"The Vision We Need"#89-52
Presented on The Lutheran Hour on August 28, 2022
By Dr. Oswald Hoffmann, Guest Speaker
Copyright 2023 Lutheran Hour Ministries
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Text: Romans 8:18-23
"Where there is no vision," says one of the Proverbs in the Bible, "the people perish." People are perishing all over the world today for lack of vision. Some are perishing because of violence and oppression which could be stopped in its tracks, if only there were a little vision around to put an end to it. Others are like fruit, withering away silently on the vine, thirsting and famishing for the nourishment of just a little vision, which could keep their lives from becoming what they are—a living death.
People are perishing all over the world. Without vision, they cannot see the road ahead. If you can't see the road ahead at all, what good is there in having any road there at all? No vision, no life. Where there is no vision, the people perish.
Life is something like a road. We have to go down that road, whether we like it or not. Some have gone farther down the road than the rest of us who have gone only part way, or are just starting out. Some who have gone down the road ahead of us are worth listening to, and others are not. Some have seen a few things along the way that are worth telling. Others have seen nothing at all. They don't know where they have been, and they don't know where they are going. They can see just as well as anybody else, but they might as well be blind. Trying to lead others along the way, they prove to be as blind as the blind they are trying to lead. "Shall the blind lead the blind?" asked our Lord. "Will they not both fall into the ditch?"
None has gone all the way down that road—except One. He knows the whole road. He went all the way. Going the whole way, He came out alive. He says with authority: "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life." Jesus Christ did not just escape death; He overcame death. His was not one of those cases of clinical death, from which one escapes through some extraordinary medical procedure like massaging of the heart. Jesus Christ died, and He lives. Jesus Christ was really dead, and He is really alive. Jesus Christ was crucified until dead; He was buried; and He was raised again from the dead by the glory of the Father.
Jesus Christ is the firstborn from the dead, the first fruit of a great harvest that is even now building up in this cold world of ours with the clammy hand of death upon it. In Christ there is life—warm, pulsating life—not just for Himself, but for everyone who accepts His atonement for the sin of which death is the wages. Christ is able to share His life with other people, like you and me. Christ wants to share His life with you and me. He wants to share with you the life that now is, with all its suffering and sorrow, and the life that is to come where suffering and sorrow no longer have a place.
In Christ there is life. Christ was crucified for the sins of the world. Christ rose from the dead to make the goodness and favor of God a sure thing. In Christ there is life. He that has eyes to see, let him see. In Christ see the road ahead for what it is: the road to God, curving through tough country, it is true, but leading to life which makes the whole journey worthwhile.
This is the vision people need. Without it, they perish. This is the vision you need. Without it, life withers on the vine. This is the life-giving vision, the vision of Christ the Savior, which St. Paul himself lived by and which he gave to the world in the remarkable eighth chapter of his letter to the Romans: "I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in travail together until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies."
St. Paul looked down the road with faith. Faith has a certain assurance about it, like faith in a loving wife or faith in a trusted business associate. It gives a man a feeling of rocklike assurance to know that whatever may happen these people will stand by him. He has confidence in them; they will not disappoint him. Everyone knows how great a role such faith plays in human life, and how tragic it is when someone discovers his faith has been misplaced, his confidence has been violated, his trust has been treated like a meaningless scrap of paper.
St. Paul looked down the road with faith—faith in Christ. Faith in Christ is never misplaced; confidence in Christ is never violated; trust in Christ is never treated like a meaningless scrap of paper. Faith in Christ counts. It counts because it is faith in Christ, and for no other reason. Faith may be weak, as it often is, but when it is faith in Christ, then it counts. Christ is strong. He is the Victor over sin and death. He knows the way, the whole way, and He is not going to play tricks on anyone. Faith in Christ counts; it is counted by a holy God for righteousness to every man and woman, boy or girl who has faith in Christ, accepting His forgiveness and trusting in Him to lead the way toward genuine life and to rescue from the ills that are common to us all.
