Insights Into the Issue of Suffering

Because of What Christ Has Done, Even In Suffering, We Can Choose Hope

Tim Lundy
Jun 5, 2022    48m
What can we do when we are facing suffering and pain? This message reminds us that in this world, life will be difficult. But even during the worst suffering, we can find hope when we place our faith in the finished work of Jesus and the promise of eternal life. Video recorded at Los Gatos, California.

messageRegarding Grammar:

This is a transcription of the sermon. People speak differently than they write, and there are common colloquialisms in this transcript that sound good when spoken, and look like bad grammar when written.

Tim Lundy: [00:00:04] Good morning, Venture, I want to send a greeting to those who are watching in the classic service, we're glad for you to be able to join us. And also, all that are watching online, some of you are watching at home, some of you have gathered together, some of you are watching this this week or maybe you're listening to it in the car, but we're thankful through every avenue that you have chosen to join us.

Tim Lundy: [00:00:26] And I'm thankful because, as I've said, we're in this chapter in Romans that I think is one of the greatest chapters in the Bible, because it hits all the things that we need to hear, and all the issues we need to wrestle with. If you've got your Bibles here, or grab the blue bible in the room, if you're listening or on your phone, go ahead and turn to Romans chapter 8. Romans Chapter 8, and if you want to use one of the ones in the room, just grab the blue and it'll be pages 1121-22 right in there, in Romans chapter 8.

Tim Lundy: [00:00:57] And in this chapter, Paul's been talking about how the Spirit ministers to us and helps us become the believers that we want to be, helps us in this journey of sanctification, and he recognizes there's key challenges that we face in it. And this week in particular, he's going to spend an extended time talking about not only a challenge we face as Christians but really a challenge everybody on the planet faces. What do you do with evil and suffering? How do you process that? And I say it's a key challenge, in fact, if you ask people why they don't believe in God, why they don't believe in Christianity, one of the key issues that comes up time and time again is suffering and evil. I mean, how could this all good, all-knowing, all-powerful God allow these events to happen? And our brains struggle to process this.

Tim Lundy: [00:01:53] Now, I read an article in Psychology Today, it was pretty fascinating, Dr. Ralph Lewis. He said part of the reason is we're a storytelling species, our brains have a natural proclivity for coherent stories, and grand narratives, with an overarching point and a satisfying end. Things must happen for specific reasons, they must have a point, or we struggle processing it. And because we're wired that way, when something bad happens, when we see tragedy in the world and we see events, our brains immediately go to that place of I want to understand why, there must be a reason for this. It's interesting, as you read that article, Dr. Lewis, he reaches the conclusion, though, there is no grand narrative because he doesn't believe in God. He says there really is no story, it's pretty fascinating to me, he says, "When you see this, the universe has no purpose." But then he kind of makes this conjecture, "But we do, we as humans give value and meaning to life. People can and do care, even if the universe doesn't." And look at it, it was a pretty fascinating article till he makes the turn, and I go, well, if there is no story, why should we care either? If there is no meaning. But then you go, well, okay, if you believe in God, how do you wrestle with this?

Tim Lundy: [00:03:14] About 50 years ago, there was a best-selling book by Rabbi Kushner, maybe you read it, When Bad Things Happen To Good People. And again, he believes in God, but kind of his answer was, well, God's really not omnipotent. In fact, we've evolved past God in that way, and so we shouldn't be surprised when events happen that are beyond God's power. Now, again, as a Christian, I look at that and I go, that answer doesn't match what Scripture says.

