Broadcast

Experiencing Hope

From the series I Choose Hope

In the context of uncertainty, what can the Apostle Paul teach us about hope? That's Chip's focus in this message, as he explains how, in the worst of circumstances, Paul was consumed with a passion to know Christ, the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His suffering. Join Chip as he explains how we can pursue Christ with that kind of passion.

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Message Transcript

Hope is the mental and emotional attitude that life is good, that the future is promising, and that progress is absolutely certain, even in the midst of challenging circumstances and difficult people.

In other words, you wake up in the morning and most parts of the day, as you are relating to people, as you think about work, in your responsibilities, there is this buoying up inside that life is hard, but it’s good! The future is uncertain, but it’s promising because God is in control. I just sang, I’m not going to trust in any sweetest frame, no other person. God is going to come through. I just don’t know how.

And progress is absolutely certain. He made this promise: “He who began a good work in me is going to complete until the day He comes back.” Regardless of the difficulty and the challenges, that everybody has difficulties. Everybody has challenges. But I have a hope. I have an anchor to my life. That’s what we are talking about in hope.

Three things. One: wherever we put our hope will determine what we worship. Wherever my hope is, if I think it’s work that’s going to come through, if I think it’s this person who is going to come through, if I think fame is going to come through – wherever I put my hope, I worship.

Second is: false hope always ends in pride or despair. When I put my hope in something or someone that doesn’t have the ability to come through, either I get a bit arrogant when I make some success or it’s despair because life isn’t working.

We found that false hope is almost always focused on external things. True hope is always about internal things. False hope is what I can accomplish; true hope is about what has already been accomplished by Christ for me.

And, third, we learned that true hope is rooted in relationship and it results in joy and endurance. I think joy is way underrated. C.S. Lewis said, “Joy is the serious business of heaven.” Jesus, on the very last night, after they had gone through everything and He is in this vineyard and He is talking about a deep connection with Him by abiding in Him and the kind of rich relationship, regardless. He has already told them it’s going to be tough.

And He says, “These things I have written to you that My joy might be in you,” the joy of Christ, “and that your joy might be full,” or, literally, “overflowing.” See, real hope produces a joy when the external circumstances are going, “No way.”

So, here’s what I want to ask you. Okay? A lot of what I am going to say, for many of you that have been around for a while, it’s like you know these things, okay? The issue isn’t: do you know them? The issue is: are you experiencing them?

And, so, I am going to ask you to do a little something. This is very private. Don’t write anything down. But I want to ask you: what relationship or what circumstance just right now, just where you’re seated today, it doesn’t have to even be a huge, big thing. But it feels hopeless. Just in your life, it just feels hopeless.

It might be just an area of your marriage – it feels hopeless. It might be something at work and a supervisor or a frustration or a project. It might be one of your kids that you’ve tried, tried, tried, tried. I don’t know what it is, but what I want you to get your arms around, we are going to talk about how the Spirit of God wants to take the truth of God’s Word and help you not know about hope but experience it.

One of the best ways is to start with: Where do I feel a little hopeless? Have you got it? [Sings Jeopardy! theme] You didn’t think I was going to go on, did you? Okay? You need to get that in your mind.

And I’m not saying it’s true, but it’s how you feel. And your feelings influence how you respond. The big question I want to ask and answer with you today is this: How do we experience true hope in everyday life? Monday morning. Saturday night. Tuesday, in the midst of a meeting. Thursday when a project is not going well. Friday when your kid is sick. How do you experience hope in everyday life?

The answer is Philippians chapter 3, verses 10 and 11. And there’s an important context. If I would read what I am going to read to you and if I knew, historically, like Paul – this hater of the Church, this persecutor, this murderer, this super religious guy, totally out of touch with God, just came to Christ – and he had been a Christian six months and was all fired up, I would read this one way.

But what I am going to read to you is the apostle Paul, former Saul, thirty years after his conversion. This is what he says after he has been beat up more than a few times, where he has been left in the ocean, he has been left once for dead already.

His life, this is the guy that was the rising star of Judaism. So, he’s a Roman citizen, city of Tarsus, he has wealth, reputation, education from the Stanford, MIT, Yale of his schools. He has got it all and this is how he is viewing life. Have you got it now? Thirty years later, here’s the passion that is pumping through this guy’s spiritual veins.

He says, “What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing value of” – what? “knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” Will you underline that? This is his hope. The prestige, the power, the wealth, the influence – all of that I consider a loss now in comparison to a deep, personal, intimate relationship with Christ.

“…for whose sake I have lost all things.” And here’s our accounting term, “I consider them garbage,” or, literally, “dung, that I might gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes through the law, but that which is through faith in Christ.” Circle faith in Christ.

