"The Power of God's Enduring Forgiveness and Grace" #82-28
Presented on The Lutheran Hour on March 15, 2015 By Rev. Gregory Seltz, Lutheran Hour Speaker (Will There Ever Be Peace?) Copyright 2015 Lutheran Hour Ministries
Text: John 16:33
Jesus said, "I have said these things to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation and trouble. But take heart; I have overcome the world."
Christ is risen; He is risen indeed, and faith in His forgiveness and love, that's the power to endure and persevere in this world until we see Him face to face. Amen.
May 9, 1926, was a beautiful day on the Ridgewood Ranch in Mendocino County, California. In fact, life was about as good as it could get for Charles S. Howard, the most successful Buick car dealer of all time. He had become wealthy after taking a risk on this new technology called the automobile. For him, for his wife, and his son, Frankie, life couldn't be better. But all that changed that fateful day in May, when 14-year-old Frankie got behind the wheel of his father's truck and drove along a narrow ridge to his favorite fishing spot. He swerved to avoid a collision and he and the car tumbled into the canyon. The invention that had made Charles Howard rich, now took from him the most precious thing in all of his life, his son, Frankie.
Can you imagine his grief? Can you imagine the tears, the second guessing? Should he have been more forceful in preventing Frankie from driving? Did his love for cars have anything to do with Frankie not fearing its power? What could he do now, when something so precious to him was gone in an instant?
The story doesn't get any better right away either. Howard and his wife divorced soon afterwards. There are times when it doesn't seem to be any way back from a grief that is beyond despair.
Have you ever felt that way? What happens when tragedy comes upon you in a flash? In Howard's case, it wasn't even his fault, but that didn't console him. If grief can overwhelm like that, what happens when the tragedy is your fault? What happens after the dust settles from the damage caused by your carelessness, or your destructive rant that rips open emotional wounds, or your illicit affair that only lasted one night? And, what happens when you take full responsibility, seek repentance and forgiveness, and yet the pain, the memories, the destruction, they still won't go away. What then?
That's the tribulation of this world, and that's what Jesus is talking about today. He's talking about living in this broken world of real pain and destruction, some caused by us, some that just comes upon us. But He's the One who says it clearly, "In this world you will have trouble, but fear not! Fear not! I have overcome the world!" Wow!
Today we learn from Jesus, the power of forgiveness for living a life of making amends; a life that can endure unjust suffering; a life that faces each day, no matter what the day brings. For the big issues in life, love and hope have to come from the outside in, not inside out. You see, for there to be real hope when we are helpless, it has got to come from some place other than our best efforts! At least that's what Charles Howard learned after the tragic death of his son. As I said, he was probably the most successful Buick dealer in history. He was an entrepreneur; he was a risk taker, a pioneer, but none of that mattered after his son was killed.
Charles Howard also owned a horse named, Seabiscuit. And that horse changed his life. Do you know the story? It's the story of a broken man named Charles Howard, an unorthodox trainer named Tom Smith, an unconventional jockey named Red Pollard, and a horse that went on to become one of the greatest race horses in American history.
Seabiscuit, though small, was a fighter, a horse whose victories against all odds brought hope, even a bit of saving grace to people's lives that were really broken. It was an outside in thing, a hope that came out of the blue to people who thought life was over. Red Pollard later said, "We didn't save Seabiscuit, Seabiscuit saved us."
What a great story of real life power to overcome adversity, to overcome trials of defeats even of your own making! But if that real life story moves you, I've got an eternally greater story for you today! In the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, real help and eternal hope from God comes outside in to offer you forgiveness, life, and victorious salvation in Christ. Nothing in this world can compare!
Let me explain. As moving as the Seabiscuit story is, our text for today is about so much more! Jesus isn't merely talking about human "perseverance through tragedy," or even "hanging in there by grace;" He's not even talking about tragedy per se. He's preparing His disciples for trouble not because of their mistakes or lack of attention to detail, or even trouble that just seems to come in this world; He is talking about trouble that comes even when you are doing everything right! He is speaking about their being persecuted because they are proclaimers of His Good News in this broken world. Is there hope, even then?
