It's good to see you again this morning, church family. Glad you're here with us. Do me a favor. Grab a Bible. Turn to Romans 8. That's where we're going to be here this morning. If you don't have a Bible, there should be one around you in the seatback underneath in front of you. That's our gift to you. We want you to have that. As you're turning there, again as Matt said this morning, I want to wish all our moms in here a happy Mother's Day. I figure nothing is better on this day than a good message on suffering. So go ahead and turn Romans 8.
If you're a guest among us, if you haven't been with us thus far in this series, where we've been for the last couple of weeks is we've been taking a look at and trying to gain a theological basis for suffering. What I've tried not to do in this series is I've tried not to just offer out kind of these pragmatic, trite, therapeutic antidotes on suffering like "Seven Ways to Gain Prosperity in the Midst of Pain." That's not what we've been trying to do in the midst of this.
What we've been trying to do is simply open up the Scriptures with some key passages and ask, "Lord, what is your purpose in suffering? What are you trying to do? What are you trying to seek accomplished in this?" Ultimately, what should our response as a Christian be to God in the midst of suffering? So we're laying that biblical framework for trials.
As you saw, the last couple of weeks we spent in James, chapter 1, a classic text in your Scriptures, in your Bible, dealing with the issue of trials. What we saw really was how we're to perceive those trials, not through a lens of necessarily anger and contempt towards God like there is some malicious puppeteering of evil he's doing to bring about these hard trials in our lives so that might get us to downward spiral into hopelessness and despair and be angry at him all of our days.
That's not the lens a Christian is to understand trials by. We're instead to understand them through a lens of joy as an act of faith because of two things: first, what you know to be true about God; secondly, what you know to be true about what God does. The first is God is good. Like the stars in the sky, there is no variation in God's character. He is infinitely good. He is fixed in his divine nature and character. Because God is good, God can only give what is good, even if sometimes that's wrapped in harsh packages like trials, because ultimately we know in the midst of it God is working something out in these trials.
He's seeking to produce in us something we could not produce on our own, and that is a maturity, a steadfastness, a sense of weaning ourselves from our own self-reliance so we can cling to Christ for his sufficiency in all things, that we'd get more of Christ in the midst of this, that the power of God would be manifest in our weakness.
As a result, as we come in these situations where we don't know what to do, we don't know where to turn, we don't know why this is going on, we don't know how this is going to get any better, we don't know what the light is at the end of the tunnel, in the midst of it, we can trust in the wisdom of God, a wisdom that is not like man's.
We can sit under the instruction of his counsel in humility, and we can listen to what it is he's teaching us, what it is he's wanting to show us in the midst of this, and allow the Holy Spirit to use this trial in such a way that would transform us so we leave this trial not the same person we were when we came into it. In many ways, taking the same hope of the gospel that has comforted us and ministered to us in our moments of trial and weakness, we can go out into a broken and fallen world, and we can minister of that same hope to others who are suffering in their trials.
That is really kind of the beginning theological framework we've been working with thus far. Again, we've mentioned this a couple of times so far the last couple of weeks. If you're like me, the longer this goes on, the longer life presses in on you and these trials begin to consume you, even though from a Christian perspective we can learn to be thankful for what it is God is doing that we can't even see and we can understand there is something the Spirit is doing to mature us and grow us in the midst of these storms…
Even though Christ can become more real and sufficient for us and the gospel can become more tangible and robust in the midst of our suffering, the reality is…you know this…there are those days when even the strongest of faiths in this room just wonder, "Man, when will this end? Where's the finish line in this thing? Where's the hope in this thing?"
If I can just be a little bit transparent right here… We've mentioned there are all kinds of trials represented in this room. Your trials aren't my trials. Mine aren't yours. We're different, but the Lord is using them in his own ways for us, but for me these past two years for my family and me have been some of the most trying two years I've ever experienced. With the amount of deaths that have happened in our family, it has just been unreal.
Two years ago what brought me here to The Village… I was in California working at a great church, had no intent of leaving there, and then we got the phone call from my wife's mom saying she was sick. On Christmas Eve two or three years ago now, she was diagnosed with mesothelioma, which is a terminal form of cancer from asbestos, and they gave her a year to live.