Memo to people who like to skip ahead: faith is going to be the key to moving from hope that I actually possess to hope that I experience.

It’s the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. Now here are verses 9 and 10 where he now just zooms in about his consuming passion and the source of his hope. “I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His suffering, becoming like Him in His death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.”

I want you to understand exactly what he means and then I’ll talk about what it really means to us.

What he is saying is: I don’t want the intellectual knowledge about God. I don’t want facts. I don’t want data. I want a deep, personal, intimate relationship with God the Father through the Person of Christ.

In fact, the Hebrew word, when it’s translated in this passage, if a Hebrew was translating this, he would use the word yada. And the word yada was when God is speaking about Adam and Eve and it says, “Adam yada-d Eve, and she gave birth to a son.”
He takes the most intimate moment in the relationship between a man and a woman, the culmination of communication of the spirit, mind, and body and he says, “I want to have the kind of intimacy with the living God that a man and a woman who are unashamed and come together, physically. He says, “That’s the depth; that’s the level.”

And then, grammatically, basically it would be: “I want to know Christ namely. Now I am going to give you three phrases that identify how you experience this kind of intimacy.”

First, namely, the power of His resurrection. Now, he’s not talking about someday, someway after he is resurrected with Christ. He is talking about the operational power, the supernatural power in daily life. Life-changing power over guilt, life-changing power over addictions, life-changing power over the way he used to think, life-changing power to forgive the people and to receive God’s forgiveness and to experience the very living Christ inside of him.

He says, “That’s how I want to know Him.” I want to know Him so that every day is different than any other day because the living Christ lives in me. The same power that rose Him from the dead dwells in me; I want to experience that.

Second, I also want to know Him intimately through something that most of us don’t want and we would never welcome, but it’s a reality – the fellowship of His suffering. The word koinonia, we have a koinonia class, it means “to participate in,” “to associate with,” “to share,” “oneness,” “communion.” It has this idea of a a connection with someone that, as you are going through something, they are with you. They are with you all the way.

And the ups and the downs and the struggles and what you know, the people that you are closest to in all the world are the people that you have been through some huge, difficult, painful thing and you supported each other on the journey. And he is saying: In my life, if the suffering comes from without, if it comes from persecution, if it even comes from within, I want to experience the very presence and the comfort and the enabling of Christ in the midst of that.

And, third, he uses this word, “becoming like Him in His death.” Morphe – You know what the word morphing means? It means to change intrinsically from the inside out. What he is saying is: I want an intimate, deep relationship. I don’t want to know about God. I want to experience Him. And I want to experience Him with a level of power and energy and impact that transforms me and I see things happen that have no human explanation and I want to experience Him in the lowest and the hardest and the most painful things of life so that I am actually morphed, or transformed from the inside out. How? Into the likeness of His death.

And you say, “Whoa, what do you mean by that?” Well, what was the likeness of His death? Jesus came to the point, “Father, I do nothing unless You say.” He comes to the very end of His life and He prays, “Lord, if there is a different way, rather than going to the cross, let’s go with that plan. Nevertheless, not my will, but Yours.”

Paul is praying, I want to be so transformed in an intimate relationship with Jesus that when my Gethsemanes come and I have to make a crossroads decision about: I so want to do it this way. Or, I so want to cheat just a little. Or, I so want to…I will say, “Not my will, but Yours be done.” Because he would come to the point where he would be so changed that he would actually believe that a good, kind, loving all-powerful, sovereign God that would be for his best, regardless of the front-end cost.

And, so, “Somehow,” hear the “somehow?” He’s not doubting whether he is going to be resurrected. So, “Somehow to attain to the resurrection from,” put a circle around from and write the little word out of. It’s a little Greek preposition.

He is saying, I know that all people of all time are going to be resurrected. The good or the righteous and the unrighteous will be resurrected. He said, “Out of that general resurrection,” he says, “I want to be reminded that whether you come back or whether I die,” because, remember, he thinks he is going to get executed or might be. He says, “Out of that resurrection, to the final end, that my faith in knowing You would turn to sight and it would be forever.” That’s what he is teaching.

I want to flesh out: how do we experience this intimate relationship with Jesus in everyday life for you and me? And I am going to suggest that Paul has said, This is what I want, namely that there are three things that we must know and progressively, underline progressively. This isn’t overnight. This is like this morning, early, I was in my study reviewing everything and I was reading a psalm that talks about your descendants and then walking in righteousness.

And three of my grandkids really, really just, they just came to my mind and I just, it was like, I’m going to go out of town tomorrow. I just have to see them. So, I got up and ran them doughnuts and – grandfathering is a big plus.

