About Me

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I am the Pastor/Teacher of Rivers of Joy Baptist Church in Minford, Ohio since August 2008.  I am married to Charity since June 14, 1969.  I have four grown children.   Having served in the local church for over forty years as Pastor/Teacher, Asso., Youth Pastor, Minister of Education, Building Upkeep, Camp Director, Sunday School Teacher, etc. Also I have worked in the public place for as many years as I have preached. Charity and her sister are co owner of Union Mills Conf. (Bakery) in West Portsmouth Ohio



In Romans 8:18-25 we find that the Christian will likely face difficult life situations. Along with the freedom of a new life also come the transition period into this life. Verse 21 and 23 carefully explain this:
"The creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God" and

"But also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body."
In other words, there is a parallel experience going on between creation and the children of God. There is the ultimate plan of freedom alongside the distressful life experiences. Although we are the Lord's, we still are affected by the sin-stained world. As Christians we are caught in the frailty of our human bodies. They have not experienced redemption even though our souls have. Our real potential is hidden behind the weakness of our human bodies.
For this reason hope well characterizes our lives. We inherently know and long for the full realization of all of God’s promises.There is a pattern very clearly set in verses 17-18.
Creation Suffers Romans 8:19-25
Romans 8:17 starts by connecting suffering with glorification. "...If indeed we suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him" (Romans 8:17).

Paul is addressing God's children living on the edge of two worlds, one group of people are caught in the web of sin and death and the other have stepped into life and light (see Romans 5). Christians, however, like those bound in darkness are still suffering even though they have escaped the curse of sin through justification. Perhaps Paul sensed the impending persecution against Christians. In any case, the Roman Christians greatly suffered and needed a theology to take them through. 

Conclusion: We should not therefore be surprised when God sometimes takes what is perfect and subjects it to a humble status so that a greater good might be accomplished. Take hope! This stage of suffering is merely a transitional period.

Theological perspective

We should remember that it is man that sinned. Because of God's grace both the creation and Christ Jesus suffered. If man did not sin, then both the creation and Christ would not have suffered at all. But somehow through God's amazing grace in the face of man's awful sin, a greater good results!
"For He has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; Neither has He hidden His face from him; But when he cried to Him for help, He heard" (Palms 22:24).
"The afflicted shall eat and be satisfied; Those who seek Him will praise the LORD. Let your heart live forever!" (Psalms 22:26).
"alled according to His purpose."

Practical perspective

Romans 8:28, along with the former verses on adoption and the latter ones on calling, all become our spiritual backbone. The truth in this verse is incredible! God can and will work out all things for a higher good. No matter what sickness, shortness of life, poverty, persecution, difficulty in life, family rejection or even horrible physical features we might have, we can fully trust God to bring about a greater good. In other words, in His wise providence, the trials are designed to further His good purpose.

Bottom Line

Trials are to be expected. Suffering is part of this life. We are to keep our faith and even strengthen our trust in Him during times of trials for God will create a greater good out of it.

Great to know that everything will work out for us in the end! [i]

18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.
As we have tried to establish over these lessons in chapter eight that the purpose of the whole 8th chapter of this book of Romans is to show Christian believers the way to a full assurance of their salvation.  They have a new spirit within them working for righteousness, a spirit which will guarantee their ultimate glorification, including even their bodies.
In addition to all this we are “sons of God,’ and should have within them “the spirit of adoption whereby we cry, Abba, Father.
And over all this and even above this it is possible for each Christian believer to experience the Spirit Himself bearing witness with their spirit that they are the ‘children of God, and if children, the heirs, and heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ.” Amen and Amen.  Lloyd-Jones

And as we are going to see all that the world and throw against us in trails and suffering, we are going to be strengthen in our faith, which is going to further give us the assurance  of our salvation..

Paul is going to say, and is saying, that in their suffering (the Christian believers in Rome) is  a proof that they are children of God, in that the sufferings are a proof that they are being prepared for the glory to which they will be taken.

For as in Acts 14:22 that in much tribulation that we must enter into the kingdom of God..
The point Paul, is that the ultimate end and object of salvation is our glorification.
We must remember that all those who are saved, are “in Christ” and as such are “united with Christ,” and therefore will be glorified “together with Him.
We and those in Roman needed to remember that just been forgiven is not the end.  Even their sanctification is not the end of the matter, but the end is glorification, and this then is the theme to which Pau is now about to introduce us to..
We and those in Roman needed to remember that just been forgiven is not the end.  Even their sanctification is not the end of the matter, but the end is glorification, and this then is the theme to which Pau is now about to introduce us to..

Hebrews 5:7-8 It is for discipline that you endure;  God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline?  8But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.     
Those that teach salvation is a cake walk are false teachers, they are leading sleep to the slaughter as a quick read of Jeremiah 23 or Ezekiel 34 will make perfectly clear.     
We all have likely heard the metaphor that God is the potter and we are the clay from Romans 9.  To be completed,a piece of clay pottery needs to come thru the fire.  If a pottery is not refined in the fire, it will crumble and will not be worthy as a piece of pottery.  That is how our adoption into heaven works as well my friends.  Our sanctification, which means purification requires all our impurities (sin) to be burnt up.  We do not do this on our own power or our own initiatives, it is indeed by the power of God.  Without sanctification none of us will see the Lord.     

Hebrews 12:14 Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord     

Be encouraged and not discouraged.  As we suffer more and more in these end times fear not anything except for God.  Abraham was tested by being told to kill his own son.  While we all endure different tests and trials, do not let loss of money, possessions or anything of this world steal your peace and rob you of the eternal inheritance God has in store for all of us that overcome and endure to the end.     

Revelation 2:10 Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.     

