Title: The Work of the Spirit in the Spirit-filled Life!
Text: Romans 8.22-28
Introduction: Thank you, Joshua, for reading our text.
Tough days. We all have them. Some are worse than others. Like the one, the hard-hat employee reported when he tried to be helpful. Maybe you heard about it too; the account actually appeared on a company accident form. Bruised and bandaged, the workman related this experience:
When I got to the building I found that the hurricane had knocked off some bricks around the top. So I rigged up a beam with a pulley at the top of the building and hoisted up a couple barrels full of bricks. When I had fixed the damaged area, there were a lot of bricks left over. Then I went to the bottom and began releasing the line. Unfortunately, the barrel of bricks was much heavier than I was—and before I knew what was happening the barrel started coming down, jerking me up.
I decided to hang on since I was too far off the ground by then to jump, and halfway up I met the barrel of bricks coming down fast. I received a hard blow on my shoulder. I then continued to the top, banging my head against the beam and getting my fingers pinched and jammed in the pulley. When the barrel hit the ground hard, it burst its bottom, allowing the bricks to spill out.
I was now heavier than the barrel. So I started down again at high speed. Halfway down I met the barrel coming up fast and received severe injuries to my shins. When I hit the ground, I landed on the pile of spilled bricks, getting several painful cuts and deep bruises. At this point, I must have lost my presence of mind, because I let go of my grip on the line. The barrel came down fast—giving me another blow on my head and putting me in the hospital.
I respectfully request sick leave. (Chuck Swindoll quotes Michael Green in his book: The Tale of the Tardy Oxcart.)
Sounds like he needed some help! I think we all do, from time to time. Amen?
Our text this morning is all about the Spirit of God rendering aid to us in our time of need. We are not alone in this life. We are not alone in this struggle. And because of Him, we are not silent when we don’t know what to say or even how to say it.
Our text is sandwiched between the hope we have as believers and the knowledge of what we know about our current suffering: that God works all things together for good.
- We know our hope is in heaven.
- We know God works all things for good.
- Our hope of the hereafter
- Our hope of the here and now
Our hope is not in this life. Our hope is not in our possessions, our job, or prestige, our position, our home, or our accomplishments. Our hope is not in our parents or in our children. Our hope is the redemption of these frail bodies to a new body in a new heaven and a new earth. Paul says that The Creation has been groaning while in this present time – the time between the perfection of the garden and the perfection of heaven. And, he says, we, too, groan in this present time, as we wait eagerly for the redemption of these bodies. We suffer in hope because we know our future. So note the groaning going on here: The Creation, we (ourselves), and in our text the Spirit, who is acting on our behalf.
Transition: Let’s look at our text to see how the Spirit acts on our behalf. Rd v 26a:
I. The Spirit helps us in our weakness:
Exp.: 26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. I was sharing with someone earlier this week that a literal translation of this verse is: In a similar way the Spirit renders aid to our weakness. Think with me for a moment about our weakness. Back up in verse 3, we see this word weakness used: 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. The point is that our flesh is our weakness. Sin has weakened us. And yet, we have to live in these bodies. We live in this weakened state. Therefore, we are subject to all of the struggles that come with living in the flesh. They are unavoidable. We exist in this body and so it becomes our focus. That is why Paul says to set your mind on the things of the Spirit. But that is so hard.
Consider that most of our prayers are for the physical things of this body. Thank you for this food. Provide for my needs. Lord, I need a pay raise. Lord, my health is failing, my eyes are weak, my body is weak, I’m sick. God, help my friend who is sick, who is in financial straits, or open this door or open that door. Guide us as we travel. Most of our prayers are focused on this weakened state we’re in. Sometimes, this weakened state of ours is worse than others. Sometimes it is almost unbearable.
But not the Spirit of God, he intercedes for us in ways that are spiritual. He intercedes for us in ways that are in line with what God wants and wills for us.
Lit.: v 26 reads: In a similar fashion, the Spirit renders aid to our weakness. And then Paul tells us just what our weakness is in 26b: The Spirit helps us in our weakness:
A. Because we don’t know what to pray or how to pray it.
Ill.: Maybe that was the direction one of the disciples was going when he requested of Jesus: Lord, teach us to pray just as John taught his disciples (Mt 11.1). The text says there in Mt 11 that Jesus was praying in a certain place and when he had finished the disciple requested of him, “Lord, teach us to pray like John taught his disciples.” I love that he was watching the Master pray and wanted to know how to pray in a similar fashion: to be a pray-er like Jesus and to pray like Jesus. And then he taught them The Lord’s Prayer.
