Title: The Permanent State of Hope
Text: Romans 8.18-25
As I began last week, I want to remind you that I don’t come to you this morning from a wealth of experience in suffering. I can only tell you stories of those I know who’ve walked that journey. I can only tell you what the Bible says about suffering and hope that you can come to a place of understanding, so that, when you suffer, whether great or small, your suffering will be endured with a proper perspective on life and eternity.
Today’s message is about hope. Hope, I believe, is something about which I know a little more than suffering. In this regard to hope, we all stand on the same, level ground. None of us here has seen what will be. So, in that regard, no one here has a leg up on any other person. But again, because of this, what I share is what I know from God’s Word. His Word gives us hope.
And hope is so very important. I think of the passage where Paul talked about those who grieve at death as those who have no hope. We are not like those people, though. Because we have this hope and this hope is something that keeps us moving forward.
Suffering is a strange phenomenon that knows no boundaries. It lays itself on anyone and everyone. No one is exempt from its attack. There are no riches, no age, no race, there are no social or cultural boundaries it cannot encroach. And this is why Hope is needed. This is why hope is given.
Now last week I noted how Paul mentions suffering in v 17&18, but then he doesn’t address it. He says suffering is not worthy to be compared to the glory that is to be revealed to us. And so he doesn’t. Instead, he gives us a history lesson.
In the beginning, all things were perfect, but in chapter 3 of Genesis, we see the fall. And, ever since that fall, sin has impacted and affected everything in this world. That is why we suffer from one degree to another; some, more than others; some, more public than others.
Two points of clarification that I’m not sure I made last week:
- We do not suffer because God is punishing us. Someone may very well ask if God is punishing me because of something I did – and more specifically, a sin I committed. The answer is no.
- The effect of sin on us is not the same as punishment. I’m not saying that God doesn’t discipline his children. He does. Hebrews is very clear on that. God disciplines his children and brings them back into line with His Will. But that is a very different scenario than God punishing us. The punishment for sin is Hell.
ill.: a friend of mine many years ago told me about his life and the decisions he had made. He had been unfaithful to his wife and had married the woman he had been in a relationship with. These two came to faith some years later. He even apologized to his first wife and asked her forgiveness. She, too, had been remarried and had become a believer with her new husband. Anyway, this friend said that he was afraid that God would now punish him for his actions. I asked him what he meant. He said he was afraid that God would kill his little girl to punish him. I think this was born out of the David and Bathsheba story.
app.: My friend had a wrong perspective of God. I told him that it isn’t to say that his little girl would never die, but the punishment of sin is reserved for end times.
- The effect of sin on us is because of the fall. That is what our text says: v. 20, for the creation was subjected to futility. God told Adam and Eve that their rebellion would end in death. That effect still has an impact on us. That’s what This present time is in v 18;
But, all of this might be just too much for you, especially if you’ve never dealt with this issue. Let’s say you’re new to this Christianity thing and you’ve had a friend or a family member die way too soon. Maybe it was an accident that should have been prevented. Maybe it was a heart attack or cancer, and you’ve got questions.
- Let me help here: You need to see God from a proper perspective. What I mean is that God is huge! He is so much bigger and higher in reality compared to our experience and our intellect. Maybe that is what Paul is doing by mentioning creation in each verse here…
ill.: John MacArthur writes in his commentary on Colossians 1.16: By studying the creation, one can gain a glimpse of the power, knowledge, and wisdom of the Creator. The sheer size of the universe is staggering. The sun, for example, has a diameter of 864,000 miles (One hundred times that of earth’s) and could hold 1.3 million planets the size of earth inside it. The star Betelgeuse, however, has a diameter of 100 million miles, which is larger than the earth’s orbit around the sun. It takes sunlight, traveling at 186,000 miles per second, about 8.5 minutes to reach earth. Yet that same light would take more than four years to reach the nearest star, Alpha Centauri, some 24 trillion miles from earth. The galaxy to which our sun belongs, the Milky Way, contains hundreds of billions of stars. And astronomers estimate there are millions, or even billions of galaxies. What they can see leads them to estimate the number of stars in the universe at 1025. According to Dr. Bill Tolar, that number is roughly the same number of all the grains of sand on all the world’s beaches and deserts and along every shore of every river and every lake.