https://encrypted-tbn2.google.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcTnsWv63-l--RZkO6bgXUgF9xrM7AJs2q75XrFyRWUcSk3OSCL_PFU8z9f2JQhttps://encrypted-tbn3.google.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcTVc43D1HMclMFmmLKRDqEPiixmTzUPH6bvwtiHFMB1dP2Yg8V-UgCobrta AMP set: true temper steel
Step 1 - First you need to understand why steel needs to be tempered. To understand that you must understand the process before tempering, hardening. First metal is worked into the shape of what it is to become. For this article let's use a flat head crew driver as an example. After the metal is shaped into a flat head screw driver it needs to be hardened. To harden the metal its is heated till its orange hot. Then the metal is quenched in clean water. The super heating and rapid cooling make the metal very hard. However it also makes the metal very brittle. Sometimes you want the metal hard. In our case a brittle flat head crew driver would be a bad thing. As soon as you applied to much pressure to the flat tip it would crack breaking the tip. This is where tempering is needed.
Step 2 - After hardening the flat head screw driver, we have made it very hard and brittle. Now we must temper the point. To do this slowly heat up the tip of the screw driver. A blue line of heat will appear on the metal as the temperature rises and travels down the shaft of the screw driver. When you see this you have reached the correct temperature for tempering. Place the shaft on a metal surface and allow it to cool slowly. After its cool your screw driver is tempered.
Step 3 - The tempering process has taken most of the brittleness from the steel. Allowing you to turn a screw and not have the tip crack and shatter
To what purpose do we suffer?
1) Some suffering is meant to lead us to change our ways in order to remove the source of our suffering and to give us a fuller and happier life as a Christian through better decisions. Galatians 6.8
2) Suffering is allowed by God in our lives to increase our hope in God. Romans 5.1-5
3) Suffering is allowed by God so that we can comfort others who are suffering. 2 Corinthians 1.3-7
4) Suffering is allowed by God to bring others to Christ. Acts 16.25-34
5) Obedience in our suffering brings Glory to God. John 17.4
6) Suffering is allowed by God to build in us the character of Jesus. Romans 5.1-5; 8.28-29
7) Suffering is allowed by God to equip us to share in God’s glory. Romans 8.17-18

Suffering is ultimately the result of sin, from which will not be delivered until our Lord returns.
Every instance of suffering in our lives is not necessarily the direct result of our sin.
God has purposes for our suffering that man not be known to us in this life, but only in eternity
When viewed in the light of eternity our suffering seems bearable
Suffering may draw us near to God, while success and easy may do the opposite
When God uses suffering for his glory and our God He turns the curses into the cure.
No one has ever suffered more, than God’s son, in bringing about the only means of our salvation
This whole message could be on the suffering of Christians down through history

lived, rather than the suffering that is the direct result of persecution.  In this present world too, we are not going to be free from trouble because we live in a imperfect world.  

5A     ARE NOT WORTHY 514 axios

1.    weighing, having weight, having the weight of another thing of like value, worth as much
2.    befitting, congruous, corresponding to a thing
3.    of one who has merited anything worthy
a.    both in a good and a bad sense
It has to do with weight, and so of that which is of value. Then the sufferings are of no weight in comparison with glory; they are not to be balanced in the scale with it.
Can I say, Paul says,  The glory to be revealed to the children of God is not on even on the same scale as trials because the eternal glory so far outweighs the temporal trials.

Any sufferings in this world is only “momentary, light compare to the eternal weight of glory, because the divine compensation package is a hundredfold.

Ethel Waters who so well sung at those Billy Graham crusades, sung, “Stormy Weather.”[i]
The late Ethel Waters, a performer who often sang at Billy Graham crusades was best known before she became a Christian for her rendition of the popular song, “Stormy Weather.” Later as a Christian she was once asked to sing this song, but replied,

“No Sir, I’ll never sing ‘Stormy Weather again, since Jesus came into my heart I’ve never had stormy weather like I had before I knew him.”

6A     (TO BE COMPARED WITH) THE GLORY or With Glory 1391
Colossians 3:4; 2 Thessalonians 1:7-12; Titus 2:12-13; 1 Peter 1:13; 4:13; 5:1; 1 John 3:2
  1. opinion, judgment, view
  2. opinion, estimate, whether good or bad concerning someone
    1. in the NT always a good opinion concerning one, resulting in praise, honour, and glory
  3. splendour, brightness
    1. of the moon, sun, stars
    2. magnificence, excellence, preeminence, dignity, grace
    3. majesty
      1. a thing belonging to God
      2. the kingly majesty which belongs to him as supreme ruler, majesty in the sense of the absolute perfection of the deity
      3. a thing belonging to Christ 3c
    4. the kingly majesty of the Messiah 3c
    5. the absolutely perfect inward or personal excellency of Christ; the majesty
      1. of the angels 3c
    6. as apparent in their exterior brightness
  4. a most glorious condition, most exalted state
    1. of that condition with God the Father in heaven to which Christ was raised after he had achieved his work on earth
    2. the glorious condition of blessedness into which is appointed and promised that true Christians shall enter after their Saviour's return from heaven
The glory of God is the manifestation of any or all of His attributes.   Thomas Watson described God’s glory as a way of the sparkling of the Deity.  We may see God’s glory blazing in the sun and twinkling in the stars Psalsm 19:1.

6A1   Glory: doxa  

Originally meant opinion or estimation.  Then in the Septuagint doxa took on a meaning of brightness or splendor, a sense not found in classical Greek.

While doxa can denote “reputation or “power” says Kittel, its main use in the NT is shaped by the OT; it therefore became a biblical term rather than a Greek one.  While individual nuances may embrace divine honor, splendor, power, or radiance, what is always expressed is the divine mode of being, although with varying stress on the element of visible manifestation. Luke 2:9; 9:31-32; Acts 22:11; Revelation 15:8; 21:23  Kittle Theological Dictionary of the NT

So we have a manifestation of God’s true nature, presence, or likeness.  The Glory of God then is what HE is essentially. 

            GLORY has many nuances. Oh about 167 in the NT.

            I like what J. Gresham Machen said:
The ultimate end of all things that come to pass, including the ultimate end of the great drama of redemption, is found in the glory of the eternal God.”
This is so good:
The very fact that the chief aim of God is to glorify Himself, makes it all the more incredible that He would choose to use redeemed sinners to be His lights as windows of His glory in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation., Philippians 2:15.
The NT uses of doxa can be summarized as follows...
(1) A manifestation of light radiance, brightness, splendor  (Acts 22:11 = Jesus' post-resurrection appearance to Paul on the Damascus Road); 1 Corinthians 15:40-43 = Moon, stars, sun, resurrected body

[i][i][i] http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51eu%2BUXUrdL._SL500_AA280_.jpghttps://encrypted-tbn0.google.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcTyZuFI6FKtQDfFI8lY1gT4MM6VzLxHLLm5WDKZKnUjdUPZGisUCw1896 to 1977