It's ironic, isn't it, that being a public proclaimer of God's Good News in Jesus invites criticism, persecution and trial? Wow, what kind of world is this; what kind of people are we?
Things must be more sinful than we can imagine, and salvation must entail the kind of justice, and mercy, and grace that goes to the very core of things, right? And maybe that's why, when life changes on a dime, we especially need a relationship with this Jesus, trusting in His Word to sustain us when nothing else in this world can.
Jesus puts tribulations and trials into His eternal perspective. He didn't come to make this sinful world a better place, He came to redeem it and ultimately restore it. He reminds us, yes, this side of heaven life can change on a dime; yet God's grace and power is there even then and God's grace and power will see you through it all!
Jesus is laying it on the line. When this sinful, broken world, full of sinful, broken people, when it breaks you down and brings you to your knees, that is the time to turn to Him and to begin to rebuild your life in His victory for you.
Jesus said, "I have said these things, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation and trouble. But take heart; I have overcome the world."
What an offer, but what an opportunity; what an opportunity to anyone who's listening today, no matter where you've been, no matter what you're up against, it's Jesus who is calling you to put your trust in Him and know that He is with you. He will sustain you, He will bless you. He will get you through this and you will glorify Him.
But to come to faith in Him means honest, repentant reflection about ourselves; no more unsustainable bravado; no more, "I've got this, I can take care of this on my own"; no more playing games in the face of soul threatening tragedy.
I love the sign an Army Chaplain had on his door. It said, "If you have troubles, come in and tell me about them. If you don't have troubles, come in and tell me how you do it." That sign is funny because it's real!
Jesus is real today. He tells us not to fear because He knows that real fear is an honest response when you are overwhelmed by tragedy or despair. Real fear comes when you assess your capabilities and you find them wanting. Real fear tells us the full reality of the situation but it gives us no solutions and no way out!
Jesus says the most incredible thing to our fearful hearts; "Fear not." That's incredible. "Fear not, even then, because I," He says, "have overcome the world! Put your fear away as you place your trust in Me."
In 1863, at one of the most dangerous times in United States history, when the whole country was being torn apart by Civil War, at that point of overwhelming fear, Abraham Lincoln said something similar; he said, "We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of heaven; we have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity; we have grown in numbers, wealth, and power as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched us and strengthened us, and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom or virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and persevering grace, too proud to pray to God, the God who has made us."
In that same year, Lincoln officially established a national day of thanksgiving to God in the midst of the turmoil, amidst His just punishment for the nation's wrongs. He hoped that a nation that turned back to God could be saved!
But in our text Jesus goes much further than that. He says, "Don't merely turn to God, turn to the God who is here in the flesh to redeem and to restore you." Don't turn to God and then try to save yourselves, "Put your trust in Me," says Jesus, the One who has literally overcome the world so that you might be saved, now and forever.
Faith in Him is the power to face whatever you are dealing with today, if not power to overcome it, then power to deal with it, make the best of it, and be drawn closer to God in all things.
The disciples in our text weren't ready for that kind of message just yet. They wanted a Jesus who would overcome their problems on their terms; you know, a Savior who makes life easy in this world; One who makes forgiveness easy without making amends or changing one's life. When Jesus said He had to suffer, to die and to rise again so that they might have life with God, none of them at first wanted anything to do with such a suffering Savior.
But that's the only Savior who can save, that's the only Forgiver who can forgive the eternal guilt of our sins, that's the only Redeemer who can pay the eternal price to redeem us from the crushing debts we owe spiritually. And that's the only Lord who can empower you to endure what you are facing today.
Jesus offers all of that saying, "Turn to Me, trust Me, and get about the business of trying to live again."
You know, one of the struggles that human beings often have after tragedy is the struggle of wondering how to make it another day. It's the struggle of wondering if there can be any purpose again in life.
