Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Suffering Unto Salvation

Tuesday: 29 October, 2013 –– 30th Week in Ordinary Time
Romans 8: 18–25
Suffering Unto Salvation

Do you know what suffering does in a Christian?  It drives a Christian to prayer.  When we are pulled into the heart of the reality that something is wrong in this world — when the wrongs of this world touch us so that we hurt so deeply that it seems all we can do is groan — we find that God is there. The word “groan” appears three times here in short succession (and only six other times in the New Testament).  Sin is so bad and so pervasive that creation groans (8:22).  On top of that, Christians groan (we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit groan inwardly (8:23). But we do not groan alone: the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express (8:26).

There is a popular stereotype that the ministry of the Holy Spirit always produces joy and victory in Christians.  Or the Holy Spirit always makes worship alive and thrilling.  Both of those things are partly true, but that is not entirely. The Holy Spirit also meets us in the depths of our despair. 

It is in those times that we come to a deeper understanding of God. We get drawn into what he has already done; that is why we have hope and that is why we pray. We also become aware of what God has yet promised to do. He has promised full salvation, but it is not yet full reality: hope that is seen is no hope at all — who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently (8:24b,25).  Waiting patiently is so hard.  I am terrible at it.  Do you know one reason we can be patient?  God is working his Spirit into those who belong to him.

But in the meantime....  And that is where we are right now, “in the meantime” — living in two worlds:  this seen world that is passing away, but also in an unseen world that promised (yet already here to those who have faith).  If we have this faith it is because the Father is working his Spirit into our life. Can you see this in what Paul says as reading begins? I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us (8:18). God is working his Spirit into all who belong to him.... even in the midst of this world and all its suffering.  And God’s Spirit is life.... a salvation that is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord.

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