Faith in Christ gives a man eyes, eyes to see as he has never seen before. Faith in Christ is like headlights on a car, lighting up the road ahead to the next curve. You can't see beyond the curve, of course, but when you get there you know everything will be all right because the light again will pick up the road ahead. If the road is clear, you can use the high beam; when another car is approaching, you have to throw on the low beam. But the lights are always there, outlining the road ahead and giving confidence to keep on moving.
Some years ago when I was still a boy, I was driving the family car with the whole family in it along a country road in Minnesota at about 40 miles an hour. All of a sudden, the lights went out! Without warning, a fuse blew and there was no light at all. A thing like this has never happened to me on any other occasion, and I hope it never happens again. You can't imagine how it feels to be driving along a lonely road and, all at once, everything goes dark on you. One moment you are moving along securely, and the next moment you don't even know whether you are on the road. The blackness just closes in on you. Until you are able to stop that car, you don't know where you are.
The headlights of faith—faith in Jesus Christ—will not go out. The wiring of your life may develop all kinds of trouble, but the fuse will not blow out. You may be unfaithful, but He keeps faith. With faith in Christ, St. Paul moved down the road and knew where he was going. By faith in Christ you can look down the road and know where you are going. The road may be rough and twisting, so you cannot see beyond the next curve. But faith in Christ, constantly giving assurance, only keeps lighting the way—to the end of the road, to the destiny God has prepared for those who love Him. The light of Christ leading you on, feels safe and sure: "The sufferings of the present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us."
This is the vision we need. It is the vision you need to see things clearly as you go down the road to God, lighted by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. The vision of faith in Christ is not a dream. It is not a mirage you are seeing. It is real, as Christ is real. The Son of God became a real Man, and really died as we have to die. He really rose from the dead, and there really is forgiveness and life in Him. It is real vision to see Christ as He is, the Savior of the world and your Redeemer from sin and every evil. It is real vision, 20-20 vision without any need for correction, to see the road ahead by faith in Christ as it really is: "The sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us."
The strong vision of faith in Christ does not blink at suffering. Suffering is something the Son of God expected, and He took it in stride. Suffering is something every son of God by faith in Christ can expect, and can take in stride.
I know how people react to suffering. Questions arise: "Why did this have to happen to me?" "What did I do to deserve this?" "Why do good people get it in the neck and the wicked get off scot-free?" These questions are there like obstacles on a rough road, but they are not roadblocks to keep a man of faith from reaching his destination. He knows something, something great and glorious: "The sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us." Whatever we may have to go through now is less than nothing compared with the magnificent future God has planned for us.
People readily get down on God. Let one thing turn against them, and they take out their bitterness on God. A friend of mine told me about a man who said to him: "My daughter died last Christmas Eve. I prayed to God—oh, how I prayed!—that He would not take her just at that time, but she died anyway." This man was so angry at God, that he could not see straight. The fact is he had not been seeing straight for a long time. Whatever vision he had was badly distorted.
Meeting Jesus Christ on the Damascus road cured Paul of this kind of spiritual astigmatism. From that time on, he could see straight. Christ talked to him, and Paul said, "I could not be disobedient to the heavenly vision." He caught the vision of Christ, ready to accept a man who had been nothing but a persecutor and blasphemer with no love for anyone but himself. Paul's vision was straightened out. Now he could see clearly: "The sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed in us."
The whole creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. The creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God. We wait for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. In this hope we are saved. That's what Paul said.
By faith in Christ, we are saved not from suffering, but from that distorted view of human life which regards suffering as the worst thing that could possibly happen, as the end of everything. Because we are human, suffering is bound to come. Because Christ is the Savior, that suffering is not the end of everything. It is only the beginning—the beginning of the glory that will be revealed to us and in us who are sons of God by faith in Jesus Christ. That suffering of ours is less than nothing compared to that glory, which is the hope of the sons of God, to wit, the redemption of our bodies which will be like unto the resurrection of the Son of God, who loved us and gave Himself for us.
