************ Funeral Sermon on Romans 8:18 ************

By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman

This sermon was preached on March 6, 2002

Funeral Sermon for Susie Anker
Passage: Romans 8:18-25
Text: Romans 8:18
Title: "Not Worth Comparing"

My Sisters and Brothers in Jesus Christ:
Topic: Pain
Index: 2667
Date: 6/1994.13

In the 1976 Olympics in Montreal, a Japanese gymnast, Shun Fujimoto, was competing in the team competition. Somehow, during the floor exercises, he broke his right knee. It was obvious to all reasonable observers that he would be forced to withdraw from competition. But they reckoned without the determination of a true competitor. On the following day, Fujimoto competed in his strongest event, the rings. His routine was excellent, but the critical point lay ahead - the dismount. Without hesitation, Fujimoto ended with a twisting, triple somersault. There was a moment of intense quiet as he landed with tremendous impact on his wounded knee. Then came thundering applause as he stood his ground. Later, reporters asked about that moment and he replied, "The pain shot through me like a knife. It brought tears to my eyes. But now I have a gold medal and the pain is gone."
According to Fujimoto, the gold medal made the pain and suffering seem like nothing.

The text I have chosen makes the exact same point. Inspired by the Spirit of God, the Apostle Paul writes:
(Rom 8:18) I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.

I can say to you, the family and friends of Susie Anker, that she went from suffering to glory. I can say to you, the family and friends of Susie Anker, that she now has the gold.

In our text the Apostle Paul speaks of our "present sufferings." There are many different kinds of sufferings in this life and on this earth. We saw some of them first-hand in the life and death of Susie Anker.

First, there is physical suffering. Susie, as you all know, suffered from diabetes. She was afflicted with festering sores. She had the aches and pains of severe arthritis. Thank God that Susie was not one to complain about her condition. Thank God, too, for medications that eased her pain.

There is so much suffering in our world. Go to an old age home. It breaks your heart to see some of the old people sitting there, mouth hanging open, drool running down their chin, not even aware of their own existence. Go to a children's hospital and see horribly deformed and mistreated children. Go to Somalia and Bosnia and Haiti and Afghanistan and see people suffering from hunger. Go to a home for abused women and see the damnable things husbands have done to their wives and fathers have done to their daughters.

Second, there is emotional suffering. Think of those who have gone through the trauma of divorce either in their own lives or in the lives of loved ones. Think of those parents whose hearts are filled with sorrow because of wayward children. Think of those who are lonely, afraid, without a friend in the world. Think of those who have lost a loved one in death. Think of those parents and children or brothers and sisters who are estranged from one another because of conflict.

Third, there is the suffering for sin. Think of what Christ suffered: the tears of Gethsemane, the slapping and spitting, the whipping and crown of thorns, the cross, being forsaken by God. Christ suffered all this because of the sins of the world; Christ suffered all this because of me and you and Susie. Every time I think of what the Son of Glory went through because of me I am ashamed and sad. Susie was acquainted with this suffering; she knew what the Savior went through for her.

But that's not all. Every honest child of God has to admit with Paul that though we have the desire to do what is good, instead we end up doing what is evil. What pain it causes us to see ourselves as we really are miserable sinners who so very often do the evil we claim we do not want to do. Susie knew this suffering too; she knew the continued power of sin in her life.

Lastly, there is the suffering that comes from being a Christian. Those who know Christ make sacrifices for the Lord and His Kingdom. Though they look very much like all other men, they are always out of step with the people of this world. They don't glory in possessions. They aren't pushy. They don't live for riches and wealth. They don't celebrate lust and adultery. They work for peace. They conform to Christ rather than the ways of the world. So the world hates them and despises them and persecutes them.

When we add it all up, we have to admit there is so much pain and suffering in this life and on this earth. We saw much of it first-hand in the life and death of Susie Anker. Yet Paul says in our text "our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed."

Paul wants us to imagine a pair of scales. On one side put suffering, all the suffering of this life. On the other side put glory, the glory that awaits God's people. No matter how you weigh it, the scales always go down on the glory side and always go up on the suffering side. No matter how you weigh it, future glory always outweighs present suffering.

Think of what this means. There is no suffering so great that it is greater than glory. There is no evil so bad that it is bigger than good. There is no darkness so dark that it chases away the light. Today there is pain and grief because Susie is gone; but here too the glory outweighs and outshines the suffering.