So, I went to the little doughnut shop and I drove over to my daughter’s house and knocked on the door and came in and I had a little bag for them and a little bag for them and coffee for my daughter and her husband. And just fifteen, twenty minutes.

But it was this: I just want to be with them. I just want to experience life with them. And I long for them to experience what God has for them.

And, so, but when I was there, my little one grandson, he just learned to walk about two and a half weeks ago. We went from: is he going to make it? And it was like…you know? He gave me this. He knows “doughnut” already!

And all you health food people, I eat very healthy normally. When you’re a grandparent you get to do this stuff. My daughter can feed them healthy stuff all the time. I’m bribing them. Sort of.

Here’s what I want you to get – as you listen, I asked you to plant in the back of your mind: where do you feel hopeless? I want you to begin, now, to take that thought as I walk through. How can you progressively experience the power of His resurrection? How can you progressively, in the midst of this, experience Him in your suffering? And how can, in the process, you can come to, even before we walk out of this room, a sense of morphing and changing that, even if you can’t see it – by the way – hope, you can never see. It’s a certainty of things unseen.

That you would say, Lord, not my will but Your will. Because I am going to trust in what I can’t see – You, Your power, Your love for me.

And, so, with that he says, “What is the power of His resurrection?” How, exactly, do you experience that?

What the apostle Paul did in verses 10 and 11 is he gave you the overarching big issues of how to have an intimate, personal relationship with God through Jesus.  But his teaching through all the epistles is just filled with explaining these phrases. So, what I thought I would do is each time I’m going to give you his theology of resurrection power, and then I’ll give you his experience.

Then I’ll give you his theology of suffering and then his experience. Because as you see both those things, guess what you’re going to do – you’re going to go, “Aha. I got it.”

It’s his power in our weakness.

The way the apostle Paul is going to teach us that we experience the resurrected power is out of our weakness.

Romans 8, verse 11 says, “But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.”
In other words, the same power that raised Christ from the dead, when you turned from your sin, asked Christ to forgive you, come into your life – the same power, the same Spirit lives inside of you. So, you should expect supernatural things to happen.

And then what he’s going to say is: But the way those supernatural things happen is a recognition that what you need is His strength or you need His power in the midst of your weakness. Most of us – just our mental, human, fleshly bent – is that I’m going to make it by what I do and this is what I can accomplish.

He’s going to say the flip with God is it’s when you come in humility and admit you can’t. The twelve-steppers have a lot to teach us on that one. Bill Wilson, by the way, was a believer. Anybody know what the first step is?

“I’m absolutely powerless. I can’t do this. I can’t overcome this addiction.”

Well, guess what, you can’t overcome forgiving someone either. You can’t overcome your fear of failure. You can’t overcome your family of origin. You can’t overcome your fear about the economy. You can’t overcome what’s going to happen to your kids. Right? Can you really?

So, what the apostle Paul is, he has this difficult situation, three times he prays. God says, “No. No. No.” And then in 2 Corinthians chapter 12, notice what he says.

God, you have said no to me when I have asked You to remove this difficulty,” this tribulation, some physical issue, “therefore, I am well content with weakness, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties,” did you notice they are all plural? “…for Christ’s sake.” Why? “For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

So, Paul says, Wow, in a suffering, fallen world, I want to experience Your power. I have asked You to deliver me out of it. Make everything great! Make everything right! And God said no in this case. He doesn’t always say no. Sometimes He does the very, very miraculous.

So, Paul says, “Okay, therefore, I am going to be well content.” It’s not just, “I’m going to get through it.” I’m going to have a sense of settled peace. The difficulties, persecutions, distresses – because when I’m weak then I am strong. And he explains. “And God said to him, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weakness so the power of Christ may dwell in me.”

Power is perfected in weakness. God’s power shows up in supernatural ways when His children say, I can’t do this. I can’t make this relationship work. I can’t change my supervisor. I can’t get inside my kid’s head or my parents’ head and get them to see things the way they ought to. I can’t break this habit. I have unresolved anger issues.

And then power is perfected in weakness. The first step to experience God’s power is: Lord, help me! Remember Peter? What happens? Very short prayer. Peter is sinking, what does he cry out? “Help me!” David, who really messed up, “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted. He saves those who are crushed in spirit.”

This is an unfortunate truth. You will probably never experience the love of God and the power of God more than at a time when you come, not to a hard situation, but when it gets impossible.

And it’s like, hands up, I can’t do this. I can’t do this a single more moment. I can’t do this.

And then you cry out, Oh, God! Deliver me. And He may deliver you out of it, He may deliver you through it, He may change you in radical ways.

