Scripture Text: Romans 8:18-25
How would you describe the Christian life? Would you describe it as easy? Maybe pleasurable? How about free of pain and suffering? After spending much time on the Law of God and showing our need for a Savior, Paul began chapter eight of Romans by describing our life in Christ. Those who have trusted in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior are no longer condemned by sin and the righteous demands of the Law. As a result of being in Christ, we are now free and being led by the Spirit — not by sin. We are God’s children with a glorious inheritance. If all of that is true, then why do we still suffer? If we are His children who have been freed from the penalty and guilt of sin and are being led by His Spirit, why do we still suffer in this world? Shouldn’t life be great and trouble free? If a billionaire adopted me into his family, I might expect my life to be trouble free. I might expect to live in a mansion, have plenty of food, have all my needs met, and have the best possible care for when trouble happens. Surely our lives are better than a billionaire’s. In the preceding verse, Paul wrote, “If [we are God’s children], then [we are] heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him.” (Romans 8:17) Suffering is part of the Christian live.
This, of course, is not what we expect. We do not expect suffering. We want heaven on earth. We expect that when we trust in Christ that God makes our lives trouble free. At least that is what we want. If you have trusted in Christ, you have been redeemed and given eternal life, but you have not yet fully received it. You are no longer condemned. You no longer have guilt. You have been given new life, but you still live in a fallen world and you will still experience suffering and pain. You will also sin and choose your will over God’s. We are promised that one day there will be a new heaven and a new earth and God’s children will live with Him forever without sin, sickness and death. But that day has not yet come. To be an heir is to rightfully inherit what has been promised to you. For the most part, people do not usually receive an inheritance immediately. They must wait for it. Through Jesus Christ, we possess an inalienable right to receive all that God has promised to give His children, and it will happen. But what about now?
The Principle of Extraordinary Contrast
One thing Paul tried to assure us is that whatever we go through in this life will not even compare to what we will receive in the future. Look at verse eighteen.
Romans 8:18 18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
There is such a contrast between our present sufferings and what our lives will be that it is no comparison. It is like comparing a babbling brook to Niagara Falls. It is like the difference between staying overnight at a cheap hotel and spending a week at the Ritz Carlton with turn-down service and chocolates. It is not that Paul said that our suffering is not real. It is not that our troubles in life are insignificant, because oftentimes they are. It is just that the troubles in our life are not worth comparing with what God has prepared for us. This is similar to what Paul wrote to the church in Corinth.
2 Corinthians 4:17 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.
Our suffering now is light and momentary compared to the glory we will have for all eternity. That is to say, the blessing that God has stored up for us is many times greater than the suffering we endure in this world. This goes for pleasure, too. Whatever good you receive now does not compare to what awaits you. Pain and suffering is real and we should not minimize it. However, when we compare it to the “eternal weight of glory,” we will find that it is beyond all comparison. That may be some comfort to many of you. Some of you are going through very difficult circumstances. You might even be discouraged or on the verge of giving up. Let me encourage you to not look on your present situation and let that define you, but think about what your Heavenly Father has prepared for you. If you know Jesus Christ, you have a glorious future waiting for you.
The Principle of Perseverance
The second principle Paul mentioned in this passage is one that is a problem for many of us. What is it that many (maybe all of us) have trouble doing to some degree or another? It is waiting. We do not want to wait in the grocery aisle line. We do not want to wait going through drive-thru. We do not want to wait at the traffic light. We do not want to wait for our spouse to get ready (Notice: I said spouse. I am not saying who has to wait!) Some of you do not want to wait for this sermon to be finished. Paul mentioned the word “wait” three (3) times in this passage. You might conclude that it is important. Look at the first instance of waiting in this passage.
Romans 8:19 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.
Notice who (or what) is waiting in this verse. It is creation. You might be thinking, “How could creation eagerly wait for anything.” When Adam sinned, it distorted God’s wonderful paradise. In fact, Paul wrote that creation was subjected to futility or frustration. We are reminded of God’s punishment as result of Adam and Eve’s sin. Thorns and thistles would accompany man’s work. Labor pains would accompany childbirth. (Genesis 3:16–19) The “Preacher” in Ecclesiastes repeatedly said, “Vanity of vanities. All is vanity!” God’s original design did not include the devastating effects of sin. All of creation is waiting to see who God’s real children are and is waiting to be set free from its present predicament. Creation will one day be transformed and freed from the effects of sin and will become far more beautiful and easy to live in than we can ever imagine. But that day has not yet come. All of creation must wait for it. But, creation is not the only thing waiting for something to happen. We, too, are waiting for a change. Look at verse twenty-three.
Romans 8:23 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.
