The troubles of this world are real. But when we face these where do we turn? We can seek solace in the things of this world, perhaps a favourite pastime, good music or pleasant company. These things have value, but in the face or intense troubles they can quickly prove little or no comfort. So where does the Christian turn then?
God helps His people and has them firmly in His loving and tender grasp. He has given them comforts during their pilgrimage in this world. The Holy Spirit aids our prayers. We know too that God’s good plan to make us more like Christ cannot be thwarted. Furthermore nothing on earth, seen or unseen can separate us from the love of God. God does not forsake His children, and nothing can take us out of His hands. Truly we have suffering, and comforts in our sufferings.
Groaning In This Present Life
The Believer Groans in This Present Life
“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”. Romans 8:18
Paul acknowledges that we suffer in this life, yet the future glory of the believer is incomparably greater than our trials now. Illness, injury, old age, loss of job, temptation and perhaps persecution for the faith, can all take their toll on the believer. Yet beyond the grave, God’s people will have glorious bodies, like those of our Lord Jesus Christ. Better still we shall be with the one who embodies truth, holiness, true love, majesty and honour for all eternity. We shall behold His glory!
Creation Groans in This Present Life
“For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God, for the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly but because of Him who subjected it in hope, because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and labours with birth pangs together until now.” Romans 8:19 – 22
How does creation groan? How was creation subjected to futility? I believe Paul is talking about the inanimate world round about us being subject to bondage. He’s ruling out the unfallen Angels, they have not been subject to this bondage. He’s ruling out the fallen Angels, they have no hope whatsoever. Believers are dealt with separately and hence by creation Paul means the natural world. Nature was cursed on account of man’s sin. On that day when Adam and Eve sinned God had warned them that the ground would now produce thorns and thistles, it would be hard work. Creation was changed but it’s more than just the change of vegetation that occurred.
“and God said ‘See I’ve given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed to you it shall be for food” Gen 1:30
This suggests that Adam and Eve, were vegetarian. They had been given the produce of the ground.
“Also to every beast of the earth, to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, in which there is life, I have given every green herb for food.” Gen 1:30
This suggests that the animals were vegetarian too. God is explicitly stating to all of the creation that they are in effect vegetarian. The first time that we get God’s blessing on man eating meat is in Genesis, Chapter 9, verse 1, after the flood.
There are passages such as Isaiah chapter 11, Verses 6 -9 which I believe to be a picture, a poetic picture, of the harmony of the new creation that God will install.
“The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the young goat. The calf and the young lion and the fatling together and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze, their young ones shall lie down together and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play by the cobra’s hole, and the weaned child shall put his hand in the viper’s den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain. For the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” Isaiah 11:6 – 9
Incredible harmony restored into nature. Nature is no longer nature red in tooth and claw, no longer the hunting and the killing and the maiming. What a wonderful harmony restored. That is only the creatures in this future world. How the landscape was changed, how the mountains were changed by the fall of man, how the skies and the atmosphere around us were changed by the fall of man? I don’t know. I can’t even begin to guess. But as I believe the Bible hints at enormous changes occurred upon the earth when man sinned. The RSPCA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) will not be a feature of the new heavens and the new earth. There will be that wonderful harmony. Creation groans. It has a hope. Paul is personifying it. It is looking forward to that hope of the change but its not just creation that groans, we groan.
The Believer’s Hope
“Not only that, but also we who have the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body. For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.”
Romans 8:23 – 25
Our eternity on the new heavens and the new earth awaits us. But we have to wait for it. We’ve had a foretaste, a glimpse of it in some way from God’s word. We can see the harmony that the Holy Spirit produces between us as believers. We get something of a foretaste of the fellowship that there is to come. I know my future is there but I can’t see it. It’s a hope, not an unsure hope, but a certain hope and we groan waiting for it.
Comforts In This Present Life
But that hope is in the future. We suffer now. What comfort does God have for His people in this present evil age? We are comforted by the Holy Spirit’s aid with our prayers, by knowing that through all things that happen to us God is producing holiness in us now, preparing us for our heavenly home. Because this is God’s plan, it will not fail.
The Holy Spirit Helps Us in Our Prayers
“Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now he who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the Saints according to the will of God.”
