What Do I Know for Sure! Romans 8:26-39

On days like these it feels like we don’t know enough.  When I sat with Bonnie, Robin and Jessica on Sunday they honestly wondered, like the rest of us, why Gary died so young. Logan marched in my office after Sunday School and asked me a very similar question.  Feelings like we have today sometimes makes it hard to say what we know of sure.  The family asked me to speak to some of Gary’s favorite words from scripture, considering what can we know for sure on days when we feel grief-stricken.  These are words that speak of certainties that fuel our confidence in our faith in God and provide great comfort, particularly on this day.

Paul writes to the church in Rome to tell them what he knows for sure as they experience frequent and severe persecution.  Paul wants them to know, God had and would not, abandon them.  He speaks words of assurance that no dangers; physical, spiritual, or cosmic could separate them from God’s love in Christ Jesus.  His certainty is based on his belief that God loved them and all humanity before time.  This divine love offers abundant life as we fulfill God’s purpose on earth, and promises eternal life for those who respond in faith to Jesus by loving God and neighbor.

Gary unashamedly staked his confidence in God on that same belief and practice.  Like Paul he choose to live according to God’s purposes because he believed real life was made possible by the resurrection of Jesus, who sits at the right hand of God, not as our accuser, but as our advocate and champion.  What Paul knew for sure,  what Gary knew for sure and what we all want to know for sure is that faith in Christ assures us of a purposeful life on earth and final peace in heaven.  God has given us the gift of faith to receive the bountiful and undeserved mercies, which Christ offers to those who by faith accept this gift and enter into relationship with our Loving Lord.  If you want to know for sure it starts by receiving that gift.

Paul’s certain relationship with Christ caused him to say, “We know all things work together for good.”  Before we think he to be Pollyanna, he also wrote, “Three times I was beaten with rods.  Once I received a stoning.  Three times I was shipwrecked; for a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, I was in danger from rivers, from bandits,  from my own people, from Gentiles, in the city, in the wilderness, at sea, from false brothers and sisters; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, hungry and thirsty, often without food, cold and naked.  I’m under daily pressure because of my anxiety for all the churches.”  Paul thought all those things fit into the call of God to enable the world know God’s love, so despite the hardships he was confident all things would work for good.

Paul doesn’t say everything that happens is good; he knew of the power of evil and trials of hardships.  For “good” doesn’t mean things turn out the way he wished.  For “good” is not magic thinking that immediately turns our bad things for the better.  What he means is: We don’t always know what is good for us, nor when the timetable when good will come.  God is patiently working out the good in our lives by God’s redemptive grace.  We can count on the faithful hand of God because “God is for us!” (v. 31)

The confidence Paul has that “all things work together for good” is not based on a willy-nilly notion the universe is full of goodness.  This promise isn’t reserved for the goody two shoes who do this good or that good.  Paul’s certainty is based on God’s love for all creation and that God intends nothing but good, and particularly for those who love God and neighbor.  Loving horizontally and vertically fulfills the purposes of God, freeing us to live confidently God will work things out.  Being caught up in the stream of God’s purpose enables us to see more clearly the good work of God in all that happens to us and others, and even on this day.

Gary’s life was a testimony to this truth.  We might think after graduation from high school Gary’s was a bit aimless. Gary remained confident God would see to him.  Despite a brief time of trying to find his place in this college and serving his country he loved; a thirty plus, going on forty-year, consistent career as a service engineer demonstrates God’s certain hand in guiding his life. Gary’s spent the first decade of his young adult years looking for a partner.  Bonnie faced her own challenges in her early adult years.  God intended all things to work out.  And, that good come when the two of them met at a FUMC singles event and were married a short time later.  God has been up to good and good to them for almost thirty years.

If you look back over Gary’s life you can point to his confidence God intended good throughout every stage of his life.  His simple commitment to his family, his church and working and teaching children, youth and adults are all rooted in his faith that God intends that good comes about to those called according to God’s purpose.  Why else would Gary rise each Sunday, sometimes even on vacation and without question march his family off to church to offer themselves to God and those whom they could serve.   Gary was sure God was for us in this life and beyond this life!

If Gary was so confident in this life that God was for him, then it follows he would be confident even after his life ends in such an untimely manner, that God still intends to work out all things for good.  God is at work in the good, bad, and the ugly to redeem it for God’s purposes.  While we experience good and bad at the same time; the key to perceiving how they coexist is to be confident that in the unconditional love of God, the hand God is always working out good in our lives, even on a day full of sorrow and grief.

The family asked me to invite those attendingGary’s service to think about their relationship with Christ who is God’s active agent in bringing about good in our world and in our lives.  These questions are for both those who have an assigned pew on Sunday, as well as those who prefer the porch to pew on Sundays.  When do you pray, in good times or tough times?  When do you feel the greatest need for God, in times of celebration or times of sadness?  When do you most trust God, beside the still waters or in the turbulent seas?  When do you see the good work of God, in the present time or the past tense?  When do you desire grace, when you are rolling in it or when you have been rolled?  Do you know for sure you can see the good work of a faithful God in the midst of all times?

We have gather to celebrate the life of a husband, father, friend and co-worker who passed much to prematurely.  We assure ourselves with these words we claim to be certain, “Nothing in life or death will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” We maintain this to be true and will not be seduced by the illusions of this world.  So, we join Gary in affirming our faith that God is for us and intends good in all things.  In doing so, we redeem our grief; allowing the Holy Spirit to shine though the window of our lives, so we might become signs of hope to a world that needs to know for sure God is at work doing good in all things .

What good work do you see God doing in your life today?  What good work do you need to be doing for God beyond this day?  Answer the call of God to live according to the purposes of God by increasing your faith in Christ so you may see and do the good work of God.  Receive, refresh, renew, or refocus your life on the one who first loved you, so you can say like the Psalmist, “Surely goodness and mercy follow me all the days of our lives”.  Gary wanted anyone within the influence of his life to know for sure, “Nothing can separate us from the love of Christ Jesus our Lord.”  I believe that is the word of God Gary would want us to hear on this day.

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Published in: on April 17, 2012 at 6:23 pm  Leave a Comment  
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