FROM GROANING TO GLORY
God’s Invitation to Grace ❧ Part 40
Romans 8:18-27 ❧ Pastor, Dr. John Denney
If you were to look in my filing cabinet, you would see two thick files stuffed full of funeral services I’ve conducted over the past thirty plus years. In my first two and half years of ministry at PRCC I performed twenty-five funerals. After that, I didn’t keep count. And, in case you were wondering, no, they were not all from our church! Each set of notes in my files is a painful and sobering reminder we live in a world where people suffer and die every day. Let’s face it, life is hard and doesn’t always make sense. There are many today who believe the ultimate answer to suffering and death is that once you die, you cease to exist. This life is all there is and nothing more. If you cease to exist, then guess what – no more suffering, no more death. For some, this sounds inviting. But this answer is neither honest nor helpful. It is, in fact extremely deceptive and dangerous. Are there any real answers? Is there any hope? The short answer is: Yes!
This morning our text in Romans 8 is going to paint a picture of suffering that I think surprises many when they first see it. Paul does not sugar-coat suffering and death. He does not make light of them or pretend they are something less than they are. He is going to show us that because our hope in Christ, the One who overcame suffering and death for us, we can have a perspective on our present suffering provides real answers and confident hope. In other words, Paul is going to show us how to change our perspective from groaning to glory.
Up to this point in Romans 8, Paul has been sharing with us what it means to have the Holy Spirit in our lives. He’s clearly shown us that because of our sincere trust in Jesus Christ God has removed all our guilt (Rom. 8:1) adopting us as one of His own children freeing us from sin and death (Rom. 8:2-3; 15). He enabled us to fulfill God’s law (8:4). He changed our nature (8:5-11). He affirms through His presence in us that we are God’s children (8:14-16). And as God’s children, we are fellow heirs with Christ (8:17). Now, Paul is going to shift gears showing us that the Holy Spirit is not only with us in the good times, but in the bad as well. (Read Romans 8:18-27, New Living Translation). Paul is going to show us how God’s hope in us through the Holy Spirit works in our suffering. How Does God’s Hope Work in Our Suffering? 1) He gives us a right perspective, 2) He reminds us that our suffering is temporary, 3) He assures us we will be rescued, and 4) He helps us in our weakness.
I. He gives us the right perspective. Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later (Rom. 8:18, NLT). I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us (Rom. 8:18). If you have your notes in front of you, circle the word “consider” In the original it’s the word λογίζομαι – logizomai. You can hear our word for logic in it. The word refers to reaching a settled conclusion after careful study and reasoning (same word 3:24; 6:11). Paul says, After carefully thinking through suffering in this life, I’ve reached a settled conclusion about it. He recognizes suffering is unavoidable, inescapable. We’re all going to experience it.
When Paul came to Christ, he was told up front by God he would suffer for Him. The Bible silent when it comes to the first three years of Paul’s walk with Christ. No one knows what happened to him. Some say he spent three years in the desert intensely studying the Bible to understand how Jesus Christ is the Messiah. But I think he also spent that time carefully studying, examining the facts of what it means to live a life following Christ. In verse 17 he says, Since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering (V.17). The word Since is better translated FOR SURE. If you are God’s child, then it is for sure you will experience suffering. To be sure, this suffering will add nothing to the merit of your salvation. Jesus purchased your salvation with His suffering; no more is needed to accomplish your forgiveness. God uses our suffering to shape our lives into greater Christ-like character. A. W. Tozer wrote, It is doubtful whether God can bless a man greatly until He has hurt him deeply.
But don’t stop there! You will also experience glory! Heaven is coming! But for now, while God has seen fit in His perfect will to leave us here, we can count on suffering. Now, this is different for different people. Some of us may experience a painful debilitating disease; it maybe physical or mental. Or others may experience the pain of a broken home, or the loss of a loved one, or intense opposition for your faith that may lead to imprisonment or death. All this may be true. But, let me tell you, there is no better way. The fact is you’re going to suffer in life with or without God. But the worst kind of suffering there is, is suffering without hope. John MacArthur writes: Those who do not know Christ have no hope when they suffer. Whatever reason they for their affliction, it does not come upon them for Christ’s sake, or righteousness’ sake, and therefore cannot produce for them any spiritual blessing or glory. Those who live only for this life cannot look forward to any resolution of wrongs or to any comfort for their souls. Their pain, loneliness, and afflictions serve no divine purpose and bring no divine reward (MacArthur, Romans, p.450).
