This morning our church family at All Nations was stirred by a first-hand account of what can only be called a miracle. Steve Wilkins, who gives leadership to our elders’ team, told an amazing tale of how a series of medical tests were overturned by one final test. The original series of tests had indicated a serious genetic problem with the baby in Sarah’s womb, and the geneticists had fully expected this final test to confirm their conclusion that Sarah would give birth to a child with Down’s Syndrome. Praise God, these expectations were completely overturned. Steve related the amazement of the doctors, who told them “We don’t understand how this could have happened, but our latest test shows your baby to be completely free of any genetic disorders.”
Those who know the power of Jesus understand that this was not just an accident, but a restorative miracle from the hand of a loving and powerful God. Those who belong to Jesus know that God is for us and not against us. We know that when Jesus died on the cross as a sacrifice for our sins, he made a way for those who trust Him to be fully reconciled to God. The debt of sin is completely cancelled, and the fear of death is destroyed because we are looking forward not to a terrifying judgment, but to a glorious resurrection. Healing miracles like the one that Steve related this morning are wonderful encouragements to our faith, showing us the mercy and kindness of God, and pointing us to the life of the age to come.
They are not, however, a reason to believe that we will sail through this present life with no obstacles, hardships or trials. Yes, Jesus was raised from the dead as a sign of the resurrection to come, but that resurrection has not happened yet. As a down payment or deposit on our inheritance, He has given us the Holy Spirit to live within us, and so the powers of the age to come are at work now, giving us much cause for joy and celebration. Still, in this age, we remain subject to death, suffering and pain, and this will continue to be true until Jesus returns. The reality is that we are all going to die. I am going to die. You are going to die. The baby in Sarah Wilkins’ womb will one day die. Even people who are raised to life in this age, like Lazarus in the Bible, will one day die again. Even Jesus said as much: “In this world you will have trouble“. But then he added, “Take heart – I have overcome the world“.
When I read the New Testament, I find in the words of Jesus and the experience and teaching of the apostles both encouragements and warnings. My Bible tells me that until the day dawns and the Lord returns, I can expect both blessing and trouble. The trouble comes partly from living in a fallen world that has not yet been restored, and partly from direct opposition to the gospel. Christians haven’t been used to much direct opposition in Canada, but it is becoming more common, and that shouldn’t really surprise us. Jesus told his disciples to expect it, and warned them that opposition would grow more intense as His return draws near. As that Day approaches I believe that His people can expect both increasing upheavals and increasing glory.
Does this mean that I am going to be passive about pursuing the blessings of God? Not at all. I am determined to live with an expectant heart, believing that God is on my side, and knowing that as His son I am eligible to receive every blessing that He promises to those who belong to Jesus. But more than his blessings I want to pursue the one who gave His life for me, knowing that as a disciple of Jesus my life is not my own. In that knowledge is great freedom, but it comes at a price. As Jesus’ disciple I must be willing to go through everything He went through, should the occasion call for it.
I believe in healings; I believe in miracles; I believe that God prospers and provides for His people. Ultimately, though, my hope is not in any of these things, but in a crucified Messiah who is coming again to establish His Kingdom openly on the earth. According to His word I am looking for a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness. My true desire is to be conformed to the image of Christ. Because I look forward to the age to come, to which the Scriptures consistently testify, I believe that no work of righteousness is ever wasted. Every deed motivated by faith will be rewarded and fulfilled at the renewal of all things. I want to be a positive influence in the world I live in, sharing the life of Jesus with those who are hungry for an enduring and substantial hope. Many of the people of this age – even people of goodwill, who are trying to make a difference – hope only for an improved version of the world as they know it. Their hope is limited to making this world a better place. It is good to do works of justice and mercy while we are in this life, but in the final analysis I am not banking on my own ability – or the ability of you and me together – to build a better world with our own hands. No, I have placed my hope in a coming age in which Jesus will reign openly as King, all death, pain and suffering will be destroyed, and all things will be restored. This is the true apostolic gospel, and on this gospel I take my stand. Until the day dawns, this hope will be the anchor for my soul.