When Tragedy Comes - Sunday July 22, 2018

Sermon Transcript


Do you not know? The Lord is the everlasting God. He will not grow tired or weary. Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not be faint.

[End Video]

Welcome to everybody this morning, and also to those who watch via the mobile app and the internet. About 10 years ago, Mindy and I had had Grace, and many of you know that we have a large family of 6 kids. We’d had Grace and we’d had Jack. Believe it or not, Grace is turning 13 in November, so I’ve already nailed the windows shut in her room and everything else. I can tell you, it’s crazy around our house.

Anyway, we’d had Grace and we’d had Jack and Mindy was pregnant again. So, we were doing the back and forth, “Is it going to be a boy, is it going to be a girl? How’s it going to be in the family?” As you do when you’re pregnant, you go for your different tests. She went in for an ultrasound and, as they were doing the ultrasound, they let us know that the baby had no heartbeat. We were like, “Wow.” I don’t think we were really expecting that. And you don’t really think about when you have a miscarriage, because a lot of people do, but you don’t think through the process until it happens to you that your wife then has to have a surgery where this child is removed from the womb.

You go through those things and you have questions and you try to make sense out of life. And then, as many of you all know, a year ago, roughly, my mom passed away. To say that my mom was heavily involved in my kids’ life would be a dramatic understatement. If somebody were to ask me sincerely, if they were to say, “Chip, why do you think that Grace Community Church has had the success that it’s had?” I would say, “Because my mom had a prayer meeting every week, for the entire time I’ve been born, praying for her sons with other women who still call and pray for us.”

My mom was just a woman of faith, a woman of God. And I remember getting the phone call early that morning. We didn’t know for sure because my dad was sort of shaken, but we thought that there was a heart attack. She had been taken to Silva’s Hospital in North Carolina where they had a house, and then flown to Asheville via helicopter. So, Bobby and I hopped on the quickest plane that we could. We got up there. We went into the room. Of course, I’m in pastor mode because I’m the pastor. I’m trying to take care of my dad and my brother. There lays my mom, tube in her mouth. It’s just like you go in and you try to be strong.

So, we’re talking and trying to figure out. I’m thinking, “My mom’s only 73. She’s in great shape. She can pull through this.” Because pull through heart attacks at this point. So, I started talking to the doctor. The doctor said, “We’re going to do a test on her brain to see, you know, because when you have a heart attack in the length that she was there, we want to see if there was any sustained damage to her brain.”

So, they came back with this first, preliminary test. The nurse came in, who liked us, who was a Christian and realized I was a pastor. She downloaded the mobile app and all that great stuff. It was feeling really good. She said, “Hey, the preliminary test doesn’t look like there’s significant damage in your mom’s brain.”

And it was like that was the best news we could possible hear. And then she left and, all of a sudden, my mom opens up one of her eyes. We’re thinking, “Man.” I’ve got video, still, on my phone where my dad’s going, “Birdie, birdie, come back to us.” You know? All this stuff. You’re doing all these things. So, I go home that night to the hotel room and I remember getting down on my knees and putting my elbows in a chair and saying, “God, listen, I know it doesn’t work this way, but look, I’m doing the best I can to be a pastor. I’m trying to be a good dad. I don’t have any massive secret sins.”

You know? I’m like bargaining with God. “Please, God. Not even for me. For my kids. Even if she doesn’t walk. If she’s bound in a wheelchair. Just anything. Just don’t let her die.”

I went back to the hospital the next day and they had done a full scan. The neurologist asked to meet with us. He sat down and he said, “Well, let me tell you what’s going on with your mom. Your mom is a perfect physical specimen. There’s nothing wrong with anything in her body. Kidneys, lungs, everything. Everything’s functioning. She just has no brain function at all.”

We were just like, “Oh, man.” We did not want to hear that. And then you make the decision to unplug and all of that. You just have those real questions. “God, why? Why do You let these things happen?”