Maybe that is where the disciple was coming from: Lord, with all that is going on around us, I don’t know what to pray or how to pray it. I want to pray like you.
App.: We’re blessed to have the Spirit of the Living God rendering aid to our weakness, helping us overcome the weakness of our flesh, which is where our focus is when we suffer.
But this is where it gets really interesting for me. God is at work for us, and we didn’t even know we needed it. This parallels the Gospel so closely. You guys know the Gospel.
- God is holy and we’re not.
- Our sin separates us from God.
- There is nothing we could ever do to repair and recover this separation.
- So, God acted on our behalf and sent his Son Jesus to die for us. God in the Flesh. That’s what the beginning of this chapter states: 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. God punished sin through his son, Jesus.
In a similar fashion, I think this is what Paul is teaching now about the Spirit in v 26-27; God moves and acts on our behalf:
- You and I have no clue what to pray for or how to pray for it. And this is probably because we’re not like God. He is perfect and we’re not. He is holy and we’re not. We ask for things that are no good for us and we don’t even know that it is not good for us.
- So, God acted on our behalf and sent his Spirit to live in us and to commune with our spirit and to communicate for us in accordance with his will.
And we’ve seen this action of the Spirit multiple times here in Romans 8:
- In verse 2, The Spirit has set us free
- In verses 5-6, The Spirit helps us walk according to the Spirit
- In verses 9-11, The Spirit takes up residence in us and makes us alive when we become believers.
- In verses 12-17, The Spirit adopts us into the family of God
- In verses 16-17, The Spirit bears witness that we are his Children and heirs with Christ.
- In verses 26-27, The Spirit now groans for us when we don’t know how to pray or what to pray so that we pray according to God’s will.
26For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, and it continues but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.
This is the 2nd way the Holy Spirit of God helps us in our weakness: The Spirit helps us in our weakness:
B. By interceding for us with groanings that are too deep for words.
For me, this is what brings this passage back into the context of suffering. Yes, we know that our hope is heaven – our home. And yes, we know we’ll be there soon enough. But, in the meantime, when all hell breaks loose against us, when sin is victorious and we find ourselves speechless before our Master, the Holy Spirit intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.
I don’t necessarily want to go where I need to go for a moment, but I do feel it is necessary because this passage is sometimes confusing. Let me clarify a couple of questions that might pop up later in some discussion.
- Some people think this means ‘speaking in tongues’. But, I would disagree simply because the gift of tongues is only for certain believers – it is limited in scope. Tongues are used in a worship service and there is a translator. But, this particular act of the Holy Spirit in Romans 8 is for every Christian – especially in these times of suffering. Remember, that’s our context. Speaking in tongues is in the context of worship. So, don’t apply the gift of speaking in tongues
- Some people think that this means the person must groan. They would argue or teach you to moan and groan when you don’t have the words. I don’t doubt that groaning comes during suffering, but I don’t think that is what Paul is saying. The groaning is of the Holy Spirit, not the believer. Please hear me, I’m not saying you won’t hurt so bad that you groan. You just might. I hope you never do, but you could. But that isn’t what this verse is saying.
App.: Simply put, you don’t know what to pray or you don’t know how to pray and you don’t have the words to communicate what is going on in your spirit.
And when you’re in this place of suffering, something absolutely amazing happens in your spirit. Rd v 27; 27 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.
As I mentioned before, God acts for us because we’re incapable of acting on our own behalf. So, he intercedes. He sends his Spirit to live in us. And he who searches hearts… he knows.
There are so many wonderful verses that declare the work of God in searching out our hearts.
- 1 Sam. 16.7: … for God does not see man as man see man; for man looks on the outward appearance but God looks on the heart.
- 1 Chron. 28.9: … for the Lord searches all hearts
- 17.10: 10 “I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.”
- Rev 2.23: … And all the churches will know that I am he who searches mind and heart, and I will give to each of you according to your works.
This has always amazed me and keeps me on my guard. What are my motives in a matter? God knows. I can fool you. I can sometimes even fool myself, but I cannot fool God! I can tell you one thing and convince you that I’m too busy, I can’t make the time, I don’t have the money, and I have other obligations, that isn’t my ministry, I’ve been called to something else, I’ve got another engagement, no one else is available to help.
I think sometimes we fool ourselves when we pretend we are in a certain mode and can’t do something. We say this and it becomes an excuse – a valid excuse, but, in my heart I know I’m only lying. Sure, it looks good to you and I feel justified because you’re convinced. But God, who searches the heart and the mind, he knows!
