I hope you’ve had a wonderful week full of victories and celebrations. But I know that some of you have had an awful week with struggles and defeats. And it is to you that Paul writes Romans 8 – to give you hope and courage while you struggle with life and try to make sense of it all.
I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. (Romans 8:18-23)
Paul wrote this passage for those of us who try to keep our world together and under control – the seams from bursting – the wheels from coming off – by the strength of our own will and efforts. Now, we know that God is in charge and he’s almighty and all that, but deep down, if you want to know the real truth – he’s counting on me to keep it together.
The struggle comes because all too often, the wheels feel awfully loose and the seams are seeping, and we are sure that it’s all going to come flying apart just any day now. And it scares us to death, because we’ll have to clean up the mess and try to put it all back together– and we’re not sure we’re up to it.
And then our world does come apart – a husband or a wife or a child dies, we lose our job, the doctor tells us we have cancer, we lose our health, our child gets in trouble, a friend betrays us, our spouse abandons us – what then? Who do you blame? How do you cope?
That’s where Paul steps in – his pronouncement is clear and simple: You were never in charge to begin with. God is and has always been.
• God knows every hair on your head, he is aware of every step that you take and every thought that you think. And he loves you without limit and with no strings attached.
• And God is able to work in every situation, every event, every victory and every tragedy – and bring about good in your life. There are going to be some terrible, life-shattering events in your life, God is there also – God is there.
• And God is working – he is weaving them all together and he knows what that final tapestry is going to look like. All you and I see are a bunch of loose threads hanging in the back, some mismatched colors and you wonder – “What in the world is happening?!”
But God just keeps weaving – taking everything, literally everything – the bright, colorful threads of joy and celebration, and the dark, somber threads of sorrow and pain – and weaving them all into the beautiful tapestry of your life. Listen to the language Paul uses in 8:28 “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
Sometimes it’s scary, sometimes it feels like we’re out of control. there are times when we feel like God has abandoned us and we don’t know what to do.
And so Paul writes Romans 8 for people a whole lot like you and me. For all our best intentions, and in spite of our very best efforts, things go wrong – and we need a word of assurance that God has not abandoned us. In fact, the news is better than we could ever have dreamed or hoped for. Not only is God there for us – he is in control.
Understand the context in which God does all this – he is molding us into the likeness of his Son – vs. 29 – “that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.”
“Brothers” – look back in vss. 15-17 “For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father. The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” – Sonship, we cry Abba Father, we are God’s children, heirs–look in vs 23 “adoption as sons.”
This isn’t a disinterested, impersonal, platonic action from a benevolent higher power. This is a father seeking the very best for his children. We are involved in a relationship with a Father who will stop at nothing to give us the very best.
Isn’t that what vs. 32 is saying? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? That’s the heart of a Father.
Paul asks a series of questions in these verses – “If God is for us…
vs. 31 Who can be against us?
vs. 33 Who will bring a charge against those whom God has chosen?
vs. 34 Who is he that condemns?
vs. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of God?
And the answer to all four questions is “NO ONE.”
Let’s hear the power of that answer – “If God is for us…
who can be against us? [NO ONE]
who will bring a charge against us? [NO ONE]
who will condemn us? [NO ONE]
who will separate us from the love of God? [NO ONE]
No one – not your enemies who hate you, not your friends who know you best, not Satan himself who would kill for your soul.
And all the bad things that happen in our lives? Paul’s been there – vs. 35 “Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?” And in answer he quotes Ps. 44 “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” He covers a lot of bases. Paul has experienced a lot of bad things.
What can separate you from God? Paul says nothing can separate you. In another place, Paul writes, “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it” (1 Cor. 10:13).
Nothing can separate you – no tragedy or temptation can destroy you. God always provides a path through it – but – you can choose to walk away, to give up.
I have known so many people, who, when they faced problems in their lives, decided to take a break away from God until they got their problems solved. They hole up, they isolate themselves, they go into crisis mode. But they shut out God, they shut out his church, they cut themselves off from the very things that can make sense and bring healing to their lives. Instead of running to the arms of God, they flee from his presence. And God weeps.
He weeps because of the pain and suffering his children will suffer – but more than that, he weeps because they have lost hope and faith.
But God is still there – he is faithful. And Paul looks at our problems and he looks at God, and he asks – who is bigger, who is stronger, who is more powerful? God is. And when God is for us, who can be against us? And then he throws off the wraps and unveils a peek (just a peek) at the finished tapestry – “we are more than conquerors” (he coins a word just for this -- hupernikao – “super-victorious”) – “through him who loved us” – (past tense – points back to the cross). That’s where the victory was won, that’s where his love was most powerfully and definitively displayed.
And let’s not miss the path to victory – “In all these things…” All these things includes the suffering, the persecution, the pain – “IN all these things” – not around them, or delivered from them – but through the middle of them. Christ’s victory was not around the cross but through the cross – his glory was not in spite of the cross, but because of the very fact of the cross.
And there will be times when God’s path to our victory is not around but through our suffering.
But this chapter does not end in a minor key. This is not a morbid call to resign ourselves to fate. Listen to Paul’s beautiful song of victory when he sings – vss. 38-39 “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Now I saved four verses back in the middle of the chapter to end with. And for me, these four verse really answer the question we began with – When things are falling apart around you, how do you turn it all over to God?
Look at vss. 24-27 For in this hope we were saved. [That’s the hope of our adoption and redemption from the frustration and decay and groaning while everything is falling apart.] But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.
Two things that Paul says will help us trust that God is in control:
“In this hope we are saved” – Hope and faith are huge with God. He doesn’t want us to trust him because all our questions have been answered and all our doubts dispelled. He wants us to trust him because he has promised to take care of us – and because he has shown himself trustworthy.
Hope is not a blind stab in the dark, not a flippant “I hope so, but probably isn’t going to happen,” but a confident trust in one who has proved trustworthy so many times you can’t begin to count them. But it is a hope in what we can’t see. After all, Paul says, if you’ve seen it, it isn’t hope. (Isn’t it interesting that that’s exactly what the Hebrews writer says about faith – the substance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.) Hope puts you into the frame of mind of waiting – waiting patiently. So, if you’re in the middle of a storm, put your hope in the one who has brought many of his children before you through the storm. (Chorus to a song: Sometimes he calms the storm, other times he calms his child.)
Hope is the first key to trusting God. And then Paul reveals the second:
“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness” Remember two weeks ago, how we saw the power of God’s Holy Spirit who lives in us helping us to say no to sin and living the life God calls us to live. The Spirit also helps us through those painful, difficult times of uncertainty. And specifically he helps us as we pray. Paul says, “we don’t even know what to pray for [I’ve been there – I’m not against God’s will, I’d just like to know what it is]… but the Spirit himself intercedes for us.” We are not alone in this struggle – the Spirit is at the very throne of God petitioning the Father on our behalf. Even when we don’t know what to ask for, he knows the longing of our hearts, and he pours out that longing to the heart of God.
So when the world is falling apart around you – put your hope in God who has always done and will always do everything that he has ever promised.
Know that nothing can diminish his love for you and there is nothing that is out of his control – and that at this very moment – whatever you are going through – he will use it to bring about something good in your life.
And pray – even when you don’t know what to pray for – pray. The Holy Spirit, who is God’s gift to you – a promise of his unconditional love – is working in your life and interceding in your prayers and helping in your weakness.
I don’t know what kind of crisis you are going to face and I don’t know when it will come – but it will. How are you going to respond? Will you hold the hand of God, surrounded by his people as you walk through it to victory?
Posted on Sun, April 15, 2012
by John Roberts