Anybody who’s experienced a tragedy knows that that’s true. And here at our church, over the last several weeks, we’ve had several miscarriages that we know of. We had a family that had a tragic death in New Jersey and were trying to get to the family and, on the way there, the wife had to go to the emergency room. Then finally go back again and went. Then we had what we all know. We had the O’Fee family, last Sunday — right here, last Sunday, this service, sat right over there. I walked up and said, “Hey, how are you guys doing?” I gave Teige a fist bump, then came up and preached. I was at home on Sunday and was flipping through Facebook. I saw that they’d been out at Siesta Key. I was like, “That’s cool. They went out to Siesta Key. God bless them taking four kids out to Siesta Key. I don’t take my six kids, ever.”

You know? I was like, “That’s awesome. Let Mindy do that stuff. Hey, I’ve got to go pray.” Anyway, I saw that. Then, late Sunday at some point — and I can’t remember when. I think I was in bed. I realized on my Facebook messenger that Haley, who I was friends with — both her and Teige, but I didn’t have any numbers — had Facebooked me and she said, “Our son, Liam...” — and it was not spelled all right. It obviously had been written in panic.”

“Our son, Liam, has drowned.”

I was like, “I don’t have any numbers, so let me know what I can do.” Finally, on Monday, after I’d given my number to them on Facebook, they said, “Hey, could you come up to All Children’s Hospital?”

So, I did. What happened was they went to church, then they went to Siesta Key. They came home. They had sand on everybody. They jumped in the pool, like a lot of people do. I guess Haley had left to go pick up something or do something. Teige was there with the kids. I think one of the kids needed a diaper change. So, he gets all the kids out, shuts the doors and goes and changes the kids like all of us do.

I guess little Liam just decided that he had not had enough of the pool. He found a way out and into the pool. So, when Teige comes out after change the diaper — I’m sure he had fun. I mean, I try to have fun when I change my kids’ diapers. You sort of get caught up in the moment. He came out, started looking for Liam and couldn’t find him, then looked outside and here he was floating in the pool. About the time he ran to jump in is the time that Haley came through the door. Of course, CPR and a flight up to All Children’s, then to realize that their 22-month-old had no brain function and had to make that decision.

So, I know many of you may be here and you’ve heard about this. A lot of you maybe showed up because you knew we were going to talk about it. I felt like, given the circumstances, as a pastor, I needed to not talk about what we were doing with Dear Colossae. I needed to take a moment and talk about when tragedy comes. How do we handle it? How do we assimilate it? How do we deal with it? And then can I give you some message of hope in the midst of all of this stuff?

So, what I do know is this. I do know that when tragedy comes, in the moment, it is real and it’s raw. There’s just not a whole lot that you — I remember when I walked into the room at All Children’s, when I went up the first time on Monday, I walked in and I said, “I don’t have any words. I’m just here, as a pastor, to love on you all and just be present.”

And, of course, they want you to pray and they want you to talk. I remember, as I walked out, the lady behind the counter said, “Pastor, how was your visit?”

I said, “Ma’am, I don’t know what most pastor’s say to you, but at this point in my life, I’m pretty just straightforward.” I said, “I’m going to get in my car. It’s about an hour drive home. The entire time home, I’m going to sit there and go, ‘I can’t believe you said that. I can’t believe you prayed that. I can’t believe you did that. You could’ve said this. You could’ve said that.’ That’s what we do. In the moment, it’s so real and so raw. There are no words. There is no anything that you say. You just try to show up and love people.”

So, knowing that, you really can’t, as a pastor, equip anybody very well in the middle of tragedy. What you try to do is you try to do it before. You try to make sure that your church and your people are ready for tragedy, because tragedy’s going to come in people’s lives. You want to make sure that they’re equipped before. Hopefully, if they’ve had a tragedy, you can work with them after, but the best time to do it is before.

