God Is Still God

In recent times our country has been rocked by the catastrophic death of Dr. Myles Munroe, his wife Ruthann, and seven others who died as a result of a plane crash in Grand Bahama on November 9, 2014. Not long ago I watched an interview on television with four local clergymen who shared their viewpoints on the life and times of Dr. Myles Munroe. I commend these men for their insights and the different perspectives they brought to the fore, however, the host of the program asked two questions to these men that I believe only God can answer.

1. Where was God?
2. Why did Dr. Munroe and the others on that aircraft die in such a tragic way?

Let me state at the onset that I do not have the answers to these questions, however it is not an uncommon or unusual thing for persons whom God has used to help others in a meaningful way to die tragically.

One of my favorite personalities of the twentieth century is Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. This man gave all of his energy to the noble cause of civil rights. On April 4, 1968 he died from an assassin’s bullet while standing on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel, in Memphis Tennessee. Seventeen years ago I watched my father battle the ferocious forces of old age and lose when he succumbed at 83 years of age. My favorite Bible writer is the Apostle Paul. He died on Nero’s chopping block where his head was severed from his body. So let’s ask the questions again, but this time we will remove the name Myles Munroe, and replace it with the names of Martin King, Pembroke Sturrup, and the Apostle Paul, and maybe we might begin to see death from a different perspective.

One week prior to this infamous plane crash I preached a sermon on the subject “Now Are We The Sons and Daughters of God” and one of the passages of scripture used in that discourse will help us to understand why bad things happen. In the book of Romans 8:17-18 we find these words.

“And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time, are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”

This scripture tells us that as long as we live in a world where sin is present, it will always be possible for us to experience horrid situations and undesired circumstances. God gives us the answer in His word and it is crystal clear. Suffering will be a part of our existence as long as we are living in this present age.

The Apostle Paul taught that there are only two ages. He refers to the first one as “The present age” and the second is “The age to come,” which is reserved for those who are joint heirs with Christ. The Apostle makes a clear distinction between the two: in this age we will suffer, and in the next age we will share in God’s glory!

This profound concept helps us to see the beauty in the plan of salvation, and to make sense of the chaos in this world. The Apostle Paul likens everything that happens to us in this present age as a state of suffering, when it is compared to the age to come. The comparison between the two ages is so great a contrast that he is not making reference only to the things we despise such as starvation, violence, poverty and tragedy, but he includes even the things we consider to be good. According to this Bible text, even when we get a new house, a promotion on our jobs, or even if we make millions of dollars every year, we are still in a state of suffering compared to the age that is to come. And just for the record, he makes it clear that Christians are not exempt from the sufferings of this age.

This scripture teaches that I might be saved, but I can still die from cancer; you can serve Jesus with all your heart, and your children can still be murdered; like Dr. Munroe, you and I can empower people, and help them to maximize their potential, and we too can die in a tragic plane crash. The Apostle Paul does not mince his words. He presents us with this brutal truth, “In this age we will suffer.” The earth is only temporary accommodations for those who will occupy the next age (which is eternity with God). Additionally, let us never forget that when our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ left eternity and entered into what the Apostle Paul refers to as this present age, His entire life was described as good. He was the only man that lived a perfect life, yet He was nailed to a cruel cross by Roman soldiers. If a good and perfect man suffers this way in this age, the death of all others is pale when compared.
Therefore, let us not confuse this age with the one to come, and even though we may experience glimpses of God’s glory in this age, according to the scripture it is in the age to come that we will partake of His glory in its fullness. Until the transition is made we will remain subjected to the results of sin: racism, religious barriers, sickness, poverty, sorrow, and death.

So how should we respond when death takes away our loved ones? It is okay to weep, but not as those who have no hope. For if we share in the sufferings of Christ in this present age we will share in His glory in the age to come. Secondly, let us celebrate the positive contributions our loved ones have made to the human family. The real tragedy is not the plane crash, a bullet wound, or the hospital bed. The tragedy is death. It is the fact that they are no longer with us that induces the emotions and causes pain. At the end of the day, it makes no difference whether a man dies sitting at a table having lunch, or is crushed by an avalanche. It is the news of his death that brings pain. This is why we are admonished not to weep as those who have no hope. The resurrection will restore life to all who die in the Lord (1 Thessalonians 4:13-16) and in the age to come death will be no more (1 Corinthians 15:26).

Finally, and most important of all, let us ensure that our lives demonstrate our desire to share in God’s glory in the age to come.

Article By: T. Basil Sturrup
Pastor, Agape Seventh-day Adventist Church

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