SUNDAY MORNING WORSHIP SERVICE, 25 October 2020
Sermon Text: Romans 8:18-30
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I. We’re not alone in suffering
II. We hope in the glory
III. We’re free from discouragement
Today’s message for us to hear and take to our hearts is on our freedom from discouragement. It’s the third message of the series from Rom. 8, that is, Christian’s fourfold freedom in Jesus Christ. The previous two messages we heard in the past two Lord’s Days were about our freedom from judgment and from sin’s demand. As you’re in Jesus, as the Lord saved you from sin, you have no judgment to face and sin cannot condemn you – that’s your first freedom in Jesus, freedom from judgment. Also, because you’re not under sin’s dominion but under the Lord’s grace, sin has no power over you, no power to demand anything of you – so, you’re free from sin’s demand and, through the power of Jesus’ name and the ministry of the Holy Spirit who indwells you, you’re free to reject sin and its temptation. In addition to these blessed aspects of Christian’s freedom, Rom. 8:18-30 teaches us that we’re free in Jesus from discouragement also, thus, no need to be frustrated in this world.
What I mean is that, if you’re in Jesus, if you believe in Him and serves Him as your Lord and Saviour, nothing in your life or of this world can frustrate you now or in the future. The Apostle Paul delivers this message of the Lord to us.
Are you discouraged by anything of your life? Are you distressed with anything around you? If your heart is broken and under a heavy load, if you search for God’s answer for the troubles you have, this is the section of the Bible you should open and read and listen to the Lord’s voice. His message is that ‘you’re free from discouragement, thus, nothing can frustrate you!’ So, let us follow the Spirit of God as He explains to us what this freedom in Jesus is about.
I. WE’RE NOT ALONE IN SUFFERING
As our text passage begins, it begins with ‘suffering,’ and we hear that suffering is for all things of this present time, including, first, us, second, God’s created world and, surprisingly, the Holy Spirit. This surprises us because we usually think that we alone suffer in the world and neither God’s creation nor the Holy Spirit would suffer. But this is what we read from v. 22 that ‘the creation has been groaning together now,’ and v. 26 tells us that ‘the Spirit of God groans that’s too deep for words’ – although His groaning is a different kind of groaning.
As I said, we usually consider that human beings alone in this world suffer. People think that suffering fundamentally characterises the life of Homo Sapiens. And each of us think that ‘all others seem happy but me; no one understands my problem and deep agony.’ In this way, each of us walk under his/her own dark thundercloud of suffering.
But what we hear from the Apostle Paul is like the universal weather observation, that is, overcast of thick and dark cloud of suffering. Under this worldwide phenomenon of suffering, not only I but also you, not only we but also all others suffer. Moreover, all in God’s creation suffer alongside us humans. All living beings and lifeless things, both visible things and invisible things suffer altogether. From butterflies and flowers in the field to lions and sharks and eagles suffer and, in this suffering, the sun and the moon and stars are not exempted. All are in agony and pain. Suffering is not only yours alone but of all things.
What is the cause of this universal trouble? Sin! Adam’s sin caused all in his race suffer and brought the whole created world under the curse of sin. The point raised here is that not you or I alone suffer in the world, but all living beings and lifeless things are in an endless misery.
Even the Holy Spirit who dwells in each Christian is not an exception in groaning. V. 26 tells us that the Spirit of God helps us in our weakness, that is, our falling short of the glory of God due to our sinfulness, and as He intercedes for us, He groans that is too deep for words. God suffers because of us!
I believe parents would know what this means. Rearing a child, parents always experience this kind of inward groaning. When your child is sick, your whole being aches; when your child is rebellious, your heart and soul are in deep agony. You pray for your daughter and, in tears, seek the Father’s grace for your son. Most of the times, such agony cannot be expressed in words. If that is what human parents experience, how much deeper would the Holy Spirit’s groanings because of us? Our rebellion and our wrongdoings cause even the Spirit of God groan and suffer!
II. WE HOPE IN THE GLORY
While the whole universe suffers, while all living beings and lifeless things are in this great and endless agony, Christians are excluded from suffering. You and I are exempt from this misery. This is true – you’re not under the heavy and thick thundercloud that has overcast the whole world and everyone and everything in it. Over you and me, over where we gather together in Jesus’ name, there’s no cloud of suffering but shines a stream of bright and serene sunlight of joy.
This is what v. 18 means when the verse says, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” If I simplify the makeup of this verse, it sounds like this – ‘A is nothing compared to B that is coming.’ A is ‘the sufferings of this present time’ and B is ‘the glory that is to be revealed to us.’ Simply, your suffering now is nothing – not suffering at all – but the future glory. In other words, what you call and regard as ‘suffering’ now is your preparation for grasping and enjoying future glory. So, in fact, it’s not ‘suffering’ at all but ‘waiting’ for the arrival of something that’s far better and glorious! This is ‘hope,’ in a word, and v. 24 says that “in this hope [you] were saved.”
