David Jeremiah - Groaning and Glory
Fellow pastor and author, Paul Tripp, captured my thoughts precisely when he wrote these words about camping. He said, "I am persuaded that the whole purpose of camping is to make a person long for home. On that first day in the woods, putting up the tent is exciting, but three days later, your tent has unpleasant odors you can't explain. You love the taste of food cooked over an open flame, but three days later, you're tired of looking for wood and irritated by how fast it burns. You were excited at the prospect of catching your dinner from the stream running past your campsite, which is reported to be teeming with trout, but so far, you've just been able to catch the roots at the bottom of the stream. You're now four days in; your back hurts. There seems to be no more wood to forage, and you're tired of keeping the fire going anyway. You look into what was once an ice-and-food-filled cooler to see the family-sized steaks you have reserved, floating gray and oozing in a pool of blood-stained water. Suddenly, you begin to think fondly of home. You stand there hoping that someone will just break the silence and say, 'Why don't we just go home?' Your four days in the wilderness have accomplished their mission. They have prepared you to appreciate home".
Our world isn't a very good amusement park. No, it's a broken place groaning for redemption. And here, is meant to make us long for there. Here is meant to prepare us forever. To understand the scope of the next section of the Book of Romans, we have to have that concept in mind. We must understand the difference between the here and the there of the Bible. And we start in verse 16 where these two thoughts are linked between the words suffering and glory. "We are children of God, and if children, then heirs. Heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with him, that we might also be glorified together. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us".
Who would ever have thought that suffering and glory could appear in the same verse? They seem like they're opposed to each other and yet here they are in the same context looking all the world like their friends. And Paul says when he thinks about suffering and glory, he considers it, and he makes a judgment about it. The judgment is that the sufferings of the present time are a slight thing in comparison with the glory which is going to be revealed in us someday. It is this thought which controls our thinking as we examine our passage in Romans today. In the verses that follow, Paul is going to explain to us how wonderful our future glory is. And he starts by saying it is so great that even the creation is longing to experience it.
Listen to Romans 8:19, "For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it in hope, because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God". Now, watch this, "For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now". I must tell you that this message is about groaning. The word groan actually sounds like it when you say it. When you say, "Groan". That's what you do. You groan.
Now, the word groan appears nine times in the Bible. Three times right here in Romans 8. And when we study this passage, we're going to discover that the whole creation groans, Christians groan, and the Holy Spirit groans. A lot of groaning going on here. Let's talk first about the creation that groans. The groaning in verses 19 through 22 is a reference to the non-rational animals and inanimate creation, and it includes animals, trees, mountains, rivers, planes, heavenly bodies. Paul says, "This whole world in which we live is groaning as it anticipates what God is going to do with the sons and daughters and his family". That's you and me. And the whole world is groaning, anticipating, almost wishing they could be a part of it, but of course, they're not humanity. They're the created world and it pictures the trees groaning, and the rocks groaning and the hills groaning.
J.B. Phillips translates this verse like this. He says, "Th whole creation is on tiptoe to see the wonderful sight of the sons of God coming into their own". The whole process of the groaning creation started back in the Garden of Eden. When Adam fell, the entire creation suffered the results of the fall. And as you know, this world in which we live is now under the curse of sin. Somehow or the other, the sin of man affected the lower orders of creation. Everything points to the fact that the constitution of the universe as we see it now is not what God wanted to be ultimately. When sin entered, it all went south, and it's been there ever since. It will be until one day when the earth, like all Christians, will also be renovated and God will make all things new.
Paul describes the present condition of creation as subject to futility. Futility means that the lack of ability to fulfill the purpose for which something was created. The earth today is not able to fulfill the potential that God had for it because sin entered and corrupted it, and it's paying the price. The hope for a better creation has been with the people of God from the beginning. Isaiah, the prophet, speaking on behalf of the Lord, expressed it this way. He said, "The wilderness and the wasteland shall be glad for them, and the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose". And Isaiah 55:12 says, "For you shall go out with joy, and be led out with peace. And the mountains and the hills shall break forth into singing before you. And all the trees of the field shall clap their hands".
Isaiah pictures what God is going to do for this earth, and he sees the trees clapping their hands because of the work of God. The agony of what we've been through will one day be translated into the ecstasy of what God has for us. In the meantime, we're not there yet. We're here and we're anticipating there. We're still on the camping trip. We're not home yet. Are you with me?