So, what I want to do is I want to help. I want to dialogue for just a little bit about some things that you can put in your toolbox when tragedy comes into your life. And then, at the very end, I’ve got some things that I want to say to encourage and give you some hope, especially if you’ve come here if you know the family, or you’re just sort of like, “Oh, what do I do?”

I want to try to address that. But I also want to try to give you some things to help you out, because tragedy will come in your life. As I sat and debated — because I changed my message. I mean, it was like Thursday night. I was ready to go. I almost had the thing ready for the weekend. I tried to spend some time and put things together. I called Tom Thursday night, late, and said, “Hey, man. I just really feel like I need to change what I’m doing.”

We talked about it as a staff and we all agreed we needed to deal with this. So, I’ve just had a little bit of time to put this together. And then the band decided to change the songs. I think “It Is Well” was a beautiful choice to sing as a church. Just so that you know, you may not know this, but the background of that story was a man had paid for his family to come across from the Atlantic from Europe to New York. The ship sunk and he didn’t know whether or not his family was alive or not. He penned “It is well with my soul. When sea billows roll, it is well.”

You know? There’s hope. As I started thinking, “What do I do? What do I talk about? Do I talk about David’s sin with Bathsheba and the tragedy there? Do I talk about in Matthew 2 when kids were killed by Herod? Do I talk about the fall with Adam?” And I said to myself, “You know what? I know what I need to do.”

On Easter, I spoke about Lazarus. Everybody’s going to probably remember that story even if they don’t know that story very well. If you’re here and you don’t go to church on a regular basis, if you’ve just shown up today to be a part, let me just give you a breakdown here. Jesus is really close with Mary, Martha and Lazarus. This is a family that lives in Bethany. Lazarus has fallen ill and Mary and Martha send a message to Jesus because they know that Jesus can heal Lazarus. But Jesus waits. Because of His delay, Lazarus dies and nobody knows what’s going on or why. It’s a big tragedy.

And then, of course, at the end of the story, Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead. But what I decided was I’m just going to take a couple of Scriptures. I’m going to read them, and then what we’re going to do is we’re going to look at them a little bit more in-depth because I think there’s some real, real powerful things to help us sort of deal with tragedy, and hopefully equip us before those things happen to us.

It says, “When Mary came to where Jesus was...”

Jesus has now come to Bethany. Lazarus is dead. He’s talked to Martha. Now He comes and Mary shows up.

“When Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.’”

I don’t think Mary was trying to be nasty towards Jesus. I don’t think she was trying to give Him a big guilt trip, but I do think she was saying, “I’m disappointed because, had You been here, if You would’ve been here, this would not have happened at all.”

“When Jesus saw her weeping,”

The original language for “weeping” is not just crying. It is massive emotion. I’m talking about wailing crying. So, what’s happened is Jesus has come and He’s talked with Martha. Martha’s told Mary that Jesus is there. Mary is in the house and she’s wailing and going through all the grief period because for seven days in the first century, in the ancient Near East, they would grieve for seven days. They would have family members that came and grieved with you, and then they would hire people, they would pay people, to come and grieve with the family. That’s what they would do.

So, Mary hears that Jesus is out there, so she comes. He sees her weeping.

“And the Jews who had come with her also weeping,”

This is the band of people that is weeping with her. She’s weeping, so wherever she goes — I’m sorry. Wherever she goes — that was not part of my message. I know, normally, you all think I’m scripted up here. That was not part of the message. I don’t have anywhere to go with that. And my ninja skills are not good this morning.

But, all that being said, the people that were hired, and the family members and all the grievers, they all show up, they all come out. Jesus sees this.

Then John tells us, “He was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled.”

Now, these two words, “deeply moved,” are one word in the original language. That one word is used of a horse snorting in anger. Most translators don’t know what to do with that because they’re like, “Is He angry? He’s frustrated? Well, why would He...”

Okay. We’re going to come back to that in a minute because this is really important. We’re going to see this in a second.