That's where the Bible gives us even more hope in Jesus. Not only does He promise to be with us each and every day as the One who has already overcome the world, He can even promise that the greatest tragedy can indeed be used even for greater good, and that nothing in this world can separate us from His love (Romans 8).
Our hope even now, then, is that all things are in Jesus' hands and that's good news! He is the One who lives and reigns to all eternity, the One who is coming again to judge the living and the dead, the One who has already overcome the world in His death and resurrection; so when life overwhelms us, when it overwhelms you and me, we can be confident, we can entrust our lives to Him. When life challenges us, we can boldly say with the Apostle Paul, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of all mercies, the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all afflictions, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we have also been comforted by God"(2 Cor. 1:3).
Such a confidence in Jesus amidst the struggles of the day, such a faith way of living life means we can face what's ahead; but not with our resources alone. Not with our broken dreams, or our real fear. We will face today and tomorrow with faith in Him, His promises, His grace!
We will face today and tomorrow with the promises of a crucified and resurrected Savior who will be with us each and every day and bring to fruition a new heaven and a new earth that finally overcomes all of this forever! In fact, with that truth always in our hearts and minds, we can actually face today's reality and tomorrow's challenges with an attitude of hope in Him.
In Him, tests and trials become avenues to experience and testify to God's continued care. In Him, crisis becomes merely a challenge to see Christ in the midst of it all as our Lord and Savior.
Consider what the Apostle James writes in his first chapter, "Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing."
Incredibly, yes, even at the point of destructive change, facing a fearful future, those who trust in Christ can even start to look at those struggles and opportunities not only to grow in faith, but to grow in a hope that can be shared with others who might be struggling too.
The Bible never promises that you and I will have no trouble in this world. It does promise wisdom to put your challenges in God's eternal, gracious context. It promises you the continued presence and care of your victorious Savior, and most of all, it promises that what you are now facing is only temporary; it's only a temporary struggle ultimately giving way to God's eternal purpose and plan for your life!
Such enduring forgiveness and grace allows us, even in the days to come, to face these challenges in His Name, not only for ourselves, but to be humble agents of His enduring love for others.
Today, I pray that you are not caught in the midst of a life-changing tragedy or a life-altering mistake. Faith in Jesus doesn't promise an end to all the struggles of life this side of heaven, but it does offer restoration to real regret, reconciliation to real brokenness, now and forever. Count on that, and act accordingly as one who entrusts not just this moment to Jesus, but one who entrusts your eternity to the Lord who loves you with an everlasting love.
A letter written in the third century sums it all up. It was written by a man anticipating his death, a person who lived at a time when being Christian and loving others in Jesus' Name could actually get you killed. Listen to what he wrote. "It's a bad world, an incredibly bad world. But I have discovered in the midst of it all a quiet and holy people who have learned a great secret.
They have found a joy which is a thousand times better than any pleasure of our sinful life. They are despised and persecuted, but they care not. They are masters of their own souls. They have overcome the world. These people are the Christians-and I am one of them."
That faith faced down the future. That faith not only changed his life but the lives of millions, that faith and its power is here for you today, because that faith is in Jesus and His enduring mercy and grace for you!
LUTHERAN HOUR MAILBOX (Questions & Answers) for March 15, 2015 Topic: Will There Ever Be Peace?
ANNOUNCER: Will there ever be peace in our world? That's our question today for Pastor Gregory Seltz. I'm Mark Eischer. Pastor, we call Jesus the "Prince of Peace;" we confess that all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Him and that He is reigning even now--yet there still is so much strife and brokenness all around us. What's going on?
SELTZ: Mark, I can hear the pain in that question. The brokenness and violence of our world, it gets me down at times too, I can tell you.
ANNOUNCER: You can understand why people might become doubtful and disillusioned at times.
SELTZ: I think that's a good point. I think you're right. If Jesus is the Prince of Peace, and all these Christians are in the world as agents of His peace, where's the peace?
ANNOUNCER: What does the Bible say about this?