Tim Lundy: [00:03:44] So how do we, and just hear me, I am a Christian who believes, and I believe that Scripture presents that God is all knowing, that he is all loving, and he is all powerful. And there's a mystery as we live in a world of suffering, as you get up every day and you kind of look on your feed and see all the events that have happened. And I think we struggle with it more because we have more awareness of of what's going on in the world than any generation, any people ever before, and so this is a real struggle for us. And as a Christian, there's a mystery in that we believe in this God who created a universe, who chose the kind of creatures in it he wanted to know, and love creatures, who had the ability to rebel against him. In order to love, there is the ability to rebel, and that rebellion has had devastating consequences on our world, and devastating consequences on our lives. That even as Christians who know this all powerful, all knowing, all loving God, we can find ourselves struggling with, what do we do with suffering? And again, this is why I love this chapter of Romans because Paul doesn't dodge it, he doesn't try to overexplain it, but he helps us, as Christians, to process that in this mystery of a world that God's created like this, how do we still hold on to our faith in Him while recognizing the real suffering we have in the world?

Tim Lundy: [00:05:16] And as we go through this section of it, I've just labeled this, Insights, and there are just powerful insights about suffering itself that hopefully will bring some hope to you today. Read with me if you're there, Romans 8, starting in verse 18. And as we just read this first verse, he says, "For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us." Now, the reason he shifted to suffering, in fact, go back to verse 17, he said, remember, "We are children of God, 17and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ." And then he adds this line, "Provided we suffer with him." There's this recognition there by Paul of, as we're talking about these great things, let me just go ahead and help everybody embrace the fact we are going to suffer in this life.

Tim Lundy: [00:06:06] In fact, as you look at this, I would just say in this verse, expect that bad things happen to good people, even good Christians, expect it. And the reason I say that is, I've counseled people over the years, and I don't think we mean to do this, but somewhere along the way, especially as Christians, if we feel like I'm doing the things that God's called me to do, I've stayed out of the ditches, I'm not doing anything egregious. You know, I'm pursuing, I'm faithful, I'm involved with it, we kind of have this scorecard, we kind of have this range of reasonable suffering we think we are allowed to have in that. And then when it gets outside that range, when really tragic events come, when devastation hits, we don't know what to do with it. I've seen people, I've talked to them in the office, they're people that have been faithful, strong for years, and something takes their legs out from under them. And part of it, I think, is this expectation of, I was a good Christian, whatever that means, I was doing what I was supposed to do and this happened to me. And I love that Paul just starts right out of the gate, he doesn't give a range, he doesn't give anything, he says, just go ahead and expect suffering in this life, and especially for good Christians.

Tim Lundy: And he doesn't write this, by the way, as this detached theologian. If you know anything about Paul's story, there is no level of suffering that anyone's faced that Paul didn't face; physical, he's beaten, he's abused; injustice, he's betrayed, and he had some of his best friends walk out on him; people ran down his reputation. He faced everything emotionally, physically, mentally, anything you could face, even the kind of suffering when he went to God and he said, hey, God, I've got this thorn in the flesh, it'd be really good if you removed it. And God said, no three times. Three times this reasonable request of God, this is causing me to suffer, and God said, no, I'm not doing it. So when he talks about suffering here, he's not just throwing it out there lightly, he's writing it as a man of experience.

Tim Lundy: [00:08:27] And I say that because some of you here, you've faced suffering beyond what I faced. I could create a list in my life, I had a dad that died in a car wreck when I was six. I buried a brother when he was forty-two years old. I watched two nieces die of a horrific disease. I saw my parents’ divorce. I mean, I can look through the list, but then some of you, when we start comparing lists in that, you look at it, man, the gauge of it of what you have suffering wise. And you might be tempted in a place like that to go, I'm not really going to listen to this because nobody's been through what I've been through. Hear me, what Paul experienced in his life, he's worth listening to, and he just says you need to go ahead and expect it's going to be a part of this life.

Tim Lundy: [00:09:15] As you do that as well, don't assume that someone's suffering is a result of personal sin, I'll just say that he's not talking about the suffering here that's based on sin in your life. And it may be, you may be at a place where you're suffering because of your foolish choices. You may be at a place you're suffering because God is trying to get your attention. Now here's what I'd say, when God uses suffering in that way to get our attention because of our sin, we're not mistaken about it. You know what it is, you feel the conviction of the Holy Spirit. Some of you right now, you feel the conviction of the Holy Spirit because you know there's something in your life you need to deal with.