Kent Hughes, one of my favorite writers says, "Many of us have pictures of our wives after they have delivered a child. And typically, the baby is in their arms and the mother is radiant. None of us have a picture of our wives in labor. We do not reach into our wallets saying, 'Let me show you a picture of Margaret groaning in labor. Isn't the agony terrific?'"
Creation will one day be delivered, and the difference between then and now, is the difference between agony and ecstasy. It's the difference between labor and birth. So the whole creation is groaning, and I hear people talk about it all the time. Earthquakes, groan. Hurricanes, groan. Floods, groan. Fires, groan. The whole earth is groaning because groaning is a sound you make when what you anticipate has not yet happened, when the thing you long for is not yet yours. This hold earth is longing for the day. And the Bible says, "that one day God is going to renovate this earth and it will then become everything that it was intended to be". That will happen during the period of time in the millennial age.
So the whole world is groaning. Creation is groaning. But did you know that Christians are groaning, too? You say, "Christians aren't supposed to groan". Well, listen to what Romans 8:23 says, "Not only that". "Not only that," not only the world is groaning, "but we also, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body". Now, Paul says that we groan. Why does a Christian groan? Let me suggest three negative reasons and three positive reasons. But before I do that, let me tell you, this is an expression that you will never hear a preacher say very often at least, and that is, all of us who are Christians, if we're honest, we know we're saved. We know we're going to heaven. We know Jesus is on our heart. We now know the Holy Spirit lives in us. We have eternal life; "peace that passes all understanding. There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus".
All of that is true, and yet if we're honest, we know something's just not quite right yet. And the reason it's not quite right yet is because it's not supposed to be. You were not created to find your ultimate fulfillment in the world in which you live. That ultimate fulfillment is reserved for the day when you are translated into heaven, and you meet the Lord God, and all will be right. But now, if we're honest, all of us, we know, we love God, we love the things we do. We love our church, we love our families, but something's a little bit off. Something's a little bit out of sync. Something's just not quite right and we groan because of it. "We groan, first of all, because of the presence of sin in the world".
Is not our world today a descriptive commentary on Romans 8:20, the futility of it all? Romans 8:20 says that the world groans because of the futility of it all. Christians groan because we see futility. Well, our knowledge leaps exponentially and our problems grow even faster. Books increase and ignorance prevails. We are doing a worst job now in our schools than we've ever done in all the years that I've ever seen education. We're teaching kids things that aren't even true, and we know they're not true and we teach them that any way. Got more books, more ignorance. We have more harvest and more hunger. We have more production and more poverty. We live longer and we fear growing old. We worship sex but we cheapen love. Marriage counselors and clinics abound and divorce rates soaring. Human solutions which once promised to perfect our world, now can't even adequately preserve over world. We groan because of the ravages that sin makes in our lives and in the lives of those we love.
We groan. We have this uneasiness in our lives because we see possibilities that are not being captured. We groan because we see gifted people who are wasting their lives and we'd love to do something about that. It's recorded that when Jesus grew near to the tomb of Lazarus, he groaned. That's one of the nine uses of the word in the New Testament. He groaned because he saw the ravages that sin had made in this little family, even though he knew he was going to raise Lazarus from the grave, he saw the pain and anguish in that family and he groaned. We groan in disappointment. We groan in bereavement. We groan in sorrow. We groan physically in our pain, our limitation. Life consists for all of us, on this camping trip, with a lot of groaning.
We groan, secondly not only because of the presence of sin in the world, "We groan because of the power of sin in our own lives". We know we're saved. We know God has loved us and given his life for us through his Son, Jesus Christ, that he's bequeathed to us the Holy Spirit who lives within us, that we should be able to live a righteous and holy life but then we don't. And we fail. You think you're unique in that respect? Let me tell you, one of the most godly men who I've ever read about in my life apart from Jesus Christ is the Apostle Paul. And in the chapter in Romans before the one we're studying right now, Paul said this, "O wretched man that I am. Who will deliver me from this body of death"?
Paul understood that though he was a believer in Christ and had been given a new nature, he still had the old nature. And he called the old nature this body of death. And if you study that, in the history of the words that are used, what he is saying is, "I'm a Christian, but I still have this old body of death and it's a picture of dragging a dead corpse behind you. The body of death". And we groan because of that, don't we? We walk with the Lord. We live with him; we walk in the Spirit. But periodically, the ravages of the old nature make their appearance. And we're so disappointed and we groan and we say, "Oh man, how did that happen again"? "And we groan, thirdly, because of the practice of sin by those who are around us".