It is not only creation that is waiting, but we are also waiting. Another way to say this is we are persevering. Remember, this is in the context of suffering. We have a glorious inheritance even though we endure suffering for the moment. One thing we should take away from this is that the suffering we endure, at least as it relates to this passage, is not personal. It is not about God punishing you for some wrong. There might be a consequence for something you did and you are suffering because of it, but that is not what Paul was talking about here. He was writing about global suffering that is a result of the Fall. All of creation is groaning and has been doing so since God punished Adam and Eve for their sin. God has decisively judged sin and His wrath is upon all creation, but God has also provided salvation for mankind and His creation.
In the meantime, we hurt, we suffer, we get discouraged and it is so easy for the pain and suffering of life to overwhelm us. Paul compared the groaning of all of creation to that of childbirth. A woman who is in labor endures extreme pain. I do not know what that is like and I do not want to know. I believe you, ladies, when you say it is very painful. Some have said that a woman in labor is close to death. The creation is suffering in pain like a woman in labor. We are enduring the brokenness and suffering of creation, but like the woman who eagerly waits to bring that new life into the world, we are eagerly waiting for the new life and glory that awaits us. The preciousness of the life of a newborn baby does not compare to the suffering of labor pains. Likewise, what we will receive will not even compare to what we endure in this momentary affliction. It will be well worth the pain, suffering and the wait. So, do not give up. Persevere!
The Principle of Saving Hope
The third principle we see in this passage is hope. We are reminded of an incomparable and glorious future. We are exhorted to patiently wait for that future though we suffer in this world. And we are encouraged to remember the hope we have in Jesus Christ in the midst of sin and suffering in this fallen world. Paul mentioned the word “hope” six (6) times in this passage. We see the most use of it in verses twenty-four and twenty-five.
Romans 8:24–25 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
Hope is something I think we all understand. It is what drives us to do something even when the odds might be against us. In the movie Hunger Games, a totalitarian nation selects two young representatives from each district in order to participate in an annual televised death match called The Hunger Games. These games are the government’s brutal retribution for a past rebellion and a way to prevent future rebellions, but they also give the people something to hope for. The winner and their family are rewarded for surviving the competition. In one scene, the president is speaking to another person about why they have a winner in the games instead of just rounding up people and killing them. The president said, “Hope, it is the only thing stronger than fear.” He was saying, “Give the people something to strive for and it will motivate them for good.”
How can we patiently wait for our future glory when so much evil, pain and suffering exists in the present? The answer is hope. This hope is not some wishful thinking, like I hope it does not rain, or I hope I get that raise or promotion, or I hope we get out of here on time. That would be wishful thinking! When the Bible speaks of the hope that saves us, it is talking about our confidence in the promises of God for the future. We trust that God is faithful and will keep His promises. We believe that what God has planned for us in the future is far better than the pain and suffering or even the temporary pleasures of this present life. This hope is solid because it rests upon the promises of God which nothing can ever frustrate. When God says that something is going to happen in the future, you can take that to the bank. It will happen. The hope of the Christian is strong enough to carry him through any suffering or sorrow.
We have what Paul called “the firstfruits of the Spirit”. We do not simply have a promise of the future with no guarantee that it will come to pass. Rather, we have a foretaste of the glory to come through the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. It is a taste which is mixed with an ongoing struggle against sin, and an ongoing struggle with suffering that still causes us to weep and to hurt. The “firstfruits of the Spirit” is like a down payment, with God’s promise that the full measure of blessing will most certainly come. For those who have trusted in Christ, their adoption has already occurred in a legal sense, and they enjoy many privileges of being in Christ. Paul uses “adoption” here to refer to the yet greater privilege of receiving perfect resurrection bodies. It is like the parents who have legally adopted a child but have not yet brought the child home. We are legally adopted to God, the paperwork has been completed, and our new home is being prepared for us. We are just patiently waiting for Jesus to return and take us home with Him. Our salvation is secure, but it is as yet unseen and thus a matter of hope. How is your hope? Are you trusting in the promises of God for the glorious future you have?
In closing, what have you said or will you say will trouble comes your way? What does suffering mean for those who follow Christ? The first question you should ask yourself, “Are you following Christ?” None of us are guaranteed a trouble-free life — with or without Christ. All of creation is suffering the result of sin. All of us will face pain and suffering in some way. Will you face it with Christ, or without Him? I would much rather walk through the valley of the shadow of death with the Great Shepherd than go through it alone. If you trusted in Christ, then know that you are free from sin and condemnation and you will be free from pain and suffering when Jesus returns to get His Church. Know that He is with you always, even to the end of this age. If you know Jesus as Lord and Savior, you have a glorious future awaiting you. Do not lose hope, for Christ is the only hope the world has. Pray for strength. Pray for perseverance. Find two or three Christian brothers or sisters who can walk with you. Remember, our inheritance will not compare to what we go through in this life. That is good news. Thanks be to God. Amen!
This sermon was delivered at Good Hope Baptist Church in Wake Forest, NC. More information about Good Hope may be found at the following site: www.GoodHopeBC.org.