1) Serving God is about serving God not getting God’s goodies.
As much as I hate prosperity theology, I find I have a little bit of it in me at times.  I think because I’m a “man of God” that he should work everything out for me. I serve him because of who he is and not what he gives me.  If I forget that, maybe he needs to remind me!
After he has given me eternity, will I question his goodness because of these temporal issues?
2) God is not obligated to make everything work out in my life.
When I consider the issues I am going through with the problems Paul faced, outlined in 2 Corinthians 11, I realize that my issues are pretty minor.  Paul saw hardship as a normal part of his life, while I tend to see it as an unfair invasion.  I must remember that God is not obligated to smooth out all the troubled waters, just to guide me through them.
3)  God purposes are not always my purposes. 
I think of Peter, who out of loyalty to Jesus, pulled out a sword to protect him in Gethsemane.  Think about it.  Peter was trying to stop the crucifixion which was the only hope for his eternal soul.  In his wisdom, preventing Jesus’ death was crucial.  In God’s wisdom, Jesus’ death was God’s will.
I don’t understand what God is doing, but that doesn’t mean God isn’t doing something good.
4)  My job is not to understand, but to trust and obey. 
Job was never told the reasons for God’s dealings with him.  He was simply told to trust in the goodness and sovereign power of God even in his confusion. My job is to trust a God I often don’t understand and to serve him whatever comes my way.
Like Job 13:15 says, “Though he slay me, I will hope in him.”
Sometimes, we just have to hold on in the night to what we know in spite of what we feel. So, I’m going to hold on to the goodness of God when my mind is confused, my heart feels betrayed and my flesh is weary.
And one of these days I will be able to testify here – either of God’s provision or his sustaining grace.

From Suffering to Glory
18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. 19 For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; 21 because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. 23 Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body.

Romans 8:18-27
Intro: Verse 18 of our text reminds us of on of the most fundamental truths of the Christian life. That truth is this: we are not home yet! While we wait to be delivered from this world, we need to remember that we are living in a world that is under a curse. As a result of that curse, there is a lot of groaning and turmoil taking place. In the midst of all that, it is easy to become discouraged and it is easy to want to give up.
However, if there is one thing this passage teaches us, it is that the Spirit life is one of diligence. The word diligence means, "to be characterized by steady, earnest and energetic activity." It is the opposite of giving up! In fact, the Spirit of God is able to give us hope during the troubled times of our lives.
This passage concerns the struggle that is going on in and around all of us this evening. Paul shares with us three arenas of life where there is diligence in the midst of a devastated world. Let's look at these together.
(Ill. The word "groaneth" in verse 22 means "to sigh". It has the idea of one groaning under a burden. This is the image used to describe creation.)
A. V. 20 Creation's Experience - Creation came under the curse, not by its own doing, but because of the sin of Adam, Gen. 3:17-19. Because Adam chose to walk in rebellion to the clear command of God, all of creation was thrown under a curse.
B. V. 22 Creation's Expression - This verse depicts creation as sighing and writhing like a woman in the throes of childbirth. The results of that curse are plain to see! (Ill. Earthquakes, thorns, deadly animals, poisonous snakes, poisoned plants, death and violence.)
(Ill. Even in the midst of creation's pain, it still lifts it voice to God in praise for His majesty and glory. If you don't believe me, let's just look at Psalm 148 and Psalm 19:1-6.)
C. V. 19, 21 Creation's Expectation - These verses tell us that creation itself expects to be delivered from the curse that has been placed upon it. The word "expectation" in verse 19 brings to mind the image of "a person standing on their tiptoes in order to see something." So, too, creation yearns for that time when it will in fact be "delivered" (v. 22) from the ravages of the curse of sin.
(Ill. While the world and all of creation resides under a curse this evening, there is still great beauty in this world. Just call to mind many of the great vistas and views that are to be found all around us. Look at the beauty of flowers and the wonderful variety to be found in the plant and animal kingdoms. Now, try to imagine the most beautiful natural sight you have ever seen. With that image in mind, remember that what you saw was a sight marred by sin. Now, try to imagine how glorious that same sight will be when the curse of sin is forever removed! Creation longs to be free and God longs to free it! He shall some day, for when Jesus died on the cross for the redemption of sinners, He also redeemed this sin cursed world. One day, the shackles will fall off and all creation will rejoice!)
I. The Creation Groans
A. V. 23 The Christian's Agony - Along with creation, the child of God groans this evening. Primarily, Paul is speaking of our desire to be free from these mortal, sinful bodies. He mentions the "first fruits of the Spirit." This refers to the indwelling ministry of the Spirit of God in the believer's life. When we got saved, the Spirit of God moved into our spirit, 1 Cor. 12:13; Rom. 8:9.
When He came, He worked in us in such a way that we began the process of seeing sin like God sees sin. In simple terms, the Spirit of God "sensitized" us to sin. We became sensitive to sin around us and in us.
As a result, we are afflicted by the sins we commit and that we see others commit. If sin doesn't bother you, you have a serious spiritual problem! If you can witness sin and it not affect you, something is amiss in your heart!
All of this serves to produce within the believer a sense of longing. We want to be delivered from the sinful, mortal bodies. Regardless of what anyone tells you, your flesh did not get saved! It is a depraved and as wicked as it has ever been, Ill. Paul - Romans 7:18-25.
(Ill. Aren't there times when you would do anything just to be free from your flesh? Wouldn't it be a blessing if you never again had a wicked thought? A wicked deed? A sinful attraction or lust?)
B. V. 24-25 The Christian's Anticipation - Paul tells us that we are saved by "hope". What does he mean? Hope in the Bible has a vastly different meaning than it does in our world today. When people use the word "hope" now, they are saying, "I wish", or "I want". When the Bible uses the word "hope" it means "an assurance based on a conviction." Instead of hope being a fond wish or desire, biblical hope is a deep settled knowledge grounded in the promises of God. We are saved by faith in the promise of God that tells us "that whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." It is a conviction that salvation comes through faith in the shed blood and the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is the sure knowledge that one day our Lord will come for us and will take us to Heaven. It is the sure knowledge that we will be changed from these vile creatures that we are and that we will be made like Him, 1 Cor. 15:49-55; 1 John 3:1-3.
(Ill. We, who are saved, groan to be free from these bodies, Rom. 7:24. We long to be remade into the image of the Lord Jesus. Well, my friends, I am glad that I can report to you this evening that that day is coming! One day, whether it be by the undertaker or by the Uppertaker, this sinful flesh will breath its last and I will be remade in the image of my Savior! This was the heart of David, Psa. 17:15, and it is the heart of every born again saint of God!)
I. The Creation Groans
II. The Christian Groans
(Ill. These verses go on to tell us that it isn't just the creation and the Christian who are groaning in this present world. Our heavenly Comforter, the blessed Holy Ghost, also groans with us. I am glad this evening that we have One with us Who is able to experience our need, Heb. 4:15.)
A. V. 26a The Comforter Sustains Us - This verse teaches us that the Holy Spirit comes alongside of us as we travel through this harsh world and "Takes hold of our burden" (Ill. Same word "help" used in Luke 10:40. The believer needs the same down to earth, basic help every day) with us. What burden? The burden of living in the weak, sinful and morally deficient bodies! He knows our tendency toward evil and he helps us! He knows that we are prone to wander and He helps us. He knows that we often grow weary in well doing and He helps us!
So, it is only through the ministry of the Spirit of God working in us to help us that we are even able to do anything that could be called good. We are weak and we are sinners, but He strengthens us so that we are able, by His help, to carry on for the glory of God.
B. V. 26b -27 The Comforter Speaks For Us - To illustrate his point, Paul appeals to the arena of prayer. Because of our sins and our propensity for evil, we are not able to pray in a manner that is absolutely consistent with the perfect will of God. However, the Holy Spirit, Who is God, knows the will of God, and He knows what is in our redeemed spirit. He takes our prayers, which are often flawed and misguided and He straightens them out and tells the Father what is really in our hearts.
(Ill. That is a bigger blessing than you can know! After all, who among us knows the perfect will of God in every matter? Who among us knows how to pray about everything we hear about? Who knows the mind of God better than God? The Holy Spirit knows the mind of God, because He is God. Therefore, He is able to translate our prayers out of the flawed, selfish language we use, into the perfect will of God. This is genuine, biblical praying in the Spirit!)
(Ill. While creation groans to be free from the curse and while Christians groan to be free from these bodies, the Spirit of God groans to see the will of the Father done in the world and in our lives. That is why He takes such an active role in everything we do. It isn't just prayer. Prayer is merely the illustration Paul uses. The Holy Ghost is actively involved in the process of aiding us as we travel through this world. He is just Who Jesus said He would be. He is a Comforter - John 14:16! Therefore, let us not grow weary as we walk through this world! There will be times when it is hard to worship, pray and do the work of God, but we have a Helper! We have One within us Who always rises u to meet the challenge and He will enable us to walk in victory!)
Conc: Whoever said the walk of faith was an easy walk lied! However, I will say that even though it isn't always easy, it is never impossible! Will we suffer? Yes! Will we groan while we are here? Yes! Will there be times when we will fail and feel like quitting? Yes! In those times, remember that we have the Spirit of God within us and He enables us to remain diligent and committed as we travel toward a better country!
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. 23 And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. 24 For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.
How then does Paul go about strengthening our faith and deepening our hope by these verses so that we won't be shaken by the suffering we must endure?




