Summary: When a person is "in Christ" there is no such thing as a hopeless situation.
It was a balmy October afternoon in 1982. Badger Stadium in Madison Wisconsin was packed out. That day there were more than 60,000 die-hard University of Wisconsin football fans watching their team take on the Michigan State Spartans. It didn’t take long to determine who the better team was. Michigan State was moping up the field with the Badgers. But what seemed odd was that even as the score became increasingly lopsided against their team, there were bursts of applause and shouts of joy from the Wisconsin fans. How could they cheer when their team was getting trounced so decisively? It turns out that 70 miles away the Milwaukee Brewers were beating the St. Louis Cardinals in game 3 of the 1982 World Series. Many of the fans in the stands were listening to portable radios and responding to what was going on in another game, in another sport, in another place.
There is something to be said for being plugged into what is going on elsewhere. Sometimes, the things that are going on where you are become extremely difficult. So as Paul writes the words we are about to read in Romans 8, He wants to make sure that our faith in God affects the perspective in which we view our circumstances. No matter how difficult or even desperate our situation seems, Paul says we can face it with hope. (Read Romans 8:18-25)
For three weeks now we have been focusing on the Good News about being a Christian. The first week we highlighted that we live our lives in the middle of God’s grace, that there is no condemnation for our sin. Last week we focused on the fact that God gives us a companion in the Holy Spirit that helps us to live life to the fullest. This week, it is the gift of hope that Paul is pointing to. The fact that "we always have hope" is a tre-mendous benefit of knowing Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.
You don’t have to be a very astute observer to notice that we live in a world that struggles against hopelessness. If you talk to people at all, you are going to get in a conversation with someone who is going to tell you that they are discouraged. Listen to any of the radio talk shows or watch the news and you are going to hear people who are cynical about life. They think the world is going down the tubes. On a world scale, it seems that we go from crisis to crisis. In many or your lifetimes there has been W.W.II, Korea, Vietnam, Iran hostages, Iraq, and Bosnia, just to name a few of the highest profile conflicts. And in spite of our best efforts, we know there will be more conflicts. There has been economic crises. Today in our country we are faced with an ongoing crisis in leadership. But not all the struggles are on a national and international scale.
In our personal lives there is pain. We have physical problems that afflict our bodies. We endure emotional turmoil that comes with losing a loved one or that comes when we are disappointed by someone we love. If we are honest, we have to admit that we have spiritual struggles as we find ourselves disappointed with God.
As Paul talks about life, he does not want to candy coat the pain and struggles that we go through. But what he wants to do is to put them into perspective. Look again at what he says in 8:18 (Read). Paul uses language that helps us see life as an eternal proposition. We live here on earth for a little while, but we live forever. What Paul wants to make sure of is that we don’t get so discouraged with the difficulties of this life that we lose sight of the big picture of eternity. He says, "Don’t forget, there will be a time when there won’t be any more struggles, pain, death or tears. For those who are in Christ, there will be only joy and happiness."
Now look at what Paul says next. (Read vv. 19-21) But the truth of the matter is, that right now we live in a world that is less than perfect. This world is subject to the second law of thermodynamics. That law states that everything in this universe is decaying. What seems fresh and new one day will some day be old and broken down. Something that is growing and vibrant will some day shrivel up and die. To use Paul’s language, this world is in "bondage to decay."
So the plant that pops up through the soil and looks so alive and fresh will one day die and rot away. If you want to speed that process along, pot that plant up and put it in our house. The ultimate death sentence for a plant is to put it into our home. But seriously, the reality of the situation is that everything on earth is subject to the second law of thermodynamics. Even those of you with green thumbs can’t make a plant live forever! Every living thing will eventually die and decay. That includes me and that includes you. The second law of thermodynamics doesn’t offer any hope for anything on this earth. And when you run smack dab into the unyielding wall of that truth, it is sobering.