Are You Excited About Your Future? –
Sermon 5 of 7 from the Wholly Living series
October 1991 – Are you an optimist or a pessimist? When you look at the glass of water, is it half-full or half-empty? When you face the trials and problems of life, do you face them with hope or with despair?
There’s a big difference between an optimist and a pessimist. Some wag put it this way:
Between the optimist and the pessimist,
the difference is droll.
The optimist sees the doughnut,
the pessimist sees the hole.
It’s been well said that the optimist is the person who sees an opportunity in every calamity, while the pessimist sees a calamity in every opportunity. The optimist is the person who believes this is the best of all possible worlds; the pessimist fears that the optimist is right.
The optimist is the person who drops his car off in the parking lot and then walks off without looking back. He’s also the person who walks into a restaurant without any money hoping to pay for his meal with the pearl he hopes to find in the oyster he hopes to order.
By contrast, the pessimist is the person who looks both ways before crossing a one-way street. He’s also the man who, being faced with two evils, chooses them both. It was Mark Twain who said, “There is nothing sadder in life than a young pessimist.”
It’s true that both the optimist and the pessimist have their place in life. It was an optimist who invented the airplane, and a pessimist who invented the parachute. It takes all kinds to make a world, and we need the optimists to keep us moving and the pessimists to make sure we’re going in the right direction.
No Rose-Colored Glasses, PleaseLet me pose the question once again. Are you an optimist or a pessimist? Having already said that both optimism and pessimism have their place, I want to make the case for a well-reasoned biblical optimism. I realize there is such a thing as looking at life through rose-colored glasses, but that is not what I am talking about. Any view of life that overlooks the dark side has missed 50% of reality. It’s not my purpose to convince you to “Whistle While You Work” or to “Smile a While and Give Your Face a Rest.” Still less do I intend to file a brief for PMA (Positive Mental Attitude) or for Positive Thinking or for Possibility Thinking, as useful as those things might be.
My name is Ray Pritchard, not Robert Schuller or Norman Vincent Peale. My training is in the Bible, not in psychology. Any contribution I have to make must be in the biblical area. With that firmly in mind, I wish to state my thesis plainly: There is such a thing as a biblical view of life, and it is a view that might well be called realistic optimism. The biblical view is realistic because it is founded on the truth that we live in a fallen world. Biblical realism recognizes that we live in a very imperfect world where oftentimes very bad things happen to very good people. We live in a world where cars crash and good people die, where little babies get AIDS and school administrators sometimes mistreat our children. In this world lawyers take bribes, doctors make mistakes, judges are biased, and basketball superstars sometimes say stupid things. All too often incompetent people are promoted over those more qualified, and good people lose their jobs for no good reason.
Biblical realism begins with Romans 3:23—"All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” Because we are all sinners and because sin has infected every area of life, we ought not be surprised when things don’t go right.
Higher HandsBut that realism is not the final fact. Beyond the truth of the Fall is the greater truth that “All things work together for good to those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28) It would be a terrible world if the final word were the Fall of man. Who could bear to live in such a place? But thank God, Jesus Christ has intervened from heaven. And for the children of God, Higher Hands are at work on our behalf. That means that even in the midst of the most terrible tragedies, God is at work to bring about a higher good. Sometimes that “good” is seen quickly; sometimes it takes years to be seen clearly; sometimes we never fully understand why things work out the way they do.
But this much is clear: God is at work in all the circumstances of life—the good and the bad, the positive and the negative, the happy and the sad, the up times and the down times, in our sickness and in our health, when thing are going well and when things are falling apart, when we hit the jackpot and when our money runs out. He is always there, patiently working behind the scenes for our ultimate good.
Because that is true, there are true and solid grounds for biblical optimism. There is such a thing as Christian hope—a hope founded on the beneficent character of God himself. And hope in the end does not disappoint. Meaning, you may live to regret many things, but one thing you will never regret is putting your trust in God alone.