Jesus Christ really suffered. He suffered because there is sin in the world. He suffered because He took that sin upon Himself. God made Him, who knew no sin at all, to be sin for us so that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him. All who have faith in Christ, trusting Him and following Him, share in His victory. Because of Him, "the sufferings of this present time are not worthy comparing with the glory that is to be revealed in us."
The whole natural creation of God, nature itself, shares our suffering. It is just as if nature is groaning with us until the glory is revealed. Nature is waiting for something to happen, something great: the disclosure of the glory of God in the sons of God when their natural bodies will be redeemed from the cold ground and transformed as the body of the Son of God was transformed in His glorious resurrection. Nature shares the frustration now, and nature will share the victory then of the sons of God. That is what Paul says.
Some people think that man's good friends in the animal world will be found in heaven. That may be true, for all I know, but it is not exactly what Paul says here in his text. All he says is that the frustrations of the natural world will be overcome, at last, when the frustration of man is finally overcome. The final act of the drama will bring the final demonstration that sin has been overcome. The final result of sin will be eliminated and death will be no more. The dead in Christ will rise with a shout and with the voice of the trumpet, and together they will be with the Lord. "The sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. ... In this hope we are saved. For hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? If we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience."
Nature strains on tiptoe, waiting to see what will come. What is it that prevents us from waiting in the same way, in the patience of hope? Is it that we cannot bring ourselves to believe what is as plain to nature as the nose on your face—that the Son of God will return and the Day of Deliverance will come? That a day of glory is on the way which will make the sufferings of this present time look insignificant by comparison?
St. Paul said nature stands on tiptoe, waiting in patience amid the greatest frustration for the final disclosure of God's great plan. He has worked out each final detail: the sons of God, by faith in Jesus Christ, will come into their own. Wait for what God has promised in the Gospel—the Good News in Christ promising redemption of our all-too-mortal bodies.
This is no vain hope. It is no mirage. It is your destiny, my friend, in Christ. Why do you hold back? In Christ, God has something magnificent in view for you. Catch the vision with the clear vision of faith in Christ, compared with the magnificent future God has planned, the problems of the present can be taken in stride.
You don't live in the future, of course. You live in the present. Don't let the problems of the present get in your way. Don't let them block off the view. Let the headlights of faith in Christ light your way down to the next curve, and don't worry about what you will meet around that corner. Through faith in Christ, everything will work out all right. Everything fits into a pattern for good to those who love God. It is His Word to you—His solemn Word to you.
Wait in the patience of hope, said St. Paul. You don't have to wait, however, to rejoice. You can rejoice right now, even in the midst of what St. Paul called the sufferings of this present time. Endure patiently and take gracefully everything life has to offer. Accept gratefully the goodness of God that leads to repentance and to faith in Jesus Christ. Catch the vision all of us need to sustain us. Have a clear eye for Christ, crucified and risen again, Christ the Sufferer and Christ the Victor, Christ who humbled Himself even unto death and then entered into His glory. Catch the vision of Christ. It is the vision we need. Amen.
Reflections for August 28, 2022
Title: The Vision We Need
Mark Eischer: You're listening to The Lutheran Hour. For FREE online resources, archived audio, our mobile app, and more, go to lutheranhour.org. Now with reflections on today's message, here's Lutheran Hour Speaker, Dr. Mike Zeigler.
Mike Zeigler: I'm visiting with Dr. David Schmitt, a professor at Concordia Seminary here in St. Louis. He teaches classes about how Christians can engage the culture that they live in. Thanks for coming back, David.
David Schmitt: It's great to be here. Thanks for inviting me.
