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February 2, 2020

Sermon Romans 8:18  . . .“Paul said:  Not worth comparing”

“Paul said:  Not worth comparing”

Romans 8:18

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus.

A little over fifty years ago, back in 1965, Charlton Heston and Rex Harrison starred in a movie called, The Agony and the Ecstasy, a movie that told the story of Italian architect, painter, and sculptor Michelangelo.

The movie begins as Pope Julius II, (played by Harrison), commissions Michelangelo, (played by Heston), to paint the Sistine Chapel.  Julius says, “As you know, it was built by my uncle Pope Sixtus.  That’s why it’s called the Sistine.”

Michelangelo answers, “It has no more architecture than a cow barn.”

“You will correct the clumsiness of my uncle’s architects,” says Julius.  “Your commission is to decorate the ceiling.”

But Michelangelo didn’t want to do it.  He felt as though it didn’t give him enough room to work.  Then when he finally did begin to paint, he wasn’t happy at all with the results.  He even went so far as to destroy what he had done, then ran away to hide in the mountains.

When he finally did come back, he painted non-stop for four years, even during church services.  The movie ends as Heston and Harrison stand looking at the space behind the altar, where he would later paint the Last Judgment.

The Agony and the Ecstasy.  When I hear that, I can’t help but think of what the apostle Paul once wrote to the church in Rome.  Please turn in your Bible to page 1201.  Romans chapter 8, beginning at verse 18:  “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.  For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.  For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in 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.  For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.  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.  For in this hope we were saved.  Now hope that is seen is not hope.  For who hopes for what he sees?  But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience” (Romans 8:18-25).

If I were to ask what’s the most important chapter in the Bible, you’d likely give several different answers.  For example, if you want to learn where all things came from, you could turn to words of Genesis chapter 1:  “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”  If you’re looking for words of comfort, you could read the words of Psalm 23:  “The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.”  The Bible can even help with your marriage.  You’ll find those words in Ephesians chapter 5:  “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her, that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the Word.”

But somewhere on that list of the Bible’s most important chapters, you’ll probably find the words of Romans chapter 8:  “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus...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?”  And it’s here that we find words like these:  “Nothing in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

It was of this chapter that Luther once wrote:  “In chapter 8, Paul assures us that we are still God’s children, however hard sin may rage within us, so long as we follow the Spirit and resist sin, to slay it.  Since, however, nothing else is so good for the mortifying of the flesh as the cross and suffering, He comforts us in suffering with the support of the Spirit of love, and of the whole creation.”  And he wrote:  “For the Spirit sighs within us and the creation longs with us that we may be rid of the flesh and of sin.”

Let’s look again at the text.  Romans chapter 8, verse 18:  “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 before we go any further, remember who’s writing.  It’s not someone who knew nothing about sin and suffering.  Earlier, in chapter 7, he wrote:  “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.”  And later, to the Corinthians, he’ll write:  “Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one.  Three times I was beaten with rods.  Once I was stoned.  Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea...in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from the Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, and danger from false brothers...who is weak, and I am not weak?  Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant?”

Paul knew more about sin and suffering than most of will ever know.  Still, he found it possible to write in verse 18:  “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”

So what’s going on?  As one commentator wrote:  “Something has gone wrong with the world.  It’s not the world as God meant it to be.  Instead, it’s a world full of pain, suffering, and death.  It’s been messed up and knocked out of kilter by sin.”

By all accounts, Pat Nixon, former First Lady and wife of President Richard Nixon, was a wonderful, gracious lady.  She died in June of 1993 after a long illness.  At her funeral, one speaker said, “In all my life, and I’ve known the Nixons for forty years, I never heard a single person say a single negative thing about Pat Nixon.”

Many national leaders were there, including former Presidents Ford and Reagan.  The Nixon family sat in the front row.  At the end of the service an honor guard carried the casket away while the choir sang, “America, the Beautiful.”

At that moment, the camera zoomed in on President Nixon, a president who’s been at the top and the bottom, who’s known public humiliation far beyond what most of us will ever experience.

At one time, he was the most powerful man in the world.  But as they took his wife’s casket away, he reached up with his hand, and brushed his tears away.

What a lesson there is for us.  It doesn’t matter if you’re rich or poor.  It doesn’t matter if you’re the weakest or the most powerful man in the world.  If you live long enough, you will know pain.  You will know heartache.  You’ll brush tears away as death comes to your door.

We live in a world filled with pain and suffering and death.

Yet Paul writes:  “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”

Ever seen a golf ball?  Sure you have.  It’s a sport that’s been around for more than six hundred years.  They say that, today, some fifty million golfers play on twenty-five thousand golf courses each and every year.

But while you’re used to seeing that cute, little, dimpled, 1.68 inch in diameter, 1.62 ounce sphere, it’s not how it always was.  In fact, the golf ball as we know it wasn’t invented until 1908, making it 112 years old this year.

As far as we know, the very first golf ball wasn’t dimpled at all.  Instead, it was made of wood, Beechwood or Boxroot, to be exact.  And since golfers played with wooden clubs, they say that the early days of golf must have been a very jarring experience.

But over time golfers learned something.  They learned that after the ball had been knocked around the course a couple of times and roughed up a little bit, it flew not only farther, but more accurately, (which, by the way, is pretty important in the game of golf!)

So that gave them an idea.  Why not press dimples into the ball to improve it’s distance, trajectory, and spin?  So the golf ball as we know it was born.

It’s the same way in life.  Often it takes the rough spots of life to make you go your farthest.

For example, cripple a man, and he becomes Sir Walter Scott.  Lock him in prison, and he becomes John Bunyan.  Bury him in the snows of Valley Forge, and you get George Washington.  Raise him in abject poverty, and the result is Abraham Lincoln.  Burn him so severely in a schoolhouse fire that the doctors say he’ll never walk again, and you have Glenn Cunningham, who set a world’s record in 1934 for running the mile in 4 minutes, 6.7 seconds.  Deafen a genius composer, and you have a Ludwig Van Beethoven.  Call him a slow learner, and write him off as someone who can’t be taught, and you have an Albert Einstein.

Think of Japanese gymnast, Shun Fujimoto, competing in the 1976 Olympics team competition.  Somehow, during the floor exercises, he broke his right knee, making it obvious to all that he’d be forced to withdraw from competition.  But he wasn’t about to let even a broken knee stop him.

The very next day, he competed in his strongest event--the rings.  His routine was excellent, but the critical point lay ahead--the dismount.  Without hesitation, he ended with a twisting, triple somersault, then came a moment of intense quiet as he landed on his injured knee.  Then came thundering applause as he managed to stand his ground.

Later, reporters asked about the moment.  He replied, “The pain shot through me like a knife.  It brought tears to my eyes.  But now I have a gold medal, and the pain is gone.”

What good, amazing good, can come from our incredible bad when we allow things to spur us on to our very best.

Maybe you’ve heard the poem:  “I walked a mile with Pleasure, she chattered all the way, but left me none the wiser for all she had to say.  I walked a mile with Sorrow, and ne’er a word said she.  But oh, the things I learned from her, when Sorrow walked with me.”

As Paul wrote to the Romans:  “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”

And nowhere could that have ever been more clear than in the cross, where the worst tragedy that could ever have happened in the history of the world, and the greatest suffering anyone ever endured, became the most glorious moment of all time.  For there, Jesus died, to take all our sin away.

As Paul wrote to the Corinthians:  “We preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.”

 

Thank You, Father, for Your presence and protection in both our best and worst of times.  Help us to endure suffering.  Remind us of the cross, for Jesus’ sake.  Amen

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