Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father…
Please pray with me…
An old man goes to his doctor and says, “I don’t think my wife’s hearing is as good as it used to be. What should I do?”
The doctor replies, “Try this test to find out for sure. When your wife is in the kitchen doing dishes, stand 15 feet behind her and ask her a question. If she doesn’t respond keep moving closer, asking the question until she hears you.”
The man goes home and sees his wife preparing dinner. He stands 15 feet behind her and says, “What’s for dinner, honey?” No response. He moves to 10 feet behind her and asks again — no response. Five feet, no answer. Finally, he stands directly behind her and asks, “Honey, what’s for supper?” She says, “For the fourth time, I SAID CHICKEN!”
Sometimes in life, when things don’t go as well as we had planned, we often think that God’s just not listening. We pray what we think are the greatest of prayers but it just seems sometimes that God is not picking up the other end of the line.
It’s easy to lose hope in this world because so much is out of our control. Our happiness often depends on others to act or react in a certain way. Even when it comes down to our relationship with God, we expect the same and we become disheartened when it doesn’t happen.
In our Epistle lesson, Paul is giving us hope through the assurance that God does indeed listen and that His goal is to lead us from discouragement. The part we often forget as servants of Christ is that, “For those who love God all things work together for good for those who are called according to His purpose.” We want our purpose in life to be God’s purpose for us and when it doesn’t seem that the two will mesh, we lose hope. So this morning, let’s focus again on God and the hope He gives.
The most important thing we must understand is that regardless of our frustrations, God is bigger than anything we might have to overcome. God’s plan for us takes us all the way to salvation. He is the master planner and His designs for us were developed before we ever took our first breath on earth. Our God is almighty. His plans for us are perfect and they will sustain us all the way to everlasting life.
Even when we go through struggles and strife in this life, God is working these things together for our ultimate good. God wants us to know this. The word for “know” in the Greek is defined as learning something from instruction.
God has a plan already in place for you and for me, but we must have the willingness to learn it and to trust in God in all things so that they might work together towards His good.
Even the trials we face can become our gain when we come to understand that God is still in control, even when the lessons are hard. Even in those times we think God isn’t listening because our plans don’t go like we might have wished, He is hard at work molding and shaping us towards our ultimate good.
We have all been taught this, yet it is still hard to accept when we find ourselves facing hopelessness in the valleys of life. God reminds us to trust in Him and in the Word He has given us. If it were not for the revelation of His Word, we would have the tendency to think that when bad things happen, it was only for evil purposes, but God tells us through Word and Spirit, that even in those times we find ourselves lost and alone, God continues to love us enough to work in our lives, turning those lost and alone times into triumph’s.
I think we’ve all experienced it at one time or another. We feel that a certain situation offers no hope, only to find later that it did for us more good than bad. A certain person finds himself a victim of addiction but overcomes the battle to help other people face their addictions. A certain girl doesn’t return the love you had for her, but you survive to find the spouse God wanted for you all along. You get laid off from your job but find one later that is even better for you. In faith, we are called to trust in God in all things because His plans for us never end.
In my own life there have been things that happened at the time that didn’t seem good. When I first started out with Aid Association for Lutherans, there were times we didn’t want to answer the phone for fear that it was just some creditor wanting money. A new business with no real clients can be daunting. At the time it was horrible, but as we look back, it worked according to God’s plan to eventually bring us to Prince of Peace. I can honestly say, that if I had started out pain free and burdened with too much money, I wouldn’t be here now and I wouldn’t have been nearly so satisfied with where God has placed me.
Joseph M. Stowell tells a story about his childhood. “Growing up in Hackensack, N.J., just across the George Washington Bridge from New York City, provided a variety of experiences for me. One was going to school with some of the rough kids from the neighboring town of South Hackensack. I recall one afternoon, playfully sparring with one of the southside guys and having his punch actually land on my face. The blow jarred one of my front teeth loose. Thankfully, the dentist was able to anchor the tooth again, and I didn’t lose it. In fact, I was better off–the tooth had always been crooked, so the dentist straightened it as he worked. Sometimes the blows of life have a way of taking something crooked and making it straight.”
We are told that God causes ALL THINGS to work together for our good. Those “all things” can sometimes trick us into believing that nothing works. All things include the trials and temptations we have to face due to living in a broken world. All things include the persecutions we face, even those we face proclaiming Christ as Lord and Savior. Often this can cause us to lose hope. Scripture is full of people with every reason to lose hope, but they trusted in God enough to see His plans for their lives through.
Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers, wrongfully accused of rape and thrown into prison, never losing His hope that God was working all things toward his good. He was later rewarded for that faith by becoming second only to Pharaoh.
Job lost everything. His money, his family, his home, even his hope at times, but he endured it all through faith in God and came out of his trial in better shape than when he had started.
Daniel refused to worship anyone else but God and was thrown into the lion’s den only to be rewarded when God’s angel shut the lion’s mouth.
When the early church faced persecutions, it actually worked towards God’s good, hastening the spread of the Good News of Jesus Christ as it bound His children together in faith and trust. At first it seemed a bad thing, but good came out of it.
Whatever you are facing in life, God promises that it will work together for your good. And Verse 28 tells us that this promise is for all who are called according to His purpose. It is for every person who places their hope in Him, not just a select few.
As our faith grows we will see the shackles of sin loosened. As we surrender to Christ we will find ourselves free from having to suffer alone and afraid. As we break away from being slaves to the world, we will, through hope in Christ, find ourselves motivated to become slaves to Christ. Romans 6:22 says, “But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.”
God’s ultimate plan for all of us is to see us together with all the saints in heaven. But He knows that lessons must be taught throughout our lives here on earth. As any good father would do, He often lets us make our own mistakes and face the consequences. He wants us to understand that He will never allow us to suffer more than we can handle, but that, because of sin, there will be suffering and we must endure. We must never lose hope.
One of the purposes behind God’s plan is to see us conformed to the image of His Son, to show a likeness inside us so great that people can’t help but to notice. He wants us to be transformed completely, through and through, not just superficially.
God gets us through the difficult times so that one day, we will be blessed with the same resurrection body that Jesus has. He wants us to be changed, to be different than the world. 2 Corinthians 3:18 says, “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” As the Spirit moves us, we become more and more like Christ, reflecting His glory in our lives. Romans 12:2 says, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
God has predestined that all believers will find their hope in Him and God decided beforehand that those who accept Jesus Christ would be conformed to His image. God approves all that are faithful. And those He has predestined He has called. Those who accept the call are those who rise to glory.
Washington Irving once said, “Great minds have purposes, others have wishes.” We have a mighty God who will help us rise from the misfortunes of life. Don’t lose your hope; look for God’s silver lining in the cloud of distress. He has great plans for you. Amen.