One of my closest friends went through, I think, just in Chip Ingram’s opinion, there could be worse things, I just can’t think of any. His grown son, prime of life, committed suicide. In a moment, had some bipolar stuff going on. And I have watched that man’s life change more in the last two years out of his pain, out of his suffering. I have seen God’s power.

Because in his deep, deep distress – he was reading the Bible before, but he was listening a lot better now. He was praying before, but now, once a week, he drives out near where he and his son would spend some time, special time, and he looks out over this, and he just pours his heart out to God.

And, guess what, he has met Jesus. He has met the power of God and the comfort of God and the grace of God and the patience of God. And he has had deep, deep down valleys. And he is not, he’s a big former athlete and not known for tears, not known for being overly sensitive. That’s probably why we get along. No comment, please.

And I have watched a sensitivity and a crying and an emotion that has transformed him. But if it’s trying hard and, Jesus, will You give me a little help? you’ll never experience His power. How could you take where you’re feeling hopeless and admit today, “I can’t do this”?

Second, not just His power in our weakness, but His presence in our pain. We are a society in the Western world, especially in America, that any type of suffering or pain is to be avoided at all cost. If I could make one television rule, you could never advertise drugs ever again. It makes me nuts! It makes me nuts!

No matter what is happening to you, there is a new drug. And then, of course, sixty-seven seconds of all the byproducts that will, “Deep constipation, many people have died from this, liver problems, you may find you have suicidal thoughts…” And while the B-roll, right? The B-roll, they’re having fun.

But the point, here’s the point, it’s not the drugs. The point is this message: if you ever have suffering – physically, mentally, in other ways – there is a pill, there’s a sweet, quick solution. “You have been called for this purpose,” says 1 Peter, “you have been called for this purpose, to suffer with Him.”

At the end of chapter 1, he said, “It has been granted to you,” the word is grace, “God has given you this grace, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, experiencing the same conflict which you heard and now see to be in me.”

Now, this is not a masochistic – there is plenty of suffering that is going to come your way. But if, unconsciously, your worldview is: all suffering, all difficulty, all pain is, I’ve got to avoid at all cost or I’ve got to just get through it, I’ve got to zoom through it, you will miss God. You will miss God.

Some of the suffering that you’re in, someone else did it to you, some of it you brought on yourself like me. Some of it, it’s just a fallen world. You can’t – the economy, the politics, the racism, the tension, the work situations. You don’t have control over all that.

Here’s what I’m going to tell you, though. And you guys know this so just turn on those really smart brains of yours. Everybody in this room is going to go through a life that is really, really hard and you’re going to suffer. True or false?

If you haven’t had some major health issue, just hang on. If someone hasn’t betrayed you that you really trusted yet, just hold your breath. If you don’t get a raw deal of injustice somewhere, somewhere. If one of your kids don’t really disappoint you or God doesn’t come through and bring Mr. Right or Miss Right into your life. If you don’t experience it in church, well, you’re an anomaly. Some of the worst things I have ever seen happen among church people.

But here’s my point: we are all going to suffer. You know what Paul says? In a fallen world where suffering is going to come at the hands of others – persecution, at times for doing exactly what God wants me to do, he says, I don’t want to waste it. I was with Jesus and when I was with Jesus, there’s something that happens when someone goes through it with you.

Notice his experience. His experience is 2 Corinthians chapter 4, verses 7 through 12. He says, “But we have this treasure, this Spirit living within us, this gospel, this new life in earthen vessels,” speaking of his human body, “so that the surpassing greatness of,” what are we back to? “the power will be of God and not from ourselves.” Now, listen to this list. This is his life experience. “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; we are perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus,” notice his purpose clause, “so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.”

What he’s saying is: I’ve just been doing exactly what God wants me to do, and you name it, we have been there. It’s bad, bad, bad, bad, bad, and a little worse. But in the midst of it, God is – hey! – not struck down, not giving in, not giving up. And as we die to ourselves and we ask God: What do you want this to look like in the midst of my suffering? The manifestation of the life of Christ! He says, “I am experiencing that.”

Notice he says, “Jesus, also being manifested in our body, for we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake.” Why? “So that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our mortal bodies, so that death works in us, but life in you.”

My friend I was telling you about? Death is working in him. And now I have watched life in family members. I have watched, he has a heart for evangelism and he’s just a bold human being. And, so, he came into my office a little bit before all the things with his son and he said, he calls me “bro.”

“Hey, bro, I need some good stuff. I meet all these people; they’ve got all these needs.” And he went through, okay, “Give me those three CDs on that, give me a couple books on that, give me three CDs on that.” And, so, he cleaned out part of my closet and he puts them in the back of his truck.

