Saturday, July 22, 2017

Pentecost 7 - Proper 11

Romans and the Reformation
A Series of Sermons Commemorating the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation
July 23, 2017 - Proper 11 - Romans 8:18-23

Total Loss for Permanent Gain - Why do believers suffer?

“Mom...why are there mosquitoes? That give people malaria? Why are there germs? That make us sick?”

“Mom...I saw on the news a bad flood that killed a lot of people. Why are there floods? And earthquakes? And hurricanes? And tornadoes? Why are there famines? Why do some people starve to death?”

“Why did my friend at school get cancer? Why did Grandma get sick…and die?”

“Mom, why do people set off bombs? Why do people do bad things? To hurt each other?”

Maybe your kids have asked you questions like these. I know mine have. Probably you’ve wrestled with them yourself.

How does all of this make sense to you?  How can a loving, all-powerful God allow terrible suffering that is in the world? Some become agnostics or atheists because they cannot come up with satisfactory answers to such questions.

Since none of us are exempt from suffering and death. It’s important that we understand what the Bible teaches on this difficult topic. The topic of brokenness in this world. 

As we continue with our reading and reflecting on Paul's letter to the Romans, Paul would give us this perspective. We live in an interim period. Now we have suffering. Later, permanent glory. Now we are children of God. But not fully. 

In this transitional period on earth, we wait, groan, and long for the end of this pilgrimage. What we endure today is a temporary loss for a permanent gain of glory as children of God. Both creation and creatures groan for redemption. That's what Paul is getting at this morning. "We wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies." 

In this period of transition.

1. We wait for redemption.
2. We groan because of suffering.
3. We long for permanent gain.

1. We wait for redemption – “For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.  And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first-fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies." Romans 8:19, 23


This needs to be stated because; there is a pervasive false teaching that God wants every Christian to be healthy, wealthy, and above all else successful. Purchase this product. Follow this program. Practice these steps and the blessings of God will follow. After all, God wants you to have your best life now. 

They say, “If you’re sick or poor, then you need to claim your healing or your wealth by faith.” Those who teach these lies are preying on people’s greed and their natural longing to be in good health. But, you will never see one of these false teachers live to be 120. They all succumb to disease and death at about the same age as the rest of us. Do not fall for their teaching!

Paul himself suffered terribly. When he was call on the road the Lord told Ananias the prophet whom He sent to open Paul’s eyes “for I will show him how much he must suffer for My name’s sake.”  (Acts 9:26)Paul often mentions the trials that he endured, which would have driven most to despair.  (See 2 Cor. 11:23-28).

Our Lord Himself was a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief (Isa. 53:3). He came to this world of suffering to bear our sins through His own suffering and death. So why should we think that somehow we will be exempt from suffering?

In the sovereign purposes of God, some suffer more and some suffer less. But none are exempt. It’s a part of living in this fallen world.

2. We groan because of suffering – “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 first-fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies."- Romans 8:22-23

The present time is marked by sufferings because of man’s fall into sin.

Paul mentions “the sufferings of this present time.” v.18. He was not referring to an especially difficult period in history, but to the entire present age. The whole history of creation since the fall is marked by suffering. The history of nations is marked by struggles and catastrophes—wars, natural disasters, internal conflicts, power struggles, and crimes. 

The history of individuals is also in large part a history of trials—the trials of growing up, figuring out what to do with your life, whom you will marry, rearing children, working through struggles in your marriage, providing for your needs, growing old and facing declining health and finally, death.

But, why? Why do we suffer? How should we as Christians think about these difficult matters? 

3. We long for permanent gain - "For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God."  - Romans 8:19

To persevere in present sufferings with hope, keep your eyes on the future glory that God has promised us.  Paul wants us to understand two certainties… 

First, the present time is marked by sufferings because of man’s fall into sin. 

Second, the future will be marked by glory for believers as God fulfills all His promises to us. The practical conclusion is, if we keep our eyes on the future promised glory, then we can endure present sufferings with perseverance and hope.

Keep your eyes on the future promised glory and you will persevere in present sufferings with hope.
Paul anticipates us thinking, “But, I can’t see this future glory.” His reply is, “Yes, that’s the very nature of hope.” If you can see it all, then it’s not hope. Our salvation includes hope because we don’t receive it all in this life. The hope of our salvation is not uncertain, as when we say, “I hope it doesn’t rain on my picnic tomorrow.” Rather, it is absolutely certain because of the many promises of God, who cannot lie. But we hope for it because we have not yet received all that has been promised. So Paul concludes (8:25), “But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.” The key to persevering in suffering with hope is to keep your eyes on the promised future glory.

It's summer. Those who subscribe to the B1G network know that especially during the summer months, highlights from previous games are aired. 

If you’ve ever watched your favorite team live, or in person, it's only natural to become anxious as the game progressed. Especially if it was close. If your team fumbled or threw an interception, you groaned because you didn’t know the outcome. You hoped they would win, but your hope was uncertain. Maybe you even got depressed when they were far behind.

But if your team came from behind and won in the last seconds of the game and later you watched a replay of the game, your whole attitude is different. You don't despair when they fumbled. Or fell behind. Because you knew how it all would turn out. Knowing the certainty of the future glory gave you hope to persevere through the setbacks.

If we become anxious or depressed in trials and lose hope, it’s because we’ve forgotten the absolutely certain outcome: Future glory forever with Christ! Yes, there is present suffering because we live in a fallen world. But God has promised future glory. Keeping that in view will enable you to persevere any suffering with hope.

Words –1,300
Passive Sentences –5%
Readability – 73.5%
Reading Level -6.0

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