Sermon for July 27th, 2014

Sermon for Seventh Sunday after Pentecost, July 27, 2014

St. Paul Lutheran Church, Wallis, Texas

Sermon Text:  Romans 8:28-39

Sermon Theme:  “Is God A Good God?”

 (Sources:  Emphasis Online Illustrations; original ideas; Anderson’s Cycle A Preaching Workbook; Believer’s Bible Commentary; Hebrew/Greek Key Study Bible)

Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.

          A college professor asked his class to write a paper outside of class on the subject, “Is God A Good God?” 

          One student struggled with this topic all weekend, and finally went to her pastor to see if he could help her with the paper.  In speaking with her pastor, she asked, “If God is a good God, how can we account for all the evil in this world?”

          To this question, her pastor answered her with a question, “Yes, I agree that there is evil in the world, but is God to blame for this evil?” 

          The young college student wasn’t sure how to answer her pastor’s question so she asked him another question, “Perhaps God isn’t to blame for all that is wrong in the world, but why doesn’t God do something to make the world a better place?”

          To this, her pastor replied, “God has!  God placed you in this world!  So get busy!”

          Some of you, in bad times, may have raised the same questions that the college student asked; I know I raised those questions when I was in college, and certain professors I had very well might have asked us to write papers on “Why God Doesn’t Exist,” or “Why I Am an Atheist.”   I don’t remember writing a paper on that topic, but I certainly doubted the “goodness” of God.  

          Well, God is good, and to prove it, Paul says in the opening sentence of our text, “We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” 

          The problem is it doesn’t always seem so.  Sometimes, when we are suffering heartbreak, tragedy, disappointment, frustration, and bereavement, we wonder what good can possibly come out of it.  Yet, whatever God permits to come into our lives, the fact is we are called according to His purpose.  Thus our lives are not controlled by impersonal forces, such as chance, luck, or fate, but by our wonderful, personal Lord, who is too loving to be unkind and too wise to make mistakes.

          At first it doesn’t always seem so, because we look at everything from our own perspective rather than from God’s perspective.  Why, God, did You have to take my mother home to heaven at the very time I needed her the most?  Why did I have to have gall bladder surgery at the very time I had so much to do at the church?  And so the questions go.  My wife said it was because I needed a break from church work.

          The bottom line is:  God is good.  Even the etymology of the word “good” tells us that.  The Old English word for good was derived from the Old English word for “God.”  The Bible uses names for God, like Yahweh and Elohim (          ), but “God” or “Deos” is not a name but the nature of God.  God is good.  God is love.  God does not err.  Therefore, if it is the nature of God to be good, to be love, to be perfect, to be without error, — and it is, — then there can be no other conclusion no matter what some college professors presume.

          This helps us to understand and agree with Paul’s statement in the text, “We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.”  God is omnipotent, and we see God’s power in this.  God takes the garbage that life throws our way, and recycles it into something good.  This is far different from saying that everything that happens to us is good, nor is it the same as saying that “everything” will turn out for the good for everyone.  Please note the qualifying phrase is “for those who love Him.”

          When Henry Gockel was 32, he lost his voice.  After visiting at least 25 different specialists, he still found no relief. He had to resign from the pastoral ministry in the Lutheran Church.  He and his wife Mildred and their two children moved to live with his widowed mother in Cleveland, where Mildred got a secretarial job and Pastor Gockel watched the children.

          He kept remembering Romans 8:32:  “He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, will He not also give us all things?”  He began working for “The Lutheran Hour.”  Then he worked for Concordia Publishing House where he worked in the shipping department and wrote Christmas card poems.  Soon he became a manager at Concordia, and did a lot of writing and publishing.

          Just as things were rolling along smoothly, Mildred became ill, was hospitalized 26 times, and was at the brink of death six times.  Still Henry continued to work and to write.  Finally, he was offered the opportunity to produce a television program, which became “This Is The Life,” a milestone in religious communications.  All this happened after the preacher lost his voice!

          There are many more true stories like this about pastors, and even more about people in other walks of life, — all supporting the truth of Paul’s statement in our text.  You see, we must trust God to know the big picture for our life better than we know it.  Whether we are floundering right now in our life, or if it’s smooth sailing, we all need to ask ourselves these important questions and keep them in the front of our brain:  WHOSE am I?  WHERE am I?  WHY am I here? And, WHERE am I going? 

          WHOSE am I?  The answer has to be “God’s” – I belong to God.  WHERE am I?  I’m either on the bad side of the equation or the good side, — need patience if on the bad side.  WHY am I here?  Like the first question, the only answer has to be “to love, serve and obey God.”  WHERE am I going?  Turn that question over to God, and He will answer it for you with action.

          Answering those questions properly will be made easy if we remember the qualifying phrase in Paul’s opening statement, — “for those who love God.”  Yes, “We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.”   Loving God means loving others, it means loving your neighbor as yourself, and even loving your enemies.  It all began with God loving the world so much that He gave his only begotten Son.

          That others love us also is no small thing.  The fact that often they don’t is bitter reality.  So Paul raises an important question in our text, — “If God is for us, who can be against us?”    If God is for us, who can be against us?  I can name a few possibilities.  Other people can be against us.  Our conscience can be against us.  God’s law can testify against us.  Of course, what Paul is getting at is that it doesn’t matter who or what is against us, if God is our advocate, God has declared us not guilty because of Christ; our sentence of guilty has been overturned!  Jesus always loves us and His love is unconditional. 

          “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”  We’re going to sing that after while for the Children’s Canticle before the Kids’ sermonette.  The song was written by Anna B. Warner and first appeared in a novel published in 1860 by her sister Susan.  In the book a Sunday School teacher sings the song to a dying boy whom the teacher has nursed during a fatal illness.

          “Jesus Loves Me” soon became an immensely popular song everywhere, and while it was a beautiful song for a dying person in Susan’s novel, it immediately became a song of hope and joy and certainty for the living.  Everybody loved it, young and old alike, and folks everywhere still do.  The words have been translated into Cherokee, German, Japanese, Hawaiian, and Spanish.

          They are simple, childlike words, but hold the same power as Paul’s closing words in our text:  “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 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.”     

            Yes, God is indeed a good God!  Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.