Faith is 20/20

So, we just celebrated Christmas, the birth of the promised Savior, the Messiah, the Christ.  We look back with praise and thanksgiving, to the only true God.  A God who can make promises and keep them.  A God who loved us so much, that He sent His Son to die for us, and that whosoever believes in Him, will be forgiven of all sin, and receive the promise of eternal life.  Looking back, we have so much for which to be thankful.  

Can you imagine the anticipation of those who were faithfully waiting for the Christ to come?  And can you imagine how they felt when they realized that He was indeed, here?  The sense of worship must have been incredible.  

But still, for us, the incarnation of Christ, the greatest event in the history of the world, is something we can only look back at. 

Now, what about Christ’s return?  Like those who were eagerly awaiting the coming of the Christ in Bethlehem, those who knew what to look for, who knew that it would be soon, those who saw Jesus, and worshipped Him, knowing that He was the Christ, are we eagerly awaiting His return?  Are we looking forward to the fulfillment of God’s promise of deliverance from the bondage of sin?  

For those awaiting the promised Messiah, everything they believed about God and the human experience revolved around that promise.  This is true for us as well.  Knowing that the Messiah has come, paid for our sin on the Cross, died and was resurrected, and now sits at the right hand of the Father interceding for us, is central to our entire worldview.  But in considering your view of the world, where does Christ’s return fit in?  How does that promise effect what you believe about your life, about your future, or about your pain and suffering?  

Sometimes people try to find the meaning and purpose of life in their own experiences.  They try to learn all they can from the past.  

You’ve heard it said that “Hindsight is 20/20.”  That’s not really true.  Often times, looking back at certain events in our lives, even many years later, we still don’t see things all that clearly.  We may not want to admit it, but we still don’t see certain things from the past as they really were.  We’ll say, “If I only knew then what I know now, I’d do things differently.”  But, in reality, you may do things differently, knowing then what you know now, but there’s no guarantee that you wouldn’t just make different wrong decisions.  Why is that?  Because Hindsight is NOT 20/20.  We just don’t always see things as they really are, as God sees them.   

No, hindsight cannot be relied upon to give us 20/20 clarity, to give us the whole unvarnished truth.  The first problem is that, regardless of what we may have learned since then, we very likely still have a somewhat shaded perspective, an image of the past that is not 100% accurate.  But the biggest problem with hindsight, is that it only looks back to the past, it can only attempt to get a clear vision of used to be.  

But what about now, what about the future?   We need 20/20 Clarity Now.  We need something better than Hindsight, we need something from God.  

Hebrews 11:1 says, Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.   I’m going to paraphrase, “Faith is the clear view of God and His promises.”  In other words, “Faith is 20/20.”  Do you see that?  Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. 

Turn in your Bibles to Romans 8:18-39.  In this text, we see Paul encouraging the Church by means of the Second Coming of Christ.  He begins with how we wait for His return.  He moves on to telling us of what God is doing for us behind the scenes, while we wait, and then brings us into the absolute security and confidence we have in Christ.  

I would like us to see, that it is by faith in God and in His word, that we can clearly understand our past, we can clearly see our present, and we can confidently await our future.  

What is the context and backdrop of your life?  What is it that serves as the filter, through which everything in your life is processed?  Is it the sufferings that you have experienced?  Is it the victories?  

In this passage, Paul puts all of creation into the context of anticipation of the Second Coming of Christ.  For Paul, the return of Jesus Christ, is so important to Christian life, that it even informs our suffering.  Let’s look at it, point one—

Awaiting Christ’s Return (vv.18-25)

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. 

Notice what he is saying here, he’s speaking of the sufferings that we will experience.  This includes all of it, from light to extreme.  The suffering of persecution, the suffering of poor health, of physical pain, and the death of loved ones.  The suffering of racial injustice, criminal injustice, and the suffering of marital infidelities, and abuses, etc.  Paul is telling us that all of the suffering that sin can and will produce for us, are not (even) worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.  God’s glory that is to be revealed to us, is the category of all things promised to us, all things revealed to us by God.  These are the Last Things, beginning with the return of Jesus, and well into eternity. 

It’s important to understand that God does not take our sufferings lightly, we can see as David wrote in Psalm 56:8, You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book?  No, God does not make light of our pain.  Even right now as we experience the pains of this life, our suffering is not cheap in the sight of God. 

As we see in Psalm 116:15, Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.  Never believe that God takes our suffering or our deaths lightly.  

However, He wants us to know, that with absolute assurance, that no matter how bad it is, the fulfillment of God’s promises, will so far outweigh this present time of suffering, that it’s not even worth the comparison.

Whenever I think of Romans 8:18, I picture an old-style fulcrum scale.  Where God’s glory side of the scale is completely weighted down, while the suffering side is all the way up to the top.  [Picture] 

This is the suffering that you and I will experience throughout our lives, and for each of us, this is a tremendous amount of accumulated pain.  But the truth of it all, is that it will be so overshadowed as we come into the presence of God, by the return of Christ, and our being with Him for eternity, that Paul says that there’s no comparison.  