“He was deeply moved [frustrated, angered] in his spirit and greatly troubled. And he said, ‘Where have you laid him?’ They said to him, ‘Lord, come and see.’”

And then we’re told, “Jesus wept.”

So, the Jews said, “Hey, He loved him! Look. He’s got tears in His eyes.” He’s not wailing like they are. This is a calm weeping. He’s weeping. They’re like, “Hey, man. He loved him. Look. He’s weeping.”

“But some of them said, ‘Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?’”

Now, just reading that text, I want to do something here. Let’s just have an honest conversation. I’m going to be as real as I can be to be your pastor. I just felt like, in this moment, we’re in a series called “Dear Colossae” that we’ve shelved for a week. And in that series, I’m telling you that these epistles were written to a church at a specific time at a specific place to deal with a specific issue. I feel like we’re doing epistle work this weekend. This is a specific time, a specific place. We need to deal with what happens when tragedy comes in our life. And I want to have an honest conversation with you. This is to help you process through tragedy when tragedy comes to your life.

First, Jesus never said we would be exempt from tragedy in our lives. I know when tragedy comes there’s this feeling of it shouldn’t come, that it shouldn’t be there. And I can tell you that the reason you feel that way is because that’s the way God originally created the world. Those original seeds are in you and me. We know that tragedy shouldn’t be here. We know that it’s sort of an affront to everything. But here’s the reality: Although the world was not created that way, the world has fallen. Tragedy is just a part of life.

And I know there’s going to be people that you read a book and they tell you if you put this anointing oil on this spot and that spot, and put a handkerchief under your pillow, and say this words, and walk three times backwards, you’re going to be exempt from all tragedy in the world because God’s just a good God. He loves you so much that He doesn’t want anything to happen to you. Let me tell you something: That is absolutely incorrect and bad theology. Jesus never said. In fact, here’s what He said: “In this world, you will have tribulations.”

“Thlipsis” is the Greek word. It means suffering, tragedy, persecution, tribulation. It covers all of it. He says, “In this world, you’re going to have difficulty.” So, knowing that — and I’m not trying to be negative or whatever. Because the first thing when tragedy comes is we go, “It shouldn’t be this way.”

I get that. But the reality is we need to sort of be prepared beforehand that tragedy is going to come to our life. If we’re going to be able to process it in a biblical way, we need to be aware that it’s going to come. Second is when tragedy does come in our lives, “if” is a hard word to purge from our vocabulary. Listen to what Mary says. She says, “If You had been here, my brother wouldn’t have died. See, Jesus, I know that if this would’ve happened, then this would not have been the result.”

The word “if” comes to every single person, every single time. “If only I would’ve known. If only I could’ve done this. If only they wouldn’t have done that. If only this would’ve been done. If only I would’ve locked. If only I would’ve shut. If only I would’ve said. If only I would’ve this.”

If only. If, if, if, if, if. “If” comes to us all. It comes and it cascades in waves. If. My dad looked at me and said, “If I would’ve gotten to your mom quicker to perform CPR. If I would’ve.” See? There’s this feeling of “if.” Here’s what we’re saying: First of all, we’re saying that some injustice has happened. We’re saying, “Okay. If this could’ve happened, then this injustice, this tragedy, this thing.”

We’re saying some injustice has happened. But, listen, because this is important. That implies that we know better. That somehow we know that what we know, the “if,” if this could’ve happened, this is an injustice because we know this was an injustice. We know this was bad. As if we have all the stuff. What we’re really saying, at the end of the day, is that impugns God’s sovereignty. Because what we’re saying is we’re saying that I know better because if I could’ve done this, or they could’ve done that, or could’ve said this, or could’ve done this or whatever, or if I would’ve done this or that, or they would’ve done, or I would’ve known or whatever — if, then this wouldn’t happen. If.