I can’t tell you, I bet there have been fifty, sixty, maybe a hundred people in two years that have seen the baptism of his son coming to Christ, heard his story, him listen to them – and they are clients – and he has handed either a CD or a book and he says, “I only give to the ones that I know are serious.”

Death in him; life to others. And then he tells me this, he goes, “Man,” he played major college, he was a quarterback at a big school. He said, “Man, I have experienced some highs. It doesn’t get any better than this, does it? It’s like when Jesus is going right through your veins and you realize it’s not you!” This is what Paul is talking about. What are you suffering?

The theology of it, he says, “Yeah, thanks be to God,” Romans 5, “we are justified by faith and we exalt,” or, “boast in this brand-new relationship.” It’s our introduction into grace. “But not only this, I also exalt,” do you understand the mindset that is so different than us? “I exalt in the tribulation that I am going through.” Why? “Because tribulation produces endurance.” What is endurance? I just keep getting up and doing the same thing when it’s hard and I don’t feel like it.

And what does endurance do, over time? It produces proven character. What’s that? It means your attitudes change as you hold up under that by the grace of God.

And proven character doesn’t disappoint because – why? It produces hope, and hope doesn’t disappoint because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts.

And what he is giving us is a theology of suffering and difficulty in a fallen world, but as you trust in Him and as you persevere and you say, Lord, I can’t do this, but will You be near me? Oh, God, one more day of work and I hate this job. Oh, God, this marriage counseling is the worst idea in the whole world! I can’t stand facing all this stuff. But I’m not giving up, I’m not giving up, and I’m not dropping out.

And as you do that, change happens. And the change happens in you. And the change produces this unswerving hope in your life that you realize, Wow! God is real and He is with me.

My wife got cancer. It was very serious, they did major operations and then they did radiation, all this high-powered stuff and thank God for Kaiser, Stanford, everybody. They did an amazing, amazing job.

But here’s what I can tell you about suffering: if you go through something deep and scary with someone you really love, however much you thought you loved them, it goes to a whole new level.

I will never forget driving her after all that to each radiation treatment and they did some new high-powered thing that just…

And every, single time we would leave and we would pull into the little coffee shop and she would sit in the car like this and I would go in and get two cups of dark roast, of course. And then they had little oatmeal cookies and they said, “Would you like it heated?” I said, “Please.”

And I would take my little oatmeal cookie and I would give her her coffee and we would break it in half. And I didn’t know if I had a few more weeks, a few more months, or a few more years, but I can tell you this: that moment, those journeys together – there was a love and an intimacy that I have shared with my wife that God has allowed to continue that could have never happened.

Now, my hand goes up, Lord, I would like to be on the list of “no more cancer ever.” And then my hand goes up to say, Lord, it’s horrendous but I wouldn’t want to miss that – what I share with her.

And what Paul is saying is, This is what I want to share with Jesus. But do you see behind all of this, there is this passion, there is this focus, there is this sense that – Paul has been there and done that. If getting famous or being smart or getting in the right school or wealth or how your kids turn out. If all that could be a hope that would satisfy, he had been there and done all that stuff. He is saying, “This is what matters.”

Finally, he says, “The life, the life we can experience in our death.” He is really talking here about coming to that point where: I’m going to be conformed to the likeness of Jesus’ death.

And here’s his theology, in fact, you could read all of Romans 6. But verse 4 says, “Therefore, we have been buried with Him through baptism unto death so that as Christ was raised from the dead to the glory of the Father, so too we might walk in newness of life.” And then here’s his theology, “For if we become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing,” as a fact, “that our old self,” the old Paul, the old Chip, the old you, “was crucified with Him” – why? “in order that the body of sin,” or, “sin’s power over us might be done away so that we are no longer slaves to sin, for he who has died is freed from sin.” There’s a lot there. Here’s all I want you to get: there is a mystical union that, when you turn from your sin and recognize, I fall short of the glory of God, and you repent and you turn toward God and say, I can never be made righteous, but I accept the gift of Christ on the cross and His resurrection to pay for my sin, come into my life, now I want to walk with You, there is a mystical union.

The moment you do that. I don’t understand it, and if anyone can explain it, they are probably lying. I don’t think they can either. But what he says is that we are united, we are actually in Christ in His death so that when He died, your sins, your past, bam! Sin, death, Satan – broken power! You are resurrected with Him, so you are in this real spiritual union with the living God. That’s the theology.