We are often so consumed with this life we begin to think this is all there is. When we do, it robs us of our joy and eternal fortitude we need to not let this fallen world take us down with it. I read about a funeral service in Winona Lake, Indiana that got it right. The words of the pastor broke through the dark clouds of grief with the piercing ray of lighted hope when he reminded his listeners: “We are not in the land of the living, but in the land of the dying—someday we shall be in The Land of the Living.” God’s hope gives us right perspective. We are not in the land of the living, but the land of the dying.
Someday! Yes! Someday! We will be in The Land of the Living! Whatever we go through now is not without purpose and someday we’ll look back and say, Wow! It was all worth it! Therefore, let those also who suffer according to the will of God entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right (1 Peter 4:19). Why? Because as long as we are on this side of eternity it is guaranteed we are going to go through suffering. But if we suffer, we know we can trust our faithful Creator through it. He always does what is right. Though we may not understand it now, one day we will. You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book (Psalm 56:8, NLT). God is keeping track of your tears. Not one of them will be missed. God does not waste our pain. We can fully trust Him knowing that what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory He will reveal to us later. Alan Redpath in his book: The Making of a Man of God, writes: There is no victory without a fight, and there is no battle without wounds.How does God’s hope work in our suffering? He gives us the right perspective.
II. He reminds us that suffering is temporary. Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later (Rom. 8:18, NLT). It’s all temporary. This too shall pass. Isn’t that good news?! But don’t miss what Paul is saying about our temporary sufferings. He’s compares them to the glory that is to come, and he says, there’s no comparison! R. Kent Hughes sums up Paul’s words best: We can compare a thimble of water with the sea, but we cannot compare our sufferings with the coming glory. (R. Kent Hughes, p.152). Isn’t that great? We need to remember all the problems, suffering, setbacks, difficulties, painful circumstances are temporary.
I think if were to be able to spent much time tagging around with Paul, setting in front of a campfire listening to him talk about his life, getting to know him, I think we’d be thoroughly amazed by his attitude toward life. When God said he’d suffer for the cause of Christ, God wasn’t kidding! Paul suffered! He was shipwrecked three times, beaten five times with rods, stoned, beaten with fits, imprisoned, rejected by his own people, called a lunatic, spent a night and a day bobbing in the sea as shark bate – all because he said yes to Christ! But look at what he says about all this: For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever (2 Corinthians 4:17-18).
Years ago, when I was just starting out in ministry, an elderly woman whom I’d never met heard me speak and wanted to talk with me. As I listened to her, I instantly realized I was over my head. She had struggled with debilitating diabetes for many years. Every week she spent hours going to kidney dialysis. Several times she almost died. And now, she was old. As far as she was concerned her life was a waste of time. She’d lost all hope. She wanted to die. In fact, she’d carefully planned her own death. Now, she wanted to know what I thought God might think of all that. Man, did I pray! Then, the words of Paul came to mind form Phil. 1…I am torn…I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far, but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith,...(Phil. 1:23-25). Paul said it’s okay to want to die, to call it quits. Paul says even though we have the Holy Spirit within us we long for our bodies to be free from sin and suffering, death, and decay (Vv. 21,23). But he saw that God’s purpose for him was greater than his suffering. I tried as best I could to share Paul’s inspired perspective; to give her hope, to put her eyes off her immediate suffering put them on our God of hope. God had a purpose for her still being here. I left feeling very unsure what the outcome of our time would be. To my relief she decided not to take her own life. Not long after that though, God called her home. Now, she knows. Our suffering is temporary, but God’s glory is forever. How does God’s hope work in our suffering? He reminds us that our suffering is temporary.