That turned into this me talking to my wife, "How do you want to do this? Do you want to do this 1,500 miles away? Do you want to move back home and be nearer for this last year with your mom?" So we prayed through it, and with the blessing of the church we were at there, we came back. That's where we landed on here. The sad thing is before we could even get back to Texas she passed away. From diagnosis to death was two months, and she passed away. We came back anyways to steward the rest of the family was here.
Then starting that year, just even here at The Village, so many tragic deaths happened. At the end of 2011, one of our own staff members here tragically took his own life. We went through just a string of just tragic deaths here at The Village. Look around. It's not like all the funerals we're doing are these 90-year-old, godly lives. They're young, tragic deaths.
We turned the corner into 2012, and I then lost my grandfather. She then lost her grandmother. Then last fall, I'm sitting right up here in my office in one of our staff-elder meetings. My wife and I have a deal. When she calls and I'm in a meeting, I don't answer. If she calls a second time immediately after, then I know something is up and I need to take this call. I get the second phone call. I literally pick up the phone. I'm walking out the door, and before I can get out, she's just hysterically crying.
Instantly, as a husband and a father, your heart just sinks. I'm going, "What just happened?" She's trying to tell me that her daddy just passed away. I misinterpreted it as Abby just passed away, my youngest daughter, and then the phone goes dead. Literally, I live five minutes from here. It took me about 28 seconds to get home. My heart is just sinking. I'm wondering what's going on. Sure enough, I walk in. I find out it's her father who passed away. He was 61 years old. Her mom was 58. Within a year and a half at that point, she lost both her mom and her dad tragically.
Then we get to Christmas. On New Year's Day, I get a phone call from my stepmother telling me my dad is sick, and then a month later my dad passes away. Literally, in two years we've lost three parents. I've done 17 funerals in two years, most of which have come from my family, from cousins, aunts, parents, and grandparents, to the point that… Yesterday was my daughter's tenth birthday, and we were sitting there realizing there are three grandparents who aren't around the table to this year.
Okay, that's just my story. You have your stories. I'm sitting in the midst of it, and I'm going, "Lord, what is going on here? When is this going to end? How many more burials are we going to have to do? How much more tragedy can we go through in such a short period of time?" In the midst of it all, if you're like me, I'm crying out, "Lord, when is this future day coming when all of this is going to go away?"
What I'm asking in the midst of it, what I'm longing for in the midst of it is the one thing I need more than anything else, and it's the one thing you need more than anything else in the midst of your trials. That is hope. I remember Chuck Swindoll saying one time the average person can go about 40 days without food, go about three days without water, but they can't go a single second without hope. That's what we have to have to sustain us.
The question we're asking this morning is…Ultimately, what is our hope in the midst of suffering? We've seen snapshots of hope in the middle of it, tangible realities of what Christ is doing, but ultimately, what is our ultimate hope we're longing for? I want to show you that in a brief text here in Romans, chapter 8. This is a beautiful little text. Let me tell you why it's beautiful and why it's going to be a bit different than the last couple of weeks for us. There's not much teaching you have to do in this text. There are no commands in this text. This is simply a text you can come sit in and just receive.
The background of Romans 8… Paul has been talking in Romans 8 about the believer's security and what it is that validates the fact that as Christians we are God's and he cannot lose us. In verses 9 through 13, he talks about one of the things that validates that you're God's is the indwelling Spirit within you, the fact that God has put his Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Trinity, inside the believer to dwell. That fact that the Holy Spirit is present there is fact that you're his and he can't lose you.
In verses 14 through 16, he identifies the fact that we have been adopted by God as sons, as children of God. The fact that we've been adopted says we are his. We've been transferred from one kingdom to another, from one domain to another, from one king to another. We have a new Father now, we are his, and we can't be lost. So he's walking through this, but in verse 17, he says, "If you're sons, then you're heirs also."