Tim Lundy: [00:09:53] But guys, there's a big category of people that suffer and it's not because they did anything wrong. I mean, you look at the guy, Job, Job suffered because he did things right. Satan looked at Job and he said, God, no wonder Job follows you, look how blessed he is, you bought him off, that's why he follows you. If you let me attack him, he won't follow you anymore. And God let him. If you read the story, he lost his business, he lost his children, he lost his generational wealth, he lost his health, his wife turned bitter, I mean, you could just check off every box he experienced in that. Why, because Job was a sinful guy? No, it's because he was a righteous guy because he was doing the right thing.

Tim Lundy: [00:10:47] I think nobody did this more than Jesus, look what Peter says, "For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering." We're supposed to do the right thing, even if we suffer, "Just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps. 22He never sinned, nor ever deceived anyone. 23He did not retaliate when he was insulted, nor threaten revenge when he suffered. He left his case in the hands of God, who always judges fairly. I mean, there's the clear example here of Peter even says, you need to expect to suffer like Christ suffered. and he never sinned. And again, the reason I say this at the beginning, especially, is just talking to people over the years, Some of you have been through an extended period of suffering. And Satan attacks you and wants to put all the blame on you, and you live under that, and you think I must have done something wrong? Or maybe it was based on that poor choice I did years ago, and I did that and God's punishing me now. Guy's that's not how God works, when he's using suffering to get your attention because of sin there's no mistaking, you have to go look for it. You don't sit there and go, hmm, I wonder what it is. The Holy Spirit is very clear in his conviction. But you may very well be in a season like Job. like Jesus, like Paul, and I'd hate for you to live under that constant wave of guilt that I'm experiencing this in my life because it's something that must be hidden that I did wrong. Guys, Scripture does not teach that.

Tim Lundy: [00:12:34] Look at the third thing that we see out of this. We need to embrace the fact of why we suffer, that our current situation, I call it groan-worthy. You go, Why are we suffering in this world? Paul says, Well, let me tell you about this world. This world is groan worthy. You go groan-worthy, what are you talking about?

Tim Lundy: [00:12:49] Read with me, in this next section, he has three groans that he mentions. Look at the first one, verse 19, "For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now." Remember, his whole theory is that this suffering is going to lead to a glory to come. And he's describing the world, when he says the creation, he is talking about our created universe, the world we live in. Our very world is groaning, our very world is like in the pain of childbirth. There's good coming. but man, when you were in the pain of childbirth, if you've ever walked through that as a man, I've never experienced it physically, I've been in the presence of it. Let me tell you, it's pretty powerful, it's painful.

Tim Lundy: [00:13:58] I love the way Paul puts it here, he says, creation groans because the world is not the way it's supposed to be. When sin entered the world, it entered into a futility, the creation itself was marred by it. That's why we live in a world when you look at and you see the tragedies of an earthquake or tornado or hurricanes that come, you see the tragedy of what's happening with the environment as believers we're called to steward that environment, we're called to rule that environment, and we watch the impact of sin on it. literally, the physical universe itself has been impacted by it. And when you see that, it's this recognition, this isn't how it's supposed to be. Even our relationship with the animal kingdom, it's not how it was supposed to be, not how it was before sin came. The creation groans.

Tim Lundy: [00:14:48] I thought of this verse last year as watching a documentary on Discovery Channel, and it was just talking about the extinction of different animals and species on our planet. And there was a section of it, they interviewed a professor from Cornell University. And at Cornell, they have a repository, they have a library of sounds that they've recorded the animals, so we don't lose the sound of them when they're extinct. There's one part where this professor played a recording of a bird on Kauai in Hawaii, the ?o?o bird, a male ?o?o bird. In fact, watch this part of the documentary.