And what we’re really saying is God really doesn’t know what He’s doing. We don’t really believe in that moment. And we all do it. We all have the ifs. But listen, just because we cannot understand doesn’t mean God has ceased to be sovereign or good. See, when we say “if,” what we’re really saying is, “Well, we don’t believe that not even the sparrow falls to the ground apart from God’s will. We don’t believe that.”

We believe, somehow, when we say “if,” that God’s up in heaven, like the short order cook that’s overloaded at Waffle House when the scattered, smothered and covered comes in, and the eggs and the bacon, and they’re doing all this stuff and moving around because they can’t keep it up. And then the waffle’s burnt and the bacon’s burnt because they can’t keep up with all the stuff.

What we’re saying is, when we say “if,” “If only this would’ve — if this, if this, if this, if this,” what we’re saying is that somehow God got it wrong. Just because we can’t understand, just because we can’t make sense does not mean that God has ceased to be sovereign or good.

Third. This should be self-intuitive to everybody, but I need to say it. When tragedy comes, nobody wants Job’s comforters in their time of tragedy. If you don’t know the story of Job, you thought it was the book of job, totally cool. A lot of people do. They’re like, “I need to turn to that book because I need one.”

You know? No. The book of Job. Job loses his family and all those things. He’s got these three guys that decide to come and tell him why he’s suffering the things that he’s suffering. Can I just say that when you’re in the middle of a tragedy and you get your Christian friend that wants to come tell you how everything works together, just show them the door because nobody wants Job’s comforters. I just typed this into my computer. I think this makes sense. You’ll understand it.

When bone is sticking through the skin, nobody wants a detailed exegesis of what justice is in Plato’s Republic. Does that make sense? Do you understand? We don’t need a teaching. We don’t need some sort of puzzle piece or whatever. We just don’t need that. We don’t need to be Job’s comforters, nor do we want them when tragedy strikes.

Fourth, tragedies usually raise the same two questions every time, every place. You may not say them this way, you may not think through it, but they’re there. These are the same two questions.

“So the Jews said, ‘See how he loved him!’”

“I mean, He’s crying. He obviously is a good man. He just can’t make a difference. He loved him. It’s obvious that He loved him. He’s crying.”

“But some of them said, ‘Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?’”

“I mean, He obviously has the power to do something, but He’s just not doing it.”

The two questions that always arise when tragedy comes is, “Is God good, but powerless? I mean, He’s good, but He just doesn’t have the ability. It’s like He can in some places, but not in all places.”

So, is He good, but powerless, or is He powerful but not good? He healed others, so He’s obviously got power, but He’s not doing the same here. So, is He not good? These are the questions that will always arise when you and I go through tragedy. And listen to me, and listen to me well, these questions are insufficient because they do not take into account nor allow for resurrection. We’re going to come to that in a minute. Resurrection changes everything. We’re going to get there in just a second.

So, here’s some equipping tools. When tragedy comes, I should understand that it’s going to be a part of my life. It’s going to be a part of the fallen world that I live in. I need to think, when I’m saying “if,” what I’m really saying. And just because I don’t understand it doesn’t mean that God has somehow ceased to be good or sovereign. What I don’t need to be for someone else, or I don’t need in my life, is somebody trying to tell me how everything goes together in that moment, because nobody can. It’s real and it’s raw and we don’t need Job’s comforters. Fourth, let your mind think through because it will play the, “Well, was he just not there? Was he just not able?”

Those things will play, but those are insufficient because all they’re taking into account is right now. They’re not taking into account a long-term thought process, which we’ll talk about. So, all that being said, what I can tell you for sure is this. This is what I can absolutely tell you, when tragedy comes, as your pastor. I absolutely can tell you this. First, God does not stand outside our sufferings, but joins us in them. If I didn’t have any other biblical verse but the Exodus, I would know this to be true.

In the Old Testament, there were all kinds of deities — supposed deities. You can even see the thinking back then because the Ten Commandments says, “There shall be no other gods before me.”