What's an heir really quickly? Do you know what an heir is? An heir is a child whose father says, "Son or daughter, everything I have one day is going to be yours." It's me saying to my three sweet little girls, "Babies, one day when Daddy is gone, everything I have is going to be yours. Granted, that's about $152 in a checking account right now, that's a broken-down 1999 Honda CR-V, and that's a mortgage payment. So try not to spend that all in one place, but that's yours when I'm gone." They're heirs of my glorious pastoral estate.
What Paul is saying here is as children of the most high God that we are, we are heirs. Not only heirs, we are coheirs with Christ, meaning whatever is true of Christ is true of us. Whatever it is Christ receives as an inheritance of the Father, one day it shall too be ours. Notice, though, what he says in verse 17. "We are heirs of." He could've said, "You're going to be heirs of streets of gold and pearly gates and incorruptible bodies," and all these things we'll look at in a minute, but notice he just says one primary thing we're heirs of.
What does it say? "…heirs of God…." You're heirs of God. The most important thing you get from God as a Christian is God himself. One day this is his glory. This is us ruling in his kingdom. This is the eternal presence of the Father, and that's what we're going to get. It's ours. We wait for it, and that becomes our hope that we are coheirs with Christ in a promised inheritance of what is to come.
He says at the end of verse 17, there's something else we're heirs of, something else we're going to share with Christ in the meantime, while we wait for that day. What is it? Suffering. Before there comes the crown, there is the cross, and we are sharing in the sufferings of Christ right now. It is appointed that you and I, just as Christ, will suffer in this lifetime, but it's the hope of what is to come and that future day that makes our suffering worth it and allows us to hold on.
That leads us into verse 18, and here's the context, when Paul says, "For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us." Paul says, "Whatever it is you're going through, whatever suffering you're enduring right now, as painful and as horrific as it may be, as hopeless as it may appear, there is a day coming that you can't even fathom. There is a day coming where not even your deepest possible pain that you can experience on this earth will even touch the beauty of what's waiting for you on the other side. That's coming."
Peter put it this way in 1 Peter 1. He said, "In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire…" All that is James 1 language right there, what God is doing in the trial, but the reason you're tested, the reason you're undergoing the fire is so the ensuing result may come.
What's that result? "… [That you] may be found to result in praise and glory and honor…" When? Namely, "…at the revelation of Jesus Christ…" the future day when he'll return. He says, "Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory…" Why? Because you know what's coming. Verse 9 says, "…obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls," that glorious day we're waiting for. It's coming. It's not here yet, but it's coming.
John said in 1 John, "Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared…" Don't think where you're at right now is the end. You're not home yet. It's coming. There is a day coming. You're waiting for it, and the reality is Peter and Paul and John all say that day is as sure as good. It's coming, and you can bank on it. You can count on it, but you're not there yet.
What is this glory we're waiting for? What is this day going to look like at the revealing of Jesus Christ? When Jesus Christ comes back, what is he bringing with him that would so fix our hope in such a way that not even our sufferings would compare to what's coming? Hold your place in Romans 8, and I want you to flip over to the end.
Let's just read how this book ends in Revelation 21. I'm just going to read much of this text. There's not much explaining to do. I just want you to sit in this, sit under it, receive, and those of you who have put your faith in Christ, listen to what it is you're waiting for right now. In chapter 21 of Revelation, starting in verse 1, John, who's caught up in a vision, sees what heaven is going to be like.
He says, "Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth…" That's us right now. "…had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband." It's a beautiful thing.
"And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying…" Listen to these words. "'Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man…'" meaning no longer do you have to take this by faith anymore. It's going to be sight, and God's dwelling place is with us. "'He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.'" Listen to this. Notice what he does in verse 4. "'He will wipe away every tear from their eyes…'" Where do the tears come from? From suffering. At the end of it all, he will wipe away every tear.
I love this. "'…and death shall be no more…'" There will never again be a funeral you'll have to attend, never. "'…neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain…'" How long? "'…anymore, for the former things have passed away.' And he who was seated on the throne said, 'Behold, I am making all things new.' Also he said, 'Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.' And he said to me, 'It is done!'"
