Summary: The life of a Christian is often hot to handle that we may be tempted to even pack it in. But the Apostle Paul urges us not to do so for our groaning will give way to glory.
I have a loonie here that I want to give away. Who wants it? Before I give it to you I want to burn off some of the germs that are on this coin. (Hold coin in candle flame with a pair of pliers for a couple of seconds.) Done. Go ahead. Take the coin. Did your fingers get burned? No? That’s good. I bet they were a little hot though. Would you do it again? Would you endure hot fingertips for another loonie? Sure? You’d put up with a little discomfort for another quick buck, wouldn’t you? Sorry, I don’t have another loonie to give away but you can keep the one you have. Thanks for your help. (Object lesson idea for Eldon Weisheit.)
This thing with the loonie illustrates the life of a believer. Right now our days are packed with aches, stress, and frustrations that make life hot to handle. So hot that we may even wonder if it’s worth being a Christian. It is worth it of course and today the Apostle Paul assures us that we will go from “Ow!” to “Ooh!” and from “Arrgh!” to “Aaah!” for our present groaning WILL give way to future glory.
Paul was no stranger to suffering. By the time he wrote his letter to the Christians in Rome he had been pelted with stones and left for dead in Lystra, he had been run out of Ephesus and Thessalonica, and had been beaten and imprisoned in Philippi. What kept this man going? Why did he continue to hold on to his faith in Jesus when that was the source of most of his problems? Paul himself explains: “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18). Paul says that if he were to put all of his sufferings on a scale and weigh them against the future glories of heaven, he was confident that there would be no comparison. In the same way our present sufferings, no matter how weighty they may seem to us, are not in the same weight-class as the future glories that await us.
That’s interesting but how does that help me get through another grinding day at work or through the next anniversary of my loved one’s death? Well when I was growing up in Japan we made an annual trip to a cabin on a mountain lake. Before the expressway was built, this trip took over eight hours on narrow, winding mountain roads. Without air conditioning the ol’ station wagon was hot, humid, and smelly since we were often stuck behind diesel belching trucks. There wasn’t a lot of room either in the car because there were six of us plus the family cat. Does that sound like a fun? No. But to tell you the truth I don’t remember much about the trip there while I do remember lots about the cabin, the lake, and the mountains. In other words the joy of spending time at the lake far outweighed the inconvenience of getting there. If we’re willing to put up with inconveniences now to get to our favourite vacation spot, then putting up with the inconvenience of this life to get to the immeasurable glory of the next life should be a piece of cake!
Oh to be sure, the things we go through in this life are not all that fun. The trials we face will cause us to groan. But we’re not alone in that, says Paul. All creation groans at the frustration of being part of this sin-filled world. You know well how your body groans as your elbows snap, knees crackle, and ankles pop when you get out of bed in the morning. But the mountains, the trees, the oceans are groaning too. If we were to speak to the wind, for example, he may say something like this: “I serve a useful purpose. I blow ships across the sea. I sweep smoke and foul odours from cities. I offer cool refreshment to people on hot days. But sometimes I get whipped up into a frenzy and then I go on a rampage. I just can’t help myself and I end up destroying everything in my path.” “I know what you mean” the rain could cut in. “There is so much good that I can do. I make the earth glisten. I give nourishing drink to plants. I can even break up the sun’s rays into a rainbow of color. But when I get out of control I make rivers flood. I can drown the beauty that I helped make. I can even kill people!” (Samuel J. Roth) Yes, how frustrating for the wind and the rain God had originally created to be good. And how exasperating for the diamond that adorns the ear of a drug dealer, or the oil that’s powering a get-away car. That’s not what God had made them for but that’s now life in this sinful world and there’s nothing they can do about it but groan in frustration.