Main Verse: Romans 8:18-30
There is so much life, joy, and goodness when living in stride with God’s Spirit. But this does not mean there is no suffering. Paul announces three groanings. But it’s the third groaning that takes many believers by surprise. And if true, it means you and I have a valuable partner with us no matter what may come our way.
The Question Behind the Question:
Why should I pay attention to the Bible’s (or Paul, the Apostle’s) message about suffering?
Because Paul, as a Roman prisoner, was very familiar with the topic (Acts 20:22-24). Consider this description of prison conditions in the first century by John Mcray:
Roman imprisonment was preceded by being stripped naked and then flogged, a humiliating, painful, and bloody ordeal. The bleeding wounds went untreated; prisoners sat in painful leg or wrist chains. Mutilated, blood-stained clothing was not replaced, even in the cold of winter. In his final imprisonment, Paul asked for a cloak, presumably because of the cold.
Most cells were dark, especially the inner cells of a prison, like the one Paul and Silas inhabited in Philippi. Unbearable cold, lack of water, cramped quarters, and sickening stench from few toilets made sleeping difficult and waking hours miserable. Prison food, when available, was poor. Most prisoners had to provide their food from outside sources. When Paul was in prison in Caesarea, Felix, the procurator, ordered the centurion that “none of his friends should be prevented from attending to his needs.”
Because of the miserable conditions, many prisoners begged for a speedy death. Others committed suicide.
The presence of suffering does not mean the absence of God.
Suffering cannot be avoided, but it must be interpreted.
Consider the following:
- When you live life in the Spirit, you are going to encounter some pains Romans 8:18-22 (2 Cor. 4:17, 1 Peter 3:14, 5:10, 2 Timothy 3:12)
- Paul mentioned how suffered produced groanings (or laments because of calamity). Here are the three he mentions:
- The world outwardly groans (v. 22)
- Food shortages
- We groan in our inner world (v. 23)
- This groaning is because the story isn’t finished. And the ending is unseen.
- The Holy Spirit groans on our behalf (v. 26)
- Praying for you
- The world outwardly groans (v. 22)
- We can know this
- God is working (working together) all things together for good
- The good is not
- Your health
- Your 401K
- Your popularity
- Your general success
- But is rather working to fashion you into Jesus
Your Two Groanings (lament):
- The groan of creation that you are experiencing
- The groan of your inner world that you are experiencing
Contemplate that the Holy Spirit is groaning with you.
TALK IT OUT:
- Pastor Rusty suggests we pay attention to Paul’s message about suffering since he suffered greatly as a Roman prisoner. Why do some believers assume living for Christ means their lives will always be easy?
- Today’s passage suggests those who are committed to Christ will experience pain. Based on Romans 8:18, explain what you think Paul means when he says, “I consider that our present suffering is not worth comparing with the glory revealed in us.” What is the perspective Paul wants us to understand?
- Pastor Rusty says, “the presence of suffering does not mean the absence of God.” How can understanding this fact change our attitude when we suffer?
- What do you think Pastor Rusty means when he says, “suffering cannot be avoided but must be properly interpreted”?
- Paul mentions three ways sufferings produce groanings or laments. He says the world groans outwardly. What are some ways you’ve seen the external world groan?
- Second, we groan in our inner world. Pastor Rusty points out that we groan because the story isn’t finished, and the ending is unseen. How can understanding these facts change our groanings?
- The third way Paul speaks of groaning is in Romans 8:26 when he says, “the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.” What does it mean that the Holy Spirit is interceding and groaning on your behalf?
- Romans 8:28 makes the point that God is working all things together for the good of His children. However, Pastor Rusty says this good is not: 1) Your health, 2) Your 401K, 3) Your popularity, or 4) Your general success. Which of these four are you most prone to think is important?
- In contrast to the things Pastor Rusty says God is not working for our good he says God is instead working to fashion you into Jesus. How has He been doing that?
LIVE IT OUT
- List three or four areas of creation where you groan?
- List three or four areas of your inner world where you groan?
- Contemplate how the Holy Spirit is groaning for you in each of the six to eight areas of your groaning.
- Take a few minutes to express your gratitude to God for how the Holy Spirit loves you enough to groan and pray for you in these areas.