When's the last time you heard those words? It was on the cross when Jesus did away with the alienation between God and man, and his sacrifice on the cross, his blood that was shed, reconciled us through faith from his grace in Christ, and he said, "It is finished." You no longer have to perform anymore to earn God's favor. It has been given in Christ. It's finished.
Now here at the end we see it's said again, only this time it's not just the finished work of Christ to reconcile us to God. It's the reality that all things we've ever known are done. They're gone. All the suffering is wiped away. "It is finished." Why? "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment." It's free. Come enjoy.
He says all this is given, in verse 7, to the one who conquers. The one who perseveres under suffering will have this heritage. "…and I will be his God and he will be my son." In verses 10 through 27, we won't read this, but he simply describes the Holy City, the beauty and the splendor of this New Jerusalem, of this Holy City that comes down.
Notice in verse 22 there's no need for a temple. Why? Because God is our temple in that day. In verse 23, there's no need for the sun or the moon. Why? Because God is our light. I love verse 25. There's never any night, and the gates are open all night long. Why? You don't have to lock your stuff up, man. You don't have to lock your doors. Forget it. ADT has no room in heaven. It's not there anymore. Why? Because in verse 27, there will never again be any evil or wickedness. It's gone off the face of this earth. It has been dealt with. It's done.
In chapter 22, verse 1, "Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life…" When's the last time you saw that? It was in the garden, right? You had the Tree of Life of which man was to eat from and never perish, and then you have the Tree of Knowledge of the Good and Evil, which they did eat from and thus will perish.
Here we see the Tree of Life again now in this final state, but notice what it's there for. The end of verse 2 says, "The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed…" No more judgment. "…but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face…" We'll be face to face with him.
"…his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign…" How long? "…forever and ever." The only thing John can do at the end of this in verse 8 after seeing this vision is just fall to his knees and worship. Folks, that is one of the clearest snapshots we have of the glory that is yet to be revealed. That's what we're waiting for.
Now go back to Romans 8. By the way, in the early church in the first couple of centuries, they would read that passage we just read in many if their gatherings, because the persecuted church, those who were dying week in and week out, would read this passage, and it was used to encourage one another to persevere. This day is coming.
By the way, if you ever scan through a hymnal, about 95 percent of all the hymns revolve around this promise right here. There's at least one chorus in the hymns that are speaking to this future day, this day we're waiting for. It's what we sing about. It's what we encourage each other with. The cross might be now, but the crown is coming.
So in verse 18, he tells us the sufferings of verse 17 are just but a small price to pay for the glory that is yet to be revealed. Then in verse 19, he tells us this glory that we read about is so fantastic that even the physical creation around us is longing for it. He says in verse 19, "For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God." It's so wonderful that all of creation right now is looking for that moment.
It's what Matthew 19 calls the regeneration of the earth, when all of it will be made new, and the creation is longing for it. That phrase, by the way, "eager longing" in the Greek is really two different words that are actually the same word. It's a double prefix, and it means to turn the head away. It's the idea of somebody who's walking in one direction, and something so captivates their eyes that they turn their head towards it. It doesn't matter. Even though they're going this way, they cannot break their gaze because this thing is so marvelous and fantastic. They're fixed on it.
In the same way, it's how I was on June 10, 2000, about 4:00, sitting there in a cheap old tuxedo, and I'm just gazing, fixed straight at the door. I have no idea to this day what any of my groomsmen ever said to me. They were trying to get me to laugh. They were hurling profanities at me. I don't know. They could've caught me on fire. It wouldn't have mattered. Nothing could break my gaze from that door. Why? Because I'm waiting for the beauty of what was to come through that was going to be mine.
It's the same way my kids are every school day about 2:45. It doesn't matter what the teacher is saying. "Yeah, yeah, yeah." They're looking at the clock. They are fixed. Their head is turned to the clock. What Paul says here is that's how creation feels about this day that's to be revealed, that creation's personified eyes are constantly gazing at the eastern sky, waiting for the sky to crack open, for Christ to come with the sons of God and to make all things new. It's what the creation is longing for, that ultimate redemption.