That’s the theological case for realistic biblical optimism—a positive outlook on life in a fallen world. It is based not in self-helpism or self-hypnosis or “Every Day in Every Way I’m Getting Better and Better” or any of the other nostrums sold as remedies for the human condition. No, biblical optimism is based not on man but on God. Since it is based on his unchanging character, it will stand the test of time.
Anatomy of an IllnessDo you recognize the name Norman Cousins? He is well-known as an author and lecturer on the healing power of laughter. He came by that reputation through a life-threatening illness that attacked the connective tissue in his body. After an exhaustive series of tests, a team of top medical experts gave him the diagnosis and basically said there was nothing they could do to help him. The illness was both chronic and progressive and would (they said) eventually take his life.
Mr. Cousins (who died just a few months ago) is best-remembered for a book he wrote over ten years ago called Anatomy of an Illness. In it, he told the fascinating story of how, having received the gloomy prognosis from the doctors, he decided to take his treatment in his own hands. After checking out of the hospital, he put himself on a high-protein diet that included massive doses of Vitamin C. Then he did something that was definitely outside the medical mainstream. He set up a movie projector and screen in his bedroom. Then he rented every Marx Brothers movie and every Three Stooges comedy he could find. As he viewed the movies in his bedroom, he laughed his head off. And as he laughed, he made a startling discovery: 10 minutes of hearty belly laughter gave him an hour free of pain. So he’d take his Vitamin C, watch the Marx Brothers, laugh his head off, then relax free from pain. When the pain came back, he put on another comedy and did it all over again.
Over time he discovered that the more he laughed, the better he got. As the days and months passed, his symptoms slowly receded until they went completely into remission. Years later he wrote Anatomy of an Illness in order to share his discovery with others.
Lest you should think that Mr. Cousins was an eccentric creature, he was in fact one of the most respected writers in America and was for years an Adjunct faculty member at the UCLA School of Medicine. His basic conclusion was very simple: There is an intimate relationship between the way you look at life and your tendency to get sick and stay sick. Some people are actually and factually “sickness prone” because of their negative, hopeless and pessimistic view of life. Others stay healthy even in terrible situations because of their positive, hope-filled, optimistic outlook.
The Doctors AgreeThat shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone, because Mr. Cousin’s insight has been a part of medical folklore for generations. Doctors have known for a long time that there is a close relationship between the physical and the spiritual sides of life. Even though the precise relationship is difficult to define or to quantify, every doctor has seen the principle in action. Ask any doctor and he or she will give you dozens of stories about patients who should have died but didn’t and the only possible explanation was their positive, hope-filled outlook on life. Ask that same doctor and he or she will give you another dozen stories of people who came into treatment in a negative or angry or hostile mode and who stayed sicker more longer than they should have. And every doctor has seen cases where someone died even though they should have gotten better. In many of those instances, the patient just literally seemed to give up. Once they gave up, they died.
As I say, we’ve known for years that when you approach life positively and with an optimistic outlook, you are much more likely to stay healthy. We’ve also known that a negative attitude seems to go right along with poor health.
This week I decided to do some personal research in that area. As you know, we have a number of medical doctors who attend Calvary. I decided to call three of them who happen to practice in three different specialties. When I called, I told them I wanted to ask a medical/theological question. My question was simple: “We have been told for years that there is some connection between the way you look at life and your tendency to stay healthy or to get sick. We’ve also been told that a patient’s outlook on life can be a positive or negative influence on their own personal recovery. Have you observed anything in your own practice to substantiate that observation?”
I was interested to note that all three doctors answered in the same way. Their first reply was a cautious comment on the published medical research in this area. All three doctors noted that although there isn’t a lot of hard data to back up this theory, there are an increasing number of studies that do suggest a definite relationship between the way you look at life and your tendency to health or sickness and to quick recovery versus slow recovery.
But when I asked them if they had observed anything in this area in their own personal practice, all caution disappeared. The three doctors emphatically answered yes. They each had many stories to tell of patients who had recovered against incredible odds when the only variable seemed to be the fact that the patient never lost hope. In those cases, the patients got better (often dramatically better) when they should have gotten worse.
