Life is full of struggles and uncertainties. Some of us have to work hard in order to support families and there is no certainty that our jobs are secure. In a climate of economic uncertainty, everyone faces the same everyday realities of stress. And this is just one example. Some others struggle daily with health issues or in difficult living conditions, whether it is natural disasters or political instability or some other factor.
As Christians, we know that God is in the process of redeeming things to glory. Nevertheless, this knowledge does not always make things easier. Even early on, in the days of the Apostle Paul, he had written in Romans 8 of this matter. He recognized that all of Creation had fallen away from God, and that while it is waiting expectantly for His redemption, it is also groaning in the process, as if in birth pangs. There are many other insights in this passage of the Bible. However, there was a centrality in Paul’s understanding of the issues.
Foremost, he identified with the fact that when we became believers of Christ, we have all been adopted by God and that there is life in the Spirit (Romans 8:14-17). This is something that gives us hope and it ought to shape our perspectives. On the 22nd of October 2017, Pr Jonathan Ngan shared at SIB KL about this focus.
Pr Jonathan shared that because of the human condition, adoption sometimes has a negative connotation. Yet there is also beauty in it for it involves an active element and a definite decision. Our adoption by God is not something incidental; it is purposeful. When we got adopted by God, we get 1.) Intimacy (with the Father), 2.) Identity (our old debts and past is wiped out), and 3.) Inheritance (make co-heirs).
When we are adopted by God we get intimacy with Him because we become His sons and daughters. God wants to build an intimate relationship with us; an ongoing and personal thing. He is not just some cosmic force but Someone who wants to know us and to love us. This is why Paul, and we, can confidently cry out “Abba, Father”.
Along with this Sonship and Daughtership, we get a new identity and family (2 Corinthians 5:17). Our old debts and past is wiped out and there is a new beginning. God cares about where we are going and He cares more about our growth and destiny than our past. He does not do things by half-measures; when Scripture says He adopted us it means that in full measure. We do not become second-class to Christ because we were adopted; God actually sees us fully as His sons and daughters, not adopted ones, but co-heirs along with Christ. There is power in this; we have a complete and total relationship with our Heavenly Father.
However, in a complete and total relationship, God is also concerned about our character, not just our comfort. He is interested in our growth, not wanting us to be spiritually and character-stunted. He wants, and He shapes and moulds us, to be the types of people He created us to be.
In Hebrews 12:5-11 we are reminded encouragingly of the purpose of discipline. In the Christian life, there is testing along with the blessing but the testing is never for the purpose of breaking us. ‘God ruthlessly perfects those that He royally elects,’ Pr Jonathan encouraged. This is the reason Paul also wrote often about the endurance of faith and about running the good race, and this is also found in Matthew 24:13 and James 1:12. It means that suffering is a preparatory process to our Sonship and our groaning, prerequisite to glory.
Paul wrote about three types of groaning within Romans 8 and Pr Jonathan shared a lesson we can learn from each one of them. The first is the groaning of Creation (Romans 8: 20-22). This is reflected in everything we see around us and the man of science sees this in the Law of Decay. Living things grow old and die. Technological gadgets, cars, and buildings are subject to breakdown and rust. Civilizations rise and fall. Nothing lasts forever.
All Creation is subject to this; it happens on a global context and scale and is not limited on an individual level. The rain falls on both the righteous and the unrighteous (Matthew 5:45). We live in this world and we are subject to it, but this is also something judicial. Sin ruins wherever it rains, not just in our own personal lives but even in the land.
Through John 3:16, we know that God so love the world. This world is not just us as people, but the entirety of the cosmos, Pr Jonathan expressed. Praise God that the old will pass away and that He is in the process of bringing a New Earth. The lesson we can learn here: don’t over-personalize suffering (John 16:33).
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
Paul also wrote very clearly that Christians are also not exempted to groaning (Romans 8:23-25). But there is a purpose to pain. They are often an indication of the danger that our bodily tissues are undergoing, functioning as an alarm system to caution us. CS Lewis wrote that God whispers in our pleasure, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain. Pain is God’s megaphone to rouse a deaf world.
Today the world has become so technologically advanced, yet the issues are all still there. People are becoming increasingly disconnected, families still break up, and social ills still thrive. We have become deaf to the people around us, and to God.
As Christians, we are called to a mindset shift; a renewal in the way we think. We are a spiritual being (not a spirit living in a body, but a spirit that has a body subject to decay). But while our body is subject to decay, our inner man can be renewed and recharged every day. What matters are our spirit and not just the things that happen in the physical (2 Corinthians 4:16-18). We can look at things the way God looks at it, not just focusing on the momentary problems, but with a spiritual focus at what He is building us towards. The lesson we can learn as Christians: have an eternal perspective.
2 Corinthians 4:16-18New International Version (NIV)
16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
But the most powerful thing in the passage is that we learn that we are not alone in our groaning. The Creator groans along with us (Romans 8:26-27). Jesus Himself calls the Holy Spirit our Advocator, Comforter, Counselor, and Helper. He intercedes and groans on our behalf when we do not have the words. When we commune with the Holy Spirit, we are connecting with Him, spirit to Spirit, and God will begin to reveal His direction, empower us, and comforts us.
This is not just a special privilege given to a select few but to every child of God and it will enrich our Christian life. When we are connected with our Creator, we do not have to struggle through our lives alone. The secret to a victorious Christian life is to simply trust in God. The lesson from this: there is no substitute for knowing and growing in God.
Romans 8: 14-27
14For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. 15The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” 16The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17Now 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.
18I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.19For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.
22We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. 24For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.
26In 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 through wordless groans. 27And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.
NOTE: This article was written from the perspective of the impartation the writer has received from the sharing and has not been vetted by either Pr Jonathan or SIBKL.
|Share The Good News|