When Hope Fades
By Mike Augsburger
All of us can relate to a parent dealing with a child because all of us have been either a parent or a child at some point. Having said that, here’s a key phrase from a parent to child: “I’m doing this for your own good.” In this scenario, the parent is always more sure of this truth than the child! As a child, you’re tempted to ask, “Really? Cause I’m just not seeing it like that!”
Romans 8:31 is one of many texts that makes the unqualified promise that God is ultimately and eternally FOR us. It reads,
“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?”
God is absolutely, and without question, FOR us. God does give us “all things,” meaning he will always give us what we need. However, as we’ve learned from our sermon series in John 11, the “all things” doesn’t necessarily equal “all things pleasant and nice.” Like a loving parent, he will always give us what we need — what is designed for our flourishing.
Most Christians don’t question these truths. Mary, Martha, and Lazarus knew Jesus loved them. However, as we’ve seen in John 11, those unequivocal truths are inevitably tested in the furnace of life. Martha asks, “Jesus, why didn’t you come sooner?” Mary asserts, “Jesus, you could be sparing us this pain right now.” A senior saint in your church says, “I don’t understand the meaning of this painful arthritis!” A heartbroken young woman asks, “Why, Jesus, did my father have to die before he knew his grandkids?”
It is in the midst of this furnace that God says, “I am FOR you. I love you. Always. Period.” Yet, these circumstances fire-test our beliefs. How can we be assured of the truth? It’s a matter of how much you know, believe, and trust God’s Word. Memorize verses, read the stories of Scripture, galvanize your heart in the platinum-plated truth of God’s love for you. That is your lifeline when all hell breaks loose. Hold onto it with white-knuckled intensity!
If it is true that God is FOR us, that God loves us, that God always does what’s best for us, then it changes the way God’s love is measured. In John 11:5-6 Jesus stuns us with what sounds like sheer cruelty. John says, “Jesus loved Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. Therefore, because he loved them, he let Lazarus die.”
Wow. What does that mean? How do we interact with truth like this? Quite simply it means you, and I cannot measure God’s love by the amount of ease and comfort in my life — it is impossible. Unfortunately, western Christianity has equated ease and comfort with God’s blessing and favor. Western Christianity has drawn up a math problem that says church attendance plus good works equals God’s blessing in my life. In reality, that arithmetic is NOT love — it’s hatred. Only unloving, inattentive parents would provide this for their children, but we know God is not unloving or inattentive. He’s good. He’s loving, and he always does what’s best for us.
If this is the wrong measuring tool, then what is the right measurement? This coming Sunday, October 21, 2018, we will answer this question from John 11:38-44. However, here it is in a nutshell: the most loving thing God could ever do for us is to let us see and experience his glory. That’s how we measure his love for us. The times we see God’s glory on display the most is not when life is a bed of cotton balls. Instead, it’s when we’re cold, naked, and sleeping on concrete. That’s when God becomes real. That’s when his glory shines through the brightest. That’s when we can go back to the truth that God is FOR us, and we hang on for dear life!