Groaning for Now, Glory Forever
Lord open my heart to hear and through Your Word to me draw near; let me Your Word ever pure retain, let me Your child and heir remain [TLH 5, st.1]. Lord, as I journey through the sufferings of this life and groan with all of creation in the effects of sin, keep me focused on my Savior and the far better glory that awaits me. Fill my heart with hope that is built upon You, and with peace that surpasses all understanding. Bless us in worship this day. Amen.
When the earth is in the icy grip of winter all is death and gloom. Yet, in the Spring the snow melts, the rain comes, and the earth lives again! Just as surely as the springtime watering causes the earth to grow and bear fruit, so the Word of God goes forth to bring life to the spiritually dead. While we wait in hope on this sorrowful earth, we have the promise of God that His Word will go out and accomplish its purpose, namely, bringing life and hope to sinners.
Jesus’ parable describes the effects of the Gospel in the hearts of sinners as it is spread throughout the world. As disciples of Christ, we are called upon to be sowers, spreading the Gospel at every opportunity. As we sow the "seed," some will not even hear, others will hear and follow Christ for a time, and some will grow and bear fruit. We are not to worry ourselves with the growth. We plant, we water, but GOD GIVES THE INCREASE! (cf: 1 Corinthians 3:6).
Text: Romans 8:18-25
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. Not only that, but we also who have the first-fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body. For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.
In Christ Jesus, the Savior who makes getting through this life of groaning possible, as we look forward to a life of glory everlasting—dear fellow redeemed:
I will trade you my rubber spider, my favorite marble, and my Roy Smalley baseball card for your Kirby Puckett card. Fair trade? How about if I throw in my Swiss Army knife that only has two tools broken? Fair trade?
I’ll trade you my tuna sandwich and my Twinkie in my lunch box for your peanut butter and jelly sandwich and your banana. Fair trade?
Undoubtedly, throughout our lives many of us have had the opportunity to trade all sorts of things. Some of the trades were probably rather trivial, such as one lunch for another; but some are quite significant. It may be a life decision of whether it is worth sacrificing something in lifestyle or schedule of living is a worthwhile "trade" for what would be gained. In any trade, one has to balance "what I’m losing" with "what I’m gaining" and evaluate the trade.
We trade all the time. We make decisions by putting them in the balance and evaluating them. Of all the trades ever made, the 2nd BIGGEST and #1 WORST trade (and that ever will be made) is that which Adam and Eve made in the Garden of Eden. They had a perfect knowledge of God. They had perfection in their bodies and in all the earth, but they traded it for what Eve had been deceived into believing would be a benefit, namely, knowing good and evil. After their sin, Adam and Eve DID know evil which they had not previously known, but it was not good. It had been a foolish and disobedient trade.
Adam and Eve traded life in the perfection of Eden for sin, but that is only the 2nd biggest trade—though it is the WORST. The #1 BIGGEST trade and the #1 BEST trade is the "Great Exchange" – Jesus traded His holiness and righteousness to take upon Himself our sinfulness. He took that sinfulness to the cross, died for it there, and gives us His righteousness. “He who was rich for your sakes became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich!” (2 Corinthians 8:9)
The result of the "worst trade ever" together with the "best trade ever" leaves us where we are right now: GROANING FOR NOW in this life, but looking forward to GLORY FOREVER. This is what we consider this morning with the Spirit’s guidance as we see that I. We and all Creation groan under sin but II. We and all creation wait in hope.
Paul writes, “the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope…For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now.” [vv. 20a, 22]
The earth has been groaning in birth pangs and misery ever since the entrance of sin into the world. To better understand this groaning of creation itself, we need to go back further to the creation of the world. “God said, ‘Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb that yields seed, and the fruit tree that yields fruit according to its kind, whose seed is in itself, on the earth’; and it was so. And the earth brought forth grass, the herb that yields seed according to its kind, and the tree that yields fruit, whose seed is in itself according to its kind. And God saw that it was good…God said, ‘Let the waters abound with anabundance of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the face of the firmament of the heavens.; So God created great sea creatures and every living thing that moves, with which the waters abounded, according to their kind, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. And God blessed them, saying, ;Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth…’ God said, ‘Let the earth bring forth the living creature according to its kind: cattle and creeping thing and beast of the earth, each according to its kind’; and it was so. And God made the beast of the earth according to its kind, cattle according to its kind, and everything that creeps on the earth according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.” (Genesis 1:11ff)
God created the earth to ABOUND, the plants to THRIVE and fill the earth bearing fruit, the waters of the earth to teem with the life God placed in them, and the animals to fill the earth. All of this was VERY GOOD. All of God’s creation was PERFECT.
