Life in the Spirit, part 4 "From Groaning to Glory"

Life in the Spirit

Part 4, “From Groaning to Glory”

If you knew that something wonderful was going to happen to you tomorrow, would it make a difference in the way you lived today? Suppose you knew you were going to inherit a large sum of money (i.e. $100,000,000). You would probably have a very positive attitude. Things wouldn't bother you quite so much. People wouldn't irritate you quite so easily. Why? Because you would have your mind set on your inheritance.

Those who are born again of God’s Spirit have received an enormous inheritance. It affects how they live today because they have their mind set on the Spirit and on their inheritance. Living in the Spirit of who we are in Christ instead of who we used to be in the flesh is the subject inspired by the Holy Spirit in the eighth chapter of Romans.

First, we can live in the Spirit, because we have the Spirit dwelling in us (Romans 8:1-13). Second, we can live in the Spirit because we are in God's family (Romans 8:14-17). And third, we can live in the Spirit because, in spite of our present suffering, we have a glorious hope to look forward to (Romans 8:18-30). Something wonderful is going to happen. Something more glorious than a large sum of money. Something money cannot buy. Jesus is coming again! We are going home! Setting our mind on that hope and what the Spirit is saying today can make a huge difference in the way we live our lives right now.

Romans 8:18-27 For 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 willingly, but because of him who subjected it, 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. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 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 what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

Romans 8 describes a life in the Spirit and the wonderful benefits we have as children of God. But that doesn't change the fact that we live in a world of sin, sorrow, and suffering that affects all of us. However, our life in the Spirit affects how we respond to sin, sorrow, and suffering.

We may be suffering because of sickness or pain (either physical or emotional). We may be suffering because a loved one died. We may be suffering because our business has declined, or because we're out of work and struggling to make ends meet. We may be suffering because somebody has hurt us deeply, or because our children have disappointed us, or because our marriage is shaky, or because our neighbors are antagonistic. Although we are forgiven, we may be suffering the consequences of our sin.

Today’s passage begins with a general statement about the comparative significance between suffering and glory.

Romans 8:18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.

It's almost as though Paul was holding a balance scale in his hand. On one side he placed all the suffering he experienced, and for him that was a lot: beaten, stoned, shipwrecked, robbed, sick, hungry, thirsty, cold, exhausted, maligned, imprisoned, and ridiculed, to name just a little of what he suffered. On the other side of the scale, he placed the glory that is to be revealed to us. And immediately that side of the scale drops down under the greater weight. There's no comparison. He said much the same thing to the Corinthians:

2 Corinthians 4:16-18 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

Nevertheless, even while we look to the things that are unseen, we groan under the weight of our suffering. To groan is to express deep grief and sorrow over the pain of our circumstances. There's a lot of groaning in this world, and all of it is a direct result of sin—either our sin or someone else’s sin.

God is not the author of suffering. He created a world without suffering. Suffering is the consequence of sin. Man sinned when he believed the lies of Satan instead of believing and obeying God. Man continues sinning today. As a result, all of God’s creation is suffering the consequences of sin. The suffering even causes the creation to groan.

Romans 8:19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.

If we are in Christ, we are already the sons of God. When Christ returns, our identity will be evident to all, for Christ will separate the “sheep from the goats”. And even nature looks forward to the day when it shall be revealed, because the deliverance of nature itself is tied to the revealing of the sons of God.

Romans 8:20-21 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, 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.

God subjected Creation to man’s dominion. Therefore, Creation is suffering because, as a result of man’s sin, it was cursed along with man. Death entered in, animals began devouring one another, and the land began producing thorns and thistles. The Creation cannot properly fulfill the purpose for its existence, which is to glorify God.

The whole Creation looks forward to the liberty it will enjoy when the children of God enter into their glory. Right now Creation is in "bondage to corruption." Scientists call it the second law of thermodynamics. Everything is running down and in disorder until it finds an equilibrium. This will continue until the children of God enter into their glory.

Romans 8:22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.

Creation is groaning under the pain of man’s sin. But it is not just pain; it is pain with a purpose, like the pain of childbirth. The pain will have a worthwhile end—it is going to culminate in glory.

Isaiah 11:6-9 The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze; their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.

So, presently, Creation groans. But someday it will be delivered from its bondage to corruption—the day when the children of God are gloriously revealed.

In the meantime, the believer in Christ, who is born again of the Spirit, also groans as he waits for this glory.

Romans 8:23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.

Our spirits and souls have been redeemed and given eternal life, but we still live in dying bodies. Nevertheless, our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. However, the joyous first fruits of the Spirit in us do not eliminate the present suffering and groans of the body. Still, the Holy Spirit gives us a guarantee of our inheritance and foretaste of the magnificent glory that shall be ours in the future.

