Romans: A Great Ending

We all have something we are waiting and hoping for. Something we’ve invested in, and we’ve been praying the prayers. We don’t have a way of telling if there’s any progress, and now we’re just waiting.

The space in between.

We all have something in our rearview that has changed and shaped our lives. And we keep hoping that somehow, somewhere down the road, it will make sense or at least begin to have purpose.

Romans 8
19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed.
22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.

The whole world feels the ache. When people groan at a sporting event, it’s because they know what could’ve been. It’s that feeling of falling short. An outfielder making a leaping grab on what could’ve been a home run. A wide receiver dropping a perfectly thrown pass in the endzone on what could’ve been a touchdown. It feels like that.

The good news is that, as followers of Jesus, the frustration of failing doesn’t lead us to give up.

Think about a child standing on their tiptoes to see over something or see more of something. When we see over things, we get a better perspective. We can look farther into the distance.

Do you know that feeling when you’re waiting for someone? You know they are coming, but they aren’t there yet. If you’re trying to find them in a crowd, you might elongate your neck to look over the crowd – expectantly.

We have another choice besides frustration. We have expectations because something, someone, is coming!

Paul uses the illustration of childbirth. Can you imagine how different pregnancy would be if women didn’t know the expected outcome of what they were experiencing? If women didn’t know what was happening to their bodies and why? It immediately shifts from a joyful thing, a hopeful thing, to a terrifying and dreadful thing. Suffering that seems like it has no purpose and is getting worse.

Instead, as uncomfortable as pregnancy, labor, and delivery can be, there is something to look forward to with expectation. Sure, there’s some uncertainty and trepidation, but with joy and tremendous hope. Why? Because it is known what’s coming!

This is why it is so important for us to understand exactly what our hope is. To know what ours is and what is coming.

In recent years, there’s been this thing that has Christians running around terrified. Afraid of the future. Afraid of the government. Afraid of other religions. Afraid of people who aren’t like them. Afraid because things are hard to understand and control. Paul would like to have some words with those people because it’s as if they’ve forgotten what’s coming!

When we get unanchored from our hope, it’s just like it would be if we didn’t understand how pregnancy works and what happens at its end.

Romans 8
24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

So, if what we see is the same as our hopes, we don’t understand what hope is.

With hope, you see part of the picture, but you know there’s part you haven’t seen yet.
So, there’s something over the horizon – hope. We elongate our necks for it. What do we have in the meantime? With the groan when things come up short – even far short? When we feel the ache?

Romans 8
26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. 28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

This verse is often seen on bookmarks, cards, and bumper stickers, and it gets unhitched from everything before and after it. This might cause us to misunderstand it and miss God.

There’s this incredible temptation when we see suffering and don’t understand what’s happening. We try to make bad things magically good in our minds. It resolves the ache we all feel but can be incredibly damaging.

Paul just finished up saying, “We do not know what we ought to pray for.” It’s kind of like him saying, “You don’t know how to make sense out of this, so don’t try. Don’t hold onto me. And don’t forget where this is leading – toward a great ending.”

When things aren’t good, God can get good out of them. And we’re headed somewhere good.

We don’t have to pray ourselves into optimism. We don’t have to conjure. We can call bad things bad. We can lament but hold onto hope. God is present when all it feels like we have is a clouded picture. When all we have is weak prayers, even when we don’t have words at all, God is there.

Romans 8
29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. 31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”[j]

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

38 For I am convinced

This isn’t an intellectual thing. It's something so compelling that it drives you to act. Maybe you decided over time, but now you're compelled.

Romans 8
38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

You can build your life on this. More than that, you can LIVE your life on this.

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