When I was in seminary, I had Dr. Tolar as a professor. He was a man with a brilliant mind. Actually, I had quite a few like that. But this professor, Dr. William Tolar, was especially intelligent. He studied science before being called into the ministry. He now has a famous sermon, Creation, Chance or Choice and it is available on Youtube. But here are some points he makes in that message. As God created all that is, he created:
- The earth is at just the right angle (23.3o ) – straight up and down,
- He created it spinning at just the right speed (1,000 mph) – a little slower and things would burn up. A little faster and we would be thrown off!
- It tilts back and forth just far enough; life couldn’t exist if it straightened or dropped more than 3o in either direction!
- It is just far enough away from the sun. And it spins and encircles in an oval rotation perfectly. It couldn’t handle being any closer or any further.
- The moon rotates and spins at just the right distance. It’s just far enough away and just close enough. If it were closer, the waves of the oceans would come crashing upon the Rocky Mts or if it were further away, they would be pulled back exposing too much ground.
- There is just enough water in the oceans…any more/ any less would make it where there would be too much oxygen or too much Carbon Monoxide.
- There is just enough crust in the earth’s crust.
- Photosynthesis – couldn’t work as it needs to if any of these were out of whack. We need enough plants, we need enough water, we need enough light. But, the inverse is true too. We can’t have too many plants, compared to too much water, compared to too much darkness.
Why am I saying all of this? Because I fear your perception of God might just be too small! We sometimes want God to fit into a box that you understand. But when we create God in our image, we fail to see how magnificent and terrific he truly is.
Your first step in finding hope is gaining a proper perspective of how great God is and how small we really are.
When this happens, you can begin to understand God’s righteousness and justice in subjecting the world to futility. The passage continues in v 20: God did so in hope. And then Paul eventually gets to this hope in v 24. 24 For in this hope we were saved. This hope is what he’s been talking about since v 18. Let’s backtrack for a moment.
- V18: Glory to be revealed; this is the hope for us, that it is something we have out there in our future. Can I encourage you to see this as a promise from God? Promise #1: There is a glory in our future that far outweighs our current situation.
- V19: for the revealing of the sons of God. That is, those of us who are believers. We’re Sons and Daughters of God. Verses 12-17 told us about how God adopts us and puts his Holy Spirit in us. Can we call this Promise #2: In that glory, we will realize our full understanding of our position as those who’ve been adopted into the family of God.
- V20: brings these thoughts together and tells us that our hope is the freedom from the bondage of corruption (that’s the sin and its effect on us here) and the freedom of the glory of the children of God (that’s the place where sin will no longer have its impact on us). That’s heaven. Let’s call this promise #3: God has been at work and he will fulfill and complete his work. He is not delayed, as some see this ‘waiting’; God did what he did with purpose and intent. God has been at work and he will fulfill and complete his work.
- V23 gives us more promises; rd v 23a; the firstfruits of the Spirit means that we have something that those before Jesus didn’t have! We have the Holy Spirit of God in us: that in this groaning and in this suffering, we have been given a precious gift as a down payment, as an earnest of our future inheritance… here’s promise #4: we’ve been sealed by the Holy Spirit of God.
- This means that you don’t suffer in vain. There is purpose in your life. There is value in your life.
- This means that you don’t suffer alone. Just before Jesus ascended to be with the Father he said: And, lo, I am with you always…even until the end of the age. He’s with us by giving us his Holy Spirit to live inside of us.
- The next part of v23 states that we wait for the redemption of our bodies. The Corinthian church was having a tough time with this concept, so Paul spends a good deal of time sharing with them what that would be like. But for now, just in this text, Paul is saying that we have these bodies that are wasting away. They’re hard to manage. They’re imperfect. Sin is bringing about this body’s decay. The eyes are giving out. The bones are becoming brittle. The circulation doesn’t work like it used to work. These bodies are fragile – yes, truly magnificent, but fragile. And the older we get, the more fragility we see. We become weaker. We get slower. But our hope is in the redemption of these bodies. And this is Promise #5: Something far greater awaits us in glory. Bodies, that we can only use our imaginations to try and comprehend, will be ours.
- But to conclude his remarks on hope, Paul identifies and defines for us what hope is. Hope isn’t seen. Hope isn’t wishful thinking. Our hope is the knowledge and certainty of what we cannot see. And God is so good to give us earthly examples for our comprehension.
