Genesis 1:1, 31
Romans 8:18-24
Revelation 21:1-7

Things are not always as they should be.

A young couple had been experiencing what they thought were major problems with their three year-old son. It reached the point where they invited their pastor to their home to get his council on how they as parents could improve. They were a little anxious about having their pastor over because whenever the urge would strike him, he would just shout out, “I gotta whiz!”

So just before the clergyman was due, the boy’s father said, “Son, please don’t shout out that you’ve got to whiz; whisper!”

So the pastor arrives they all sit down and begin to talk and the pastor notes that the longer they talk the antsier the boy becomes. Finally, the minister says to the boy, “What’s the matter, son?”

The boy looks at his dad and says, “I’ve gotta whisper!”

The Pastor says, “Well, that’s okay my boy, go ahead and whisper in my ear.”

I do not believe that I have to remind you that things are not as they should be.

Not a day goes by without me being reminded that things are not as they should be. Every time I watch the evening news, (or read my google news feed) I am reminded that things are not as they should be. Every time I feel a twinge here, a pain there, I am reminded that things are not as they should be. Every time I forget something that I should have recalled, I am reminded that things are not as they should be. Every time I receive a call or an e-mail from someone asking me to pray for someone who is either ill, or in some kind of trouble, I am reminded that things are not as they should be. And especially every time I read the obituaries, I am reminded that things are not as they should be.

I shouldn’t be surprised . . . the Bible tells me that we live in a fallen world the consequences of which are pain and suffering and ultimately death.

And to the man he (God) said, “Since you listened to your wife and ate from the tree whose fruit I commanded you not to eat, the ground is cursed because of you. All your life you will struggle to scratch a living from it. It will grow thorns and thistles for you, though you will eat of its grains. By the sweat of your brow will you have food to eat until you return to the ground from which you were made. For you were made from dust, and to dust you will return. (Genesis 3:17-19)

When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned. (Romans 5:12)

Things are not as they should be.

Things once were what they should be. God created the heavens and the earth and humanity as the crown of His creation, afterwards when He took a step back to survey everything He had just created, He said, “This is cool” (actually He said this is very good). And He placed the man and woman in paradise where there was no pain, no suffering, not even death. Best of all God was with them. Things once were as they should be.

And someday, things will once again be as they should be.

Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory He will reveal to us later. (Romans 8:18)

He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever. (Revelation 21:4)

In the meantime, things are not as they should and someday will be.

And for right now, until God finally brings an end to this craziness and makes everything wrong right you and I are living in a pause period, between the first and the last paradise. As long as we live in this world, mixed in with the beautiful and good and lovely are pain and suffering and eventually death for us all.

In his first letter, Saint Peter writes:

Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you. Instead, be very glad—for these trials make you partners with Christ in His suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing His glory when it is revealed to all the world. (I Peter 4:12-13)

And in his second letter, he writes:

But we are looking forward to the new heavens and the new earth He has promised, a world filled with God’s righteousness. (2 Peter 3:13)

In other words, what Peter and Paul in Romans are saying is that pain and suffering serves to remind us that we aren’t home yet.

Dr. Paul Brandt, world famous expert on leprosy was once asked, “If you could give a leper one gift, what would you give them?” Without hesitation, he answered, “I’d give them the ability to feel pain; leprosy kills nerve endings and because people with damaged nerve endings can’t feel pain, over time, they do great harm to themselves.”

Brandt tells the story of ministering in an African leper colony when he tried to open the door of a little storeroom, but the rusty lock would not yield. A patient; an undersized, malnourished ten-year-old approached smiling and said, “Let me try, sahib doctor” as he reached out for the key. And with a quick jerk of his hand he turned the key in the lock. The Doc was dumbfounded; how could this weak youngster out-exert him? Then his eyes caught a telltale clue; drops of blood on the floor. And upon examining the boy’s fingers, he had discovered that the act of turning the key had gashed a finger open to the bone. Until the doctor showed him, the boy was completely unaware of it. And the good doctor says he wished he could have felt pain because if he could feel pain he would know that something isn’t right, he’d know that things aren’t as they should be.

Heartache that results from pain and suffering is like that; it reminds us that things aren’t as they should be and it makes us hungry for home.

One of CrossPointe’s great Veterans (who is also a glorified saint; see last week’s message) has a story to tell us.

After the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, Ralph Gunkleman joined the United States Army. Before he shipped out to Europe he married his wonderful wife, Betty. He fought his way across Europe but after surviving the Battle of the Bulge, while on a recon patrol Ralph’s platoon was captured and taken prisoner by the Germans on New Year’s Day, 1945. Ralph and a number of other men were herded cattle-like into boxcars and taken by rail to POW Camp, Stalag 5. Once there, many men crowded into what was to become their home for 5 months; a clapboard barracks with no insulation, no heat, no furniture, no beds. They slept blanket-less on the cold winter floor. They were fed once a day; a piece of bread made of potato flour and sawdust and a bit of horse meat soup.

None of those men knew for sure whether or not they would ever see home again, but you better believe that they all dreamed of someday returning there.