I believe everyone here knows exactly what this means by experience. Students spend so much time in studying and give every effort to get good marks. As they do, they wait patiently and they overcome difficulties and temptations to complete their courses. Compared to the joy and glory of the graduation, their weekend spent in the libraries and sleepless nights are not suffering at all – because they are for the best that is yet to come! Soldiers have various trainings such as initial boot camp training, field training, daily training, combined training, overseas training – you just name it. Yet, in all trainings, soldiers don’t think they suffer because all of their trainings will surely bring them a good outcome such as promotion in rank or qualification or recognition. Even in growing a thorny rose in your garden, the same principle applies – you bear all troubles of planting, fertilising, spraying insecticides, watering and pruning, etc, etc. The best and glorious is yet to come!
Your suffering is, therefore, no longer a suffering because something far better, far glorious is reserved! This is why you and I and all true believers of Jesus are exempt from the sin-caused universal suffering; this is what Jesus has done for us. The glory that is coming as the outcome of your present suffering is so glorious that even the whole creation that groans at the present time waits for it. Listen to every word recorded in vs. 19-21: “the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. … in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.” No wonder why almost every word in v. 23 is charged with excitement and joy when it says, “And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, … wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.”
You and I surely suffer – sin causes you feel deep pain and you suffer; your relationship with others generates headaches and sighs and more, such as anger, distress, discouragement and pain. Surely we suffer in this world. But, while the unbelievers remain under the curse of sin, thus, go through endless and purposeless sufferings, Christians’ ‘suffering’ is not suffering, but waiting or training for the future glory. This is why Rom. 5:3 tells us that “suffering produces endurance, and endurance produced character, and character produces hope.” That famous verse sounds like a necklace with beautiful jewels like ‘suffering,’ ‘endurance,’ ‘character’ and ‘hope.’ See that the very first jewel that shines beautifully is ‘suffering.’ Also see that this necklace that strings all these jewels together is ‘rejoicing’ as Rom. 5:3 reads, “we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and … character, and … hope.”
So, Christian’s sufferings are not sufferings; your sufferings and mine are not sufferings at all, but our joyful waiting for the glory in Christ Jesus! 2 Tim. 3:16 calls this waiting as ‘training in righteousness’ and that’s exactly what you and I are passing through alongside all fellow Christians.
III. WE’RE FREE FROM DISCOURAGEMENT
Vs. 28-30 astonish us as these verses show the love and grace of God our Father for us! I believe you know these verses by heart.
This section is one of the first parts of the Bible you’d quote in order to prove what God does for our salvation. V. 28 declares that our gracious Heavenly Father is perfect in His plan and its implementation in the lives of all He saves; nothing is wasted or gone wrong but all things work together for ‘good’ in the eyes of God. Then, vs. 29-30 are often regarded as the order of salvation. God, first of all, foreknew us whom He would save; then, He predestined us to be saved (if anyone denies the doctrine of predestination, here is the word, in Gk, ‘prourisen’ or ‘prourizo’). Having predestined us, He called each of us at the right time and justifies us; and all who are justified, He also glorifies. This means that your salvation and mine had been planned from even before the beginning of time and what He has brought in reality in the present time, He will surely carry on until we reach our glorification, that is, entering into our eternal home to be with Jesus.
Yet, God gave us these verses not simply as proof texts for predestination or the order of salvation – that’s a secondary reason. The primary purpose of these verses is rather to confirm our sure freedom from suffering, thus, freedom from frustration, freedom from discouragement. You’re not anybody randomly picked up from a marketplace; your place in God’s plan is as old as the age of this world, and your future glory in Jesus is surer than all things that exist. That’s the picture depicted in the word ‘hope’ in v. 24. ‘Hope’ is something we cannot see, not because it is fake or fairy tale, but because it is greater and surer and firmer than what is visible. The Apostle Paul questions, therefore, in v. 24, “who hopes for what he sees?” A question like this doesn’t require an answer because it simply emphasises the negation of the idea. What is visible now is finite, limited, but what we ‘hope’ cannot be seen as it is infinite, limitless. This hope is real and glorious!
The message for us to take to our hearts today is this that God saved you through Jesus, thus, you’re free from sufferings because the curse of sin is removed by Jesus. What you pass through now is far from the sufferings of the unbelievers. While their sufferings are the outcome of sin’s curse, the sufferings you pass through are the training courses for righteousness through which you’ll be equipped with endurance and character and hope, then, finally receive your future glory!
You must know that the sufferings you go through are your preparation for having and enjoying the future glory in Jesus. See how many verses God has spared in His holy Book for this message. Not just thirteen verses in the middle of Rom. 8, but the entire epistle of Romans is recorded to speak this message to you – that is, ‘you’re free from discouragement’! Do not be discouraged or dismayed when trouble comes, when you face suffering, because each trouble and suffering is another step closer to your future glory in Jesus! See why God has said in 1 Cor. 10:13 that “[He] is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation [or trouble or suffering] He will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”
So, you and I should rejoice in troubles and in sufferings. The world would never be able to understand the reason for our joy in Christ, let alone in our sufferings. But you must remember and know clearly that your God, our gracious Father, “will supply every need of yours according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” ***