Video : [00:15:36] (Video Plays).

Tim Lundy: [00:17:05] Did you feel the sadness in that? I mean, the last male singing for a female that will never come. As soon as I watched that, my mind immediately went to this verse, creation groans, this isn't now supposed to be. It longs, our universe itself longs for the redemption of come. longs for the day when it's all restored. with a new heaven and a new earth. And do you realize we'll get to experience then, species that we've never seen because it's all made right? But Paul says right now, you're in the pain of childbirth, and we feel it down to a creation level. We feel it at a personal level.

Tim Lundy: [00:17:58] Look at the next verse. if you want to talk about the next level of groaning here. Verse 23, "And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies." And so Paul says, the second level of groaning, we groan., we recognize our current limitations. We recognize the groaning of our bodies. Let me tell you, at 55, the body groans more, and there is that sense of that mortality, a sense of limitation, and a sense of weakness, and we have those wake-up calls, sometimes when your ego is bruised.

Tim Lundy: [00:18:45] A few months ago, I had a wake-up call, and I was groaning. It wasn't anything that physically happened to me, it was after a service, in fact, I'd preach that morning. And I was on the way home, and I stopped at Walgreens by our house, I'll go in this Walgreens often. There's a young man who works there, he's a very interesting young man, and every time I check out, it's always interesting, his comments. But this day I came up and had a few items and I was dressed from church, I think I had a sweater on. And in it and he goes, wow, you're dressed up today, what's the occasion? I said, well, you know, work at a church and I just came from church. And he said, oh, he goes you look like somebody. You look like somebody. And, you know, I'm kind of like. oh, really? And who would you say I look like? You know, I've got a list of candidates in my mind I'm hoping for. And then he goes, I know what it is, you look like Bernie Sanders. I was literally standing there, and I was like, who? Like hopefully there's some Bernie Sanders I don't know of, that's this dashing fellow out there. He goes, Bernie Sanders, the senator. Now, listen to me, I don't care what your politics are, nobody wants to look like Bernie Sanders, like nobody is going into their stylist and going, hey, I want to look like Bernie, give me the Bernie treatment. I mean, I didn't know what to say. I went home and immediately took off the clothes and my wife said, what are you doing? I said I'm about to burn this outfit. She's like, what happened? And I told her and being the kind, loving woman that she is, she laughed hysterically. And I told my kids, and they didn't think it was a stretch. In fact, one of them goes, I can see it. I was like, you can see it? You're about to see grumpy Bernie is what you're about to see. Now, even as I tell the story, there is part of me that's like, offended, but what is that? What am I trying to hold on to? What are we trying to hold on to? What do we desperately do with our bodies? See, there's this inward sense, man, I'm on limited time, this isn't how I want to be. And guys, it's not just physically, it's all these different levels, we groan inwardly.

Tim Lundy: [00:21:33] Now here's the great news, there's one more level of groaning, though. Look at this, verse 26, "Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God." I love these verses because here's what Paul is telling us, creation groans because the world is not the way it's supposed to be. I groan, I recognize my limitations. And then this third level, the Spirit groans, but notice what his groan is based on, because he knows us deeply and then he prays appropriately.

Tim Lundy: [00:22:21] What Paul says is the Spirit searches our hearts, the Spirit searches our deepest levels, the Spirit searches places that I don't even have words for at a soul level place. And he wants to know us at the deepest places, places where there's weaknesses that I don't even want to admit to myself. Places where there's heartache that hurts so bad, it's easier not to even tell ourselves about it or be open to it? Places of our deepest desires that sometimes we're scared to let anybody else know, the longings of our heart. And the Spirit knows us in that place and knows every one of those weaknesses. And look what he says. He takes those longings of the heart, he takes the deepest place of the hearts, and he translates them into prayer to the Father, prayers according to God's will. Isn't that amazing?

