Jack Graham - God's Purpose for Your Pain
Take your Bibles and turn with me to Romans 8, the great 8 chapter of Romans. Many believe that Romans chapter 8 is the greatest chapter in all of the Bible. And if Romans chapter 8 is the greatest chapter in the Bible, many also believe that their greatest verse, the greatest verse in all of the Bible is Romans 8:28. So we're heading into the great 8:28 today! But we're going to begin in context because Romans 8:28 is not a slogan or a sentence to hang on your wall; it is something that God wants to put in your heart and the title of this message is: "God's Purpose for Your Pain". This is THE ESSENTIAL GOSPEL. It is the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is who we are; this is what we do. This is the church. This is PowerPoint!
"I'm not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone believing, to the Jew first, and also to the Greek, to the pagan". A beloved and believed verse in all the Bible by those who know and love the Lord Jesus. Cherished by Christians from generation to generation. But in context we realize it is all a part of this groaning that we have in the world. Creation is groaning; we've seen that earlier. The Christian, we are groaning from within, and then the Holy Spirit groans within us. There are desires God puts in our heart when we pray in the Spirit. And especially in pain and problems and questions that we cannot answer; when life is hard, when life doesn't make sense, when we don't understand because creation is groaning and we are groaning and suffering is a reality for all of us and we wonder why and God is answering many of those questions in Romans chapter 8. It's all about life in the Spirit, it's all about security in Christ.
The Apostle Paul who knew himself of great pain and suffering in his own life, gave us these words from God, these words in Romans chapter 8, verses 26, 27 and 28. "Likewise". Likewise referring to everything that goes before: likewise as creation is groaning, likewise as we are groaning, Christians from within, "Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God", and then verse 28, "And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose".
Best way to set up this sentence, to translate this sentence is to put God at the outset. Here in this translation which is the ESV it says: "And we know that for those who love God, God causes all things to work together for good". It is preferable to put God at the start of this sentence. "God causes all things to work together for good to those who love the Lord, for those who are called according to his purpose". Because we do not believe in dumb luck or blind chance or the fortuitous conjunction of circumstances in our lives. We believe as followers of Jesus that God Himself is causing all things to work together for good. Just as He's holding the universe together, He is holding us together and by His Spirit helping us through. God causes all things. This verse sometimes misquoted or misrepresented, "All things are going to work out". That's not what this verse is saying. Not naturally. Things don't work out naturally.
"God is causing all things to work together for the good to those who love the Lord and who are called according to His purpose". And God can take even the worse and transform it into His best. In fact, when evil does it’s worst, God does His best! Just look at the cross! And God orders and orchestrates our steps for our lives and works in us constructively, creatively. He is working progressively, providentially, perfectly and prayerfully within us. And that's why I back you up to verses 26 and 27. If Romans 8 is the diamond, there's this setting, and the setting has to do with the Holy Spirit. And this chapter as we've noted again and again and again is all about the Spirit, the work of the Holy Spirit: that we are born again by the Spirit, that we are led by the Spirit, that we are to walk in the Spirit, that we are gifted by the Spirit.
And so here's another ministry of the Holy Spirit. And the way through pain and the promise through pain, and Warren Wiersbe said it so well, "We don't live by explanation; we live by promises". And this great promise is set in the midst of this praying of the Holy Spirit. Again, I say, God is working progressively, providentially, perfectly and, yes, prayerfully in our lives. So the first thing that we need to do is to pray our way through pain by praying in the Spirit. Did you know the Holy Spirit empowers and energizes your prayers? We ought to pray bold, believing prayers because we are invited to the throne room of God. Boldly! You can come boldly, believing God for great things in your life. And God has promised always to answer our prayers. And there are boundless opportunities, a limitless reach when we pray.
Do not see prayer as a mere duty or religious duty. Though it is a duty to pray, we are commanded to pray. But see it beyond a duty; see it as a gift from God. The highest privilege, that we can talk with God! We come to the Father, through the Son in the Spirit. I want to say that again because this is a trinitarian response. This is our prayer-partnership with God, the deity. We're in counsel with the Holy Trinity. We come to the Father, Jesus taught us to pray "Our Father who art in heaven", through the Son (Jesus said, "Pray in My name".) and we come in the Holy Spirit. Pray in the Spirit!
