Summary: Our HOPE in a frustrated creation: God promises to redeem creation, God adopts us as his children, the Holy Spirit gives us a taste of our glorious future.
HOPE IN A GROANING WORLD—Romans 8:14-27
On the World Frustration Index, what do you think the current level is?
Actually, the World Frustration Index is fictional; I made it up. But if there were such a thing, what level would we be at?
***For 2020: Pretty high! We have been stuck inside for weeks, wondering when this COVID-19 thing will end, if ever, and what the next pandemic might be. We get entirely too much news, and most of it is frustrating: racism and prejudice on one side, and identity politics and anarchy on the other. Opinions are polarized, and even Christians can’t talk to each other in a civil way. Social problems keep increasing, and their seem to be no answers for drugs and gangs, crime and mass incarceration, struggling schools and the breakdown of marriage and family. The list goes on, but I think I’ll quit now...**
***Alternately, preacher, update this: Political polarization, and feeling powerless to have any impact for change. Economic hopelessness for so many people, with no easy solutions. Social problems: drugs and crime, and illusive solutions to mass incarceration and social decay. Cultural breakdowns: lax moral and ethical standards, marriage, and loss of respect for authority. Religious freedom being challenged (China, Iran…) Inequality: persistent racism, struggling schools, and oppression of the poor in the world. Global warming, natural disasters—and powerless to fix things**
Frustration seems to be part of life, and it can be overwhelming at times. What gets us through it? HOPE: a belief in something better. A belief in a better future, that spills over into the present.
WHAT SOLID BASIS DO WE HAVE FOR HOPE?
-GOD PROMISES TO REDEEM CREATION.
It will not always be like this! As verse 21 says, “The creation will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.”
Well, that sounds great, but if God plans to redeem the creation someday, why not do it immediately?
Paul hints at the answer, when he says, “The creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. The creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.”
“The creation waits for the children of God…” The redemption of creation—its liberation from bondage to decay—is inevitably linked with the redemption of God’s children, in freedom and glory.
Why? A redeemed creation is not a suitable home for unredeemed people.
Think about it: How could the world be free of frustration, if it were filled with human-caused frustration: economic inequality, greed, global warming (maybe), war, or bullying? So much frustration is human-caused.
Well then, what about frustrations that are not human-caused? There are natural disasters, like pandemics, hurricanes, or earthquakes. There are troubles from natural causes: cancer, drought, disease and death.
Paul says something quite puzzling in verse 19: “the creation was subjected to frustration…by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope…” Who subjected the creation to frustration? Was it God, or another power? I don’t think Paul settles that question, but he implies that if God allows frustration in the physical world, the PURPOSE of it is “in hope that all of creation, including God’s children, will be redeemed and brought in to “the glorious freedom of the children of God.”
Frustration has a purpose in our world.
***A man once told me that he didn’t need God in his life. He said his life was good; he had a good business, a decent marriage and family, and lots of friends. I didn’t know what to say, because I had been with him when the hospital pulled the plug on his dying 10-year-old daughter, and when his family retreated to a hotel room to drown their sorrows in beer. I could see stress in him, and even more in his family. I wanted to say, “Is this as good as it gets?”**
Frustration with life can be a healthy, if it gives us a “holy discontent,” and a vision for something better.
As C.S. Lewis said in his essay, The Weight of Glory, “It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”