Tim Lundy: [00:23:32] I don't often know how to pray according to God's will, I know how to pray according to Tim's will, and I know what I want. I love that we have a God that even in the brokenness of this world, even in the suffering of this, even in the weaknesses of my life, he wants to know me, and he wants to take those desires, those weaknesses, those expressions, and translate them into a prayer that's honoring to God. Guys, do you realize that Scripture tells us that Jesus is praying for us all the time, he intercedes for His saints. And the Spirit's praying for you, and he is praying from a deep place within you because he knows you, and he knows how to translate that.

Tim Lundy: [00:24:19] Sinclair Ferguson talks about his mother had a cousin who got married at the age of 21 as a young man, and right after his marriage, he had a devastating disease that paralyzed him. And all he could do, he had no control, except they could put a cup of tea in his hand, and he had enough control to be able to bring the tea to his lips. And as a child, Ferguson was a little scared of him because he couldn't speak, all he could do is just kind of a series of groans or grunts. And yet the more you got to know him, he was always amazed that his young wife, who, by the way, even though he had this disease right after marriage, stayed with them the rest of his life. And he said he would do these groans that nobody else understood, but she understood him perfectly, and she would always show up and she'd listen to him and be able to take that series of utterances and serve him exactly in a way that he needed. I love how Ferguson compares it to this verse, listen to his words, he says, "That's how we are sometimes, we're paralyzed, we don't know how to pray. And in this world, sometimes to this world, we seem insignificant, unimportant, and to be passed by to be even despised, but the Spirit has chosen to help us in our weaknesses."

Tim Lundy: [00:25:57] Guy's, we live in a groan-worthy world, and of course we suffer, the whole creation groans with the suffering of sin, and we groan as we see the impact on us. But the Spirit groans because he's chosen to do this life with us, and to know us, and to know you, even in your lowest place, even in your weakest place, and translate the deepest parts of your heart as beautiful prayers to the father.

Tim Lundy: [00:26:37] Now as we see this, look at how Paul puts it in perspective. Verse 28, one of the most famous verses in the Bible, "And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good for those who are called according to his purpose. 29For those whom he foreknew he also predestined." And for this message, we're not going to dive, I promise I'll walk you through all those terms like predestination, all that we can get lost in. Right now, I just want you to see the big picture because he's placing it in the terms of suffering. He says, "For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified." Remember, his premise was that the suffering of this life doesn't compare for the glory to come, and so he shows how this happens for every individual, for every event, for every person in this.

Tim Lundy: [00:27:35] Here's what he's telling us out of this, you're suffering is never good, but know that God is using it for your good. You're suffering is never good. Look at verse 28 again, because this verse gets abused too often. Too often something tragic happens, and as Christians, we feel like we have to defend God. We're kind of like Job's friends, remember in the story, Job goes through all that. His friends show up, which was a good thing, the bad thing is they spend the rest of the time trying to convince Job that either he sinned, or this is good, and they don't have very convincing arguments. And sometimes we do that as well, sometimes somebody goes through something tragic, and in the awkwardness of it, we want to kind of show up real quick and convince them that this is good or it's going to be good. Notice what the verse says, we know that for those who love God, this is for believers, all things work together for good. He doesn't say all things are good. So there are events in your life, there are things that you've experienced that God will never look at them and go, oh, that was actually good. Death is never good, by the way, death is an enemy to be defeated. Now, sometimes we have a loved one that's suffering, and death is a respite to their suffering. But it was never supposed to be that way, it's an enemy in our world. Divorce is never good. Abuse is never good. Tragedy is never good. We don't look at it and go, well the event is good, that's not what the promise is here, the promise is that God will use it for your good, God has the ability to redeem even the worst of it. And so as we look at this, as we hold on to it, know that we don't try to turn it into something that it's not.