There weren’t any other gods. But, at that time, they needed to hear that because they all thought there were multiple gods. God met them where they were. It’s called accommodation. And their gods that they worshipped were all about production. As long as you did what you needed to do, then God would do what He was supposed to do. And that’s why it’s all this production. We still do that with God today. It’s all about a production, and then we think He’ll bless us. That’s not the biblical data. That’s the way the other deities worked, and it was performance, performance, do and do, build bricks, build brick, build bricks, and then God will do these things, or the Sun god will shine sun.

But the one thing we know about all of those gods is all they cared about was themselves. They did not care about the plight or sufferings or tragedies of humanity. It was, “Get to work and perform for me, or else I won’t bless you.” But we have this passage in the Old Testament where the children of God are suffering and they cry out to Yahweh. When they cry out to Yahweh, we’re told something revolutionary. It says, “The Lord came down to see the suffering of His people.”

He came down. So did Jesus. He came down. He came down. We say, “Where’s God in the midst of suffering?” Well, He joins us. We have such a beautiful two words. The shortest verse in the Bible. “Jesus wept.” He knew Lazarus was going to be raised from the dead. He didn’t have to cry. Nobody would’ve been crying if they would’ve known what was going on. Why does He weep then? He weeps because He enters into the grief and the tragedy of the people there.

You says, “Where’s God when all these bad things happen? Where’s He at when children die at early ages?” and all of this stuff. What I can tell you, as your pastor, for sure, is whether you see Him or whether you feel Him or whether you know it, I can absolutely tell you when you ask me, “Where is God in the midst of suffering?” my answer is, “He is right there with you.”

Second, what I know for sure, the answer “I don’t know” is always the best answer. People say, “Chip, you teach theology. You went to school all this time. Can you tell me why a man would open up a window at Mandalay Bay and shoot all those people?”

I don’t know.

You say, “Well, Chip, what about that accident that happened with that boat, just recently, where all those people were killed? Why does God let that happen? Why does that go on?”

I don’t know.

“Chip, surely you can tell us why this 22-month-old would drown in a pool.”

I don’t know. I really don’t know. And that is the answer. I don’t know. And let me tell you why it’s the best answer. First of all, it’s honest. It’s the most honest answer that you can say. I just absolutely — there’s a phrase that the youth use today. It might’ve been a phrase that was used a little bit more, and not as much anymore, but when somebody tries to come in — if I’m in a room and somebody’s trying to explain a tragedy, it is like, “Bye, Felecia. There’s the door.”

Because you don’t know. You think you know. You don’t know. Nobody knows. It’s an honest, honest answer. “I don’t know. I simply don’t know.” But, hear me. This is so important: It doesn’t imply that there isn’t an answer. It just says, “I don’t know.” It doesn’t mean that God doesn’t know. It doesn’t mean that there’s not an answer. It just means that I don’t know the answer. And, in all sincerity, knowing that it’s an honest answer that I don’t know, but I have faith that someone does, because it doesn’t imply that there’s not an answer.

It actually can be a statement of faith that I don’t know, but I believe that God does. I believe that the one who’s put the earth together, and the one who created everything that there is — in Colossians, last week, we learned that everything holds together within Jesus. I believe that He knows. And see, when you say, “I’m a Christian,” you don’t go, “I am a follower Jesus. I am a part of the Christian knowledge.”

No. You say, “I’m a follower of Jesus. I’m part of the Christian faith.” See, faith can say, “I don’t know,” but it can say, “I do believe that there’s one who does know, and I believe that when we know what He knows, things will be different. You can imagine the disciples, as Jesus is crucified on a Friday, if they could’ve been asked when they were holed up in a room, “Why’d God let that happen?”

They didn’t know. They had no idea. Everything in their life was shattered. Every hope. Every dream. Everything was done. All they were doing is trying to stay away from anybody knowing that they’d been followers of Jesus because they didn’t want to die too. But, oh, how things changed on Sunday. Massively changed. Everything changed. Because, see, they didn’t know. But then they did.