In verse 20, he explains here's why the creation longs for that day. It's because of its current state. "For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it…" When did that happen, by the way? When did we move from the place when the earth was blissful and perfect and beautiful in all its ways with no harm to this place to where all of a sudden we have thorns and thistles and diseases and corruption and tornados and hurricanes and places like Oklahoma? When did it turn from this to this all of a sudden? Come on now.
When did that happen? Genesis 3. It's when everything changed. Because of the sin of man, a judgment came upon the earth. We're told in Genesis 3 when God cursed Adam, he said, "…cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you…" Paul says ever since that day creation has been broken. It was subjected to futility because of man's sin. The creation that is right now is not the creation that once was prior to sin. It was subjected to its current state.
Not only is the creation that is not the one that it once was; the creation that is is not the one that will one day be, because at the end of that verse, notice what it says. In the midst of it being subjected to futility, it was subjected in hope that even in the midst of the garden, when God put down the curse on man and put down the curse on the earth, in the midst of it, you had Genesis 3:15, which said one day out of the seed of woman there would come One who would crush all evil, who would crush the Serpent's head and, in doing so, will restore one day all that is broken.
Even in the midst of being subjected to futility, it was subjected in hope of this future day. In verse 21, here's the hope. "…that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God." All of a sudden now in the midst of this, there is this hope of this freedom. One day when Christ returns, the creation knows it will experience the same freedom we're waiting for. It'll be set free. The shackles will be loosened. It'll be turned loose from what it is.
That's the idea. In fact, the Greek word there for "set free" is the same Greek word for redemption. It means to literally buy back and then turn loose, to set it free to what it was meant to be, and so creation is waiting for that day. There is a day when all the brokenness of this planet, all the harsh realities we experience will be gone. It's hard to imagine.
There's a day when you won't need to go outside in a Texas summer with 50 cans of OFF! and 400 SPF proof sunscreen just to live in the middle of a summer. There's a day when that won't happen. How many of you are glad, by the way, that this is going to happen? How many of y'all want to be stuck in North Texas for all eternity? Anybody in here? No. Praise the Lord. Amen. That's the hope that's coming.
However, in verse 22 what is the creation doing in the meantime until that day comes? "For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now." Just like a woman groans under childbirth in labor and delivery, as painful and as uncomfortable as labor and delivery are for a woman, she does so in hope. Why? What is it she's waiting for that's at the end of her pain? It's life. New life is about to come forth. Though it's painful now, though she endures for right now in suffering, there is life that is coming at the end of this pregnancy, at the end of this childbirth.
So Paul likens the earth situation here right now to a woman in childbirth, groaning in pain, waiting for that day, but it ain't no nine months. It has been thousands of years of groaning, and it's waiting for its day of redemption. Paul says in verse 23, not only does the creation groan in its sufferings and perseveres in hope, we do too. Verse 23 says, "And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit…"
What does that mean? Do y'all know what firstfruits means? Do you remember in Israel the Feast of Firstfruits? What they would do was, after they had labored in the field and they had planted and they had prayed for the rains to come and watered, finally, when that first batch of crops comes up and it's about ready to be harvested, they would take the very firstfruits. They would take the very first of the crop, that first sheath of grain, that first ear of corn.
They would take it, and they would offer it up to God as a sacrifice. They were doing two things in that moment. In one sense, they were offering up a sacrifice of thanksgiving. "We recognize this didn't come from us. This came from you, so thank you, God." In another sense, they were blessing it, asking for the Lord's blessing, ensuring that out of this very first batch in their offering there was more to come, that 50 days later at Pentecost the whole harvest would be gathered. That's what they would do.
In the same way, Jesus was also called the firstfruits of our salvation. It was his resurrection from the death. What's true of Christ is true of us. He rose from the dead, and so too that ensures that one day all who are in Christ will rise from the dead. He's the firstfruits of our salvation. Now Paul says here, "Having the firstfruits of the Spirit," meaning we have received salvation.