Our Suffering in a Global Context

He does something remarkable. He puts our suffering into a global context. I say this is remarkable because if we were looking for help with our suffering, that might not be the way we would go about getting relief or strength to endure it. But here we need to learn from God and not dictate to him. This is what we need to know about our suffering so that we can say with Paul: it's worth it. We can endure it.
There are three ways that Paul puts our suffering in a global context. Let's look at them one at a time. This is what we will do today, and then next week we will look at this same text with a view to the incomparable hope that he holds out to us six times in this text. But today let's see how Paul helps us with our sufferings by putting them in a global context.
1. The Whole Creation Groans
First, he shows us that all creation is involved in groaning, frustration, and corruption, and suffering. He says it three times in three different ways. Verse 22: "For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now." The "whole creation" is groaning. In other words, don't think that when you suffer it has to do only with you and your personal situation. You are part of a groaning that the whole creation experiences.
Verse 21: "The creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God." Notice: the creation is in slavery to corruption. Your groaning and your suffering in this world are part of a universal slavery to corruption. Your suffering is not merely personal. There is a much bigger explanation for it. It is part of something global. There is in the world of nature a decay, a ruin, a dissolution, a perishing. There's something out of order and harmful about it all. It's not just you. Beware of thinking of all your suffering as if it all has to do with something you did individually.
Verse 20: "For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope." Notice: it's the creation that is in the grip of futility. Not just mankind, and not just you.
So the first thing Paul does to put our suffering in a global context and give us perspective and help us endure our misery is to show us that all of nature is involved in this suffering that we must endure to inherit with Christ.
2. The Whole of History Is Included from the Fall to the Coming of Christ
Second, Paul shows us that all this suffering is historical and not just momentary. In other words, it not only grips all of nature, it grips all of our present history – what Paul calls in verse 18 "this present time": "For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us."
You can see this historical dimension of our suffering in the time references throughout the paragraph. For example, verse 20: "For the creation was subjected to futility." There is a historical event in the past long ago. Then verse 21: "The creation itself will be set free." There's the end point of the suffering in the future. So between the distant past and the indefinite future, all of history is part of this suffering and groaning. So don't think that you or your family or your time are necessarily singled out for suffering. This groaning and corruption and futility have been in the world for all of history, and will be till Jesus comes again.
Or, we should say, "almost all" of history. Because the third way that Paul shows the global dimension of our groaning is to point to the fact that it had a beginning and that this beginning is not merely natural, but judicial.
Here's what I mean. Look at verse 20: "For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope." Here is the beginning of the futility and corruption and groaning of creation. What is he referring to? Don't miss this, because this is the most important point so far.
Paul is referring here to God's action is subjecting the creation to futility and groaning and corruption. How do we know it was God that he is referring to? How do we know it was not Adam by his sin, or Satan by his temptation of Adam and Eve? We know this because of the words "in hope" at the end of verse 20: "The creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope." Adam did not subject the world to futility in hope. Adam had no plan for the revelation of the children of God in due time. Satan did not subject the world to futility in hope. Satan had no plan for the revelation of the children of God in due time.
The person referred to in verse 20 is God: "The creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope," namely, God. In other words, Paul is talking about the same thing he referred to in Romans 5:12: "Just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned." When Adam sinned, death and suffering and futility and groaning came into the world. Why? Because God said it would. Eat of this tree and you will die.
3. The Subjection to Futility Is Judicial, not just Natural
Which leads us to a massive and incredibly important truth: the futility and corruption and groaning of the creation are judicial, not just natural. They are a divine, judicial decree, not just a natural consequence of material events. God decreed the futility and corruption and groaning of the world in response to sin. It is a judicial act, not just a natural consequence.
The second law of thermal dynamics, sometimes called "entropy" – that the universe is running down, that it has a built-in tendency now to disorder – is not a natural quirk or accident. It is part of God's decree. Since the fall, futility is built into the universe.
It is amazing how many Christians are so desperate to remove God from the suffering in the world that they are willing to become "deists" in order to keep God out of the equation. A deist was a person who thought of the universe as created by God and then set apart like a clock to tick on its own with no divine interference. Everything was explained in terms of merely natural laws, not divine decrees.
The saints of God have not gotten comfort from that vision. It is not a biblical vision. The biblical vision is given in verse 20: "The creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope." The miserable condition of the world today – its futility and corruption and groaning – are owing to the judicial decree of God in response to sin.