The same was true on the other side of the coin. All three doctors had had a number of cases where patients had not responded well to treatment when the only variable seemed to be a negative or critical or hopeless attitude. In some cases the patients got worse when medically they should have gotten better.
The three doctors also added one important point: There is a tremendous difference in those patients with a vibrant faith in Jesus Christ and those patients who have no faith at all. While the difference may be hard to state in an equation, it is real and observable. “You can see it?” “Oh yes, you can see it.”
Dr. Solomon Said It FirstYou may wonder to yourself what all of this has to do with biblical optimism. My answer is that the Bible speaks directly to the point in question. Consider the words of Proverbs 17:22, “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” You are probably more familiar with the King James rendering of the first part of that verse: “A merry heart doeth good like medicine.” Unfortunately that rendering has become so familiar that it has become a slogan without any meaning. We cross-stitch it and then put it on our walls, but we forget to ponder its message.
A look at the original Hebrew helps us dig out the message for today. In the Hebrew language there is a verb form called the hiphil tense. It was used when the writer wanted to express causation—Something causes something else to happen. When Solomon composed Proverbs 17:22, he used the hiphil tense. A literal rendering might be, “A cheerful heart causes good healing.”
Now that verse is 3000 years old. Isn’t it amazing how Solomon under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit wrote something down that modern medical science is just discovering. Twentieth-century research agrees with these ancient words of Solomon—There is a close relationship between the way you look at life and your own physical well-being.
That leads me back to the place where I started: Are you an optimist or a pessimist? Your answer may tell a lot about how you are doing physically and spiritually.
The First Spiritual LawI’m sure most of you are familiar with the Four Spiritual Laws. Some of you probably came to Christ because someone shared them with you. Others of you have probably used that little booklet as a means of sharing Christ with your friends. Do you remember the First Spiritual Law? It goes like this: “God loves you and offers a wonderful plan for your life.” Think about that last phrase—"a wonderful plan for your life.” In my opinion, of the four laws, the first one is the hardest to believe. The hardest spiritual law for us to believe is the one that says God has a wonderful plan for our lives. That is a difficult concept for many people.
We find it easy to believe that God loves the world in general, or that he loves the human race in general, or that he loves other people. But the notion that he loves me in particular, that’s much harder to grasp. Many people struggle with the feeling of being unloved and unworthy of love for years and years and years. They never get over the feeling that because of their past, they just never quite measure up to what they were supposed to be. They don’t feel very lovable so they have a hard time believing that anyone would truly love them.
Sunrise SermonThe story is found in John 8, in a disputed passage of Scripture that some people think shouldn’t even be in the Bible. But I think it should be in the Bible because it is perfectly consistent with what we know about Jesus Christ.
It was the day after the Feast of the Tabernacles. Jerusalem was clogged with pilgrims making ready for their return trips back home. For eight days they had been in the booths, remembering the sojourn in the wilderness. Now they were going back to their homes and villages scattered throughout Judea and Galilee. But before they go, many of them come early in the morning to visit the Temple one last night.
It’s no small point that the incident happened early in the morning. The Greek text actually speaks of “deep dawn,” of that period just before sunrise when the eastern sky is just beginning to turn ashen gray. “At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them.” (John 8:2) The reference to the temple courts probably means the court of the women, which was the common gathering area for people to listen to various rabbis speak. The court of the women faced the east. It was bounded by some porticos through which the sun would shine as it began to rise over the Mount of Olives.
As Jesus teaches, the crowd gathers around him. By now, he has become quite a controversial figure. He’s the talk of the town. Opinions are sharply divided on this young man from Galilee. Some believe him to be a prophet of God; others think he is a troublemaker. Still others are unsure. No doubt his notoriety is one reason that so many have gathered so early in the morning.
