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Sermon illustrations

God’s Sovereignty

God is Bigger Than Cancer

“Get well soon! Jesus loves you! God is bigger than cancer!” My tears started to flow as I read these words. They were from a fifteen-year-old girl with Down syndrome in my congregation. Less than a week earlier, the doctor spoke the diagnosis to me, about which he had no doubt: a cancer of the bone marrow, multiple myeloma—an incurable cancer, a fatal disease. I had been in a fog ever since. How was I to face each day when my future—which had seemed wide open—had suddenly narrowed? My “world” seemed to be caving in on itself with fog in each direction I turned, so that no light could shine in.

While I had received many cards in the previous days, this one was different. “God is bigger than cancer!” Yes. She did not say, “God will cure you of this cancer,” or “God will suffer with you.” God is bigger  than cancer. The fog is thick, but God is bigger. My cancer story was already developing its own sense of drama. The sky was closing in, enveloping my whole world so that nothing else could creep in.

But God’s story, the drama of God’s action in the world, was bigger. The girl in my church wasn’t denying the fog or the loss but testifying to a God who was greater, the God made known in Jesus Christ, who shows us that 1R ejoicing in Lament “the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it” (John 1:5). In my tears, there was not only grief but also joy that in the body of Christ theological truths are not a commodity trafficked and controlled by professional theologians. God’s story in Christ is bigger than my cancer story, period.

J. Todd Billings, Rejoicing in Lament: Wrestling with Incurable Cancer & Life in Christ, Brazos Press, 2015.

Life in the Gaps

Most of life is lived in the gaps between great moments. The peaks seem to protrude only after miles and miles of death valleys. While the Bible reveals its characters in terms of their high points, we, on the other hand, tend to evaluate our lives by the lousy week we just slogged through.

We read and assess the Bible intellectually, but we evaluate our own lives emotionally. Sometimes that disconnect seems huge. And often, discouraging. But gaps are normal. And expecting gaps is essential if we hope to maintain a life of faith as well as discern God’s hand in our lives.

Even Jesus’s life had gaps—huge ones. We need to accept the gaps between great moments as God’s will, but we also must learn how to live in these dull spaces. Because most of life is gaps, we never know which days will prove significant.

We have the obvious exceptions, of course, like births, graduations, weddings, and occasionally even deaths. But the list drops off after these few predictables. Only hindsight reveals the significant days of God’s sovereign design. God sees them in advance.

Wayne Stiles, Waiting on God, Baker Publishing Group, 2015, pp. 23-24.

Living out our Belief in the Sovereignty of God

Because the results of God’s sovereignty are delayed, waiting remains an act of faith. We believe results will occur one day. By waiting on God, we affirm our belief in his providence. We trust his timetable. We hope in heaven. Waiting on God is inseparably bound to our belief in the sovereignty of God to bring about the good he promises.

…Waiting is often the application of many other, more abstract, biblical qualities of character. Hope, for instance, requires waiting. Faith is all about waiting. Patience and waiting are yoked together. Trust requires delayed gratification. In fact, run down your mental list of the fruit of the Spirit and see if waiting doesn’t play into every single one of them (see Gal. 5:22–23).

Wayne Stiles, Waiting on God, Baker Publishing Group, 2015, pp. 16-17.

Struggling to Feel Chosen

Commenting on Ephesians 1:3-6, M. Robert Mulholland describes just how powerful it can be personally, when we recognize that we were chosen by God, especially for children who are the result of an unplanned or unwanted pregnancy:

I once heard a woman tell of her struggle with this reality [of being an unwanted child]. Her mother was a prostitute, and she was the accidental byproduct of her mother’s occupation.

Although her life’s pilgrimage had brought her to faith in Christ, blessed her with a deeply Christian husband and beautiful children, and given her a life of love and stability, she was obsessed with the need to find out who her father was. This obsession was affecting her marriage, her family and her life.

She told how one day she was standing at the kitchen sink, washing the dishes, with tears of anguish and frustration running down her face into the dishwater. In her agony, she cried out, “Oh, God, who is my father?” Then, she said, she heard a voice saying to her, “I am your Father.”

The voice was so real she turned to see who had come into the kitchen, but there was no one there. Again the voice came, “I am your Father, and I have always been your Father.” In that moment she knew the profound reality that Paul is speaking of. She came to know that deeper than the accident of her conception was the eternal purpose of a loving God, who had spoken her forth into being before the foundation of the world.

Taken from: Invitation to a Journey: A Road Map for Spiritual Formation by M. Robert Mulholland and Ruth Haley Barton. Copyright (c) 2016 by M. Robert Mulholland and Ruth Haley Barton. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com

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