Summary: Suffer now glory later
We live in a suffering world. And we, too, suffer. Every honest person on earth testifies that life is not fairly easy. And biblical Christianity does not minimize our difficulties and sufferings. We are saved and we are looking forward to the coming of Christ. But at present we are struggling. The Apostle Paul, in our passage, tells us that we are at present suffering. And he underscores the fact of suffering by using the word “groaning”.
When you hear someone groan it is not a pleasing sound. It signals that a person is either hurt or exhausted. In this passage the whole creation including Christians is groaning (vv. 22-23).
Watch the news, read your newspapers and you’ll witness the groaning of the creation. The unprecedented rise of crimes, the decline of morality, the food crisis, and the continuous increase of prices of gods and services are just manifestations of that groaning.
We hear people- both old and young- dying of cancer, AIDS, and other wasting diseases. We feel the climate change which is the effect of the so-called global warming.
If you look around you today you will see a world in tear, a world in fear, and most arrestingly a world in suffering!
How do we address this kind of issue? There are many voices in the past as well as in the present that try to solve or at least give their opinions about the issue of suffering. Some totally recourse to the denial of the existence of God (the position of atheists), others believe there may be a god but he does not care at all.
Probably the most popular voice that offers a solution to the problem of suffering is that of Harold Kushner, a Jewish rabbi. He penned his opinion in a best-selling book entitled, WHEN BAD THINGS HAPPEN TO GOOD PEOPLE. After the lost of a son during his teenage years and after a decade of encounter with people who suffer lost and injustice, Rabbi Kushner concludes that yes, there is a God and he is all-good, but he is not all-powerful!
Rabbi Kushner attempted to give comfort to his suffering readers but he fails miserably! For what he offer is not comfort or encouragement and obviously not hope but disappointment.
For us Christians the reliable guide to address the issue of suffering is not the opinion or ideology and philosophy of man but the word of God. It is the voice of God.
The Bible tells us that suffering is real and inevitable. Our very passage tells us at present we are suffering. But it does not end up there. The Bible perceives suffering in the context of God’s glorious purpose.
The Apostle Paul tells us we are indeed suffering for a moment but after that comes glory.
Paul tells us a great deal about this glory in this passage. Let’s look at it closely.
I. Glory is the fullness of our redemption
Paul further defines this glory through the following phrase: “eager expectation”, “revelation of sons of God” (v. 19), “glorious freedom of the children of God” (v.21), and “the redemption of our bodies” (v. 23). To clear up the matter, the glory reserved for us is the fullness of our redemption. It is the time when our identity as children of God will come into perfection.