Caught In The ActWhile he was teaching, a strange thing happened. Suddenly there was a commotion from the side. A crowd invaded the crowd. Pushing, jostling, yelling, a group of men interrupted the proceedings. Jesus knew who they were immediately. They were the big-time religious leaders of Jerusalem. They were agitated, insistent, as only people who think they are important can be. In the midst of the men was a woman—shaken, forlorn, disheveled and somewhat subdued. She refused to look Jesus in the face. The men made the woman stand in front of the whole group.
Who was this woman and why was she here? The answer was not long in coming. “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery.” You need to know that this was a very serious charge. In the Old Testament, adultery was punishable by death. It was a capital offense. Those caught in the act were usually stoned to death.
Double TroubleBut that’s only part of the story. The men who brought her to Jesus had something else in mind. They were trying to trap Jesus on the horns of a dilemma. They were trying to trap him between the sympathy of the crowd and the demands of the Law. On one hand, the Law clearly demanded that adulterers be punished by death. On the other hand, this law was rarely carried out—for various reasons, some of which may occur to you as you meditate on the frailty of human nature. But the major reason was that it is difficult to catch someone in the act of adultery since adultery is not a spectator sport. If the two people involved don’t say anything, it’s hard to get the proof you need.
The Pharisees’ plan is transparent. They aren’t really concerned about the woman at all. She’s just a pawn in their hands. Her adultery (which by way apparently did happen. Nothing in the story suggests otherwise.) was of no particular concern to them. It was just a convenient way to put Jesus on the spot. After all, if he upheld the Law and ordered the woman stoned, he would risk incurring the wrath of the crowd. But if he took the woman’s side, he would risk being accused of not following the Law of Moses. Either way he would be caught in their trap.
The Man Does The Crime–The Woman Does The TimeBy the way, the Greek text is very strong in verse 4. Her accusers are really saying, “This woman was caught in the very act of adultery.” Remember, it’s early in the morning, still just before sunrise. So it’s believable that they found this woman with a man several hours earlier. But several questions comes to mind as you think about that: 1. Where was she? 2. How did they catch her? 3. Where was the man? By definition, adultery requires two people. Where’s the man? Why don’t they bring him to Jesus? Don’t tell me he escaped. That’s absurd. If you caught her, you should have caught him.
Was this a set-up? Did the Pharisees plant the man, tell him to seduce the woman, lead her into adultery, and then just “happen” to catch her in the act while just “happening” to let the man escape? Is that possible? Sure it is. That would be typical. The man gets the woman into trouble and it’s the woman who has to pay the price.
God’s Finger In The DirtSo the Pharisees think they’ve got Jesus trapped. While they are waiting for Jesus to respond, he bends down and begins to write in the dirt with his finger (v. 6). Over the centuries commentators have speculated about what Jesus wrote. Most have suggested that he wrote a verse of Scripture that somehow condemned the Pharisees. Others think he listed their sins in the dirt, thus producing conviction of sin. One suggestion is that he wrote the names of the women they had slept with!
The truth is, we don’t know what he wrote because John doesn’t tell us. That leads me to an important conclusion: It probably isn’t important what he wrote because if it had been important John would have told us. It is the act of writing and not the contents that are crucial. Just hold that thought for a moment.
Jesus wrote on the ground and while he was writing, the Pharisees kept questioning him. “Well, what are you going to do? Should we stone her? Do you want us to let her go? Make up your mind.”
So Jesus stood up, faced the men and uttered the words which have reverberated across 20 centuries as the basic standard of fairness in all judicial investigations: “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first one to cast a stone at her.” (8:8) Then he stooped down and once again wrote on the ground. Once again we do not know what he wrote.
Reminders Of Mt. SinaiThe conclusion stands that it is the act of writing and not the contents that are important here. What does the act of writing suggest? Remember first of all who Jesus is speaking to. These are Pharisees who are steeped in the history of the Old Testament. They know the history of Israel backward and forward. Now ask yourself a question: Who else in the history of Israel wrote with his finger? Only one person. The Lord himself wrote the Ten Commandments in stone with his finger. That happened at Mount Sinai when God gave the Law to Moses in the first place.
When Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger in the dirt, the Pharisees understood immediately what his writing signified: He was not simply an interpreter of the Law. He was also a giver of the Law—like the Lord who gave the Law in the first place. Seen in that light, the act of writing with his finger was virtually a claim to deity. If it seems strange to us, it’s only because we don’t think like the Pharisees. They would have immediately grasped the symbolism.
The message is this: Jesus as the great Law-giver not only has the right to judge this woman; he also has the right to judge them. The Jews remembered Sinai and they understood exactly what he was saying. By writing in the dirt, he was claiming the prerogatives that belong to God alone. He was doing what only God would do.
Neither Do I Condemn You
John tells us that the men began to go away one by one, the older ones first, followed by the younger ones. Presumably the older ones were more aware of their own sinfulness and when faced by the claims of Jesus Christ, could no longer stand in his presence. The younger ones felt more confident, more cocky, more sure of themselves, but as their colleagues disappeared, so did their self-confidence.
In the end it is only Jesus and the woman—and the watching crowd. All her accusers have left. What will he do? Jesus stands up again and addresses the woman—for the first and only time. “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” (8:10) Her answer is simple: “No one, sir.”
What will Jesus do with her? Here is a woman who is unquestionably guilty of adultery. She has lived a promiscuous life, seeking fleeting fulfillment in the arms of unknown men. Now the sad truth is out in the open. What will Jesus do? Will he himself condemn the woman? After all, if anyone was qualified to stone this woman, it was Jesus.
But he doesn’t condemn her. To the contrary, he pronounces a word of forgiveness—"Neither do I condemn you"—and then the word of renewed moral purpose—"Go now and leave your life of sin.” (8:11)
Now as the woman is about to leave, the sun is beginning to come up over the eastern horizon. As the first rays of dawn streak across the court of the women, they hit her full in the face. At that moment Jesus says to the assembled multitude, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (8:13) The transcendent message is clear: Those who come to Jesus are walking out of the moral darkness and into the light of a brand-new life. This woman—caught so recently in the act of adultery—is Exhibit A of that great truth. Her sin had been committed under cover of darkness. Once exposed to the light, Jesus had routed her accusers, forgiven her sin, and set her on a brand-new path into the future.
From Sinner To Saint
For those who have lived in the darkness of sin, if they will come to Jesus, they will find the same thing this woman found—forgiveness and renewed moral purpose. This woman—this adulterous woman, this guilty woman, this scarlet woman—was forgiven by the Lord Jesus Christ and given a new purpose in life. She walked in a sinner and walked out a saint. She walked in dirty; she walked out clean. She walked in guilty; she walked out innocent. She walked in in the darkness; she walked out with the shining light of Jesus radiating through her inmost being.
That’s the miracle of the gospel. That is what Jesus Christ can do. He can take a life that is down and raise it up. He can take a life that is sinful and he can straighten it out. He can take a life that is broken and he can make it whole again. He can take a woman who is an outcast and he can make her accepted. He can take a hated tax collector and make him one of the best citizens in the community. He can take a woman who is living with a man and he can make her a flaming evangelist for his gospel. That’s what Jesus Christ can do.
The Zipper Got Stuck
He can take somebody who’s been wearing the dirty clothes of the old life and through him, they can exchange their old clothes for new ones. Many of us need to hear that truth. We need to exchange our old clothes for new ones.
Let me illustrate. Little children love to try on clothes their parents wear. They love to wear Daddy’s shirt or Mommy’s blouse and they love to clomp around the house wearing high-heeled shoes or work boots that swallow up their feet. It’s fun to do that because they can pretend they are already grown up. Wearing “big people clothes” is one part of discovering who you really are. It’s a way of being big for a few minutes without taking on all the problems of bigness. When you are little, you can try on adult clothes and then take them off again.
