At times, life can really beat you down. As I write this, my back hurts, hopefully just from a muscle strain. I hurt it playing basketball with a compression sleeve on my knee, which I am convinced did not let me bend my leg far enough on my right side and led to the injury. I had hurt that knee in the fall playing basketball with an ankle brace (same leg – the right one), which I am convinced put too much stress on my knee because it didn’t allow my ankle to move enough. I had the brace on my ankle because I sprained it playing basketball at the end of the summer. Before my 30’s, I could play ball whenever and never got hurt. Then I hit 34 and tore my Achilles’ tendon and pain management started to become part of my thought process whenever I have a chance to play. So now I am resting and hopefully healing and have sworn to never wear any kind of brace or sleeve again!
And this current health battle I face is minor compared to the struggles of others. My wife has suffered daily headaches and back pain for years from a bad car accident when she was in college. Your parents, grandparents, and other teachers can probably share similar stories of pain and suffering, some from aging and diseases, and some from the hazards of life. Based on all the boots and braces I see around campus, you may have already faced some sports injuries that have shown you the weakness of your body. Or maybe you have had serious illnesses; we have even had a few students at NRCA fight cancer. Maybe your recent battles have been emotional stresses with friends or family. The truth is that many of you don’t need anyone to convince you that life can be hard.
Our suffering is a reminder that we live in a fallen world. Today’s reading in Romans tells is that all of creation is under the curse of sin (Romans 8:20), and that our environment “groans” as it waits for the day when God will redeem it at the end of the age (Romans 8:21-22). But even more important to God will be the redemption of His people. Christians suffer for a little while now, but it is a small thing compared to the glorious future we have awaiting us in the next life (Romans 8:18). We face physical hardships like pain and sickness now in our weakened earthly bodies. We suffer emotional stresses and sometimes persecution for our faith. At times we sigh and even “groan” as we wait for the perfect resurrection bodies that we will receive in the new heaven and the new earth (Romans 8:23). Even more so, we groan under the weight of our sins and long for that wonderful day when we will no longer have to battle temptation and the guilt of the times we disobey God. We hope for a future we cannot see by hoping in a Jesus we cannot see (Romans 8:24). But by faith we patiently trust that one day our hope will become sight when we die and enter the welcoming presence of our Lord (Romans 8:25). Our hope is certain, not mere wishful thinking. As we read yesterday, we have already begun to experience the “first fruits” (Romans 8:23) of our salvation through the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts (Romans 8:14). This process of sanctification, or changing of our heart from evil to good, is our proof that Jesus is real and so are His promises of heaven to His followers. Don’t lose heart in your pain. Let the great hope of heaven encourage you today in whatever trials you face.
The Text (Romans 8:18-25)
18 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. 19 For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; 21 because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. 23 Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body. 24 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? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.
Questions to Think About
- Have you experienced any physical injuries or emotional stresses in the past few years that have reminded you that our world is messed up from the curse of sin?
- Do you have any family or friends who have suffered or are currently suffering greatly in some way right now?
- What is life like for suffering people who do not have the Christian’s hope of heaven?