5th Sunday after Epiphany February 5, 2017
130, 370, 767 (alt. 37), 605:3-5
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
PRAYER OF THE DAY: Almighty God, heavenly Father, because of Your tender love toward us sinners You have given us Your Son that, believing in Him, we might have everlasting life. Continue to grant us Your Holy Spirit that we may remain steadfast in this faith to the end and finally come to life everlasting; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Dear fellow redeemed who have been adopted as sons, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,
In 1944, as Walt Disney was tucking his daughter into bed, he asked her about the book she was reading. His daughter told him it was a great story about a flying nanny and urged him to make it into a movie. For the next 16 years, Disney visited the home of the author of that book, asking for the rights to turn her book into a movie. That visit was no small feat, for Walt Disney lived in Los Angeles, California and the author lived in England. It took 16 years for Mr. Disney to convince the author of this book that he would not make it into a “silly movie.”
The Greek word for “perseverance” carries with it the idea of “steadfast adherence to a course of action in spite of difficulties and testings.” The author, Pamela Travers, certainly did made things difficult for Walt Disney, but he adhered to his course and eventually the movie “Mary Poppins” was released by the Disney corporation. Mr. Disney had perseverance.
What about you? Do you have a steadfast adherence to a course of action in spite of difficulties and testings? As Paul writes to Romans, he references “the sufferings of this present time.” Paul certainly knew a thing or two about the sufferings. He endured imprisonments, being stoned and left for dead, being shipwrecked, nakedness, and peril.
Paul writes of how creation itself is groans with birth pangs, waiting for the final day when the sons of God, that is, all believers, will be glorified. Creation, with its earthquakes, tornados, hurricanes, and droughts is longing for the Last Day. The believers, too, are groaning. We long for the great day when we will see Jesus face to face and be glorified with Him.
But we are not there yet, are we. We haven’t crossed the Jordan into the Promised Land of heaven. We have not yet been visibly glorified with our Lord. We are still walking through the Valley of the Shadow of death. We still have physical, mental, and emotional pain. We still have cancer, arthritis, and dementia. Families and finances are still struggling. Society is becoming more openly hostile to Biblical Christianity. “My walk is heavenward all the way…” the hymn-writer says. But it is hard to maintain the course amidst the difficulties and testings in this world of sin. We need perseverance.
Give thanks with me this morning as we find perseverance to “stay the course” in our hope, our Help and God’s purpose. Hear, now the Word of God in Romans chapter eight, verses twenty-four through thirty.
For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance. Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.
This is the Word of God. We pray with the psalmist, O LORD, “Make me understand the way of Your precepts; So shall I meditate on Your wondrous works” (Psalm 119:27).
Hope is based on promises. I hope that my online order will arrive on Tuesday, based on the tracking number that was in the order confirmation email. Now, that package is not in my hands yet, so my hope is not yet a reality. Once the package is delivered, I will no longer hold out hope for it because I have it, I can see it right in front of me.
The same can be said of heaven. None of us are in heaven right now. None of our bodies have been visibly glorified. None of our minds have been perfected. But God has promised it. The simple Gospel promise is that WHOEVER believes in the Son of God as their Savior from sin, shall NOT perish, but have everlasting life. We base our hope of heaven on that promise of God.
And what has Jesus told you? He has promised that even though these bodies of ours might die, for those who live and believe in Him, they will live. Jesus will raise all believers to life on the Last Day. He has promised that on that great resurrection day, these weak, fragile, broken bodies of ours will be incorruptible and undefiled. They will be perfect no spot or stain of sin. No more diabetes, fibromyalgia, dementia, cancer, or cronic pain. No more depression or anxiety.
Close your eyes and listen to this promise given in Revelation 21:3-5, And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.”
This is the future that Jesus died to give you. A future where sin and death is no more. A future where we are dwelling with God, just like Adam and Eve did before the Fall into sin. A future where God Himself will wipe away the last sorrowful tear from our eyes. Jesus died to give it to you and promises that whoever believes in Him shall freely have it.
“We were saved in this hope.” While we have not yet seen this glory, we believe it to be true because God who promised it is true. And as Paul writes in verse 25, “If we hope for what we do not see, then we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.” Despite all the difficulties and testings, we maintain our course. We persevere in this sure and certain hope of heaven.