Men and women, we don't live in a perfect world. In many respects, we don't even live in a good world in terms of morality of the world in which we find ourselves. This is not an attempt to blame other people for our problems. This is not trying to say, "Okay, the reason we are the way we are is because they're the way they are". No, no, no. That's not what this is. It's a statement of reality. We suffer innocently when others sin, whether it's personal or corporate or international. How many of you know when some of the things that are happening in our country today happen, of which we have no part, we still hurt because of that.
Someone told me that there's an African proverb that says, "When elephants fight, the grass gets trampled". When things are out there in areas that we can't even control, we often pay the price. Never has this point be more poignant to me that it is in our present situation. Our government is more interested in getting even than in getting ahead. And every day we hear about someone else who has the gold standard planted on them and we now know they have no standards at all. We're burning down our cities, destroying our historic monuments, defunding our police. We band any opinions that do not match our own, and if people dare to disagree with us, we cancel them from our own lives and from life itself. And that's not even half the picture.
And I don't know about you, but I groan. I groan. What is happening to us? What are we allowing to take place in the world in which you and I live. This is not what God intended for us for this world. And about the only way you can express your feeling is to groan. We groan. And we groan because in the back of our mind, we know this is not what was meant for us but because we also know God has something planned for us. And we groan awaiting that day.
Those are the three negative reasons we groan. Let me give you three positive reasons that we groan. "We groan, first of all, because we been given the Holy Spirit to guarantee our glory". When you became a Christian, the Bible says, "You got the promise of the Father given to you, the Holy Spirit". We learned that. He comes to live within you. We know he wants to be the president. Immediately, he becomes the resident. But the Bible says that this Holy Spirit who is given to us is the first fruits of God's blessing in our life. What does that mean? In the Old Testament, when Israel had a harvest, they were commanded to bring the first fruits of that harvest. And at the first evidence of the harvest, they were to bring that sheaf to the priest. And he would wave the sheaf before the Lord to be accepted on their behalf.
On the day after the Sabbath, the priest would wave it in this Old Testament ceremony, the Jewish farmer would give the first fruits of the harvest of the Lord, and it signified that the entire harvest belonged to him also. In other words, "Lord, here's the evidence that I'm going to have this great harvest. This is yours but whatever comes after this, this is yours too". Paul speaks of the Holy Spirit as the first fruits of the believer's salvation. In other words, the gift from God and the Holy Spirit at the moment of reconversion is the guarantee that one day you will be fully and finally redeemed. And the Bible says because we know that's true, and because the Holy Spirit who is in us is the first fruits of that which is to come, we groan awaiting the fulfillment of that in our lives. We know there is more to come. We are so blessed by the presence of the Holy Spirit, but we know there is still so much more that God is going to give us, the first fruits of the Holy Spirit.
"We groan, secondly, because we look forward to our adoption being final". What Paul is saying is that when you become a Christian, you get the spirit of adoption. Ultimately, there's more to that. You get the promise of the adoption, and then ultimately, you get the experience of the adoption. The experience of the adoption actually takes place in the future. One day, we are going to receive the ultimate induction into the family of God. We are in his family but we're going to be fully in his family. How many of you have ever been to a bar mitzvah? Anybody ever been to a bar mitzvah? A few of you? You know what that is? It's called the placing of the son. That's what we're talking about.
And let me just read something to you from an aged famous writing. This is from "The Robe" by Lloyd C. Douglas. And here is Marcellus describing his adoption to a friend named Paulus. He says, "When a Roman of our sort comes of age, Paulus, there is an impressive ceremony by which we are inducted into manhood. Well, do I remember the thrill of it abides with me still? How all our relatives and friends assembled that day in the stately Forum Julium? My father made an address, welcoming me into Roman citizenship. It was as if I had never lived until that hour. I was so deeply stirred, Paulus, that my eyes swam with tears". Inwardly, the believer knows that there's ultimately going to be a time where not only will he be in Spirit in the family of God, he will be, in reality, in the family of God. His adoption awaits; the placing of the son in the family awaits. And one day, that experience will be his.
And the Bible says Christians groan anticipating that. We may not even know what it is, but we know there's something yet to come that isn't here yet. And there's something within us that says, "I'm not there yet. I'm still in the camping trip". "We groan, thirdly, because we anticipate the redemption of the body". This is what Paul refers to in the eighth chapter. He says, "One day our bodies are going to be redeemed". I remember preaching a series on heaven and I did a whole message called, "The Extreme Makeover," which is what happens to you if you're a Christian when the rapture happens. Did you know that when the rapture comes and Jesus comes back, the Bible says, "Those who were dead in Christ, they rise first in the resurrection body". But we forget that those of us, if we're still alive on this earth, the Bible says, "On our way up, we're going to be given new bodies".