One morning they woke to discover that the Germans had fled. Since they didn’t know for sure where they were or where they could go, they remained at Stalag 5 until a few days later when the Russians arrived to liberate them. A little more than 6 months after his captivity began, Ralph arrived back home in Medina County and was reunited with his wife, Betty.

The heartache of pain and suffering that Ralph and his companions experienced day in and day out while in Stalag 5 reminded them they weren’t home yet.

Now can you imagine that when the Russians arrived and offered to lead those POW’s to freedom any one of them saying, “No thanks, I’ve really learned to like it here. I’m going to enjoy the memories, the solitude, I’m going to call Stalag 5 home.” We’d say that would have been foolish, right?

It’s equally foolish to think that this is our home, but we do. We materialists who sometimes don’t feel our pain because we have become experts in dulling it with all kinds of things. We try to numb the pain and disillusionment of life in a failed attempt to convince ourselves that this feels like home. But we weren’t created for this place forever!

This is just a temporary arrangement, and something deep down within knows it.

An American tourist went to visit to the famous 19th century Polish rabbi, Hofetz Chaim. The tourist was astonished to see that the rabbi’s home was only a simple room filled with books, plus one table and a bench. The tourist asked, “Rabbi, where is your furniture?”
“Where is yours?” replied the rabbi.
“Mine?” asked the puzzled American, “I am just a visitor here. I’m only passing through.”
“So am I,” said the rabbi, “so am I.”

So are we all! Just passing through!

I heard a great story about an elderly gentleman who leaned over to kiss his aged wife good morning, only to hear her declare, “Don’t touch me! I’m dead!”
“What are you talking about? You’re fine. We’re both lying here talking to one another. You’re not dead!”
“Oh no, I’m dead. I’m sure of it.”
“How can you be so sure?”
“Because I woke up this morning and nothing hurts!”

Some of us can identify. Some of us woke up this morning and, bless God, nothing hurt. But that wasn’t true for all of us this morning. Some of us awakened and had to stretch and move before even getting out of bed. Others of us got up and had to walk cautiously to the bathroom to get our day started. And some of us sitting here right now are experiencing some kind of pain.

And these kind of aches and pains should remind us that we are not home yet.

C. S. Lewis calls them ‘unconsolable longings of the heart’ hungers of the heart that never leave us. Oh we can try to drive them deep down inside, but they are still there. And we need to understand that they are a gift from God. Like pain to a leper, they remind us that we weren’t made for this place; that there is another place we will someday call home.

The ultimate answer for all hurting and disappointed people: someday He’s going to take us home

Home; where the person who suffers the ravages of leprosy won’t have to find a salve to keep his skin from rotting away. Home; where every soldier in the Lord’s army will hear those precious words, “Well done good and faithful servant.” Home; where those who have known emotional, as well as physical pain will have every tear wiped dry!

In heaven, we will be dead! Dead to pain and suffering. And fully alive to all that brings joy!

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes and there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain for the old order of things has passed away. (Revelation 21:4)

And we will be home and things will then be as they should be!

I love to watch the Ohio State Buckeyes play football. A week ago Saturday, my grandson Noah and I were fortunate enough to be in the shoe to see the Bucks get by Nebraska. I love to watch them so much that I own several DVDs of Ohio State playing in championship games. Now when I went to the store to buy these I already knew who had won the game. If Ohio State had lost, do you think I would have paid money to re-watch a game I already had seen? Who wants to watch their favorite team lose?

But I can fully enjoy watching these games because no matter how bad it gets, no matter how many bonehead plays they make, no matter how many penalties they incur, no matter how far behind they get, I don’t have to worry because I know the end of the story!

Fellow brothers and sisters in Christ I am excited to inform you that no matter how bad things look today, we don’t have to worry because we know the end of the story!!!

Once upon a time, twin boys were conceived in the same womb.

Weeks passed, as the twins developed. As their awareness grew, they laughed for joy: “Isn’t it great that we were conceived? Isn’t it great to be alive?”

Together, the twins explored their world. When they found their mother’s cord which gave them life, they sang for joy: “How great is our mother’s love, that she shares her own life with us.”

As weeks stretched into months, the twins noticed how much they were changing.
“What does it mean?” asked the one.
“It means that our stay in this world is drawing to an end,” said the other.
“But I don’t want to go,” said the one; “I want to stay here always.”
“We have no choice,” said the other. “And maybe there is life after birth!”
“”But how can there be?” responded the one. “We will shed our life cord, and how is life possible without it? Besides, we have seen evidence that others were here before us, but none of them have returned to tell us that there is life after birth. No, this has to be the end.”
And so the one fell into deep despair, saying, “If conception ends in birth, what is the purpose of life in the womb? It’s meaningless! Maybe there is no mother after all!”
“But there has to be,” protested the other; “How else did we get there? How do we remain alive?”
“Have you ever seen our mother?” said the one. “Maybe she lives only in our minds.
Maybe we made her up, because the idea made us feel good!”
And so the last days in the womb were filled with deep questioning and fear.
Finally the moment of birth arrived. And when the twins had passed from their world, they opened their eyes and began to cry for joy. For what they saw exceeded their wildest dreams.

No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him. (I Corinthians 2:9)