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Dr. James C. Denison
President, Center for Informed Faith, Dallas, TX
January 25, 2011

Beans, hot dogs and hope

An elderly lady finished her shopping and walked out to her car, where she found four men sitting in it. She dropped her shopping bags and drew her handgun, proceeding to scream at the top of her voice that she knew how to use it and would if required—so get out of the car. The four men got out and ran like crazy.

The lady proceeded to load her shopping bags into the back of the car and got into the driver’s seat. However, her key wouldn’t fit the ignition. She got out and found her car, identical to this one, parked four spaces down. She loaded her bags into her car and drove to the police station. The sergeant to whom she told her story nearly doubled over with laughter as he pointed to the other end of the counter, where four pale white males were reporting a car-jacking by a mad elderly woman. No charges were filed.

Most conflicts in this fallen world are much more painful to resolve. We have been wrestling with the most difficult question Christianity must address: why would an all-loving, all-powerful God allow evil and suffering? So far we’ve seen that Satan causes much of the pain in our world. When we misuse our freedom the consequences are not God’s fault but ours. But God uses the pain we experience to make us more like Jesus.

A fourth approach is the “future hope” model. It asserts that evil will be resolved in the future, making present suffering endurable and worthwhile. Jesus promised that life leads to life eternal in glory (John 14:1-6), a paradise beyond our imagination (Revelation 21:1-5).

As a philosophical model, this approach offers the guarantee of absolute rational understanding. We do not comprehend the purpose of suffering now, but we will one day (1 Corinthians 13:12). All our questions will be answered. All the reasons why God has permitted suffering in our lives will be clarified. Our present faithfulness will be redeemed with future reward in glory (Revelation 2:10).

How does future hope offer help today? Consider a example I remember from a seminary class many years ago. Our professor asked us to imagine that we were struggling financially (not a stretch for most of us), so that we are eating beans and hot dogs every night for supper. One evening, just as we sit down to our meager dinner, a knock comes at the door. It is a messenger with the news that my rich uncle will die this week, leaving me $10 million.

Upon receiving this news, I return to my beans and hot dogs. But don’t they taste a little better?

God is redeeming all you face for his glory and your good. One day you will comprehend what you cannot understand this morning. In the meantime, let’s agree with Paul: “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18). Why is that fact good news for you today?

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