How many of you would sign up for that today? Well, here's what Philippians says. Let me read it to you. "For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly await the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ," watch this, "who will transform our lowly body that it be conformed to his glorious body, according to the working by which he is able to subdue all things to himself". The Bible says that one day when Christ comes back to this earth for his own, we are going to end up getting a body just like the resurrection body of the Lord Jesus Christ. Our lowly bodies will be transformed into the glorious body of the Lord Jesus. Now, I don't know about the rest of you, but that sounds like a pretty exciting moment. And if you know anything about that glorious body of the Lord Jesus after he was resurrected, you get even more excited. Some of you will be so blessed when I tell you, that after Jesus resurrected from the grave and his glorious body, he ate.
So somebody may have told you when you get to heaven, you won't have any calories because you won't eat. That is not true. There's actually trees planted in heaven from which we're to eat. Remember Jesus one day showed up in a room and nobody knew how he got there. He just was there. He was able to transport his body into a closed, locked room to be in the presence of his disciples. I don't understand all this. I don't even want to go there except to say one day our bodies are going to be transformed. And the Bible says, in anticipation of that, we groan. And I can't think of anything more accurate than that.
How many you know, the older you get, the more you groan and the louder you groan. Isn't that true? We're are on this trip. It's preparing us for where we're going to be, we're here, we're going there, but in the process, we're in our bodies. And the one thing that kind of keeps you going, when you think about it is, this is not going to be the way it is forever. When the camping trip is over, I get a new body. And the Bible says when you understand that and comprehend it, what you do is you groan. What is a groan? It's anticipating something that has not yet happened and you look forward to it. There's one third thing about this groaning, I told you it's the groaning of creation and the groaning of the Christians. But at the end of this little section, verses 26 and 27, there's the groaning of the Holy Spirit. If you listen carefully, this will encourage your heart.
"Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit 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". There are times when we're not able to pray. Have you ever had a time in your life when you couldn't pray and you try to pray but somehow the prayer didn't happen?
I had a moment like that when I was going through my cancer adventure years ago. They had done a scan and thought they saw a spot on my spleen. And so, in order to know what to do with that, they decided to do a biopsy of my spleen. That is not something you ever want to let anybody do to you if you have anything to say about it because of the way they do it. They take a needle about this long and insert it into your abdomen until they find you spleen and then they extract the tissue, and it's extremely painful. And we were in the room waiting for this procedure to happen and I was with Donna. And the two of us were there together. And I said honey, "I know this is scary to you and let me pray". And I tried to pray, and I couldn't pray. I tried to pray, and the words wouldn't come out my mouth. Thankfully, I'm married to a godly woman. She prayed way better than I could ever have prayed. But I also know that in that moment, the Spirit of God was present.
And when you can't pray, the Spirit, here's what it says, "We do not know what we should pray for and the Spirit makes intercession for us with groanings that cannot be uttered". The Spirit takes what we can't say and he lays it out in perfect form for the Father, and our prayers are translated into the Father's presence. I know you can remember moments in your life when your heart was so heavy, your thoughts seemed confused, you maybe couldn't find the words to speak. Sometimes, even though we're on our knees in an attitude of prayer, we can only manage to sigh or groan or whisper the Lords name. And in those moments, according to Paul, "The indwelling Spirit takes our sighs and groans and brings those prayers to God". He understands the inward turmoil in our life. "He is the searcher of our hearts," says the Scripture, "and he knows us better than we know ourselves".
Have you ever asked someone to pray for you because of a crushing heaviness you've felt in your life, but you didn't even know how to request your prayer? Sometimes, what we feel inside seems so hard to explain. Sometimes, we're embarrassed to admit an old problem we're having has been us for years. And we don't have to explain anything to the Spirit of God. We don't have the search for words. He knows everything that plagues us, and burdens us, and worries us, and presses us in our spirit. And he spreads those very things out before the Father's throne. And he groans on our behalf in the agony of our heart. Let me tell you what this is not. Sometimes, you have to teach something this way. Before you can tell them what it is, you tell them what it is not. This is not, as some have taught, a proof text for speaking in tongues.