We've received new life, redemption, a regenerated heart, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, day-by-day sanctification. Ultimately, the Scriptures tell us what the Spirit is for us is a seal. He's a down payment of what's to come. There is a future day of glorification we're still waiting for. We have the firstfruits of it, but it ensures the rest will happen. His glory will come.
Like the earth in the midst of this, what do we do in the meantime? The end of verse 23 says, "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." We groan. That word groan in the Greek, stenazo, is kind of a musical term of a low-grade tension note, kind of a little bass line. It's what you think it is. When you're sick, when you've been beaten down over the head, when you're just tired. You're groaning, waiting, "When will this end?"
So we're groaning in the midst of it, but it's in hope. We're longing for that day, as 1 Corinthians 15 says, that day when our bodies will be made new, that God will replace the perishable with the imperishable. Do you realize that? The bodies you're in now you're not going to have for all eternity. How many of you want to stay in the body you're in for all eternity? Anybody? Do we have any takers in here?
Some of you are like, "No, no, no." Some of you are like, "Well, I don't know. I'm not that…" Let me just tell you, no matter how many surgeries you have, gravity will always win. Praise God, there are new bodies waiting for us. We will not be wrapped in all this pain and affliction that we have. One day we'll have new bodies, but notice he says, "We're waiting for the adoption as sons."
Someone will go, "Wait a minute. I thought I already was adopted." Well, we are. If your faith is in Christ, you have been legally adopted. You're his. That transfer of kingdom has happened. You have a new Father now. You are not the son of your old father, the Devil. You are of the new Father, of God, in heaven. So legally that has happened. The Holy Spirit within you is the equivalent of the legally signed documents that say you're his, but Paul says there's still a sense of adoption we're still waiting for.
What he does here is he likens this idea of adoption… It'd be the same thing as a bunch of kids sitting in an orphanage right now in the midst of their filth. They know they've been purchased. They're just waiting for their new daddy to come pick them up and take them home. Paul says that's what's going on with us as believers. You know you've been adopted. You've been purchased. Now we're just waiting on our new Father to come pick us up and to come take us into his new home. That's the idea of the glory we're waiting for.
In verse 24, this salvation that is already-but-not-yet involves something. It's called faith, a faith that what is promised will come. He says, "For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees?" In other words, from the moment you were first saved in Jesus Christ, this future day is what you've had your eyes fixed on. It has been the beacon in your heart that's been going off pinging, waiting for that day.
It's what your hope has been fixed on, but your hope is not like the world's hope. The world's hope is different, isn't it? It's kind of a fingers-crossed deal. Maybe something will. Maybe it won't. I hope the Cowboys get into the playoffs. I don't know. Maybe they will. Maybe they won't. This hope is not like that.
A biblical hope is not a maybe. A biblical hope is an absolute guarantee that something is happening, that's going to happen. It's an anticipation of an assurance. That's what biblical hope is. That day that we know when the old will be made new, the broken will be restored, and the suffering will be healed. That's not a hope. That day is an assurance. In the meantime, it's that hope that anchors us in such a way that we can persevere, that we can endure, that we can anchor through life's storms because we know that day is coming.
Finally, he says in verse 25 this is how we respond. "But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience." meaning we persevere. We stay the course. Do you see why this is here? In the midst of your suffering, in the midst of what can be at times unending pain, there is a beacon in your soul for the believer in Jesus Christ that keeps pinging you, reminding you the day you have is not the day that will one day be.
There is a day coming, and you are to set your eyes on the eastern sky. You keep that head turned in the midst of your suffering because you know one day that sky is going to crack open, the trump shall sound, the Lord shall descend with his armies, the dead in Christ will rise first, and then all things will be made new. This day of suffering and pain will be no more, and that is the hope of the Christian amidst suffering.
Church, can I get just a big old amen right here? Is this not what we're waiting for? Is this not what we're hoping for? Is this not what we're longing for, the day of redemption? It is a fact, and it's coming. So you persevere because Paul says your sufferings right now, as painful as they may be, can't even compare to this future day.