The Meaning of Misery: Sin Is Horrific

Therefore, the meaning of all the misery in the world is that sin is horrific. All natural evil is a statement about the horror of moral evil. If you see a suffering in the world that is unspeakably horrible, let it make you shudder at how unspeakably horrible sin is against an infinitely holy God. The meaning of futility and the meaning of corruption and the meaning of our groaning is that sin – falling short of the glory of God – is ghastly, hideous, repulsive beyond imagination.
Unless you have some sense of the infinite holiness of God and the unspeakable outrage of sin against this God, you will inevitably see the futility and suffering of the universe as an overreaction. But in fact the point of our miseries, our futility, our corruption, our groaning is to teach us the horror of sin. And the preciousness of redemption and hope.
So let me sum up what we have seen and then relate it to our personal suffering. Three ways Paul puts our sufferings in a global context.
  • First, he shows that the futility and corruption and groaning of the world is a judicial decree of God, not just a fluke or a law of nature. God subjected the creation to futility.
  • Second, he shows that this subjection includes all history from the fall to the coming of Christ. There is no period of history that escaped or will escape from this decree of futility. But it is temporary. It had a beginning (verse 20), and it will have an end (verse 21 – "the creation will be set free from his slavery to corruption").
  • Third, he shows us that all creation, not just part of it, is involved in the futility. Verse 22: "The whole creation groans."
All of this global context Paul tells us because he wants to help us understand our situation and endure our sufferings with faith and hope. We will focus on the hope next week. But notice in closing the personal point of this global vision of suffering. Verse 23 brings it down out our personal situation. "And not only this [that is, not only does the whole creation groan], but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves." I stop there. I know the next phrases are full of hope.
I will glory in them next week. But let us be helped this week by the realism of Paul about our present situation. We too groan. Do you see the point now of the global vision? The point is that we are a part of it. Even we who have the down payment of our inheritance. Even we who have a sovereign God who works all things together for our good. Even we who are the bride of Christ. Even we for whom God gave his only begotten Son. Yes, even we groan under the curse of creation.

Don't Overly Personalize Your Suffering

In other words, don't overly personalize your suffering. Don't assume that this is some particular punishment or result of a particular sin. Search your heart in the time of pain. Let it make you serious and vigilant and humble. But don't add misery to misery that is not intended. The whole creation groans. It is a general divine decree on the whole world. And Paul's point is: even the precious children of God must suffer with Christ in it.
So let us humble ourselves and take our share of suffering with patience and hope. Because we consider with Paul that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing to the glory that will be revealed to us.
John Piper

I argued last time that verses 18-25 are written to help you endure the suffering required in verse 17. "If you are children of God, then you are heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs of Christ, if you suffer with him, in order that you might be glorified with him." I said that the sum of the argument was this: "It's worth it." In other words, whatever suffering may be necessary in your life as a Christian, it's worth it in view of what you will gain if you trust Christ – and what you will lose if you don't.
This means that the main point of verses 18-25 is to give you hope. But instead of moving straight to the hope of these verses, I spent all of last week putting a kind of sober, even fearful, support under your hope. I know that sounds odd – a fearful support for hope. But it's true and it's real. There is a painful realism in this text, and it is meant to help you hold on to your hope as a Christian. The realism is this: It helps us endure our suffering in this life to know that it is part of a global, divinely-ordained futility (v. 20) and decay (v. 21) and groaning (v. 23). In other words, the sufferings of this life are part of a universal, God-decreed collapse of creation into disorder because of sin. God subjected the world to futility – that's verse 20 – because of sin. And therefore all the misery of the world – and it is great – is a bloody declaration about the ghastly horror of sin.

Does "Suffering" Refer to All Pain, or just Persecution?

And let me clarify here a question that I have been asked several times, namely, Do you mean all suffering, or just the suffering that comes because we are Christians? Do I mean all pain, or just persecution? Answer: I mean all pain that you meet on your way to heaven and endure by trusting Jesus.
I grant that Paul has in mind in verse 17 suffering for Christ that comes from our adversaries. But I deny that this is all that he has in his mind. For two reasons: one is that the rest of the text from verses 18 to 27 unfold a futility and corruption and groaning and weakness that are broader than that. The suffering "of this present time" in verse 18, which follows right after verse 17, is the suffering that comes from the world being subjected to futility (v. 20) and leads to the groaning that makes us want to have new resurrection bodies (v. 23). It is universal suffering that comes with a fallen creation, not just the suffering of persecution.
And the second reason I don't think Paul limits suffering to persecution in verse 17 is because at root the threat of all suffering is the same – whether it comes from human persecution or from Satanic attack or from natural disease or disaster – namely, the threat that our faith in God's sovereign goodness will be destroyed. In the end, the issue is not whether your pain is triggered by man or Satan or nature, but whether you trust the sovereign goodness of God over it all and through it all to bring you to everlasting glory.
The comfort and encouragement of this text is not that God has nothing to do with hostile humans or hateful demons or harmful nature, but that in it all and through it all he has hope-filled designs for his children. This is what verse 28 is going to say in summary: "We know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose." So when I talk about hope in suffering, I mean any and all suffering that you must endure on your way to heaven which you endure by holding fast to Jesus Christ.
Now let's look at the way Paul helps us keep on hoping in Christ when our suffering is great. I will point you to six things that Paul says – at least – maybe more depending how you break them up in pieces.

1. God Promises that after This Time of Suffering We Will See an All-satisfying Beauty and Greatness

Verse 18: "For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us." "Glory" I take to mean "overwhelming, all-satisfying beauty and greatness." "Be revealed to us" I take to mean, "we will see it." There is much more to our hope. But let's just take this part and let it sink in.
Seeing beauty and greatness is one of the passionate desires and deep longings of the human heart – built into us by God. We get pleasure from seeing beauty and greatness in movies and museums and world-class sporting events and art galleries and concerts and the Boundary Waters and the Grand Canyon and the Rockies and the ocean and sunrises and meteor showers. Seeing beauty and greatness is a huge part of our joy in life.
All of these earthly things are images, reflections, pointers to a greater beauty and a greater greatness. They all point to the glory of God. Seeing this will be the end of our quest for beauty and greatness. This is why Jesus prayed for us the way he did in John 17:24, "Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory." This was the greatest thing Jesus could pray for on our behalf. It was the climax of his prayer. Seeing the glory of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was the best gift Jesus could pray that we would receive after we had suffered in this life.
Assuming one thing! That we will be glorified and changed and able to savor what we see. Which leads us to the second statement about our hope.