Many of us did the same thing emotionally while we were growing up. We try on different personalities. One day we try on the personality labeled “cute and funny.” We wear it for awhile, then we take it off. Then we try on the personality labeled “goof off.” We wear it for awhile, then we take it off. Over time we try on a whole succession of personalities—Loyal Son, Class Clown, Big Flirt, Town Gossip, Good Student, Mommy’s Little Man, Everybody’s Friend, the Angry Young Man, Rebel Without a Cause, Prom Queen, Betty Crocker Homemaker, Makeout Artist, Roughneck, Hell Raiser, Rulebreaker, Miss Goody-Two-Shoes, and so on. Most of us try on 5 or 6 different personalities while we’re growing up. Each one fits us for awhile, but then we take it off and try on something else.
But some of us made a horrible discovery one day. The personality coat wouldn’t come off. For some reason the zipper stuck and we couldn’t get it unstuck. And some of us have been trapped in an unhealthy personality coat for 10, 20, 30 or even 40 years. We just tried it on as a teenager and we’ve been stuck with it ever since. It doesn’t really fit us but we don’t know how to get rid of it. We’re still wearing the coat labeled “Troublemaker” or “Dutiful Son” or “Looking For Love” or “Angry Young Man” even though the coat stopped fitting us years ago. So you end up being critical all your life, or compulsive all your life, or promiscuous all your life. And you don’t know how to change it.
Jesus Can Change Your Wardrobe
May I share the gospel truth with you? Jesus can change your wardrobe. His message is simple: “If you’ll just take your hand off the zipper, I can get it unstuck.” You may think that because it’s been stuck for 30 years, you have to live that way forever. No! The gospel message is that even though you’ve been stuck with a rotten personality coat for decades, Jesus Christ comes along and says, “If you will let me, I will take off the clothes of your old life and I will exchange them for new ones.” In the end you will be more beautiful than you’ve ever been before.
That’s the power of Jesus Christ. That is what the gospel can do. He takes the rags of the old life and replaces them with something brand-new.
That to me is the heart of what biblical optimism is all about. That’s where this whole message comes together. Through Jesus Christ real change is possible. Through Jesus Christ the habits of decades can be radically changed. Through Jesus Christ destructive patterns of behavior can be changed and your life and be totally transformed.
Through Jesus Christ even though you walk in today with an old life, you can walk out with a new one. That’s the promise of the gospel.
That’s why I’m excited about my future. That’s why you ought to be excited about your future. Real change is possible. You don’t have to stay the way you are.
Three Closing Statements
1. Biblical optimism is possible because it is based on the gospel of Jesus Christ and not on your circumstances. That’s a crucial principle to grasp because you may be facing difficult circumstances right now, and your tendency might be to say, “He’s not talking about my case.” You may be going through a tough time financially and you think, “Nothing could ever change this.” Or your marriage may be in trouble and divorce may seem the only option. You may be on the verge of losing your job. Or your health. Or a dream you’ve pursued for many years. There may be trouble in your family or at school or on the job. And as you survey the situation, you can’t find any grounds for encouragement.
That doesn’t matter. It is still possible to be optimistic because biblical optimism rests on the promises of the gospel and not on your circumstances. As long as the gospel is true (and it is), great change is possible, even in apparently hopeless situations.
2. Biblical optimism is possible because God’s work in your life is a process, not a product. This brings us back to Romans 8:28. What is the “good” for which all things are working together? In that context, the “good” is becoming more and more like Jesus Christ. That means that whatever happens to you is meant by God to ultimately contribute to the ultimate goal of you someday becoming like Jesus Christ—reflecting his character in all you say and do. For most of us, it’s a lifelong process that never ends this side of the grave.
But that perspective changes the way we look at disappointment and discouragement. If God’s #1 goal is to make me like Jesus Christ, then he has many lessons to teach me. Most of those lessons can only come through heartache and difficulty because most of us learn more through the hard times than we do through the good times.
God’s work in your life is a process of chipping away at your weak points and slowly developing the character of Jesus Christ within. But that means there is tremendous grounds for optimism—even in the worst situations—because the hard times mean that God is hard at work in you to make you more like his Son.
