The Believer’s Great Longing
December 9, 2018
Life is difficult. But you don’t need me to tell you that to know that it is true, do you?
And suffering has always been the way of living in this world — especially for believers. One historian says this about the early church:
Every Christian knew that sooner or later he might have to testify to his faith at the cost of his life.…When persecution did break out, martyrdom could be attended by the utmost possible publicity. The Roman public was hard and cruel… [quoted in Piper, Filling Up the Afflictions of Christ, 25-6.]
We can hear that and nod in agreement, but the reality is that it is hard to suffer well. It is hard to be in physical pain without complaining. It is hard to see injustice, sin, and crime against others and not be angry. It is hard to be repeatedly sinned against by a family member without becoming bitter. It is hard trying to experience repeated financial setbacks without becoming cynical. It is hard to fight against sin — even as a believer. It is hard to see repeated occurrences of your sin against the people you love without despairing — will you ever change and be free from the struggles and sins that entangle you?
If I were to say, “The suffering person wants…”, how would you finish that sentence? When we suffer, most of us simply want out of the suffering. We want it to end. We yearn for it to go away. When we suffer, our longing is not to suffer. We don’t really care how, we just want it gone.
In Romans 8, Paul is reminding the Roman readers of two great truths: 1) the power of the Spirit to lead them in their spiritual life; 2) the power of the Spirit to keep them saved — to assure them of their salvation. And in the middle of what has been called the greatest chapter in the Bible, Paul notes the suffering that is in this world, and the groaning responses of the creation, the believer, and the Spirit to that suffering (vv. 22, 23, 26). This morning, we will specifically see how the believer should respond and think when he suffers. Yes, he groans in his suffering, but that groaning is really a longing for something. His groaning is a desire. He wants something. What does the believer desire when he suffers?
As he considers the sufferings of the believer, the apostle hopefully says in vv. 22-25 —
The believer’s suffering is superseded by his hope.
The believer’s suffering in this life is overwhelmed and surpassed by his confident expectation of the next life — when he will experience the completion of his salvation.
According to this passage, how should we think about our life of suffering? What new ways of thinking do we need to develop?
- We Have Suffering (vv. 22)
- We Have the Spirit (v. 23a)
- We Have a Longing (v. 23b)
- We Have Adoption (v. 23c)
- We Have Hope (v. 24)
- We Have Perseverance (v. 25)
Download the rest of this sermon on Romans 8:22-25.
The audio will be posted on the GBC website by tomorrow.