I don't know about you, but when I get done reading a text like this, it just makes my heart want to respond. It makes me want to cry as John cried at the end of Revelation. "If this is true, then come quickly, Lord Jesus. Come quickly." So we want to spend some time here at the end of this service, just blocking off some of the end of the time, responding to this text, responding in worship, letting the cries of your heart sing out, and responding in Communion.
I want to ask those who are going to help with Communion right now if you would go ahead and make your way to the stations and begin passing out the elements. Folks, listen to me really quickly. Don't get distracted here. I've said this before, but in terms of Communion, one of the things that's helpful to understand, especially in light of this passage, is the Bible begins and ends with a meal.
The first meal we see in the Scriptures is in Genesis 2 and Genesis 3, a meal we were never supposed to eat, "…the tree of the knowledge of good and evil…for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die." You know how that went. Man ate of that tree, a meal we were never supposed to eat, judgment ensued, and thus we were subjected to futility.
Then there's a meal at the end of the Scriptures in Revelation 19. It talks about the marriage supper of the Lamb, this meal where we'll be eating at the biggest, craziest banquet table we've ever seen, that Luby's or Golden Corral can't even touch, this crazy banquet table where we're sitting and we're eating face to face with Jesus. Did you catch that? Not by faith, but by sight, face to face with Jesus in a day where there are no more tears, no more pain, no more suffering, just communing with our Savior for all eternity.
Those are the two meals. The question is how do we get from one to the other? What happened? There's a meal in the middle of the Bible that makes sense of all that, that shows us how that happened, when Christ on the night he was betrayed gathers together with his disciples and shares in the Lord's Supper, Communion, that Seder Passover meal.
He takes two of these elements, and he says, "From now on, as a church, when you take of the bread, you remember I am the Lamb whose body was broken for you, that a substitute was put in place on your behalf, paid the penalty for your sin, which was death. When you take of the cup, you're celebrating my blood, the blood of the Lamb, that was poured out for the forgiveness of your sins, the blood of a new covenant that's being made."
What was broken in that garden has been made clean and made new in Jesus Christ on the cross. So part of that meal is us celebrating what Christ has done to undo what we did in the garden and put back together and reconcile us to God. So part of Communion is us celebrating the gospel that has saved us, but the other part of that meal is we recognize we're eating wafers and a plastic cup of juice.
This becomes for us a shadow, not the reality, of the banquet table that is yet to come, that future day of glory when we will no longer eat in temporal forms in remembrance of. We'll be eating in the fullness of the reality of. That's the view you take in Communion. It is part a celebration of the gospel you have received, the salvation you have received in Christ out of his grace, and it is a look to the eastern sky and the future day of that. So we celebrate in that.
If you are not a believer in Jesus Christ, you have not put your faith in Jesus Christ, we ask you to hold off from this meal, because this is symbolic for the Christian who has put their faith in Jesus. We would encourage you to lean forward in observation of what Christ has done for you and consider the salvation he offers to you freely in Jesus Christ.
For the believer this becomes our moment to worship. Church, I'm going to pray for us. I'm going to have the band sing over us. When you feel ready, you take of the elements and you herald the gospel of Jesus Christ. Here's where I want to encourage you. Worship this morning with us. Consider what we've put before you, the hope of all glory that awaits you, and allow your heart to release a little bit and worship the God who made all this possible and who one day will come back. Let's pray.
Father, we thank you for this text you've given us, this reminder. There are no commands in this Scripture, just straight reminders of what it is you've promised those who are your children, those who have put their faith in Jesus Christ. It's more than just a cognitive belief we have. It's an effective reality. Father, I pray for any of us in this room who might be walking through suffering right now, who might be at that place of hopelessness and despair.
Though we've covered a decent theology of the past couple of weeks of what suffering is, Father, at the end of the day, what we need more than anything else is we just need hope. Father, may you lift our sights upward this morning, that we may fix our gaze, turn our head, upon the eastern sky, and pray together in unity that, Lord Jesus, you might come quickly. Until that day that you ransom all things once and for all and restore all things once and for all, would you allow us to suffer well, to persevere, knowing you are good and worthy of our praise in the midst of it? It's in Jesus' name we pray, amen.