Ephesians 1:13-14 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

I'm thankful that there is more to my adoption into God's family than I have already experienced. And I am eagerly anticipating the day when by body will be completely and finally liberated from the effects of sin and death. I will be free from pain. I will have a glorified body, with no weaknesses, blemishes, or defects. I will have an exalted position in my heavenly home with my precious Lord. All the riches of Heaven will be mine to enjoy for eternity. That will be real glory! My present groaning is no comparison to the glory that is mine in Christ Jesus! What a wonderful hope!

Romans 8:24-25 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.

When we are saved, we are given the gift of hope, indicating that there is more in store for us than we have already experienced. Therefore, we patiently wait for it. That doesn’t mean we sit around doing nothing. It means we live in the first fruits of this promise. We set our minds on the Spirit and walk according to the Spirit instead of our flesh. Even though we suffer, we have the promise and hope of future glory.

Unfortunately today, we have made the word hope an anemic, weak word. Sometimes we say, “I hope something happens,” when we’re not sure it will happen. For instance, you may say, “I hope I get a raise next year,” or, “I hope I passed that test,” (You’re really not sure you did.) or you’ll say, “I hope the Razorbacks win.” (And you’re certainly not very sure that will happen!)

But hope for the Christian is not just a wish that something nice will happen. It is a sure thing, a firm assurance, an anchor for the soul, both certain and steadfast. Our hope is in Jesus Christ.

Hebrews 6:19-20 We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.

And with this hope, we can persevere with courage and endurance, and be triumphant in times of suffering. This assurance of future glory is a powerful motivation to set our minds on the Spirit and live gloriously, here and now, in the Spirit of Christ.

We've seen that the creation groans, but someday will experience glory. And the believer groans, but someday we will experience full glory. There is one more mention of groaning in today’s passage.

Romans 8:26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.

We have lots of weaknesses. And one of them is we don't know what to pray for in our times of suffering. We may think we know what we need, but we often discover that we really don't. We may ask to be spared from things that we think are unpleasant, when actually, they are good for us. And we may ask for things that we think will be good for us, when actually, they are harmful. We're like little children in this regard. We don’t know what is best. We should learn to trust our Father and be thankful when He does not answer our prayer as we intended. His way is better and He knows better.

Fortunately, we have a Helper, the Holy Spirit, to intercede for us. The Holy Spirit knows exactly what we need. He lives in us. He's with us all the time. And since He is the Spirit of God, He is omniscient. He knows everything; He knows the future; He knows what will turn out to be best for us. So, He intercedes for us to the Father for exactly the right thing with groans that cannot be uttered. We don’t know what is being communicated, but we can sense it. We can feel the groan. It may be different from what we are praying for. But it is the prayer that will be answered, because it is the will of God.

Romans 8:27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

Maybe you're thinking, "Well, if I don't know what to pray for, and the Spirit does, why should I pray at all? Why not just let the Holy Spirit do my praying for me?"

We pray because God commands us to pray. Jesus spent much time in prayer. Prayer is not just telling God the Father what we want and what to do. Prayer includes listening to God. It is a conversation with God the Father. Prayer is how God involves us in the answer. During prayer, God tells us what to do and gets us aligned with His mind and will. As a result, God changes us through participation in prayer.

As an aside, do you realize that we have two divine intercessors? No, they are not Mary and the saints! Nowhere in the Bible does it say that they intercede for us; neither does it say that they are divine.

However, according to this verse, the Holy Spirit intercedes for us. And if we look ahead in Romans 8: God the Son, Jesus Christ, is interceding for us in Heaven.

Romans 8:34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.

I'm grateful for everyone who prays for me. But I am most grateful for these two divine intercessors: God the Spirit and God the Son. They know what I need better than anybody else. They are interceding for me to God the Father for exactly what I need.

Therefore, God the Father understands the Spirit’s unspoken groanings, and He will answer them. We can be assured that the Spirit’s groaning will result in our glory.

1 John 3:2-3 Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.

We are God’s children now! Furthermore, something wonderful is going to happen to us! And if we set our mind on the Spirit and what He is preparing us for, it can make a world of difference in the way we live our lives right here and now. We will purify ourselves by dying to the flesh and living by the Spirit, because we know Jesus will come again and we will be like Him!

Live in that anticipation. Get ready and trust what God is doing. God is going to turn our groaning into glory!

Perhaps Jesus will come today! Are you ready? Oh, how I pray we will all get ready!

Today is the day of salvation. Believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God who atoned for our sin by shedding His blood on the cross. Then act on that faith by confessing it in public and repenting of your sin. Follow Jesus in water baptism and you will be born again of the Holy Spirit. He will lead you and guide you in a life in the Spirit, which is a glorious life now and promises to be a glorious eternity in Heaven.

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