Main Idea: Life is hard, but God is good.
[Video: Date Miserable People Commercial]
I am not necessarily endorsing this particular dating service, but it does have an interesting idea, doesn’t it? The concept is just that instead of acting like a happy, healthy person, you should just admit that you’re miserable and suffering. And if we’re honest with one another, it can actually lead to a happier, healthier life. In other words, if we confess our sins and suffering, we might actually be able to be redeemed, or be rescued from, our sins and suffering.
The Bible says 1 John 1:9:
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)
So as I was working on this sermon, Abby came up to me overwhelmed with schoolwork and the messy condition of our house, obviously implying that she wanted me to clean the house. I told her that I was working on a sermon, and said that before I could help her clean, that first I needed to think of an illustration about suffering and redemption. And without missing a beat, she said, “I’m suffering, and I need you to redeem me!”
This sermon is about suffering. But even more so, it’s about redemption. It’s about how not only does God have a purpose for suffering, but how in the end God rescues us from suffering and even increases our joy in eternity because of the suffering that we endure in this fallen world.
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is going to be revealed to us. For the creation eagerly waits with anticipation for God’s sons to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to futility—not willingly, but because of him who subjected it—in the hope that the creation itself will also be set free from the bondage to decay into the glorious freedom of God’s children. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together with labor pains until now. Not only that, but we ourselves who have the Spirit as the firstfruits—we also groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. Now in this hope we were saved, but hope that is seen is not hope, because who hopes for what he sees? Now if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with patience. (Romans 8:18-25)
Father, help us to be patient. We don’t always understand the reason for our suffering, so help us to trust You and hope in Christ. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
My favorite children’s book is Love You Forever. The rest of my family thinks it’s creepy because it’s about a mom who creeps into her adult child’s window, and even into his bed in order to rock him back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, while singing to him:
I’ll love you forever,
I’ll like you for always,
As long as I’m living,
My baby you’ll be.
Well, I think it’s beautiful. But mom, don’t get any ideas.
But I recently learned about how the author wrote this story, and I think it makes it even more beautiful.
According to the Huffington Post, before it was a children’s book, it was a four-line poem that the author Robert Munsch would sing silently to himself after his wife gave birth to a second stillborn baby.
I’ll love you forever,
I’ll like you for always,
As long as I’m living,
My baby you’ll be.
Munsch says the song was too painful to sing out loud. For a long time, he couldn’t even share it with his wife. After the second stillbirth, doctors told the couple that they would never be able to conceive. The couple went on to adopt three children, but Munsch used his song as a way to grieve their two previous losses. He would sing it to himself like a silent lullaby, never writing it down or saying it out loud.
Then one day, while speaking in front of a crowd, the song popped into his head, and he made up a story on the spot to go along with the song. Some people in the audience thought it was dark and creepy, and some thought it was a beautiful story about unrelenting, unconditional love. And everyone thought it was unlike any children’s story they had ever heard.
Now, maybe you’ll disagree with me about how this relates to my message this morning, but it’s definitely true that out of great suffering comes beauty. Ecclesiastes 3:11 says that:
[God] has made everything beautiful in its time. (Ecclesiastes 3:11a, ESV)
Well, our passage in Romans 8 this morning immediately follows verses 16 and 17, which we talked about two weeks ago. It says:
The Spirit himself testifies together with our spirit that we are God’s children, and if children, also heirs – heirs of God and coheirs with Christ – if indeed we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him. (Romans 8:16-17)
We can suffer many things in this life. We suffer because of mistakes and sins that we commit. We suffer because of mistakes and sins that others commit. We even suffer just because of the general presence of sin in the world. But the type of suffering that Paul is writing about in this passage is suffering because of our faith in Christ as we identify with Him, being God’s children.
Jesus suffered. He suffered not because of any wrong that He committed, but because He took our sins upon Himself when He endured the cross. Even as Jesus was doing the most selfless act ever to be done in all of the history of the world, forgiving us of our sins, He also endured the greatest suffering ever to be endured in the history of the world. And Paul invites us to suffer with Jesus in order to be glorified with Jesus.
Is that why you suffer? Obviously we can’t die for the sins of the world, because only Jesus is the Savior, and yet, God calls us to follow Jesus. When you think about why you suffer in the world, can you trace it back to loving people as Jesus did, or does it go back to sins that you committed?
If we’re honest, much of our suffering is on us. There are obvious examples like drugs and crime, which each have consequences and suffering as a result, but there are also things like procrastination and selfishness, which also lead to consequences and suffering.
But God calls us to suffer for doing good. He calls us to be willing to share the gospel with those around us, no matter what the consequences may be, so that the people around us can trust in Jesus and be saved. But if we do that, many of our friends will no longer want to be our friends. Many members of our own families will no longer want us around. We share the gospel with nothing but love, but it’s often received with contempt. So we suffer.
But I want to point out that Paul actually seems to broaden this view of suffering as he writes verse 18 from our passage this morning.