As we eagerly wait with perseverance for that hope of heaven, we need a lot of help, don’t we. We need help fighting against the laziness of our flesh. We need help fighting against the temptations of the world around us. We need help keeping that hope in front of us.
How many times have you felt like you were struggling in your faith and your walk with Jesus? Maybe there was a time when you know needed help spiritually, but couldn’t quite put our finger on what it was. Maybe you are there right now.
Thanks be to God that HE has supplied each believer with a very special Helper. In fact, He IS the Help. Listen with amazement to the help He supplies in verse 26, “Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” That’s right, God the Holy Spirit speaks on your behalf. He is talking to God for you right now.
What is the topic of His intercession? Verse 27, “Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.” The Holy Spirit knows the will of God and knows what you need. He knows your deep needs and your yearnings. He knows your struggles and your weaknesses. And He makes the perfect intercession for you. The Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. Knowing about this help gives us perseverance.
Back to Walt Disney for a moment. What was his purpose in flying that great distance from Los Angeles, California, halfway around the world to London, England? Disney really wanted to make “Mary Poppins” into a movie—A LOT! His purpose, his end goal, gave him perseverance.
God has a purpose for you. He wants to glorify you. He wants you to live eternally in His presence in heaven. Think of the great lengths He was willing to go to accomplish His purpose. It was greater than a flight from Los Angeles to London. To accomplish His purpose, His Son came from heaven to earth. His Son laid aside His glory that you might share in it. Jesus took on the humble form of a servant so that you could be glorified.
God went even further. When you could not escape your sins, nor atone for one of them, God delivered His Son up for us all. He was willing to punish His beloved Son on the cross of Calvary in order to remove the punishment of your sins from you. God then raised His Son from the dead on the third day, sealing your forgiveness and salvation. That is how far God was willing to go so that you could be glorified! The lengths God’s was willing to go to save us, helps us persevere amidst our everyday struggles.
Also, remember how long God has been working toward this purpose of glorifying you in heaven. Verse 29, “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.” God foreknew you. That means, God knew you before your parents even met. In fact, God knew you before our first parents were ever created. Longer than Disney’s 16 years of meeting with Pamela Travers, from eternity, before He said, “Let there be light,” God foreknew YOU. Whom He foreknew, He also be predestined to be glorified like His Son. That was the future God had in mind for you.
Paul builds on this. Verse 30, “Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called.” Having predestined you to be like His Son, He called you. That brings us to the present day. Using His Word, the Gospel message of what His Son has done, God called you to faith in Jesus. Maybe He used Christian parents or Christian friends. Maybe He used a pastor or missionary. Or maybe He used the countless, nameless evangelists that share the good news about Jesus. God carried out His foreknowledge and predestination by calling you to faith in Jesus. Evidence of this is found in the faith you have in Jesus today.
“Whom He called, these He also justified.” When God called you to faith in Jesus, He personally gave you the benefits of everything Jesus had done. Jesus’ righteousness became your own. Jesus’ death on the cross became the death of your sins. Jesus’ resurrection from the dead secured your resurrection on the last day. God has declared you “not guilty.” You are justified!
“And whom He justified, these He also glorified.” Notice the tense Paul uses. These acts are all completed things—He foreknew you, He predestined you, He called you, He justified you, and He glorified you. Is this not a wonder?! Your salvation is an accomplished fact! Even though we are not in heaven yet, God sees it as a done deal. Your life is hidden with Christ in heaven right now! You are glorified! This is God’s purpose for you.
This gives us perseverance in whatever circumstance we find ourselves in. “We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” Whatever happens in our life, whether it be chronic pain, cancer, financial struggles, depression, or even death, we can know that God will make it work together for good. He made the cruel death of His Son, the worst event this world has seen, work together for the good of His people, giving us forgiveness and salvation. It may be that we never see how God worked all things in our life for good this side of heaven, but we do know that the God who foreknew us, predestined us, called us, justified us, and glorified us will make it work together for good. Thanks be to God for the perseverance He gives us through Jesus Christ our Lord!
Haste, then, on from grace to glory, Armed by faith and winged by prayer;
Heaven’s eternal day’s before thee, God’s own hand shall guide thee there.
Soon shall close the earthly mission, Swift shall pass thy pilgrim days,
Hope soon change to glad fruition, Faith to sight, and prayer to praise. Amen. (TLH #423:6)
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.