2. God Promises that the Children of God Will Be Revealed with Glory of Their Own

Verse 19: "For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God." So verse 18 says that something will be revealed to us, and verse 19 says that we ourselves will be revealed. What does this mean?
It means that right now the children of God do not look glorious. We look pretty much like everyone else. We get hungry and tired and sick. We age and we die. And on the way to the grave we make some progress in overcoming our selfishness and pride and greed, but we never get beyond the need to be justified by faith alone because of Christ alone, and we will say with Paul till the day we die, "Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?" (Romans 7:24). So we don't not look all that great. We are not titans. We have our gospel treasure in jars of clay (2 Corinthians 4:7).
But Jesus said in Matthew 13:43, "Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father." And Paul said in Colossians 3:4, "When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory." And most relevant of all, consider verse 21 here in our own text: "The creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God." The freedom of the glory of the children of God!
So when verse 19 speaks of "the revealing of the sons of God" now we know what will be revealed. "The freedom of the glory of the children of God." This is what we saw at the end of verse 17 – that we would be glorified with Christ – that our bodies and minds and hearts would be so completely renovated that nothing would stand in the way of savoring Christ for all he is worth.
So in verse 18 God promises that we will see the greatest glory in the universe. And in verse 19 God promises that we will savor that glory because we will be changed by that glory so completely that we are free from anything that would frustrate our joy in God.
And don't miss one other massive truth in verse 19: all of creation is oriented on the revelation of the children of God. God made the universe for us, not us for the universe. We inherit the world, the world doesn't inherit us. Of all God's created universe which has fallen into futility and decay and groaning, only human beings have the capacity to glorify God with conscious worship. So all creation is standing on tiptoe waiting for our revelation – as glorified worshippers.

3. God Promises that His Ultimate Design in the Decree of Futility Is Hope for His Children

Verse 20: "For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope." The effect this is supposed to have on us is to make us seriously and soberly hopeful. Serious and sober because God has decreed the fall of the universe into futility and decay and groaning and weakness. That makes us sober. It makes us tremble with a due respect for the infinitely holy God who rules over the universe with justice and hatred for sin.
But the point of verse 20 is that this futility and judgment is not his ultimate design. The words "in hope" at the end of verse 20 show that God's aim in his judicial decree of futility and pain is hope. So when you feel almost overwhelmed by your own pain and the pain of the world, remember: this was not God's final design. If you will trust him and hold fast to him as your treasure, then it will all be turned for your good. That's what the word "hope" means at the end of verse 20.

4. God Promises that All Creation, not Just the Children of God, Will Be Freed from the Present Misery of Futility and Corruption and Groaning

Verse 21: "The creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God." We've already seen from verse 19 that the children are going to be revealed with glory that suits them to enjoy the glory of God. But now we see the other part of the promise in verse 21: Creation too will be freed from its slavery to corruption and decay and futility. In other words, the universe will be changed into a place perfectly suited for the perfected and glorious children of God.
No more destructive tornadoes or hurricanes or floods or droughts or plagues or diseases or accidents or harmful animals or insects or viruses. The prophecy of Isaiah 65:17 will come to pass: "Behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind." And the prophecy of Revelation 21:1-5 will come to pass as well:
I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. . . . 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. 5 And he who was seated on the throne said, "Behold, I am making all things new." (See also 2 Peter 3:13)
You recall that I have said several times, based on verse 17, that we must be glorified in order to be able to respond with appropriate joy to God and to the gift of the world that will be given to us for an inheritance. But now it might be better to say: the world will have to be glorified so that it is a suitable environment for freedom of the glory of the children of God. In other words, our freedom and our glory will be so great that only a glorified world will be adequate to suit our almost infinite capacities for happiness. That's what verse 21 promises: "The creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God."

5. God Promises that the Miseries of the Universe Are not the Throes of Death but the Labor Pains of Childbirth

Verse 22: "For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now." This is another way of saying that God subjected the creation to futility in hope (v. 20). That is, in the hope for something much better than the pain coming out of all this.
If you are in a hospital and you hear a woman across the hall groan or scream, it makes all the difference in how you feel if you know you are on the maternity ward and not the oncology unit. Why? Pain is pain, isn't it? No. Some pain leads to life. And some pain leads to death. And what verse 22 promises is that for the children of God, all pain leads to life. All the groanings of this world are the birth pains of the kingdom of God. If you are part of the kingdom – a child of the King – all your sufferings are labor pains and not death spasms. And I mean all of them – even the death spasms!

6. God Promises that Our Bodies Will Be Redeemed from All Groaning

Verse 23: "And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body." Listen to the way Paul sings over this truth in 1 Corinthians:
Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: "Death is swallowed up in victory. 55 O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?" (1 Corinthians 15:51-55)
O you who trust in Jesus Christ for the fulfillment of all his promises to you, know that in this hope you have been saved, and if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it – with groaning and patience and unconquerable joy.
And to you who are not trusting Christ, remember the words of the Lord: "As many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name" (John 1:12). And if children, heirs of all these promises. Receive him. Trust him. Amen.
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Six Affirmations Toward a Theology of Suffering