And so notice, here’s his practice. His practice is Galatians 2:20. He says, “See, I don’t have to sin anymore. I still do, but I don’t have to, because I have been set free.” Here’s Galatians 2:20, here’s how he lives each and every day to experience it. “I am crucified with Christ.” “I have been crucified with Christ,” notice, it happened, “and it is no longer I who live,” in other words, I have new life in me. The old Chip, the old you, the old Paul, Saul, died. “…but Christ now lives in me, and the life which I now live in the flesh,” in your body, “I live by,” uh-oh, there’s our word, “by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”

Paul is living every day with the reality that what is really true of me is this: when I trusted in Christ, the old me died. I was raised with Him. His Spirit actually, that raised Christ from the dead, dwells inside of me. I now have complete access to God. God the Father sees me like He sees God the Son, fully righteous in my position.

And, now, I am on this journey of experiencing His power in my weakness, experiencing His pain – His presence in my pain – and that I am being changed so that I can come to that thing that you identified and said, I feel hopeless about my marriage. I feel hopeless about my future finances. I feel hopeless about, will we ever have children? I feel hopeless about…

And I can invite Jesus in and say, I can’t solve this, I can’t manipulate it, I can’t get people to do what I want. In my weakness, will You give me help? I don’t even know what that looks like. And until or through, in the presence of the difficulty and the pain that I feel, I want to experience You.

And what I will tell you is that as you read the psalms and read the gospels, that’s where I would go if you are suffering.

And as you look at the life of Jesus when you say, Will You help me know You that way? You will experience hope, not just know about it.

Will you pray with me?

Lord, I thank You so much. I confess, I want to be the first to get in line, to run to the front of the line and confess to you that I know a lot more than I experience, that I can explain this better than I can live it. But, Lord, I also, I kneel here before You and my brothers and sisters and I would tell You, I have experienced You in ways I never dreamed. I have seen supernatural things in my life, around my life, in this church, and through people that there’s no explanation but You.

And, God, I thank You for Your comfort and Your love and Your transformation. That’s what I long for. That’s what You long for for every man, every woman, every student right now.

Can I ask you, just in a moment of silence as we close, just say, Lord, what is the next step for me? And just listen quietly. Lord, what is a step toward You look like?
Power is perfected in weakness. God’s power shows up in supernatural ways when His children say, I can’t do this. I can’t make this relationship work. I can’t change my supervisor. I can’t get inside my kid’s head or my parents’ head and get them to see things the way they ought to. I can’t break this habit. I have unresolved anger issues.

And then power is perfected in weakness. The first step to experience God’s power is: Lord, help me! Remember Peter? What happens? Very short prayer. Peter is sinking, what does he cry out? “Help me!” David, who really messed up, “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted. He saves those who are crushed in spirit.”

This is an unfortunate truth. You will probably never experience the love of God and the power of God more than at a time when you come, not to a hard situation, but when it gets impossible.

And it’s like, hands up, I can’t do this. I can’t do this a single more moment. I can’t do this.

And then you cry out, Oh, God! Deliver me. And He may deliver you out of it, He may deliver you through it, He may change you in radical ways.

One of my closest friends went through, I think, just in Chip Ingram’s opinion, there could be worse things, I just can’t think of any. His grown son, prime of life, committed suicide. In a moment, had some bipolar stuff going on. And I have watched that man’s life change more in the last two years out of his pain, out of his suffering. I have seen God’s power.

Because in his deep, deep distress – he was reading the Bible before, but he was listening a lot better now. He was praying before, but now, once a week, he drives out near where he and his son would spend some time, special time, and he looks out over this, and he just pours his heart out to God.

And, guess what, he has met Jesus. He has met the power of God and the comfort of God and the grace of God and the patience of God. And he has had deep, deep down valleys. And he is not, he’s a big former athlete and not known for tears, not known for being overly sensitive. That’s probably why we get along. No comment, please.

And I have watched a sensitivity and a crying and an emotion that has transformed him. But if it’s trying hard and, Jesus, will You give me a little help? you’ll never experience His power. How could you take where you’re feeling hopeless and admit today, “I can’t do this”?

Second, not just His power in our weakness, but His presence in our pain. We are a society in the Western world, especially in America, that any type of suffering or pain is to be avoided at all cost. If I could make one television rule, you could never advertise drugs ever again. It makes me nuts! It makes me nuts!

No matter what is happening to you, there is a new drug. And then, of course, sixty-seven seconds of all the byproducts that will, “Deep constipation, many people have died from this, liver problems, you may find you have suicidal thoughts…” And while the B-roll, right? The B-roll, they’re having fun.

But the point, here’s the point, it’s not the drugs. The point is this message: if you ever have suffering – physically, mentally, in other ways – there is a pill, there’s a sweet, quick solution. “You have been called for this purpose,” says 1 Peter, “you have been called for this purpose, to suffer with Him.”

At the end of chapter 1, he said, “It has been granted to you,” the word is grace, “God has given you this grace, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, experiencing the same conflict which you heard and now see to be in me.”