Some have interpreted this verse as arguing for prayer tongues. However, close examination reveals that the believer isn't speaking at all. The Holy Spirit is making the intercession. Moreover, the precise words in Greek are groanings which cannot be uttered. Literally, the words might be rendered unspoken sighings. In other words, the communication is nonverbal, involving no speaking of any kind. In other words, this groaning is not words but groans. And it is not me but the Holy Spirit who is groaning. "Let God be true and every man a liar". This is the Word of God. I didn't make this up. This is just true. This can't be what some people say it is. It's a very convenient, little landing place for people who have a point they want to make, but that's not what this means. This is not some spiritual tongue that nobody understands. This is the Holy Spirit interpreting your prayers and my prayers to Almighty God. We don't even speak. That's the whole point of it. We can't speak and that's why the Holy Spirit has to speak in our behalf.
But let me tell you what this groaning is. Among the benefits of adoption into God's family, is the special supernatural care that the Holy Spirit brings to us. He is present in our lives in moments of moral, physical and emotional weakness. He knows that he must approach God in our behalf, and he takes our burdens and brings them to the Father. Now here's the point of Paul's detailed description of our groanings. He says in verse 18, "For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us". Right now, we're doing some groaning in our bodies, in the anticipation of what is not yet true because we see what's going on around us in the world that we don't understand it. It doesn't make sense to us. But here's what God wants us to know. We're all in this situation, in some respects because of what I said in the first story. It's what we experience right now that makes us long for the redemption. We know that God has something way better planned for us. "Eye has not seen neither hath mind been able to conceive what God has prepared for those who love him".
There's joy in the world, we know that. The Bible says, "We're to enjoy the good things that God provides for us". But as an overall picture, this world has got a lot of problems. But friends, whatever discomfort we have, it's not even worthy to be considered in light of the glory which God has for us. One day, when we get to heaven, I don't know if this is going to happen or not 'cause I'm making an assumption about this, when we get to heaven and we look back on our lives, and we're going to see some period of time when we were so unable to even comprehend what to do. It seemed so awful, so terrible, what are we going to do? This isn't going to change this. It's just going to get, were going to be in heaven and we're going to look back and say, "Why in the world was I so upset about that"? Because when you see things in perspective, when you see your sufferings, in light of the glory, it changes everything.
And that's why we read in 2 Corinthians, "For even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal". So, men and women take these words from Romans 8. Remember this teaches you the priority of hope. What is hope? Hope is the anticipation of something that is not yet happened. Hope isn't hope so maybe it'll happen. For the Christian, hope is the know so. Hope is the anchor in heaven attached to the throne of God. You're on the other end of it and you know that your hope is in heaven. But we're not in heaven yet. We're in the hope period of time.
So what do you do when you don't have yet what you know you're going to have? You hope. You anticipate. Hope is the measure of true Christianity. Popular Christianity is entirely connected to this world, but real Christianity is connected to the world to come. It's not primarily concerned even with the deliverance from hell, and punishment, and all the things that trouble us and worry us. True Christianity sets its affections on things above and not things on the earth. We look at the things which are not seen. That's what true Christianity is. Don't let anybody get you caught up in the fact that if you do this and that, you will get everything that you want. You know, we have this blighted idea of what success is. And as Christians, if we're not careful, we allow the world to tell us what success is. We should be telling the world what it is. We allow them to tell us. It's not more homes, more cars, more property, more fame, more popularity, more friends, more whatever.
According to the Word of God, success for the Christian is finding out what God wants you to do and doing it to the fullest extent of your ability. And when you do that, you succeed. The world won't tell you that. The world will tell you all of the other stuff. You can read books about it. You can read all kinds of books, listen to tapes, and podcasts and everything else that tell you how to be successful. Let me tell you how to be successful as a Christian, ask the Lord what he wants you to do. Find out what he wants you to do. Do it with all your heart, and there is a kind of success that comes with that that you cannot describe. The world will never understand it. They were never comprehend it, and they'll still be searching for it when you're all the way down the road enjoying it.
I want you to know that when you get eternity right, when you get the future right, when you know that God has prepared a place for you and a plan for you, one of the blessings of the groans and the glory is the perspective that it brings. You will not be surprised when things go wrong in this life. This world is not a good place. We live in a fallen environment. Your plans will misfire. You'll fail sometimes, often destroy what you have spent long years and much toil to accomplish. But we're not home yet. We're headed there. And in the anticipation of what God has provided for us, we groan. Yeah, Lord. And that's why when we come to the end of a message like this, there's only one thing we can do and that's look forward to the day when, that for which we groan, becomes the glory of our lives. And it's going to happen before you know it. In the meantime, we'll stay faithful in the journey. We'll keep following the Lord and doing what he tells us to do, but soon and very soon, we're going to see the King.