So I would like everyone who has a Bible to turn with me to Romans 8:18–28. There are six affirmations which sum up my theology of sickness, and at least the seed for each of these affirmations is here. Let's read the text:
I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in travail together until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words. And he who searches the hearts of men knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose. (RSV)
1. All Creation Has Been Subjected to Futility
My first affirmation is this: the age in which we live, which extends from the fall of man into sin until the second coming of Christ, is an age in which the creation, including our bodies, has been "subjected to futility" and "enslaved to corruption." Verse 20: "The creation was subjected to futility.'' Verse 21: "The creation will be freed from slavery to corruption." And the reason we know this includes our bodies is given in verse 23: not only the wider creation but "we ourselves (i.e., Christians) groan in ourselves awaiting sonship, the redemption of our bodies." Our bodies are part of creation and participate in all the futility and corruption to which creation has been subjected.
Who is this in verse 20 that subjected creation to futility and enslaved it to corruption? It is God. The only other possible candidates to consider would be Satan or man himself. Perhaps Paul meant that Satan, in bringing man into sin, or man, in choosing to disobey God—perhaps one of them is referred to as the one who subjected creation to futility. But neither Satan nor man can be meant because of the words "in hope" at the end of verse 20. This little phrase, subjected "in hope," gives the design or purpose of the one who subjected creation to futility. But it was neither man's nor Satan's intention to bring corruption upon the world in order that the hope of redemption might be kindled in men's hearts and that someday the "freedom of the glory of the children of God" might shine more brightly. Only one person could subject the creation to futility with that design and purpose, namely, the just and loving creator.
Therefore, I conclude that this world stands under the judicial sentence of God upon a rebellious and sinful mankind—a sentence of universal futility and corruption. And no one is excluded, not even the precious children of God.
Probably the futility and corruption Paul speaks of refers to both spiritual and physical ruination. On the one hand man in his fallen state is enslaved to flawed perception, misconceived goals, foolish blunders, and spiritual numbness. On the other hand, there are floods, famines, volcanoes, earthquakes, tidal waves, plagues, snake bites, car accidents, plane crashes, asthma, allergies, and the common cold, and cancer, all rending and wracking the human body with pain and bringing men—all men—to the dust.
As long as we are in the body we are slaves to corruption. Paul said this same thing in another place. In 2 Corinthians 4:16 he said, "We do not lose heart, but though our outer man (i.e., the body) is decaying (i.e., being corrupted) yet our inner man is being renewed day by day." The word Paul uses for decay or corrupt here is the same one used in Luke 12:33 where Jesus said, Make sure your treasure is in heaven "where thief does not come near and moth does not corrupt." Just like a coat in a warm, dark closet will get moth eaten and ruined, so our bodies in this fallen world are going to be ruined one way or the other. For all creation has been subjected to futility and enslaved to corruption while this age lasts. That is my first affirmation.
2. An Age of Deliverance and Redemption Is Coming
My second affirmation is this: there is an age coming when all the children of God, who have endured to the end in faith, will be delivered from all futility and corruption, spiritually and physically. According to verse 21, the hope in which God subjected creation was that some day "The creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God." And verse 23 says that "We ourselves groan within ourselves waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies." It has not happened yet. We wait. But it will happen. "Our citizenship is in heaven from which we await a Savior, the Lord, Jesus Christ, who will transform the body of our lowliness to be like the body of his glory" (Philippians 3:20, 21). "In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet, for the trumpet will sound and the dead will be raised incorruptible and we shall be changed" (1 Corinthians 15:52). "He will wipe away every tear from our eyes, and there shall be no longer any death; and there shall be no longer any mourning or crying or pain; the first things have passed away" (Revelation 21:4).
There is coming a day when every crutch will be carved up, and every wheelchair melted down into medallions of redemption. And Merlin and Reuben and Jim and Hazel and Ruth and all the others among us will do cartwheels through the Kingdom of Heaven. But not yet. Not yet. We groan, waiting for the redemption of our bodies. But the day is coming and that is my second affirmation.
3. Christ Purchased, Demonstrated, and Gave a Foretaste of It
Third, Jesus Christ came and died to purchase our redemption, to demonstrate the character of that redemption as both spiritual and physical, and to give us a foretaste of it. He purchased our redemption, demonstrated its character, and gave us a foretaste of it. Please listen carefully, for this is a truth badly distorted by many healers of our day.
The prophet Isaiah foretold the work of Christ like this in 53:5–6 (a text which Peter applied to Christians in 1 Peter 2:24):
But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. (RSV)
The blessing of forgiveness and the blessing of physical healing were purchased by Christ when he died for us on the cross. And all those who give their lives to him shall have both of these benefits. But when? That is the question of today. When will we be healed? When will our bodies no longer be enslaved to corruption?
The ministry of Jesus was a ministry of healing and forgiveness. He said to the disciples of John the Baptist, "Go and tell John what you see and hear: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is he who takes no offense at me" (Matthew 11:4–6). Offense? Why would anyone take offense at one who raises the dead and brings in the long expected kingdom? Easy—he only raised about three people. He left hundreds in the tombs all around him. Why? Because not enough relatives had faith? O no! When Jesus raised the widow's son in Luke 7:13, 14, she didn't know him from Adam. It was not because of her faith. All it says is, "He had compassion on her." What then? Didn't he pity all the other bereaved in Israel?
The answer to why Jesus did not raise all the dead is that, contrary to the Jewish expectation, the first coming of the Messiah was not the consummation and full redemption of this fallen age. The first coming was rather to purchase that consummation, illustrate its character, and bring a foretaste of it to his people. Therefore, Jesus raised some of the dead to illustrate that he has that power and one day will come again and exercise it for all his people. And he healed the sick to illustrate that in his final kingdom this is how it will be. There will be no more crying or pain any more.
But we do have a foretaste of our redemption now in this age. The benefits purchased by the cross can be enjoyed in measure even now, including healing. God can and does heal the sick now in answer to our prayers. But not always. The miracle mongers of our day, who guarantee that Jesus wants you well now and heap guilt after guilt on the back of God's people asserting that the only thing between them and health is unbelief, have failed to understand the nature of God's purposes in this fallen age. They have minimized the depth of sin and the cruciality of God's purifying chastening and the value of faith through suffering and they are guilty of trying to force into this age what God has reserved for the next.
Notice the flow of thought in Romans 8:23, 24: "We ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan in ourselves waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies, for in hope we have been saved." Because of Christ's purchased redemption, believers already have received the Holy Spirit. This is like a down payment of our full redemption, but it is only the first-fruits, a foretaste. And when Paul stresses that we, even we ourselves, who have this Spirit groan awaiting the redemption of our bodies, you can tell that he is warning against the false inference that because we've been saved, therefore our groaning with decaying bodies is over. So he goes on to say in verse 24, "For we have been saved in hope." Our salvation is not finished, it is only begun. We are saved only in hope. This is true morally; Paul says in Galatians 5:5, "We through the Spirit by faith are waiting for the hope of righteousness." And it is true physically; we wait for the redemption of our bodies. Christ has purchased that redemption, demonstrated its physical reality in his healing ministry, and given us a foretaste of it by healing many people in our day, but some very slowly, some only partly, and some not at all. That is my third affirmation.
4. God Controls All Suffering for the Good of His People