III. He assures us we will be rescued. And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us. We were given this hope when we were saved. (If we already have something, we don’t need to hope for it (Romans 8:23-24). Someday we will be finally and eternally rescued from this fallen world with all of its grief and misery. Our groaning will be over. Would you look to the person next to you and say, “One day your groaning will be over.” God assures us it will.
One of these days, and it may not be long, the Bible teaches the world is going to be in for a real shock. That shock will be the sudden and unexplainable disappearance of literally millions and millions of Christians. It is called the rapture, the taking up of believers to be with Christ forever. After that, we who are still alive will be caught up together with them (those who have died) in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever (1 Thess. 4:17). The Bible teaches we’ll leave this earth one of two ways: death or rapture. Either way, we’ll be with the Lord, our faith will be sight, Heaven’s hope will become a present reality.
How many of you could feel an inward longing for Heaven rise up inside of you at the thought of Heaven’s certain hope? That is the longing or groaning that Paul talks about in this passage. It is a longing for God to finally set things right. Paul says in vv.22-23 we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory… We were given this hope when we were saved.When Paul says we wait with eager hope for when God will give us full rights as His adopted children, he’s talking about when God makes reality our complete redemption. No more disease, no more struggling with an aging body, no more dying. We can know with certainty because He’s given us His Holy Spirit as a guarantee of Heaven to come! Foretaste literally means first fruits. These were the first part of the crop used as a thank offering that looked forward to the certainty of the full crop!
In a London cemetery is a grave and a headstone with very unusual but beautiful wording. It was placed there by the famous pastor Joseph Parker for his beloved wife. He could not bring himself to write the word “Died.” Instead chose the better word “Ascended.” When Parker himself passed away, his friends had his headstone carved with the following inscription: “Joseph Parker, Born April 9, 1830, Ascended November 28, 1902.” The hope we’re given when we’re saved is not that we will die but ascend to Heaven’s glory. How does God’s hope work in our suffering? He assures us we will be rescued.
IV. He helps us in our weakness. And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will (Romans 8:26-27). Now, we have to be careful how we read this. We could look at this and think, AThe Holy Spirit helps me when I am weak, those moments when I don’t have the strength, when I’m over my head in deep problems.” But that’s not what Paul is saying. It’s not that the Spirit helps in those occasional times WHEN I am weak. No. The reality is, my condition is one of CONSTANT WEAKNESS and the Spirit continually helps me. R. Kent Hughes writes, The Holy Spirit does not give armchair advice. He rolls up His sleeves and helps bear our weakness (R. Hughes, p156). I like that. It’s true.
Hebrews 4:15-16 says Jesus Christ can identify with our pain because while He was here on Earth He knew what it was like to experience pain. When we pray and talk to Him it is not as though He has no idea what we’re talking about. He understands exactly because He has been here.
We should come in total confidence when we’re uptight, nervous, upset. God, You know exactly how I feel; Jesus says, I do. I’ve been there. He can understand it. The Psalmist said, Even before a word is on my tongue, You know it all… God understands the aches of your heart even when you can’t find the right words. He knows. He sees. He hears. He understands. He rolls up His sleeves and is right there to help, and not just when we really need it, but constantly. Isn’t that a great relief? How does God’s hope work in our suffering? He helps us in our weakness.
While in Bible college, we had an instructor who began each class with the well-known song: “This is the day” from Ps. 118:24 This is the day the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it (Ps. 118:24, NLT). Interestingly, the day refers to Jesus triumphal entry into Jerusalem. He came for the express purpose of dying on the cross for our sins. This is the day God has made! Isaiah 53 tells us the day of the cross it was the Lord’s good plan to crush him (V.10) to make His life an offering for sin. They remind us of the cross – when Jesus turned our groaning into glory!
This is the day, this is the day that the Lord has made, that the Lord has made. We will rejoice, (we will rejoice) and be glad in it (and be glad in it).
This is the day that the at the Lord has made, we will rejoice and be glad in it. This is the day, this is the day that the Lord has made.