- Wind: we don’t see it, but we know it blows. Ill.: the banner out front and the roof on Jules.
- Radio and television waves.
- Current and electricity: just one movement or a shot of lightning isn’t seen by the human eye. Of course, today, with our modern technology, you can watch YouTube videos of how a lightning bolt hits the earth. I watched a video in super slow motion and was amazed at all that takes place in one lightning strike.
Oh, the promises of God and the hope he gives. Hope in these struggles. Hope in this pain. Hope in suffering.
Conclusion: Chuck Swindoll uses an illustration by Arthur Gordon, who relates a story of a man who had been stricken with polio at the age of three, and his parents, probably depression-poor and overwhelmed, had abandoned him in a New York City hospital. Taken in by a foster family, he was sent to stay with their relatives in Georgia when he was six, in hopes that the warmer climate would improve his condition. What improved his condition, though, was Maum Jean, an elderly, black woman who took that “frail, lost, lonely little boy” into her heart. For six years, she daily massaged his weak legs; administering her own hydrotherapy in a nearby creek; and encouraged him spiritually with her stories, songs, and prayers. Gordon writes:
Night after night Maum Jean continued the massaging and praying. Then one morning, when I was about 12, she told me she had a surprise for me.
She led me out into the yard, placed me with my back against an oak tree; I can feel the rough bark of it to this day. She took away my crutches and braces. She moved back a dozen paces and told me that the Lord had spoken to her in a dream. He had said that the time had come for me to walk. “So now,” said Maum Jean, “I want you to walk over to me.”
My instant reaction was fear. I knew I couldn’t walk unaided; I had tried. I shrank back against the solid support of the tree. Maum Jean continued to urge me.
I burst into tears. I begged. I pleaded. Her voice rose suddenly, no longer gentle and coaxing but full of power and command. “You can walk, boy! The Lord has spoken! Now walk over here.”
She knelt down and held out her arms. And somehow, impelled by something stronger than fear, I took a faltering step, and another, and another, until I reached Maum Jean and fell into her arms, both of us weeping.
It was two more years before I could walk normally, but I never used the crutches again…
Then the night came when one of Maum Jean’s tall grandsons knocked on my door. It was late; there was frost in the air. Maum Jean was dying, he said; she wanted to see me.
The old cabin wasn’t changed: floors of Cyprus, Windows with wooden shutters–no glass, roof of palm thatch mixed with pitch. Maum Jean in bed, surrounded by silent watchers, her frail body covered by a patchwork quilt. From a corner of the room, a kerosene lamp cast a dim saffron light. Her face was in shadow, but I heard her whisper my name. Someone put a chair close to the bed. I sat down and touched her hand.
For a long time I sat there; now and then Maum Jean spoke softly. Her mind was clear. She hoped I remembered the things that she had taught me. Outside, the night stirred with a strong wind. In the other room the fires snapped, throwing orange sparks. There was a long silence; she lay with her eyes closed. Then the old voice spoke, stronger suddenly, “Oh,” said Maum Jean, with surprising gladness. “Oh, it’s so beautiful!” She gave a light contented sigh, and died…
All that happened a long time ago. I now live in another town. But I still think of Maum Jean often, and the main thing she taught me: Nothing is a barrier when love is strong enough. Not age. Not race. Not disease. Not anything.
And so it is with suffering in this life: Nothing is a barrier when love is strong enough. Not age. Not race. Not disease. Not anything.
And indeed, so great is the love that the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called Children of God. And that is what we are… provided we suffer with him.
Maybe you’ve never given your life to Christ. If not, then you don’t have the promises I’ve talked about today. You don’t know the hope we know. Won’t you give your life to Christ?
Maybe you’re in the midst of struggle and pain. Maybe, you’re suffering now. Would you trust Christ with your pain? Would you ask him to use it to show others of his great love and mercy?
Over recent weeks I’ve been challenging out people to choose someone who doesn’t know Christ and begin praying for their salvation. Just one person! I asked: Who is your 1? I have some business cards to help you with this. I want to ask ushers to come forward and pass these out. Will you pray that God will give you someone to pray for? Just 1 person, 1x a day, at 1 o’clock, for 1 minute.