The first comfort mentioned is that we have the Holy Spirit helping us in our prayers. Sometimes we do not know how to pray, but the Holy Spirit does, and actively works to present our weak stumbling prayers as perfect before God
God will Complete His Plans In Our Lives
“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. “For whom he foreknew, He also predestines to be conformed to the image of His Son, that he might be the first born among many brethren”. Romans 8:28,29
The second comfort that we have is that we know that God works out His plans and His purposes in our lives in an unstoppable way through everything that occurs to us. We can face the future, as uncertain as it might be, knowing that in all the things that happen to us in our lives God can bring good, and he is working out His plans and His purposes for us in our lives.
Through everything that occurs to us, no exceptions, whether we can see and understand the good that God is working in us through events in our lives or not. But what is His purpose for us? He wants us to be more like the Lord Jesus Christ. Perseverance, faithfulness, patience, trust, we have to learn these things. They don’t tend to come naturally. It I often when presented with a trial greater than ourselves that we learn to depend on God. It is often an uncomfortable process, but an edifying one.
God’s Purposes in Our Lives are Sure
“Moreover whom he predestined, these he also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom he justified, these He also glorified” Romans 8:30
The third comfort that we have is that God will achieve His purposes. We will be with the Lord Jesus Christ for all eternity. Those whom God saw from eternity past he predestined to bring to Himself. He called us, bringing us to the point where we could receive the Lord Jesus Christ. He justified us, declaring us innocent before Him. He glorified us, it is settled in the eternal council of God that we shall be with the Lord Jesus Christ for eternity. The work of God begun in eternity past will be completed bringing the believer to their eternal home. But there is no room for complacency. How can I know that I am elect (chosen) of God? It is only those who are seeking to glorify God now that will be glorified with Him for all eternity.
Comforted by the Effectiveness of God’s Plan
To end this section Paul shows how effective God’s salvation is, how secure the believer is, by posing a series of questions in the form of statements. The key here is that the believer’s security relies on the excellencies and perfections of God, and not upon themselves. We are vessels of clay, weak, changeable, yet consider who is our strength.
“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us who can be against us?” Romans 8:31
Who can be against the believer? The most powerful being in this universe is there to help and aid the believer. When God says something is done, it is done. It cannot be undone.
“He who did not spare his own son but delivered him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” Romans 8:32
Some may reply that perhaps God is reluctant to give what is good to His people. God has given us the life of His Son, the greatest thing that He has, the greatest treasure that He has. What you need to carry you through this world, through this present evil age with all its trials, its difficulties, its uncertainties He will provide. There is no unwillingness in God to withhold what is good for His people.
“Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.” Romans 8:33
Satan will bring his accusations against us, but it is God, who is the author of truth and justice, who declares us innocent, and this on the basis of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. On the day of judgment it will be God’s opinion that counts, and not our own or other peoples.
“Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intersession for us.” Romans 8:34
Satan the accuser can come to you with a list of accusations about your sinfulness, how unworthy you are, and he’s right. We are enormously unworthy but as Paul points out it is Christ who has died and risen. Christ has taken God’s wrath, His punishment for all of our sin, and we know that God has accepted that sacrifice. How do we know?, because the Lord Jesus Christ rose again from the grave. The sacrifice was accepted.
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, ‘For your sake we are killed all day long. We are counted as sheep for the slaughter’.” Romans 8:35,36
Paul knew from personal experience that the trials of this life. In his commentary on this verse William Hendrickson points out that when you look at Paul’s testimony in 2 Corinthians 11, at the time of writing Romans Paul had already experienced six of these seven hardships. He had experienced tribulation and distress, persecution. He had been stoned, he had to be lowered via a basket outside of the walls of Damascus because people wanted him dead. He’d experienced famine, didn’t eat for a fortnight on board that ship before it was finally wrecked. “These trials cannot separate us from the love of God”. It’s been tried, tested, proven.
“Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other creative thing will be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:37 – 39
So what is the conclusion of the matter? Nothing can take us out of God’s hands. Nothing can separate us from his care. We may be facing uncertain times ahead, but we can stand on the weight and the power of God’s word and say that God will carry us through. Nothing can separate you from his love.
All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
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