Now this has nothing to do with speaking in tongues. As a matter of fact, these verses speak of the Spirit groaning without words. Wordless prayers. These are not groanings or gruntings but rather praying in the Spirit. And we’re going to talk about what that means. But Ephesians 6:18 says, "Pray always, with all prayer and petitions in the Spirit". Jude 20: "But you beloved, build yourself up in your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit". So how do we pray in the Spirit? Well, it is in reality the Spirit praying in us. And verse 26 tells us that when we are weak, and when we're struggling, when we are pained, the Holy Spirit is praying us through. When we are weak. When there are no words coming out, when you open your mouth and you try to pray (Anybody been there?) and nothing comes out. You hurt so deeply, and these wordless prayers that we can't even express to God because we don't know what to pray, we don't know how to pray.
But isn't it great to know, that we have the Holy Spirit as our prayer partner? It's good when others pray for us. And we ought to pray for one another as the Bible commands us, but to know that God Himself is within us, praying for us. Now the Scripture also tells us, in fact, it's down later in this verse, chapter 8 and tells us that we have the living Christ, the resurrected Christ. I want to get there on that. Verse 34, "Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us". So above us, above you is the risen reigning Christ, praying for you, interceding against every accusation that the devil may bring, against every evil work that comes against us. If you knew that Jesus was outside that door right now, praying for you, I think you could take on the world! If you knew that Christ was praying for you! That near, that dear.
Well, let me tell you something, the distance makes no difference. Christ is praying for you and you can by God's grace live in the confidence that you are prayed for by the King of kings and the Lord of lords. So He is above us, praying, but there's more! He is within us, interceding! And this is the dear Holy Spirit, the Spirit helps us. He is described as the Helper, the Comforter, the Paraclete. And in the word helps here in verse 26, "the Holy Spirit helps us when we pray", is the word which means to carry the load. When you can't bear it, when you can't carry it, He picks up the load. Picture a little child trying to move a heavy object. Just can't budge it; can't move it! And then the Father, remember Abba Father? A dad comes along, says, "Son, are you using all your strength"? And the child says, "Not yet, daddy. Can you help me"? Because our Father brings all of His strength and the muscle of our omnipotence is to bear upon those weaknesses that we have.
When we can't carry the load, when we can't go a step further, further, picture the Spirit of God carrying that load for you. The word weakness here is attributed in James chapter 5 and verse 14 as sickness. So when we’re weak mentally, emotionally, physically, spiritually, the word that I hear so much coming through these past 18 months, or so. People are so tired, exhausted with all this that’s been going on around us. So we have a tag-team partner in prayer, the Spirit of God. When we don’t have wisdom or discernment to go and do God’s will, He prays with us and for us. And I can tell you through the years, I look back and I see how God has used the Spirit of God to whisper in me in those times when I didn’t know what to do, where to go, how to do it, but He interceded within. He intercedes according to the will of God.
I read a book years ago which spoke of heaven. It's called "The Circle of Prayer". And it made a statement which I've never forgotten. I've lived by this. The prayer that gets to heaven is the prayer that starts in heaven. Now think about it. The prayer that gets to heaven is the prayer that starts in heaven. Picture a circle; at the top of the circle is God, and God by His Spirit sends down a request, something that God wants to do, some will that He wants to perform in our life, so God sends down the request so our heart, the psalmist said, "Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart". So as you are praying, sometimes without words God will send down something by His Spirit into your heart, into your life, into your mind, and all we do is send it back up; we just close the circle.
This is the work of the Holy Spirit within us. The Spirit prompts us to pray, puts a desire in our hearts as to what to pray, partners with us in that prayer. And even when we we're too weak to pray, He is with us. Jesus in heaven, the Holy Spirit in your heart. And He translates, don't miss this, He translates your unspoken request in the language of heaven. That's what this verse means. He translates your unspoken request in the language of heaven. These are what we could call wordless prayers. You ever prayed a wordless prayer? I have. Your best prayers, in fact, may be your unspoken prayers. Maybe you've been in a Bible fellowship group or a life group or with a prayer group or in a prayer service and someone says, "I have an unspoken request". And typically, that means it's really private.
I don't want to talk about it; I don't want to say anything publicly about it, but it's an unspoken request. And that can be a very real thing because you just don't want to talk to others; you need to talk to Jesus and you need somebody to talk to Jesus for you. Well, guess who that is? That's the Holy Spirit, that's Christ in you. And these wordless prayers, these unspoken requests when we don't know what to say, we don't know what to pray, they rise from a broken heart, often on the waves of tears into the presence of God. Sometimes we agonize in prayer. We're broken in prayer. But "when we are weak," as the Apostle Paul says, "we are made strong".