I’d like to submit to you that the best answer is “I don’t know,” but that doesn’t imply that there’s not an answer and it doesn’t mean that God doesn’t know, and it doesn’t meant that you lack faith. It actually shows that you do have faith. “I don’t know the answer, but I do believe that someone does.” Which leads us to the third thing, which is the game-changer for everything.

The Christian teaching of resurrection changes everything. This is the game-changer of game-changer of game-changers. Listen to what John tells us. “When Jesus saw her weeping,” — as she’s flailing in her emotions and the people have come out with her, also weeping, John says, “He snorted in anger like a horse.”

Is He made at Mary? No. Is He made at the people that are grieving with Mary? No. He’s frustrated because He’s watching His people that He has said to them, “I am the resurrection and the life.”

He’s frustrated that they have cowered to tragedy and cowered to death. He’s angered at that. Because, let me tell you something. In just a few little bit minutes later, we’re going to read that Lazarus came forth out of that tomb. Can I just tell you something? He’s going to die again. Lazarus died again. We don’t read about it. We don’t hear about it. But He died again. And do you know what? They had a funeral for Him again. And do you know what? They cried again. But I can tell you something: They didn’t cry and grieve the second time like they did the first time because they realized they didn’t have to cower to tragedy, and they didn’t have to cower to death because resurrection changed everything.

So, it says, “He’s deeply moved and troubled,” and what does He say? “Show me where you’ve laid him.” Because He’s going to go and show them that there’s power over death, which is a game-changer. It changes everything. It changes the perspective of everything. Resurrection changes everything. They said, “Lord, come and see.” If you understand Scripture and the way it works, at the beginning of John, we have a “come and see.” It’s the disciples bringing people to Jesus to come and get life. They’re saying, “Come and see,” and they’re bringing Jesus to death. But He’s going to even take death and make it life.

See, resurrection changes everything. It changes everything. You can sit here today and tell me that you believe in the verbal plenary inspiration of Scripture. You can tell me that you know exactly what Ecclesia means in Ecclesiology. You can tell me that you know exactly what it means in soteriology, what the elective god are. You can tell me that you understand every single thing about eschatology and all of that stuff, but I’m here to tell you none of those things are the things that make us a Christian or change our lives. What changes our lives is that we believe that Jesus Christ, on the third day, rose from the dead. That changes everything. It changes everything.

And so, Christian, follower of Christ, listen to your future. Listen well to just a passage of Scripture that I’m going to read to you. Just listen to it.

“Then I saw ‘a new heaven and a new earth,’ for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away,”

See, people ask me, “When did your mom pass away?” A year ago. But my mom’s still alive. See, the only thing that’s going to pass away, the only thing that’s passing away is the old order of things. That’s the only thing that’s died. Everybody else is going forward into eternity in some form or fashion. The only thing that’s passing away, the only thing that’s really experiencing full death is the old order of things.

“And the sea was no more.”

Why is the sea no more? Because, in the Old Testament, if you read the book of Genesis at the beginning, the sea contains everything. The sea’s around everything. Nothing can live. The briny sea. Nothing can live. God has to bring the earth out of it. He has to bring life out of it. And the psalmist will talk about what happens if the earth gives way and the sea takes over the world again. That’s why nobody wanted to go out into the sea because the sea was this chaotic thing. That’s why, in the book of revelation, the sea is where the beasts rise up because it’s this chaotic place.

That’s why Jesus does His miracles around the Sea of Galilee. That’s why He walks on the water in Galilee, because He’s saying to you, “I control the sea. I control the chaos.”

“And the sea was no more. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.”

Two cities in Revelation. The whorish city that builds up walls against God and the bride, the new Jerusalem, the people of God coming down out of heaven. In the Old Testament, heaven and earth are together. In Genesis 3, they are separated. But here, in Revelation 21, they’re coming back together.