Why don’t we just say – don’t come over because my house is a mess and I don’t want you to see. Why don’t we just say, I’m embarrassed because I didn’t prepare; I didn’t get that done.
- Luke 9.47: … 47 But Jesus, knowing the reasoning of their hearts,
- Luke 16.15: … “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts.
- Acts 1.24: … “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all,
- Acts 15.8: … 8 And God, who knows the heart,
- 1 John 3.19-20: … 19 By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; 20 for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything.
Rd 8.27: and he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit… He knows our hearts in those troubling times. He knows our needs in those times of suffering and he knows the mind of the Spirit. Aren’t you glad that God knows the mind of the Spirit! The Spirit only wants good things. He only wants God’s glory. 27 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.
This is the 3rd sub-point: The Spirit helps us in our weakness:
C. By interceding for us according to the Will of God.
This is the hardest part of surrendering, isn’t it? The hardest part in surrendering is giving up our will – giving up what we want. We might not say it out loud; but deep down inside, that is the way we feel. Outwardly, as people look at us, we want them to think we are really good Christians. But, inwardly, we’re just as rebellious as Adam and Eve. So, on our own, it is really hard to pray that God would not do what we selfishly want and to do what he wants for us.
Ill.: As a believer, there has always been a prayer in the Bible that fascinates me. Jesus has acted and responded in Scripture multiple times, not because he had to, but for our benefit. These actions, these responses have always fascinated me. One, in particular, is Mk 14.36: 36 and he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”
This is fascinating to me because Jesus has known his purpose: to suffer, to die, to be buried for three days and to rise again. He has told his disciples repeatedly that he is going to happen. He says it so much that Peter even rebukes Jesus for such negativity and Jesus said get behind me, Satan. The moment comes and what does Jesus pray? “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”
Jesus says this in Mk 14.36 when praying in the Garden of Gethsemane. He comes back to where Peter, James, and John are supposed to be praying with him and what does Jesus find them doing? Sleeping! And Jesus says something we often repeat, but I wonder if we truly understand the depth of their meaning: The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.
Doesn’t this apply to us in our suffering? The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. And guess what – The Spirit helps us in our weakness! because we don’t know what to pray or how to pray it. And, the Spirit does so with groanings that are too deep for words. And, the Spirit does so according to the will of God.
What is the will of God? The Spirit knows. It is up to us to trust.
But how? I’ve jotted down some thoughts as take-a-ways for today:
Review: the context is groaning, but rather still, the overarching context of suffering. As we suffer, just like creation with all of its storms and thorns, hurricanes and tsunamis and other types of natural disaster, we sometimes suffer in ways that create for us a situation in which we don’t even know how to pray. We don’t know what to ask. We can’t see God in this mess. We can’t hear God through the raging storm. We’re in an unnatural position and we’re clueless in what to do.
- First, Look at the next verse: 28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. Bear this in mind. We don’t know his will, well, he does and he is working all things for good – according to his purpose.
- God is with you in your suffering. Even if you can’t hear him, feel him, see him, or even sense him, He is there. And I think this next take-a-way follows closely…
- God hears our prayers – especially the prayers of ours produced by the Holy Spirit.
- God’s Will only needs to be known by him. You don’t have to know! It is enough to trust that God is working his will in your life. He is. Trust Him!
- God searches our hearts and knows the mind of the Spirit. Let that just wash over you for a moment. You’re weak. You’re imperfect. You’re speechless before him. You don’t understand what is happening. But you don’t have to know. He who searches out the heart, he knows the mind of the one who is interceding on your behalf.
- God’s work is not limited by your situation or circumstance. It may feel that way. It may feel that your pain, your suffering, your experience is going to hurt, limit or mar God. Don’t believe it. There is nothing you can do or have done that can limit the work of God. Nothing. If you think that, you’re thinking too highly of yourself!
- Prayer isn’t about changing God’s mind. It’s about changing us to align ourselves with God Will. God is already perfect. His will is perfect. Perfection doesn’t need change. What needs changing is imperfect us. But sometimes we just don’t know how to do that.
One great way to experience that this morning is to give your life to him. Repent of your sins – that means changing your mind about you and acknowledging that God is right about you. Come to Christ this morning. As always, the decisions and commitments we make are unlimited as God works in each of us. I’d love to visit with you about that. The way we do this is we dismiss for a time of fellowship in the back of the church. Grab a donut or a cup of coffee and let’s visit.