Mike Zeigler: So we've had four of these conversations, all dealing with these sermons from Dr. Oswald Hoffmann from 1967. This sermon was primarily about hope. Last week I remembered we had talked about the problem of meaninglessness, and that's a real problem in our culture. How did you get the sense that Dr. Hoffmann felt his culture needed hope by what you heard in this sermon?
David Schmitt: Well, I think the times when hope is needed, tend to be times when the present moment no longer makes sense, or it's not satisfactory, or it's not sustainable. So if I'm not satisfied with what's happening, or what's happening is something that I can't sustain for the long term, or it just doesn't make any meaning at all for me, it doesn't make sense, those are times when hope surfaces. I think he had that really powerful vivid image of driving a car and then suddenly having ... I don't ...
Mike Zeigler: The fuse went out or something ...
David Schmitt: Yeah. The fuse went out and it was at night. And so he's suddenly just thrust into darkness.
Mike Zeigler: And he says it was when he was a boy. So I think he grew up in Nebraska. And so you imagine yourself on a dark country road in Nebraska, in 1940 something and your lights go out. That's a frightening picture.
David Schmitt: Right. Yeah. So you're suddenly immersed in this present experience where you're not able to gain your bearings. You're not sure how to make sense of what's happening. This is obviously not sustainable. It's not satisfactory. And that is kind of that visual image that he used for a time for hope. And I think that type of experience can come on suddenly.
He tells the real-life story of the father who lost his daughter on Christmas Eve, was it? And it was at that moment that that father kind of lost all hope. And so that's one that comes on suddenly, but I think it's also one that could come on quite slowly, that you're driving the car and slowly the lights are getting dimmer and dimmer and dimmer until suddenly you're in darkness. And I think for me, for us in our culture today, I think for us that need of hope is one that has come on very slowly, that our culture has made a transition from being a culture that was supportive of the expression of Christianity to a culture that now has difficulty with Christian expression. And it's been a slow journey, the lights are getting darker and darker. But either way, whether it's very quick—the death of a child on Christmas Eve, or very slow—changes that have happened over a lifetime, there reaches a point where the darkness closes in; you can't make sense of what's happening right now; it's not sustainable and it's not satisfactory. I think that's kind of a time when hope is needed.
Mike Zeigler: Yeah. Despair is encroaching. So you mentioned for the church, the fear might be left out of the culture, that there's this growing hostility, or just that there's no place for Christianity in the culture. What would you say are some of the cultural fears that would bring on that despair for people outside of the church?
David Schmitt: The issue of employment, the issue of sustainability of ways of life. But also even the questioning of whether or not those ways of life ...
Mike Zeigler: Matter.
David Schmitt: Matter—are the best way of living. So there's so much awareness now of the disparity of wealth and the disparity of opportunities, right? And so people begin to question even what is the good life? What is the way we should be living?
Mike Zeigler: And the image of hope in the sermon was the road; there's a road that's going somewhere to some destination. And in our time, many people feel that the road is out, the bridge is out, and we need to make a new road, or we're just at a dead end.
David Schmitt: So there's this large metaphor that flows throughout the sermon of life being a journey and not necessarily knowing exactly where you're going, but knowing that you're on the way. And so that's kind of incremental hope that you at least, you have hope for tomorrow.
Mike Zeigler: You have some way points. You're on the right track.
David Schmitt: You know you're making progress. You know you're making progress. And what I think he does in the sermon is that he kind of offers us a different view of hope, that our hope doesn't come from the stopping points on the journey. It comes from the Companion on the way, that our hope is in Christ, who has already made this journey, and who knows where He's taking us. And so we cultivate a deeper relationship with Christ as a way of living in hope rather than necessarily looking for certain markers that help us know that we're making progress.
Mike Zeigler: Well, thank you for encouraging us and sharing these conversations with us in the last four weeks.
David Schmitt: Well, thank you. It's been great to be with you.
Music Selections for this program:
"A Mighty Fortress" arranged by Chris Bergmann. Used by permission.
"Son of God, Eternal Savior" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009 Concordia Publishing House)