SELTZ: First of all, the Bible, and Jesus Himself, never shrinks back from the reality of that statement. He says right up front that He didn't come to bring "heaven on earth." In fact, He says "His kingdom is not of this world."
ANNOUNCER: That's not a very hopeful start.
SELTZ: Just because Jesus' kingdom isn't of this world, doesn't mean that His kingdom isn't in this world or that it doesn't affect this world. It merely states that the hope in Jesus is not for this "sinful world merely to get a bit better." Our hope is in a new heavens and new earth that forgiven believers will be a part of because of the person and work of Jesus!
ANNOUNCER: And it's that certain, eternal hope that changes how we live here and now.
SELTZ: Yes. Believers, we can begin to live in the reality of what is true forever in Christ right now; so His peace, His justice, His mercy, His love--even amidst all the sinful realities of the moment. We can live that way and that way of living has brought times of peaceful change even to our world in general.
ANNOUNCER: But, it seems the chaos of the world always trumps the peace!
SELTZ: It can seem that way. I think that it is helpful to remember that there is a biblical distinction of how God is at work in all this. God is at work, ultimately, to bring people to peace with Him by faith in the person and work of Jesus. But God is also at work keeping the peace for people in general through institutions that God Himself has ordained.
ANNOUNCER: That's sounds interesting, tell me more about that.
SELTZ: Jesus is clear about all this. He says, "In this world you will have trouble." Why? Because the world is broken, it's full of sinful people, and even when sinners are blessed with good things, we find a way to destroy even the good that God gives. For real change, we need to be at peace with God, first and foremost. That comes with personal repentance and faith in the person and work of Jesus!
ANNOUNCER: That's our greatest need; it's also God's greatest gift.
SELTZ: Right, and that's what the Prince of Peace, Jesus, is all about. When people repent of their sin, sorrow over their sin, and receive God's gracious love and forgiveness, they do receive a peace that the world can't take away.
ANNOUNCER: And, I can see how that might change how they treat others, even their enemies.
SELTZ: Yeah, especially when their lives are also resourced by the power of the Prince of Peace.
ANNOUNCER: But, here again, that's where things can go awry.
SELTZ: Right, even for Christians. We can fail to orient our lives towards Him, then real brokenness and pain can reassert itself. And then for those who don't even trust the Prince of Peace at all, but instead try to do their sinful best; well, let's just say that's inadequate to the challenge. It's going to overcome the chaos, sin, rebellion, arrogance, injustice, and downright selfish meanness of the world in which we live!
ANNOUNCER: But God has an answer for that, too!
SELTZ: It's that keep the peace portion of His work in the world. There are God-ordained institutions and authorities who enforce not the heart of the matter, but tamp down those outward actions that destroy temporal peace He does according to His law. It's not ever going to be the ultimate solution, but it's better than the chaos that humanity can reign down on itself, that's for sure.
ANNOUNCER: And in closing, how would you summarize all of this for us today?
SELTZ: Get to know the Prince of Peace by faith and you'll see there is a peace in the world that surpasses all understanding; it's going to keep your heart and mind; and then, start to act in ways that the Prince of Peace acts towards you. That can make a difference in your friendships, your family, and, who knows, perhaps even in the neighborhood and community, as well.
ANNOUNCER: By God's grace, acting graciously, we become His personal agents of peace in the world.
SELTZ: That's right. And then let's also pray that, in our country, God is able to do more with folks like that, rather than having to work through those who must enforce the peace.
ANNOUNCER: Thank you, Pastor Seltz. This has been a presentation of Lutheran Hour Ministries.
Music Selections for this program:
"A Mighty Fortress" arranged by Chris Bergmann. Used by permission.
Just a reminder of our special voter's meeting tomorrow regarding the future of our building program. Potluck will begin at noon and meeting will begin shortly after.
We don't have a set up or a clean up crew for this so if we could just have a wonderful group of folks to kindly help set up during the late service and then another little group to clean up that would be fantastic!
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