For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body. For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance. Romans 8:22-25 NKJV
I hate to be the bearer of bad news to those of you who might be younger than I, but age comes to all of us whether we like it or not, and it is usually accompanied by signs intended to remind us of our mortality. Lately I have become aware of the fact that personally, one of these signs seems to be the involuntary noises I make when I try to do some of the things that I used to do without even thinking twice about it. As much as we might like to deny it, the fact remains that our bodies seem to be programmed to tell us that the years are passing quickly and our mortality is undeniable.
In this passage from the book of Romans, the apostle Paul explains that all of creation, the physical world around us as well as mankind, groans for the same reason. It is the desire for redemption from our mortality, which was and is a result of sin entering into God’s creation. In my present situation, it seems difficult to accept the fact that this body was originally designed to live forever, especially as I feel the effects of time, and the inevitable groaning that accompanies it. I can’t help but wonder exactly what Paul himself might have been feeling or experiencing when he wrote these words, and if he found himself in the same position many of us are in today?
His advice to us is simply to remind us of the promise we have that we have been adopted into the family of God, and the redemption of our mortal bodies is in our future. I would have to admit, unfortunately, that when I was young the things of this world certainly diminished the eagerly waiting of the hope of redemption Paul speaks of here. All too often we become distracted by life and the things it has to offer, and our focus becomes the here and now without regard to our future with Christ. Fortunately we have an advocate in the Holy Spirit who understands our weakness and propensity to ask for the wrong things.
Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God. Romans 8:26-27 NKJV
Because of our sin nature, our minds can easily become fixed on this life, and the things we believe we need to have in order to obtain what the world would consider a successful or fulfilling life. We go to God with a list of wants and needs based on self-interest rather than on His interest. This is where the Holy Spirit steps in to make what Paul calls “intercession” on our behalf. This is most likely the greatest service we could ever receive in that the Spirit goes to God with prayers for what we truly need according to the will of God, rather than the things we might simply want.
Of course, a natural result of becoming aware of our weaknesses and shortcomings is the inevitable regret we feel for what we might consider the mistakes of our past. When we arrive at that point in our lives where we reflect on the past and our actions which were based on a worldlier point of view rather than a heavenly one, the natural tendency is to wonder what the effects of our poor decision making might have been. Yet Paul goes on to explain that because the Spirit knows how to pray for our true needs, the things that happen to us are in fact an answer from God to the prayers of the Holy Spirit, and the things which happen to us which we may not understand are all part of a plan known by God long in advance.
And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified. What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? Romans 8:28-31 NKJV
Consider this commentary from Ray Stedman on these words from Paul;
Never separate this verse from the previous two verses. The apostle is saying that what the Spirit prays for is what happens. The Spirit prays according to the mind of God, and the Father answers by bringing into our lives the experiences that we need. He sends into the life of those for whom we are concerned the experiences that they need, no matter what they may be.
Now, that means that even the trials and tragedies that happen to us are an answer from the Father to the praying of the Spirit, doesn't it? You may leave this service this morning and become involved in an automobile accident on the way home. Someone may steal your purse. You may get home to find your house is on fire. There are a thousand and one possibilities. What we need to understand is that these things do not happen by accident. They happen because the Spirit which is in you prayed and asked that the Father allow them to happen -- because you or someone close to you needs it. These are the results of the praying of the Spirit.
The joys, the unexpected blessings, and the unusual things that happen to you are also the result of the Spirit's praying. The Spirit is praying that these things will happen, he is voicing the deep concern of God himself for your needs and mine. Out of this grows the assurance that no matter what happens, it will work together for good. This verse does not tell us that everything that happens to us is good. It does say that whether the situation is bad or good, it will work together for good for you if you are one who is loved and called by God. What a difference that makes as we wait for the coming of the glory! God is working out his purposes within us.
While the human tendency is to look back on our lives and focus on what we believe were the mistakes we made, Paul tells us here that everything that happened did so for a reason. Personally I find this passage a source of great encouragement knowing that in spite of myself, God can and will use me to work out His will. So I choose to focus on the promise I have that my future includes a new body and a life with the Father which will last for all eternity.
As mortal beings, we will all eventually reflect the mileage on our personal odometers. Yet while we groan and suffer the effects of the life we have lived, how encouraging it is to know that not only will we eventually be transformed, but by waiting with “perseverance” God also promises to use us for His glory as long as we are here. My prayer for all of us today is that as we see the day approaching, we be encouraged not only by the promise of our deliverance but by the knowledge that no matter what we may be going through we are still useful for God’s eternal purposes.