Fourth, God controls who gets sick and who gets well, and all his decisions are for the good of his children, even if they may be very painful and long-lasting. It was God who subjected creation to futility and corruption, and he is the one who can liberate it again. In Exodus 4:11, when Moses refused to go speak to Pharaoh, God said to him, "Who made man's mouth? Who makes him dumb or deaf or seeing or blind? Is it not I the Lord?" Behind all sickness is finally the sovereign hand of God. God speaks in Deuteronomy 32:39, "See now that I, I am he, and there is no God besides me; it is I who put to death and give life. I have wounded and it is I who heal; and there is no one who can deliver from my hand."
But what about Satan? Isn't he the great enemy of our wholeness? Doesn't he attack us morally and physically? Wasn't it Satan who tormented Job? Yes, it was. But Satan has no power but what is allotted to him by God. He is an enemy on a chain. In fact, for the writer of the book of Job it was not wrong to say that the sores afflicted by Satan were sent from God. For example, in Job 2:7 we read, "So Satan went forth from the presence of the Lord, and afflicted Job with loathsome sores from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head." Then after Job's wife urges him to curse God and die, Job says, "Shall we receive good at the hand of the Lord and not receive evil?" And lest we think that Job erred in attributing to God his sores afflicted by Satan, the writer adds in verse 10, "In all this Job did not sin with his lips." In other words, it is no sin to recognize the sovereign hand of God even behind a disease of which Satan may be the more immediate cause.
Satan may be sly but on some things he is stupid, because he fails to see that all his attempts to despoil the godly are simply turned by God's providence into occasions for the purifying and strengthening of faith. God's goal for his people in this age is not primarily to rid them of sickness and pain, but to purge us of all the remnants of sin and cause us in our weakness to cleave to him as our only hope.
My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor faint when you are reproved by him; for those whom the Lord loves he disciplines, and he scourges every son whom he receives . . . he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness. (Hebrews 12:5, 6, 10, 11)
All the affliction that comes to the children of God, whether through persecution or sickness, is intended by God to increase our holiness by causing us to rely more on the God who raises the dead (2 Corinthians 1:9). If we get angry at God in our sickness we are rejecting his love. For it is always in love that he disciplines his children. It is for our good and we must seek to learn some rich lesson of faith from it. Then we will say with the psalmist, "It was good for me that I was afflicted, that I may learn thy statutes . . . I know, O Lord, that thy judgments are righteous, and that in faithfulness thou hast afflicted me" (Psalm 119:71, 75). That is my fourth affirmation: ultimately God controls who gets sick and who gets well and all his decisions are for the good of his children, even if the pain is great and the sickness long. For as the last verse of our text, Romans 8:28, says, "God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God and are called according to his purpose."
5. We Should Pray for Healing Power and Sustaining Grace
The fifth affirmation is that we should therefore pray for God's help both to heal and to strengthen faith while we are unhealed. It is fitting that a child ask his father for relief in trouble. And it is fitting that a loving Father give his child only what is best. And that he always does: sometimes healing now, sometimes not. But always, always what is best for us.
But if sometimes it is best for us not to be healed now, how shall we know what to pray? How shall we know when to stop asking for healing and only ask for grace to trust his goodness? Paul had faced this problem in his own experience. You recall from 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 that Paul, not unlike Job, was given a thorn in the flesh which he called a "messenger of Satan." We don't know what sort of pain or malady it was, but he says that he prayed three times for its removal. But then God gave him the assurance that though he would not heal him, yet his grace would be sufficient and his power would be manifest not in healing but in the faithful service of Paul through suffering.
In our text at Romans 8:26, 27 Paul addresses the same problem, I think: While we are waiting for the redemption of our bodies "the Spirit helps us in our weaknesses; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words and he (God) who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is because he intercedes for the saints according to the will of God." Sometimes all we can do is cry out for help because we do not know in what form the help should come. The Spirit of God takes our stumbling, uncertain expressions of need and brings them before God in a form that accords with God's intentions. And God responds graciously and meets our needs. Not always as we at first hoped, but always for our good.
So let us not be proud and stand aloof from God stoically bearing what fate has brought. Rather let us run to our Father in prayer and plead for help in time of need. That is my fifth affirmation.
6. We Should Always Trust in the Power and Goodness of God
Sixth, and finally, we should always trust in the love and power of God, even in the darkest hour of suffering. The thing that distresses me most about those who say Christians should always be miraculously healed is that they give the impression that the quality of faith can only be measured by whether a miracle of physical healing takes place, whereas in much of the New Testament you get the impression that the quality of our faith is reflected in the joy and confidence we maintain in God through suffering.
The great chapter on faith in the Bible is Hebrews 11. It begins, "Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." What is often overlooked in this chapter, though, is the final eight verses where we get the balanced picture of faith as that which lays hold on God for rescue from suffering, and as that which lays hold on God for peace and hope in suffering. Verse 33: "By faith they conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received back their dead by resurrection."
Now if we stopped reading here our conception of how the quality of faith manifests itself would be very distorted, because here it sounds as if faith always wins in this life. But here a shift occurs and we find that faith is also the power to lose our life: "By faith . . . others were tortured, not accepting release, in order that they might obtain a better resurrection; others experienced mockings and scourgings, yes, also chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheep skins, in goat skins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated (men of whom the world was not worthy) wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground . . . And all these gained approval through their faith."
The glory of God is manifested when he heals and when he gives a sweet spirit of hope and peace to the person that he does not heal, for that, too, is a miracle of grace! O, that we might be a people among whom God is often healing our sicknesses, but is always causing us to be full of joy and peace while our sicknesses remain. If we are a humble and childlike people who cry out to God in our need and trust in his promises, the Holy Spirit will help us and God will bless our church with every possible blessing. He will, as the text says, work everything together for our good.
That is my theology of sickness in a nutshell. First, in this age all creation, including our bodies, has been subjected to futility and enslaved to corruption. Second, there is a new age coming when all those who endure to the end in faith will be set free from all pain and sickness. Third, Jesus Christ came and died to purchase our redemption, demonstrate its character as both spiritual and physical, and give us a foretaste of it now. Fourth, God controls who gets sick and who gets well, and all his decisions are for the good of his children even if they are painful. Fifth, we should pray for God's help both to heal and to strengthen faith while we are unhealed, and should depend on the Holy Spirit's intercession when we don't know which to pray for. Finally, we should always trust in the power and love of God, even in the darkest hour of suffering.
O, that we might be an assembly of saints who echo from the bottom of our hearts the faith of Joni Eareckson after a long struggle with paralysis and depression. She wrote at the end of her book: "The girl who became emotionally distraught, and wavered at each new set of circumstances is now grown up, a woman who has learned to rely on God's sovereignty" (Joni, p. 190).
©2012 Desiring God Foundation. Used by Permiss

Our Hope: The Redemption of Our Bodies 8:23



Are we suffering for Jesus Christ?

So many people ask “Why do Christian’s suffer?”
I am afraid I have to ask instead, “Why are Christians NOT suffering for the Lord Jesus Christ these days?”
I have read a lot about suffering, being around suffering, in homes and hospitals, jails, but I have not been around a lot of people who are really suffering as a result of being a Christian. Living in America has its benefits I guess. 
I mean really who here today has suffered for being a Chrisitian?

So Paul here is contemplating the future privileges of the believer, and leads him to think of the contrast this makes with the present state of being.  Paul is showing that suffering is the path we tread as we move from blessing to glory.  Now Paul could also be taking about the present age in which we