Now, this is not a masochistic – there is plenty of suffering that is going to come your way. But if, unconsciously, your worldview is: all suffering, all difficulty, all pain is, I’ve got to avoid at all cost or I’ve got to just get through it, I’ve got to zoom through it, you will miss God. You will miss God.

Some of the suffering that you’re in, someone else did it to you, some of it you brought on yourself like me. Some of it, it’s just a fallen world. You can’t – the economy, the politics, the racism, the tension, the work situations. You don’t have control over all that.

Here’s what I’m going to tell you, though. And you guys know this so just turn on those really smart brains of yours. Everybody in this room is going to go through a life that is really, really hard and you’re going to suffer. True or false?

If you haven’t had some major health issue, just hang on. If someone hasn’t betrayed you that you really trusted yet, just hold your breath. If you don’t get a raw deal of injustice somewhere, somewhere. If one of your kids don’t really disappoint you or God doesn’t come through and bring Mr. Right or Miss Right into your life. If you don’t experience it in church, well, you’re an anomaly. Some of the worst things I have ever seen happen among church people.

But here’s my point: we are all going to suffer. You know what Paul says? In a fallen world where suffering is going to come at the hands of others – persecution, at times for doing exactly what God wants me to do, he says, I don’t want to waste it. I was with Jesus and when I was with Jesus, there’s something that happens when someone goes through it with you.

Notice his experience. His experience is 2 Corinthians chapter 4, verses 7 through 12. He says, “But we have this treasure, this Spirit living within us, this gospel, this new life in earthen vessels,” speaking of his human body, “so that the surpassing greatness of,” what are we back to? “the power will be of God and not from ourselves.” Now, listen to this list. This is his life experience. “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; we are perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus,” notice his purpose clause, “so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.”

What he’s saying is: I’ve just been doing exactly what God wants me to do, and you name it, we have been there. It’s bad, bad, bad, bad, bad, and a little worse. But in the midst of it, God is – hey! – not struck down, not giving in, not giving up. And as we die to ourselves and we ask God: What do you want this to look like in the midst of my suffering? The manifestation of the life of Christ! He says, “I am experiencing that.”

Notice he says, “Jesus, also being manifested in our body, for we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake.” Why? “So that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our mortal bodies, so that death works in us, but life in you.”

My friend I was telling you about? Death is working in him. And now I have watched life in family members. I have watched, he has a heart for evangelism and he’s just a bold human being. And, so, he came into my office a little bit before all the things with his son and he said, he calls me “bro.”

“Hey, bro, I need some good stuff. I meet all these people; they’ve got all these needs.” And he went through, okay, “Give me those three CDs on that, give me a couple books on that, give me three CDs on that.” And, so, he cleaned out part of my closet and he puts them in the back of his truck.

I can’t tell you, I bet there have been fifty, sixty, maybe a hundred people in two years that have seen the baptism of his son coming to Christ, heard his story, him listen to them – and they are clients – and he has handed either a CD or a book and he says, “I only give to the ones that I know are serious.”

Death in him; life to others. And then he tells me this, he goes, “Man,” he played major college, he was a quarterback at a big school. He said, “Man, I have experienced some highs. It doesn’t get any better than this, does it? It’s like when Jesus is going right through your veins and you realize it’s not you!” This is what Paul is talking about. What are you suffering?

The theology of it, he says, “Yeah, thanks be to God,” Romans 5, “we are justified by faith and we exalt,” or, “boast in this brand-new relationship.” It’s our introduction into grace. “But not only this, I also exalt,” do you understand the mindset that is so different than us? “I exalt in the tribulation that I am going through.” Why? “Because tribulation produces endurance.” What is endurance? I just keep getting up and doing the same thing when it’s hard and I don’t feel like it.

And what does endurance do, over time? It produces proven character. What’s that? It means your attitudes change as you hold up under that by the grace of God.

And proven character doesn’t disappoint because – why? It produces hope, and hope doesn’t disappoint because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts.

And what he is giving us is a theology of suffering and difficulty in a fallen world, but as you trust in Him and as you persevere and you say, Lord, I can’t do this, but will You be near me? Oh, God, one more day of work and I hate this job. Oh, God, this marriage counseling is the worst idea in the whole world! I can’t stand facing all this stuff. But I’m not giving up, I’m not giving up, and I’m not dropping out.

And as you do that, change happens. And the change happens in you. And the change produces this unswerving hope in your life that you realize, Wow! God is real and He is with me.

My wife got cancer. It was very serious, they did major operations and then they did radiation, all this high-powered stuff and thank God for Kaiser, Stanford, everybody. They did an amazing, amazing job.

But here’s what I can tell you about suffering: if you go through something deep and scary with someone you really love, however much you thought you loved them, it goes to a whole new level.