And Paul prayed again and again, three times he said for a thorn, a physical pain, no doubt, in his life sent by Satan, allowed by God, but sent by Satan. He was burdened and broken, he was hurting, he was in pain, He prayed, "God, take it away. God, take it away. God, take it away". And God said, "No, my strength is made perfect in your weakness". And when we pray in weakness, we are strengthened to stand and to rise again. Life can knock you off your feet. So what happens when you're knocked off your feet? Get on your knees and cry out to God. And the Holy Spirit counsels us and comforts us, and creates in us His peace. And in our weaknesses, He knows our failing, He knows our flesh and He prays us through, and He brings us to this wonderful promise of God; that God is causing all things to work together for the good to them who love the Lord and are called according to His purpose.
And so how does God get us through the pain of life? How do we get through the pain of life? We pray in the Spirit, we stay in step with the Spirit, and we lean on this promise of God. We pray the promises of God. We pray the Scripture. And here it is in this passage. Now I’m going to come back next week and give Romans 8:28 its full due. But I want you to listen very carefully to a summary of what Romans 8:28 is saying to all of us. Number one, it is inclusive. This is an inclusive promise. And by that, I mean, it’s not a promise for unbelievers. Unbelievers may believe in fate or fortune or luck. Or que sara sara, whatever will be, will be. But believers, we don't believe in fate; we believe in God! That God is causing all things to work together and it is something that we know! "We" meaning the family of God.
My friend O. S. Hawkins calls Romans 8:28 a family secret. This is for the family; this is for you as a believer in Jesus Christ. Inclusive of this. We believe in God's plan and God's purposes and God's providence. And therefore, we live in the midst of pain and problems and perplexing questions that we cannot answer, we live with confidence and certainty and the security that we have in Christ. We know this. I love the word know: K-N-O-W. For example, here's some "know" passages. Before I give you these, nobody likes a know-it-all, right? So if you are not a follower of Jesus, I don't want you to hear arrogance in this. I don't want you to hear ego in this. That we're smarter than you, better than you. No, this by the grace of God is what we know because the Spirit of God is alive in us, and the Word of God is true. Remember, when we talk about what we know, we're not talking about intellectual knowledge, we're talking about the wisdom of the Word of God.
This is what we know. But here’s a few: Here’s 2 Timothy 1:12: "I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed unto Him against that day". Or listen to Job after going through excruciating, incredible pain and loss in his life, yet he said in Job 19:25: "I know my Redeemer lives and, in the end, He will stand upon the earth". I know that Christ lives, that Jesus is coming again! First John 5:13: "These things are written to you that believe on the name of the Son of God, that in believing you may have eternal life". John 8:32-the words of Jesus: "You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free". 1 John 3:3, "We KNOW that when He appears, we will be like Him, for we will see Him as He is". Or like that blind man who was saved by the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and His mercy, and when he was questioned as to what he believed, and what He knew, he said, "This one thing I know; I was blind but now I see"!
This is our testimony! So when we say this is what we know, this is inclusive of believers. More about that next time. This promise is also comprehensive. The promise is comprehensive, for it says, "For we know that ALL things work together for the good", or "that God is causing all things to work together for good, to those who love the Lord and are called according to His purpose". All is a big little word! And all means ALL. That's right. Good and bad, nothing is excluded, nothing is excepted or is an exemption, but all is all things in our lives. Right here in Romans chapter 8 we see the "all of all" because in verse 32 He tells us that "He has given us all things in Christ". Verse 37, we are more than conquerors through Christ who loves us in all things, "In all things we are more than conquerors through Christ".
Verses 38 and 39: In all creation, ransacking the universe. "Nothing shall separate us from the love of God, height, depth, not all of creation"! Our God does it all! He is the Almighty! And He is always Almighty! He is our all-sufficient Savior. He is our all in all! But that’s why I’m saying it’s comprehensive. And not only is it comprehensive, and not only is it inclusive, but it is constructive. This promise is constructive in that, the word work, "God is causing all things to work together", it's the word. We get our word Synergy from that word. Synergistic. You know what that word means, I presume. And that is when things come together for the good. Working. And this is the key to all of it. That God is causing all things in our lives to come together for our good and His glory.
The great preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon said this about this passage of Scripture: He said: "Everything that happens to you is for your own good. And if the waves roll against you, it only speeds your ship (that should be ship) toward the port. If lightning and thunder comes, it clears the atmosphere and promotes your soul’s health. You gain by loss, you grow healthy in sickness, you live by dying, and you’re made rich in losses. Could you ask for a better promise? It is better that all things should work for my good than all things should be as I would wish to have them. All things might work for my pleasure and yet might all work for my ruin. If all things do not always please me, they always benefit me. (And in close) This is the best promise of life". Spurgeon also said, "When you can’t trace God’s hand, trust His heart". Because the invisible, invincible hand of providence in God’s purpose is working in your life. This is what we believe, this is one we trust.