Provided We Suffer
Romans 8:16-18 ESV
“The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”
Too many people today are teaching a gospel of grace absent of suffering, i.e. absent of death to sin, denial of self, yielding control of our lives over to God, submission to his Lordship, and walks of obedience to his commands.
They are teaching a faith in Jesus Christ which makes no requirements for repentance, obedience, or surrender of our lives to Christ. And, many of them are teaching us that as Christ’s followers we are NOT destined to suffer with Christ, even though the scriptures say we are.
They ignore all of the “if” clauses in scripture related to our salvation and eternal life with God, too, as though God is okay with a free-for-all, i.e. “a disorganized or unrestricted situation or event in which everyone may take part” (Google). And, they make the narrow road that leads to eternal life with God into a broad road which, in reality, leads to destruction and decay.
And, they don’t teach suffering as part of the normal every day Christian life, either. But, it is a huge part of our lives. For daily we must die to sin and self, and we must deny our flesh, and yield control of our lives over to God, even if it means personal suffering for us. And, even if it means that we will be hated and rejected in return, or criticized falsely, or persecuted for our walks of faith and our obedience to our Lord and our witness for him.
But, the New Testament scriptures are loaded with “if” clauses regarding our salvation from sin and eternal life with God, and this is just one of many. For, it says here that we are children of God “provided” (only if) we suffer with Christ. And, how did he suffer?
He was falsely accused, mocked, and many attempts were made at tripping him up with his words in order to find cause to accuse him. He was hounded continuously by the religious leaders, rejected by those of his own faith, of his hometown, and even by members of his own family who thought he was crazy, some of whom also accused him of being of Satan.
And, why did they do this? For one, he didn’t follow their religious customs. And he claimed to be God, which infuriated them. And, he confronted them with their sin, called for repentance, and he warned of divine judgment, if they did not repent and obey him. But, he promised hope for those who would take up their cross daily and who would follow him in obedience.
Yet, though suffering is painful, if we suffer for the sake of the name of Jesus, and because we are following him in obedience, and because we are bearing true witness to his true gospel of salvation, then it will be rewarded. I believe one of the biggest rewards is the difference that we can make in the lives of other people who we help come to a knowledge of the truth, and who we lead to God’s saving grace, and who surrender their lives to Jesus.
Set Free from Bondage
Romans 8:19-22 ESV
“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.”
While we still live on this earth, the earth is under a curse. Sin is rampant. Evil rules. Death and decay are a part of life. People hate one another, and so they murder, and they steal, and they commit adultery, and they slander one another. Wars never cease. And, bombs go off regularly, etc.
And, thus creation is personified here as longing for the day when our Lord returns, and when all wars cease, and when all hell stops breaking loose on the earth, and when creation is no longer under that curse, and it is set free, and when the children of God are finally set free from their suffering, too.
For in This Hope
Romans 8:23-25 ESV
“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.”
But, it is not just creation which is longing for that day. We who hope in Jesus Christ long for the day when our Lord will return and we will be set free from these bodies of decay and from our suffering, too.
But, it isn’t just that we long for the day when we will no longer have to suffer, but we long for the day when we can be with our Lord forever, when our salvation will be complete, and we will be able to live in his glorious presence forever and ever. And, evil will be no more! Amen!
Our Helper, God’s Spirit
Romans 8:26-27 ESV
“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.”
But, in the meanwhile, while we wait for that glorious day when we get to leave these flesh bodies and be changed into glorified bodies, we will suffer in many different ways. And, one of those ways in which we will suffer is that we will be tempted to sin against God and to yield to our flesh, and to fear our circumstances, and to doubt God, too.
So, we have this encouragement here that our Lord (the Holy Spirit) helps us in our weaknesses. He will give us all we need to endure, to be strong in the Lord, to resist Satan, to flee temptation, and to draw near to God in full assurance of faith. He will help us to walk the walk, even when the road gets treacherous, at times. For, He is all that we need to survive.
But, he doesn’t just zap us and we are good to go. We are not marionettes which he controls by strings, either. We still have a free will, and every day we have to choose to go our own way or to go his way and to obey him. We can choose to submit to his help, or we can be prideful and decide we can do it ourselves. Not saying that God is okay with either option, though. He is not! According to him, we only have one viable option, and that is to obey.
But, the encouragement here is that he is going to help us to obey. He doesn’t leave us hanging. We aren’t on our own in this. When we don’t know what to do or what to say, he will supply us with what we need if we ask with the right motives and if we are willing to do what he says.
So, even when we are feeling weak, we can be strong in the Lord and in his mighty strength. And, when we are being tempted to sin, in our Lord’s strength and with his help we can say “NO!” to ungodliness and fleshly lusts, and we can live self-controlled, upright and godly lives while we wait for Christ’s return (Tit. 2:11-14; Rom. 6:1-23; Eph. 4:17-24; 1 Jn. 1:5-9).
So, we never have an excuse for willfully walking in disobedience to our Lord, giving into our flesh, and resisting God instead of resisting Satan. For, God has given us, who are HIS, the Holy Spirit to indwell us, to lead us to all righteousness, to counsel us in the way we should go, and to empower us to live godly and holy lives pleasing to God.
Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah
Hymn lyrics by William Williams, pub.1745
tr. by Peter Williams, pub.1771
Music by John Hughes, 1907
Guide me, O Thou great Jehovah,
Pilgrim through this barren land.
I am weak, but Thou art mighty;
Hold me with Thy powerful hand.
Bread of Heaven, Bread of Heaven,
Feed me till I want no more.
Open now the crystal fountain,
Whence the healing stream doth flow;
Let the fire and cloudy pillar
Lead me all my journey through.
Strong Deliverer, strong Deliverer,
Be Thou still my Strength and Shield.
Lord, I trust Thy mighty power,
Wondrous are Thy works of old;
Thou deliver’st thine from thralldom,
Who for naught themselves had sold.
Thou didst conquer, Thou didst conquer
Sin and Satan and the grave.
When I tread the verge of Jordan,
Bid my anxious fears subside;
Death of deaths, and hell’s destruction,
Land me safe on Canaan’s side.
Songs of praises, songs of praises,
I will ever give to Thee. Amen.
* copyright status is Public Domain