Tim Lundy: [00:29:26] Look at it as well, he tells us, don't assume that you'll always see the good or that it will balance out the bad. Don't always assume that the silver lining is right there, and if I just keep looking at it, I'm going to find the silver lining in this. For some events, you won't see it till eternity, and often we set people up because they experienced a tragedy and they're looking for the good, and it's followed by more suffering. I mean, you look at Job, think if Job had been through that when he lost his businesses. He would have gone, okay, I've been through that, now, where's the silver lining? Well, you've just lost your children. Well, now you've lost your health. There's a long period of time, Job experienced restoration.

Tim Lundy: [00:30:14] Don't as well look at it that you go, and we often do this. Okay, that was bad, so now, God, you've got to do enough good things to balance that out. Now God often does, when he brings those good events, when he brings things out of it, you have a car wreck where a young person loses their life and their friends come to Christ through that. And that is so good, and you're so thankful for it, but for the parent who lost that child, there's not a part where they go, Oh, well, that balances it out. I saw this when my nieces, on my wife's family side, two little girls that lost their lives to Batten's Disease at the age of six and seven after a horrific illness. It's a horrible way to die, it's horrible to lose your children. I watched their parents hold on to their faith through the whole journey, it was hard. I've watched since then, one of the little girls, Mila, they were able to raise money for a grief counseling center in their hometown of Memphis, it works with the Baptist Hospital. It's an unbelievable place, where anyone experiencing grief can come and get grief counseling there. And every year they do a fundraiser, they do a bike race for Mila's house, and when they were dedicating it, and you see it, and you see all the good that came out of it, but I promise you, there's no scale there that their parents look at it and go, well, this is so good now, that makes the bad not so bad. No, those events are losing those little girls will always be bad, then as believers, they're so thankful for the good God's brought. But guys, scripture doesn't teach karma, there's not some cosmic scale that you're trying to balance. What it teaches is that even in the most devastating event, I know that God's using this for my good, I know that God can redeem this for good, but I may not see the good. And I'm certainly not going to see it at a level that it balances, and that makes it okay with that.

Tim Lundy: [00:32:24] As well, you see, even when you know God is using suffering for your good, you don't have to like it. Can we give each other permission in that? There's not this place, because sometimes as Christians, we're in the middle of suffering and we think we're supposed to put on this smile and go, oh, it's okay. I love this verse of Jesus in Hebrews, "Looking to Jesus..." So Jesus is our example, "The founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross..." And look at this part, "...despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God." He endured the cross, and there were parts of it he actually hated. You don't see Jesus pretending like, oh, this isn't bad. If you look at him on the cross, in that part when he despised the shame, what that meant is he hated the fact that all the sins of humanity are placed on him and to be a sinner, He who knew no sin was made sin. In that moment he yells out to God, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" There's this example of Jesus that I look at it, he's so honest and real. And I say this to you, if you are in a season of suffering, there's a part you have to endure. But there's nowhere in it that you have to go, oh, I like this. You're allowed to be as honest as Jesus was as he cried out to the Father.

Tim Lundy: [00:33:57] As you do that as well, trust that God's plan for you will never fail no matter what. That's why that whole verse, when Paul does that, whom he for knew he predestined, whom he predestined, he called, whom he called, he justified, whom he justified, he glorified. He does this unbroken chain of salvation, but notice it starts with the suffering. That in this suffering, in what's going on in my life, I know that God is using all these things and Paul just backs up again and he goes, hey, can I just let you know that God never fails in it with every single one of us? And so for me, eternity past to eternity future, despite the rebellion, despite your weakness, despite the sin, despite Satan, despite the evil one, despite all this going on in the world, God will execute His perfect plan in your life. You may not see it, and we don't even know how he does it, but Paul says he does it every time, and it may not feel like it here. It's often like a tapestry, have you ever seen a tapestry? You go, especially in an art museum, where they sometimes hang a tapestry, these woven pieces of art that you look at and you go, man, it is beautiful. Have you ever turned it over, on the back side of the tapestry, do you know what you're going to find? There are knots, there are frayed threads. the picture's not clear. And in many ways what Paul's describing here is God's doing this tapestry in all this big story, and we're each a part of it, but on this side of eternity, it looks like the back side of it. In fact, he's making this promise, it's not until you're there and you see what he was doing that you're going to often see the full beauty of it, but you've got to trust he's got you in this, he's with you in this.