"I consider," says Paul, "that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us." What is this glory? What is Paul talking about?

First of all, he is talking of the glory that is Susie's right now. To get at this let me ask, "Where is Susie right now?" There have been many answers given concerning the place of the dead. The secular humanist says the dead are nowhere. "Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust" that's it, that's all, that's the end!

In contrast to the answer of the secular humanist, Jesus says in the Gospel of John,
(Jn 11:25-26) "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; (26) and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.
According to Jesus, believers who die are not really dead; they are still alive.

Susie Anker is no longer with her loved ones. Where is she then? There is no halfway place for the believer. There is no intermediate state, no period of soul-sleep, no purgatory. The Bible says we are alive in this body and then go out of this body into the presence of the Lord. The Bible teaches the continuity of life. The heavens were opened and received the martyr Stephen when he cried out, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit" (Acts 7:59). Continuity of life was promised when Jesus said to the thief on the cross, "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise" (Lk 23:43).

We are not told much of what this life with Christ is like. Paul gives us a little bit of a hint when he says,
(1 Cor 2:9) "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him ..."
Life with Christ is better than we can imagine. I think too of what Jesus said: "I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full" (John 10:10). Or, as another translation puts it, "I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly" (RSV). So this much we know: the believer who dies has abundant life, or life to the full, a life that is far better than anything in this life and on this earth.

This reminds me of what we hear Paul saying in two other places:
(Phil 1:21) For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.

(2Cor 5:8) We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.
It is hard for us to accept this word from Paul: that it is better to be away from the body and with Christ. Being human, we cannot help but think of the Anker family's loss. We feel their pain, their hurt, their sorrow.

Yet, we have this confidence: the glory that Susie now has with the Lord is far greater than the suffering she experienced on this earth.

"I consider," says Paul, "that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us." What is this glory? What is Paul talking about?

Secondly, Paul is talking of the glory that will be Susie's in the future, after the Lord returns. Think of what will happen to her body:
(1Cor 15:42-44) The body that is sown (or buried) is perishable, it is raised imperishable; (43) it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; (44) it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.
Think also of the future life that the Apostle John tries to describe for us:
(Rev 21:3-4) And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. (4) He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."
For the future God promises believers a new and better life in a new and better body on a new and better earth.

Here too, as Susie will someday find out, the glory is far greater than the suffering.

"I consider," says Paul, "that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us." Towards the end of her life Susie found herself longing for death. She wanted to be done with suffering; she wanted to experience the glory. This, if you think about it, should be the attitude of all Christians.
Topic: Death
Subtopic: Of the Righteous
Index: 2160
Date: 3/2002.101

Have you ever taken a balloon ride. Every time I have seen one of those majestic balloons I have thought about it. Before takeoff the balloon is bound to the earth by many cords. As the process of filling it with gas begins, it struggles to get free. The first line is cut, and immediately that side lifts from the earth. Then the second and third ropes are loosened and it lifts on those sides. When the last cord is snapped, the balloon rises majestically toward the heavens.
That's a picture of the Christian like a balloon, my desire is to go upward and onward to the glory of heaven. But, of course, I won't get there until one by one the cords that bind my soul to earth are cut. The cords that have bound Susie to this earth have all been cut and, like a balloon, she has ascended to the glory she was looking for and waiting for.

Is that your attitude? Do you find yourself longing to leave the present sufferings for the future glory?

"I consider," says Paul, "that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us." We believe that Susie has gone from suffering to glory. But, as all of you should know, this does not happen to everyone. In fact, Jesus indicates that many people go from suffering to even more suffering; they go from the suffering of this earth to the agony and pain and torment of everlasting hell fire. This is a horrible place of weeping and gnashing of teeth.

What's the difference? How come some people go from suffering to glory and others go from suffering to even more suffering? The difference is Christ. Only those who are washed by the blood of Christ and renewed by His Spirit go from suffering to glory. Only those who believe in Jesus and accept Him as Savior from sin and Lord of life as Susie did go from suffering to glory.

Every funeral is a good time to examine your own life and to consider your own death. Someday you too will die, even as Susie died. So let me ask you: will you go from suffering to glory or will you go from suffering to more suffering? If you want to be sure of glory, you have to trust and believe and have faith in Jesus today.
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