I will never forget driving her after all that to each radiation treatment and they did some new high-powered thing that just…

And every, single time we would leave and we would pull into the little coffee shop and she would sit in the car like this and I would go in and get two cups of dark roast, of course. And then they had little oatmeal cookies and they said, “Would you like it heated?” I said, “Please.”

And I would take my little oatmeal cookie and I would give her her coffee and we would break it in half. And I didn’t know if I had a few more weeks, a few more months, or a few more years, but I can tell you this: that moment, those journeys together – there was a love and an intimacy that I have shared with my wife that God has allowed to continue that could have never happened.

Now, my hand goes up, Lord, I would like to be on the list of “no more cancer ever.” And then my hand goes up to say, Lord, it’s horrendous but I wouldn’t want to miss that – what I share with her.

And what Paul is saying is, This is what I want to share with Jesus. But do you see behind all of this, there is this passion, there is this focus, there is this sense that – Paul has been there and done that. If getting famous or being smart or getting in the right school or wealth or how your kids turn out. If all that could be a hope that would satisfy, he had been there and done all that stuff. He is saying, “This is what matters.”

Finally, he says, “The life, the life we can experience in our death.” He is really talking here about coming to that point where: I’m going to be conformed to the likeness of Jesus’ death.

And here’s his theology, in fact, you could read all of Romans 6. But verse 4 says, “Therefore, we have been buried with Him through baptism unto death so that as Christ was raised from the dead to the glory of the Father, so too we might walk in newness of life.” And then here’s his theology, “For if we become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing,” as a fact, “that our old self,” the old Paul, the old Chip, the old you, “was crucified with Him” – why? “in order that the body of sin,” or, “sin’s power over us might be done away so that we are no longer slaves to sin, for he who has died is freed from sin.” There’s a lot there. Here’s all I want you to get: there is a mystical union that, when you turn from your sin and recognize, I fall short of the glory of God, and you repent and you turn toward God and say, I can never be made righteous, but I accept the gift of Christ on the cross and His resurrection to pay for my sin, come into my life, now I want to walk with You, there is a mystical union.

The moment you do that. I don’t understand it, and if anyone can explain it, they are probably lying. I don’t think they can either. But what he says is that we are united, we are actually in Christ in His death so that when He died, your sins, your past, bam! Sin, death, Satan – broken power! You are resurrected with Him, so you are in this real spiritual union with the living God. That’s the theology.

And so notice, here’s his practice. His practice is Galatians 2:20. He says, “See, I don’t have to sin anymore. I still do, but I don’t have to, because I have been set free.” Here’s Galatians 2:20, here’s how he lives each and every day to experience it. “I am crucified with Christ.” “I have been crucified with Christ,” notice, it happened, “and it is no longer I who live,” in other words, I have new life in me. The old Chip, the old you, the old Paul, Saul, died. “…but Christ now lives in me, and the life which I now live in the flesh,” in your body, “I live by,” uh-oh, there’s our word, “by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”

Paul is living every day with the reality that what is really true of me is this: when I trusted in Christ, the old me died. I was raised with Him. His Spirit actually, that raised Christ from the dead, dwells inside of me. I now have complete access to God. God the Father sees me like He sees God the Son, fully righteous in my position.

And, now, I am on this journey of experiencing His power in my weakness, experiencing His pain – His presence in my pain – and that I am being changed so that I can come to that thing that you identified and said, I feel hopeless about my marriage. I feel hopeless about my future finances. I feel hopeless about, will we ever have children? I feel hopeless about…

And I can invite Jesus in and say, I can’t solve this, I can’t manipulate it, I can’t get people to do what I want. In my weakness, will You give me help? I don’t even know what that looks like. And until or through, in the presence of the difficulty and the pain that I feel, I want to experience You.

And what I will tell you is that as you read the psalms and read the gospels, that’s where I would go if you are suffering.

And as you look at the life of Jesus when you say, Will You help me know You that way? You will experience hope, not just know about it.

Will you pray with me?

Lord, I thank You so much. I confess, I want to be the first to get in line, to run to the front of the line and confess to you that I know a lot more than I experience, that I can explain this better than I can live it. But, Lord, I also, I kneel here before You and my brothers and sisters and I would tell You, I have experienced You in ways I never dreamed. I have seen supernatural things in my life, around my life, in this church, and through people that there’s no explanation but You.

And, God, I thank You for Your comfort and Your love and Your transformation. That’s what I long for. That’s what You long for for every man, every woman, every student right now.

Can I ask you, just in a moment of silence as we close, just say, Lord, what is the next step for me? And just listen quietly. Lord, what is a step toward You look like?