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is going to be revealed to us. (Romans 8:18)
So, yes, we ought to be willing to suffer as Christians, but Paul actually writes this about all suffering. He could have written, “I consider these sufferings,” referring to the kinds of suffering he wrote about in verses 16 and 17, or he could have written, “I consider suffering with Jesus is not worth comparing with the glory that is going to be revealed to us.” But that’s not what he wrote. Reflecting on suffering in general, Paul wrote that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is going to be revealed. So what does that mean?
It means simply that life is hard, but God is good.
When you think about all the things that you’ve endured and may endure in life, whether you brought them on yourself or not, and whether they came about through the hands of others or not, we can look forward to a time when we see God’s glory revealed, and all of our suffering is nothing in comparison.
We get so consumed sometimes in this life with relieving the suffering that we face. On a small scale, if we’re hungry, we can easily get food. If we’re thirsty, we can easily get a drink. But even on a larger scale, if we see an injustice in the world, we can work to relieve that. We can send money to organizations that help children in poverty, and we can donate to cure cancer, and things like that. And there’s certainly nothing wrong with that. We ought to be doing things like that. In another place, Paul wrote to slaves that if they could get their freedom, they should do that. And yet, he also wrote to them that it was even more important that they endure with patience, and if they were going to suffer, suffer for doing good.
Now, slavery is an injustice, and we ought not to repeat the past, and yet, when this life is over, we’ll all be able to look at all of the sufferings that we endured, and be able to say, “God, seeing Your glory revealed makes all that suffering seem like nothing.”
Seeing God’s glory revealed means seeing how God’s purpose was revealed through everything, even our suffering. In the end, we’ll be able to look at every hard moment of our lives and be able to praise God for working through everything for our good and His glory.
For the creation eagerly waits with anticipation for God’s sons to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to futility—not willingly, but because of him who subjected it—in the hope that the creation itself will also be set free from the bondage to decay into the glorious freedom of God’s children. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together with labor pains until now. (Romans 8:19-22)
Ever since Adam and Eve’s sin in the garden, we have all been marred by our sin. And when they sinned, even creation was marred. Creation itself began to suffer. Because of their sin, the ground was cursed. Plants started to produce thorns and thistles, things that are harmful to the touch. We have things like tornados, hurricanes, and earthquakes because when Adam and Eve sinned in the garden, their sin affected everything. So creation longs to be relieved from suffering.
Not only that, but we ourselves who have the Spirit as the firstfruits—we also groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. Now in this hope we were saved, but hope that is seen is not hope, because who hopes for what he sees? Now if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with patience. (Romans 8:23-25)
So we groan with creation. But there’s good news. God has a plan to redeem all things.
It’s interesting that it says we eagerly wait for adoption, even though last week we saw that we’ve already been adopted by God. So we see this concept again of “already, not yet.” This is a reality that we see pop up in Scripture a lot. We’ve already been adopted, but we have not yet seen the full meaning of that adoption. Being adopted by God means, in part, that we will have perfected, glorified bodies. We’ll shed all the limitations of this life, and we’ll be like Jesus, because we’ll see Him as He is. This is something we look forward to.
Today on the church calendar is known as Palm Sunday, which is actually quite fitting for our message today. On Palm Sunday, Jesus was welcomed into Jerusalem by people waving palm branches. You see, even the creation welcomes Jesus, longing to be restored by Jesus in the end.
Out of great suffering comes beauty. And this is definitely true of Jesus Himself. It says in Hebrews 12:
Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. For the joy that lay before him, he endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1b-2)
The poet and author Dorothy Sayers said it this way:
Whatever the reason God chose to make man as he is — limited and suffering and subject to sorrows and death — He had the honesty and the courage to take His own medicine. Whatever GAME He is playing with His creation, He has kept His own rules and played fair. He can exact nothing from man that He has not exacted from Himself. He has Himself gone through the whole of human experience, from the trivial irritations of family life and the cramping restrictions of hard work and lack of money to the worst horrors of pain and humiliation, defeat, despair, and death. When He was a man, He played the man. He was born in poverty and died in disgrace and thought it well worthwhile. – Dorothy Sayers
And Jesus did this out of love for you. Jeremiah 31:3 says:
I have loved you with an everlasting love;
therefore, I have continued to extend faithful love to you. (Jeremiah 31:3b)
In other words, I think God was telling us Israel, and us “I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always, as long as I’m living, my baby you’ll be.”
Robert Munsch wrote those words for his dead babies. And you know, the Bible says that we were dead in our trespasses and sins. The difference, however, is that God has the power to raise us to life. So although we suffer now for a little while, by grace through faith in Jesus, we’re redeemed and given a new life. God makes everything beautiful in its time.
Pastor Chris Huff has been with us since July 2009. He and his wife, Abby, have four children. Chris is originally from St. Louis, MO and even though he was raised as a city boy, he has a small town heart. Chris is all over the internet, so you can find him on Facebook, Twitter,… (read more)