Tim Lundy: [00:36:02] And as he does this, I just tell you on a personal level, don't evaluate the whole story based on your current chapter. Remember what the doctor said at the beginning of the story? Our brains are wired for story, that's why in the big story of life, we're looking for meaning when these events happen. And that's why I love that Paul says, you're right, there is a story, but if you zero in on this one chapter of the story, you zero in just even on your life or this season in it, you're going to miss the big story of what God's doing. That's why He steps all the way back, he says, you've got to look at it from way out here, you've got to look at it in a way as you look at that story, and trust when God's telling it.

Tim Lundy: [00:36:48] I love the books, The Lord of the Rings, the books, and the movies. And the main characters in all the stories, there are all these great characters in it, but the main character are the two little hobbits, Frodo, and Sam, who feel the weakest in many ways, but they have the most important part of the story. But if you just pick certain chapters of that story, especially when they're wandering around in Mordor, the land of evil, when they're hiding, when they're hungry. When they feel like giving up, if I were to take The Lord of the Rings and just give you that one chapter and you read the one chapter, you would go, this is a depressing little story of these pitiful little characters. See, if that's all you had to evaluate, you'd miss the fact it was actually an epic. And they're not pitiful, they're actually the heroes, even though they don't feel like it in that chapter. I just say that to you for each of us, we have our chapters, chapters in this big story that God's telling, and we're tempted to evaluate the God of the story based on our chapter. And Paul says, you've got to back up, you've got to back up and look at the whole or it'll never have the meaning that you want it to.

Tim Lundy: [00:38:19] A couple of last things, he says, trust that no matter how bad it gets here, it will be that much better there. Isn't that a great promise? It is the one we saw in that first verse, he says, "For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us." He says the suffering now does not compare to how good it's going to be there. Isn't that a great promise to hold on to, isn't that a great promise on your worst day, on your deepest day, in your worst moment?

Tim Lundy: [00:38:49] Now, I've always been fascinated with caving or cavers, especially those adventurers, there's a group of cavers around the planet who are committed, here's their goal, they want to go deeper in the earth than man has gone higher up on Everest. Can you imagine going that deep in the earth? And so they're searching these different caves, one of the guys, Bill Stone, there's a book called Blind Descent about him. He's examining there's a series of caves down in Mexico that have a cave region, and these caves are massive, but to go that deep, you've got to be committed to go in for weeks at a time. And they're mountain climbing down, and at different places, they'll come to huge lakes, and they have to dive into lakes and hope they can find an opening on the other side. Could you imagine doing that in a cave? They go, you can't take tanks, they're too heavy, so these rebreathers that help you breathe underwater for 4 hours and then they have to change the filters out on it. And they just keep going deeper and deeper, because they want to go down this low so they can beat as high as anyone's ever been. Now, I'm fascinated by it, some of you are going, that's the worst thing I've ever heard of in my life. But I say this because some of you have been in some deep caves for a long time. You've been in a season that went longer than he thought it would. You've experienced a life where you go, I've had more than my share and I haven't seen the good, or I haven't seen enough that it feels worth this. And in that moment, in that discouragement, in that place, here's what Paul says, because he knows what it's like to go deep. He says, when you are at the lowest place, I promise you this, as bad as it is here, it's that much better there.