Nothing is wasted. Nothing that happens to you is meant to destroy you. Even the attacks and slanders of your enemies are allowed by God for a higher purpose in your life. Everything has a purpose in your life. Everything. The fact that you don’t always see it doesn’t negate that fact.
So be encouraged. God is at work in your life, especially in the hard times.
3. Biblical optimism is possible because God’s promises go beyond this life. That’s the difference between biblical optimism and positive thinking. Positive thinking ends at the grave. But biblical optimism carries on beyond this life. It is based on the promises of God which go beyond this life to the life that is to come.
This morning I received some very sad news. Sara Spurny died about 4:30 A.M. today. Many of you perhaps did not know her because she was a quiet, reserved person. But she and Mr. Spurny and her daughter Marta had come to Calvary for the last few years. They always sat right under the edge of the balcony on the west side of the sanctuary. Two months ago the doctors told Mrs. Spurny that she had inoperable cancer. They tried chemotherapy, but things were too far advanced for the treatment to do any good. A few days ago the doctors told Marta that it was only a matter of time.
Her death is a hard blow to me personally because the Spurnys were one of the first families to befriend us when we moved to Oak Park two years ago. I don’t know why that happened, but somehow we just became good friends. Every Sunday Mr. and Mrs. Spurny would come by, shake my hand, and Mrs. Spurny would smile at me. They taught me a little Czechoslovakian (a very little), and each week we would tell a little joke together.
My boys grew to love Marta and her Mom and Dad. For the last two years they took us out at Christmastime to the Riverside Restaurant for some Old World cooking. We loved them and they loved us.
Now Mrs. Spurny is gone. When I heard the news, I remembered the last time I saw her. Several weeks ago Pastor Brian Bill and I went out to her home. She looked so frail, so weak. The cancer had done its awful work. When we saw her, we knew it wouldn’t be long. But she was as gracious as ever. As we sat at her kitchen table, Pastor Brian read Psalm 34. When he read verse 5 he stopped for a moment. “Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.” For some reason I had never noticed that particular verse. But when he read it, I looked over at Mrs. Spurny. Her face was radiant. Although the cancer was taking her life, it had not destroyed her spirit. She said to us, “I’m not afraid to die. I’m ready to meet the Lord.”
There’s a new radiant face in heaven this morning. She’s been there for about five hours.
That’s the bottom line, isn’t it? It is possible to face even the worst that life has to offer, and to face it with hope and optimism because the promises of God go beyond the grave.
In heaven there is no more cancer, no more sickness, no more Alzheimer’s, no more AIDS. In heaven there is only the radiance and joy of seeing Jesus Christ face to face.
The Best Is Yet To Come
Are you excited about your future? If you’re a child of God, you ought to be excited about your future. Jesus Christ has already taken care of your past, your present and your future. He’s taken care of your past by forgiving your sins. He’s taken care of your present when he said, “I will never leave you.” (Hebrews 13:5) He’s taken care of your future when he said, “In my Father’s house are many mansions. If it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. But if I go, I will come again and receive you unto myself, that where I am, there you may be also.” (John 14:1-3)
If you’re a child of God, you’re in good hands. Your past is forgiven, your present is secure, and your future is guaranteed. For the child of God, the best is always yet to come.
The only question left is this: Do you know him? Do you know Jesus Christ? Where is your hope for the future?
On this Reformation Sunday we stand with Martin Luther, John Calvin and the other great reformers in declar-ing that your hope must be based on Jesus Christ and him alone.
Do you know Jesus Christ? Have your put your trust in him? He’s good for yesterday, he’s good for today, he’s good for all the tomorrows yet to come. Whatever happens to you, you’ll be in good hands if you’re in his hands because his hands rule the world. Put your life in his hands, and you will never be disappointed. “Those who look to him are radiant; their faces will never be put to shame.”
Father, we thank you for eternal promises. We thank you for a hope that does not diminish with the passing of time. We thank you for giving us a future that even death cannot destroy. We thank you for replacing the perishing hope of this world with a hope that is eternal. May we believe that in Jesus Christ we have what we need—yesterday, today, tomorrow and forever. Amen.
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