions.
ANNOUNCER: How so?
SELTZ: Well, it clearly teaches, for instance, that, "if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us." So, without God, it reminds us of the truth that none of us is good, not one. But then it speaks of life and salvation as a Gift from God to sinful humanity. And it even says if we know and believe the blessings of God's forgiveness and life, even that truth has been revealed to us. So, finding perfect peace within ourselves alone isn't possible. It's a futile pursuit.
ANNOUNCER: Which means there are a lot of spiritual teachers out there who are not speaking the truth. According to the Bible, they're wrong.
SELTZ: And that wrongness can bring much heartache. God's Word, then, is the measuring stick for truth for life; but we who believe it can hardly be arrogant or mean about speaking the truth because it has saved us by grace alone, too. In fact, the Bible calls us to speak this truth in love.
ANNOUNCER: God's truth, then, is not merely facts that we state, it's a truth that compels us to live and share it with others.
SELTZ: That's well said, Mark. The message of the Bible is God's grace displayed for us all to see in Jesus' cross and resurrection. The manner in which we share that truth is also defined by the cross of Jesus. So, we speak as forgiven sinners, as graced ones, with love and respect to those who don't know this Jesus yet; with a dialog, then, that is gentle, patient, and understanding. We speak the wisdom of God wisely and winsomely, remembering how Jesus suffered to share this word with us too.
ANNOUNCER: In all of this we should also take time to listen to other people, don't we?
SELTZ: I'm glad you brought that up. If you love someone, you listen to them. If someone has something to say, we are not to dismiss that person offhand. The better we know someone, the easier it becomes to share our faith in Christ as a Gift that we want them to have, too.
ANNOUNCER: And I think we'll close on this thought: Jesus loves us so much He wants us to receive and to remain in this gift, this gift of His truth because it's a gift that He gives us not only for our life but also for the life of others. Thank you, Pastor Seltz. This has been a presentation of Lutheran Hour Ministries.
Music Selections for this program:
"A Mighty Fortress" arranged by Chris Bergmann. Used by permission.
"If You But Trust in God" arr. Henry Gerike. Used by permission.
"Be Still, My Soul" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009 Concordia Publishing House)
"Lord, Keep Us Steadfast in Your Word" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009 Concordia Publishing House)