One of my favorite cartoons is Peanuts. There is one where Lucy is at her 5c psychology booth and Charlie Brown stops for advice about life. Lucy says, “Life is like a deck chair Charlie. On the cruise ship of life, some people place their deck chair at the rear of the ship so they can see where they have been. Others place their deck chair at the front of the ship so they can see where they are going.” Dr. Lucy looks at her puzzled client and asks, “Which way is your deck chair facing Charlie Brown?” Without hesitating, Charlie responds glumly, “I can’t even get my deck chair unfolded.”
Most of us can identify with Charlie. Life is tough… the prospect and reality of death is tougher. Sometimes life is not all cheer but melancholy.
Yet, the truth of Christmas is greater than every grief we share. Christmas breaks through the toughness of life because Christ has broken through our world. Christmas points us toward His Presence – Our Present. The birth of Jesus is meant for more than gazing at the manger but for grasping His message. Jesus came not just to be seen but believed and received. He is Emmanuel – God with us and for us as Yeshua (God my Savior; Matthew 1:21).
EXAMINE Romans 8:18-27
This passage of Scripture helps us to see the greater message of Christmas – that Christianity is not just a holiday religion but a holy relationship to experience in the reality of everyday life.
So, today from this passage I want to share 2 principles for hope in a life that experiences hardship:
1. Stop faking; Hardship is real.
The Apostle Paul is writing to a group of Christians who would have understood hardship and suffering while striving to have faith. The Roman Government was harsh toward Christianity. Emperor Nero was an evil man, burning Christians in his garden at nighttime for a source of light, poisoning his brother and even murdering his own mother. Christians who lived during this time endured and persevered through hardship.
Many Christians across the world are experiencing this sort of suffering. Believers in North America may not be experiencing as great hardship as this but perhaps it is on the horizon. Further, in light of today’s times many others are facing tough and trying times.
However, the point Paul is making in Romans 8 is that God oversees the suffering of this world. God has been aware of the world’s sufferings since the beginning, because creation was (v.20) “subjected to futility” [emptiness or vainness] when sin entered the world. The “whole creation has been groaning together in pains… and not only creation but we ourselves” (v.22-23).
So, when we complain about all the bad news in the media, or the hardships of people or even the sufferings of our own life, God is still on His throne. He sees and understands your pain.
Unfortunately, many live by an unwritten rule, especially in churches, that we are supposed to pretend; pretend that we have everything under control; pretend that life is not spinning in chaos. Pretending is easy and efficient – when asked how we are doing we simply respond with an uncomplicated “FINE”. However, what we are really saying is we are Frustrated Insecure Neurotic Emotional! We all have issues, we all are sinners.
Many of us have bought into the lie of faking it rather than being real in our relationships. The message of Christianity is to stop faking it and face life head on. It’s ok to not be ok, but it’s not ok to stay there.
ð Enter real community. It starts with a God who understands the reality of suffering. It leads to relating to people in a community of faith to journey life – hurt but not without hope. And hope is a person – Jesus!
2. Start living; Hope is available.
Paul says that the “sufferings of this life are not worth comparing to the glory that is to be revealed to us”. What he is saying is that hope is available. Glory will be revealed (v.18-19). Creation will be set free from corruption (v.21). And we wait eagerly for adoption and redemption (v.23); for in this hope we were saved (v.24).
So, while you may have lost hope, God has not lost hope. God does not fear another tomorrow or another test. God is not wavering on endurance. He is in every moment with you. No matter the trial or trouble, God makes His presence available to you. So remember, His Presence – Our Present. The birth of Jesus is meant for more than gazing at the manger but for grasping His message and letting His message grasp us. By grace through faith, you have a choice to rely on His presence or your own. Go with God.
There is an often told story about a relationship between two soldiers during the terrible trench wars of WWI. Trench warfare was known for its abundance of downtime, mixed with moments of trial and terror. During the downtime, two American soldiers formed a bond as they talked about each other’s families, what they wanted to do when the war was over and even speaking of their fears of dying for their country.
One night, the order was given for the soldiers to leave their trench and attack the enemy. The fighting was fierce and the two soldier friends became separated. After a long and desperate battle, the soldiers retreated back to safety in the trench. There were many wounded, bleeding and some never to return to the trench. The one soldier was looking for his friend but discovered he was still in the middle of the battle zone laying wounded. He wanted to go out and help his friend to safety but the commanding officer said “Absolutely not. It’s a suicide mission not worth the risk. I’ve already lost more than I can afford to lose.”
The friend could not sit idly and waited for the officer to turn before he jumped out of the safe trench into the battle zone. He was forced to crawl with his face crushed to the ground because of the bullets flying overhead. Upon reaching his friend they exchanged a few words and he was able to pull him back to the trench. However, along their crawl back the wounded soldier died. In the middle of the trench the soldier wept over his battle-worn friend. The officer yelled angrily since his order was disobeyed, “So, was it worth it?” The friend responded, “Absolutely. My friend’s final words made it all worthwhile.” The officer wondered what could have possibly been said to make it worth the risk of his own life. After asking the response of the soldier said, “When I reached him and saw his face he smiled and said, ‘I knew you would come.’”
Jesus has come. He endured the testing of Satan and the suffering trial of the cross. He was wounded greatly and died fully. He died to make you worthy. He came because He loves you. There is hope, Jesus has come.
µ What child is this? Is there joy in your world? Trust in Jesus