It’s hard to imagine that, when we’re going through those hard times, but this is why it is so important that we understand this truth, so we can be better prepared, as those times come.  

So, Paul sets the stage by presenting, two categories, for us to follow here in v.18, viz., all suffering due to sin (in one column), and the glory, grace, and love of God, to be revealed with the second coming of Jesus Christ (in the other column).  

On the suffering due to sin side, Paul reminds us of the cost of sin that creation itself had to bear.  In Genesis 3:17, after the Fall, God said to Adam, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life….”  And in v.19 of Romans 8, we read—

19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 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. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.  So as creation was cursed for Adam’s sin, it has since been waiting with eager longing for the return of Christ, where at that time, creation will be set free from its decay and will receive freedom.  This freedom seems to indicate that creation will return to its original created state, it’s condition before the Fall, and will begin at Christ’s return, as He rules and reigns for a thousand years (see Revelation 20).  

So, we see that Creation Awaits the return of Christ, and the fulfillment of God’s promises.  And in v.23, we see also that—

We Await.  Paul writes— 23 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 bodies24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. 

So, Paul is saying here, that as we have faith in Christ, the firstfruits of our salvation, is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. This is not something we are wait for; it was completed upon our having saving faith.  As we put our faith in Christ, we receive the Holy Spirit immediately.  Now, having faith, we eagerly await the fulfillment of our adoption as sons of God.  This fulfillment of God’s promise of sonship, takes place at the redemption of our bodies, which is also referred to as our glorification.  This is when God recreates our own physical bodies, perfecting them for the rapture. 

Now in vv.24-25, Paul is saying that saving faith, and the expectation of the fulfillment of Christ’s return, cannot be separated.  They are like two sides of a coin.  He states, 24 For in this hope we were saved.  Then he explains the nature of faith saying, Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees?    Now notice this, 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, he says that we wait for it with patience.  In other words, if we have true saving faith in Christ, we will not give up because of the suffering we go through, or we can think of it this way, if we have true faith in Jesus Christ, we will not cease expecting His return, the fulfillment of His word, with patience.  

So, while we await Jesus’ return, we need not be anxious in our weakness, because—

In the Meantime (All Bases Are Covered) (vv.26-34)

First we see that—

God Intercedes for Our Good

26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 

Notice that this is the help of the Holy Spirit when we are weak.  We see here that the Holy Spirit, Himself, intercedes for us, going to Father with requests that accord with the Father’s will, for our well being.  The Spirit indwells us and prays for us, and as the Father knows the content of our hearts, and the mind of the Spirit, He answers.  

So, God Intercedes for us, and also—

God Works for Our Good

28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 

We see in this verse, that nothing in our lives is waisted, not pain and suffering, not trials or disappointments, not the good, and not the bad.  God is sovereign, all knowing, all powerful, and all present.  Nothing that we go through escapes God’s notice, and He has promised to use it, and work it all for our good, according to His plan.

Look at v.29, and notice how this description of God’s sovereign work is all in the past tense.

29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. 

If you are a believer in Jesus Christ—

He foreknew You

He predestined You to be conformed to the image of Christ 

He called You

He justified You

He glorified You

This is God working for your good.  

So, God prays for our Good, He works for Our Good, and—

God Providing

31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?  He’s basically saying here, that when you become a follower of Jesus Christ, it makes no sense to fear people or things.  Because, if you are a believer, then God is for you.  And if God is for you, then nobody can succeed in their plans against you.   

And take note of just how much God is for us— He gave up His own Son, to be crucified for our sin, so we can have a relationship with Him now, and for all eternity. 32 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?  By faith, God promised us the forgiveness of sin, sanctification, and eternal life.  He sacrificed Jesus to redeem us, and He will fulfill His promises.  

Notice where Satan’s accusations against us land.  33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 

It makes no sense to fear, because God is for us.  It makes no sense to doubt God’s promises, because He send His own Son to die for us.  And it makes no sense to believe the accusations that Satan rails against us, because it is God who has chosen us, God who has justified us, Christ who has died for us, and both the Holy Spirit and Jesus Christ who intercedes for us to the Father.  With all the bases covered, We Truly Got It Made!

We Got It Made! (vv. 35-39)

And it gets even better, because nothing can separate us from the love of God!

35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 

No, nothing will separate us for from the love of Christ.

36 As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”   37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 

Even as we may be put to death, we will never be abandoned by God, never will we lose the promises of God.  

38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. 

Do you have it made?  Do you have this assurance of your salvation?  Do you have confidence in the forgiveness of your sin?  We celebrate Christmas because God’s promised Messiah came as a baby, in order to die on a cross.  By His broken body and shed blood, He paid the sin debt of the world, and it is by faith in Jesus, and the price He paid, that we can be forgiven of our sin, and receive His promise of eternal life.  

Do you believe?  Will you believe?  

Faith gives us clarity to see Truth. We are known by God, we are loved by God, we are justified by God, we are forgiven by God, and best of all, by faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior, nothing will ever change that. 

~ by James M. Winslow on 2021/04/12.

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