Summary: Christians are encouraged in this world of suffering because of our special privileges as God's adopted children.
Paul Tournier, the famous Swiss physician and counselor, reported his surprise in his book Creative Suffering upon reading an article entitled “Orphans Lead the World.” The article appeared in a respected medical journal and surveyed the lives of 300 leaders who had an impact on world history. The author searched for a common thread to explain their influence. He discovered they had all grown up as orphans. His list included Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Robespierre, George Washington, Napoleon, Queen Victoria, Golda Meir, Hitler, Lenin, Stalin, and Castro. Tournier himself had been an orphan. His father, a minister, died two months after his birth and his mother died of breast cancer when he was six years old.
Tournier said, “So there we are giving lectures on how important it is for a child’s development to have a father and a mother performing harmoniously together their respective roles towards him. And all at once we find that this is the very thing that those who have been most influential in world history have not had!”
Soon afterward, his wife died, and he felt orphaned again in old age. Before this, he viewed each major event of life, success or tragedy, as either good or evil. However, he began to view circumstances, fortunate or unfortunate, as morally neutral. They simply are what they are; what matters is how we respond to them. Good and evil, in the moral sense, do not reside in things, but always in people.
This changed the way he approached medicine and cared for people. He said, “Only rarely are we the masters of events, but (along with those who help us) we are responsible for our reactions….suffering is never beneficial in itself, and must always be fought against. What counts is the way a person reacts in the face of suffering.”
He used the analogy of a nutcracker. Unforeseen calamities apply force that can break through the hard outer shell of personal security. The act of breaking will cause pain, of course, but it need not destroy. To the contrary, in the right environment the disarray can lead to creative growth: when old routines and behavioral patterns no longer work, the patient, exposed and vulnerable, must seek new ones. Tournier said that the role of the doctor, minister, or loving friend is simply to keep the nutcracker of circumstances from destroying, and to help the sufferer see that even the worst hardships open up the potential for growth and development. I want to talk about the Holy Spirit being that loving friend in the life of a Christian in times of suffering.
Christians are encouraged by the Holy Spirit in this world of suffering because of our special privileges as God’s adopted children. What special privileges do we have as God’s adopted children?
The first special privilege that we have as God’s adopted children is a special status.
I. CHRISTIANS HAVE A SPECIAL STATUS (ROMANS 8:14-17)
All those led by God's Spirit are God's sons. (15) For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry out, "Abba, Father!" (16) The Spirit Himself testifies together with our spirit that we are God's children, (17) and if children, also heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ—seeing that we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.
Earlier Paul used slavery in a positive way. In chapter seven, it illustrated that Jesus is our master, and the point was that we are to obey our master. We live holy lives because Jesus is a holy master. Here he uses slavery in a negative way. The ordinary relationship of slaves and masters was fear. Slaves never had security. They could be sold or treated harshly at any time. Instead, Christians have the Holy Spirit whom gives us an assurance that we are not slaves but sons and daughters of God.
Our special status is seen also in that we use the word “Father” to speak of God (v. 15). No one in the O.T. directly addressed God as “Father.” Moses, David, nor Isaiah ever prayed to God like I did this morning and called him “Father.” Jeremiah would not have dared to pray like that. According to many Bible scholars, speaking to God directly as your Father was new with Jesus. Jesus always used this term when he prayed to God. He used the term 170 times! The one exception was when He cried out on the cross and experienced the sin of the world that was placed on Him. The reason we call God our Father is this is the way Jesus taught us to pray. It must have taken the disciples breath away when he told them to begin their prayer, “Our Father.”