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Glorious Freedom (8:18-27)

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We usually do not like to wait. If we have a need, we want that need to be met now – not at some future date. For example, if we are hungry, we want to eat now, not next week. The longer it takes for our meal to be prepared, the more impatient we become.

On the other hand, the greater the reward or perceived benefit, the longer we are willing to wait for something, provided we do not have to endure too much inconvenience or suffering in the meantime. For example, even though we are hungry, we are willing to wait longer for a royal feast than an ordinary meal. However, if our hunger becomes too extreme while we wait for the feast, we will turn our backs on it in favor of ordinary food. In other words, we have to make a choice between future benefits and lesser enjoyment now.

This illustration has an application to our spiritual life. There is a certain amount of pleasure in sin. We can meet some of our appetites and desires by indulging in it. However, by doing so we become slaves of sin and are subject to God’s wrath. As a result, we face eternal death. In contrast, God frees all of the followers of Christ from sin’s bondage. He gives them new life and promises them an eternal inheritance. They will share in Christ’s glory.

From a human perspective, the problem with God’s promises is that they are not fulfilled immediately. We have to wait for our inheritance. And while we wait to share in Christ’s glory, we also have to share in His sufferings. The question we face is whether the suffering we must endure now is worth the inheritance we will receive later. Is it worth forsaking the pleasure of sin for future benefits? What is this inheritance that God promises to Christ’s followers, anyway?

To the Apostle Paul, the answers to these questions are very plain. In verses 18 through 27 of chapter 8 of his inspired letter to the church in Rome he writes, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which will be revealed toward us. For the creation waits with eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to vanity, not of its own will, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of decay into the liberty of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and travails in pain together until now. Not only so, but ourselves also, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for adoption, the redemption of our body. For we were saved in hope, but hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for that which he sees? But if we hope for that which we don’t see, we wait for it with patience. In the same way, the Spirit also helps our weaknesses, for we don’t know how to pray as we ought. But the Spirit himself makes intercession for us with groanings which can’t be uttered. He who searches the hearts knows what is on the Spirit’s mind, because he makes intercession for the saints according to God.”

There can be no doubt that Paul felt it was worth enduring suffering, no matter how severe, in exchange for the glory that God has promised the followers of Christ. In comparison, the suffering we may have to face in this life is trivial compared to what we will receive.

What is it that the followers of Christ can look forward to? Paul mentions two things. The first is the redemption of all creation. The world we have and the creation we see is not how God intended it. When mankind first sinned, in the Garden of Eden, it not only changed the relationship between mankind and God, creation became subject to death and decay. In addition, sin also changed the relationship between man and the creation. Before Adam’s sin, he did not have to work for his food. The earth provided whatever he needed. Afterwards God told Adam, “...Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field.” (Genesis 3:17-18 NIV)

But it will not always be like this. While writing about the future the Apostle John assures us, “No longer will there be any curse...” (Revelation 22:3 NIV) The Apostle Peter writes, “But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.” (2 Peter 3:13 NIV) In this new heaven and earth there will no longer be any death or decay.

Another element in the hope which the followers of Christ have is the redemption of our bodies. God designed us to live forever. But death entered into the world as a result of Adam’s sin. Now we are prone to sickness. As we grow old and death approaches our bodies decay and grow weak. We no longer enjoy the abilities we had when we were young. For many, life becomes a burden because they are trapped in a failing body. However, the followers of Christ look forward to a new body – one that is not subject to weakness and decay. In another place Paul writes, “...The body that is sown in perishable, it is raised imperishable; it sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body...” (1 Corinthians 15:42-44 NIV)

The followers of Christ do not enjoy these blessings at the present time. However the fact that God has promised them gives us hope. It is this hope which enables us to endure trouble and hardship.

And God has not left us alone in our struggles. He has given us His Holy Spirit. Though we are weak, the Spirit gives us the strength we need to endure while we wait for God’s promises to be fulfilled. Not only that, the Spirit helps us communicate with God. Sometimes our struggles and troubles are so deep that we do not even know how to express them. We do not know how to bring our requests before God. We sometimes do not know if our desires and requests are in harmony with God’s will. In these circumstances, the Spirit intercedes for us and brings our prayers before our heavenly Father. Since the Holy Spirit is part of the godhead, we can be sure that all the requests He brings to the Father are according to God’s will.

But why must we suffer? Why can’t we obtain God’s promises right now? If you would like to know the answer to these questions, please listen to our next program.