“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold! The dwelling place of God is with man,’”

In other words, God’s going to walk with you again. In the cool of the day, He’s going to be with you. Not only that, He will dwell with them and they will be His people and God will be with them as their God.”

This is your future as a Christian. Strap in for a second here. Listen to what the Scriptures say to you.

“‘He will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’”

Listen to me. Hear me well. If the tragedies of this life have no sense at all and are meaningless, and God can’t make the sufferings of this world something that we can’t even anticipate the glory that’s going to be revealed — if we can’t say in faith that we know that those of us who love God and are called according to His purpose, that He’s working out everything for good — if we cannot say those statements, then these statements can’t be true because you still would have the tears because you still would have the meaningless tragedy. Which means when we step into eternity, we’re going to have another perspective about what God was doing and the way He was intimately and integrally forming everything that went on in a way where we will say — it’s bad English, but it’s good theology — that God is “gooder” than I ever thought He could possibly be.

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death, no more. Neither shall there be mourning.”

The things that we’ve mourned for because we didn’t understand, because we couldn’t — if, if, if. When we finally stand before the Lord out there, because resurrection is true, there’ll be no more mourning, nor crying. The tears, the mourning and the crying — all of it gone. Nor pain anymore. Why?

“For the former things have passed away.”

They’re the things that have really died. They’re the things that go away. For those of us who are Christians, this world is just a small little portion of eternity. I can’t make you believe this, but I can tell you this. I know this to be true. I will see my mom again. I know that. You say, “How do you know that?”

Because in Matthew 17, Jesus takes James, Peter and John up on the Mountain of Transfiguration, and who do they see? Moses and Elijah. Those guys are dead a long time ago. And they’re there on the mountain and they know that it’s Moses and Elijah, which means I’m going to know that it’s Birdie Bennett. And do you know what? I’m going to also meet a child that I never met, and Mindy never met, and we’re going to know that that child was our child. And I get to spend eternity knowing a child that I never knew. Why? Because resurrection changes everything. Everything that there is.

Let’s pray.

Dear Heavenly Father, I come to You and I thank You for the truth of Your Word. I thank You, Lord, that You are the God of comfort in all of our troubles and misery and tragedy. Lord, I know that there are many that are hurting. There are many that are questioning. Lord, I pray that Your Word, today, would quicken them in their spirit and they would realize that even though, maybe, we can’t make sense of every tragedy and everything that goes on bad, Lord, we believe, with everything within us, that because You rose from the dead, one day, when we’re able to put all the data points together, we are going to be able to see, like Joseph, what his brothers meant for evil, You somehow meant for good.

Lord, I believe that with all of my heart. I believe when we all stand before You, we’re going to realize that You were even greater, that You were even more awesome, that You were even more good, more loving, more kind than we could have ever even imagined.

Lord, I pray for those that are hurting here in our church, that You would comfort them with this word. I pray, Lord, that You would bring us back to this Word several times, whether on the mobile app or the internet, to really get this into our system so that we’re able to handle things when tragedy comes. Lord, we know that this next couple of days are going to be tough on the O’Fee family. We lift them up to You. We pray, Lord, that this church would not just be a church that reaches out and brings in the unchurched as we feel passionately You’ve called us to do, but Lord, we also want to be a church that suffers along with every one of our members, Lord, because we do believe with everything that one day we will see You and things will be markedly different and we’re going to have a different understanding. And what a day that will be.

So, Lord, I pray that as we leave here today, that You would watch over us and protect us, I pray that You would lead and guide us, and I pray that You’d bring us back safely to when we meet again. And I pray, Lord, that You would continue to help us be a church that lifts up Your Son. Because, Lord, it’s in lifting up Your Son that everything changes. Because He rose from the grave, everything changes in our lives, Lord. Gives us the faith and the sight to see that. In Jesus’ name, and everybody said, “Amen.”

Give the Lord a big hand clap. Tell Him you love Him. God bless everybody. See you soon.

John Flowerree