Jump Start # 2788
Romans 5:8 “But God demonstrates His own love towards us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
I like to listen to music while I work. I have a variety of special music based upon what I’m doing. I have music that I play while I’m writing sermons. I have background music I play while I’m reading. I have music I listen to while I’m driving. I have music I play when I’m mowing the yard. Big variety from 60’s to classical to instrumental pop to Bluegrass. The other day I was listening to Gordon Lightfoot. On came his song “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.” A sad song about a tragic shipwreck on the great lakes. The song is long, very long. I believe I could write an entire series of sermons before that song concluded. It was playing the other day. Along came the line, “Does anyone know where the love of God goes when the waves turn the minutes to hours?” Interesting thought. Intriguing question.
Where does the love of God go during a storm? When the darkness of night never seems to end and the problems do not seem to get any better, where is God? When the cancer treatments no longer are working, where is the love of God? When the prayers are answered, “No,” where does the love of God go? Where is the love of God when brethren separate and congregations split? Where is that love, when a spouse walks away from a marriage and never looks back?
Great question, Gordon and a question that many wonder about. It’s these kinds of thoughts that lead many to throw the towel in on God. Where is He when I needed Him? Why didn’t He do something? The tears of broken hearts and the pains of suffering have made many conclude that either God does not exist or at the best, He doesn’t like them. Where is the love of God when the ship goes down?
First, our verse reminds us that God loved us when we didn’t love Him. He loved us while we were still sinful. And, not only does God love us, but He has proven His love. He has demonstrated that love. When someone asks, “I’m not sure God loves me,” Paul provides the answer. The answer is not smooth sailing, clear nights, and a pain free life. The proof and the answer is the Ole’ Rugged Cross. The Cross is God’s exclamation point. It, more than anything else, illustrates God’s love.
It may be that our definitions and expectations need to be readjusted. It may be that we have defined love in selfish terms. If God loved me, then everything would work out. I’d make the team, get the scholarship, land the job, buy the house, have healthy kids, nail the promotion and watch the sun go down in a carefree retirement. Now, that’s love. No. That’s selfish. Do you think God ought to love you more than Abraham? How about Moses? How about Noah? How about Paul? How about Peter? Trace their lives. On the move. Oppressed. Suffering. Persecuted. Ill treated. Yet, Paul, while sitting in a prison, never wrote a hymn with the line, “Where does the love of God go…” He knew God loved him. What happened to these heroes of faith was no reflection on how God loved them.
Second, we have little tolerance for hardship in our lives. The moment things get tough, some are ready to run the other way, screaming, “God doesn’t love us anymore.” Patience, virtue and faith are forged on the anvils of hardship. Tough times should not drive us away from God. Instead they ought to draw us closer to the Lord. Last year has been tough, very tough. Schools, businesses, churches were all impacted. There has been so many families I know that had funerals. Has God pulled away from us? No. Has God given up on us? No. Maybe these tough times were needed to firm up our faith. Maybe we’ve taken worship for granted. Maybe we preachers got a bit lazy. We’ve had to work like never before. Maybe all of this has been a blessing rather than a curse.
Third, death is the enemy of God. That’s the way it’s described in Corinthians. God allows it. God uses it. But it’s not the way life was intended. Death was a curse, not a blessing. Death was not part of that original Eden plan. So, when ships sink and the crew is lost, was that the work of God or Satan? Job’s problems were Satan sent. God allowed it, but Satan was the cause. We blame God for the bad and rarely thank God for the good. The crew of the Edmund Fitzgerald all died. So, did the crew of the space ship Challenger. So, did the brave soldiers at the Alamo. History is filled with tragic events and lives suddenly thrust into eternity. There has been wars and epidemics and accidents and violent crimes in every generation. The world is broken, not because the Love of God is missing, but because man has chosen sin and self over God.
Fourth, to answer Lightfoot’s question in his ballad, does anyone know where the love of God goes, it goes to the same place when Pharaoh was killing the babies of Israel. It goes to the same place when Herod was killing the little boys in Judea. It goes to the same place when Stephen was murdered. It goes to the same place when Jesus was nailed to that cross. It doesn’t go anywhere. God’s love remains. He loves us when we do not love Him. He loves us when we ignore Him. He loves us when we turn to Him. He loves us when the ship is going down. He loves us when the angels are summoned to carry us home.
I’ve never been a fan of Lightfoots’ account of the Edmund Fitzgerald. The song has little variation or movement. There is no real chorus. It’s not a happy tune. It’s not one you sing with your friends. And, it questions the love of our God who has never ever stopped loving us.
Where does God’s love go when the storms come? It’s still there. Maybe I need to stop looking at the clouds and look above them to see a mighty God who is greater than any problem we can have.