Tim Lundy: [00:40:51] See, I think some of the people who are most prepared for eternity, are the people that have experienced the most suffering here. Because it's through it, remember in this passage, he said, it's through it that we actually start imitating Jesus more, because he experienced it. So what's our final response from this? What's the final charge that Paul gives all of us? He tells all of us, choose hope. You choose to be people of hope, trusting what God is doing, even when you can't see why He's doing it. Even when I don't have the answer of why, I can trust him for the what? And I believe that there's a bigger why of all this story that he's using even these events in it, and so for every one of us, he says, choose hope. And look how he puts it, there are some verses right in the middle of this passage. He says, "For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience." Isn't that fascinating here, he says, hey, I'm calling you to be people of hope, and by the way, by definition, if you're a person of hope, of course, you don't see it? Because if you see it, it's not hope anymore, it's sight. And one day in eternity, it's going to be sight. Do you realize that one day, when we're in the presence of Jesus, we don't need hope anymore, we're not hoping for anything, we're experiencing it, we're seeing it? That's why the glory there is so much better than even the worst day here.

Tim Lundy: [00:42:33] But until that day, here's what he calls every one of us as believers, you have to make a choice, am I going to be hopeful or I'm going to be discouraged. Am I going to be doubtful? But am I going to allow the events of the world, am I going to allow the events in my life, am I going to allow the suffering that I feel, am I going to allow all the things that you can add up that can be very real, am I going to allow those to define my reality? Or do I choose to believe as a person of hope that there's a bigger reality than I can see? Paul says it's a choice.

Tim Lundy: [00:43:18] Now notice, that it's not a choice of wishful thinking, it's a choice rooted in what Christ has done. Look how he says it, "For in this hope we were saved." See, we have hope for the future because of what Christ did in the past, because he was able to bridge what we can't bridge and because he was able to go and come back again. See, that's the beauty of the resurrection, guys. it's the source of our hope. It's a source of there's no greater suffering than the cross, and there's no greater glory than the resurrection, and that's our pattern as well.

Tim Lundy: [00:43:57] You know, back in the Middle Ages, in the European capitals, they dreamed of being able to go to India by ship. They knew, man, if you could ever go there, the riches it would open up would be unbelievable, but nobody was able to do it because especially down at the tip of Africa, nobody could get past. And that tip was called the Cape of Storms, until one man, Vasco da Gama, he left Portugal, he sailed down, and he was able to make it past India and back again. And they renamed that point in Africa, it's no longer the Cape of Storms, if you know it, what is it? It's the Cape of Good Hope because somebody went, and they came back again.

Tim Lundy: [00:44:59] Guys, everything I've taught you today would be meaningless, every point I would have, they'd be nothing more than a pep talk or a worldview or any other thing you want to prescribe it, except for one fact, Jesus went, and he came back again. He went to the depth of suffering and death, and he rose again, and he is the hope, he is the source, he is the foundation for every single one of us who've put our faith in him. And so Paul says, on your dark days, on your hard days, in your suffering, choose hope. Choose hope that God's writing a big story, choose hope that He's got a glory that you can't even fathom, choose hope that there's meaning even in the things that will never be good, he will use it for my good, choose hope because of Jesus.

Tim Lundy: [00:46:00] Let's pray. Father, we come, and we thank you, we thank you for the cross, we thank you that Christ was willing to suffer there in a way that no one has ever suffered before. We thank you even for his grave, we thank you that he experienced death, but then he rose again. Lord, I pray for those today, even the phrase choosing hope is hard for them to fathom, they're in a low place, they're in that cave. Lord, I pray that by faith they would trust these words of this passage. I pray by faith they would choose hope based on what Christ has done. I pray that by faith we would be people of hope. Lord, as Christians, you've not given us a promise that suffering is removed from us, if anything, we experience it that much more, but you've called us to live as the people of hope in a suffering world, so they could see Jesus too, so we pray this in His name. Amen.

Tim Lundy: [00:47:12] Hey, let's just continue on and maybe use this song as your expression of what God needs to do in your heart and life today.

Recorded in Los Gatos, California.
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Venture Christian Church
16845 Hicks Road
Los Gatos, California 95032