When sin came into the world, God announced a curse upon the earth. We note that God did not directly curse Adam and Eve. He did not curse mankind for God was planning salvation for them, but because of the sin which Adam and Eve had committed, the earth would be cursed FOR THEIR SAKE. To Adam [God] said, "Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat of it’: "Cursed is the ground for your sake; In toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, and you shall eat the herb of the field. In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for dust you are, and to dust you shall return.” (Genesis 3:17-19).
As amazing as things are in the earth right now, as abundant as so many things are, it is NOTHING compared to what used to be. God CURSED THE EARTH so it no longer bears the fruit that it was designed to bear. It now has the weeds and thorns trying to curtail the growth and prosperity of the earth. All of creation is subjected to futility. Everything on the earth now dies. We are not the only thing that dies. Animals die, plants die—everything on the earth dies. It goes through its cycle and is DONE…GONE. This is the earth groaning in the futility to which it was subjected, though not willingly. The creation of God had nothing to do with the sin. The sin lies fully on Adam and Eve, but as a result of that sin the earth groans under sin’s weight.
The droughts in parts of our country and throughout the world cause the ground to crack from dryness and crops to fail. It is the earth groaning under sin. Fires which devour acre upon acre of forest land, homes, and in some cases take lives are the earth groaning in its futility. The floods that destroy are the earth groaning. Think also of the great flood in Noah’s day. God destroyed the earth because of the sinfulness of man, earth was DESTROYED because of sin—an earth laboring under birth pangs. Earthquakes, volcanoes, tornadoes, hail—every natural disaster that destroys part of earth is part of the groaning of creation groaning under this weight and burden of sin.
God would not have had to put this curse upon the earth. He could have left earth perfect, but then we’d have no realization of the severity of sin. We would have no reminder of what sin really is. When we see all these examples of destruction, when we see the earth not bringing forth its full abundance, and hear the earth groaning under sin then we are reminded of just how serious sin is. We are reminded that since Adam and Eve fell we are all under the curse of sin living in a sinful world. The groaning earth is a lasting and vivid reminder of the same weight of sin under which we also groan.
We too experience the groaning. We get sick in our bodies. We have trials. We cry. We bleed. And one day we will also die. We may have years upon years of failing health and misery. We may have sorrow of every emotional kind. We may hesitate to even wake up in the morning out of apprehension of what the day might bring, and at the same time hesitate going to bed at night, knowing we probably won’t sleep.
Whatever your own particular misery may be, it may not be a constant misery for there is certainly joy in this earth, but the sinfulness of this earth still casts its shadow. We continue to see the misery of sin and face its effects: the broken homes, the lost children, the family members with whom we’ve lost touch and with whom we no longer speak. Whatever it is that causes part of your life to be ripped by the seams from your heart, whatever it is that brings sorrow tears, or pain to your body or soul, is all part of groaning under the effect of sin.
“We know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now” [v.22] and so do we. We groan for now in this miserable life but there is glory awaiting us in heaven forever.
Paul writes, "We also who have the first-fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body.” [v.23] We, too groan, even as children of God, but we have the Holy Spirit as a guarantee as we await the redemption of our body and glorification in heaven.
In 2 Corinthians Paul writes, “He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who also has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. Who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory” (2 Corinthians 5:5). To the Ephesians he wrote, “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption” (Ephesians 4:30).
The Holy Spirit has come into your hearts with the Gospel and has worked in your hearts the faith to believe that Jesus has died for your sin. Jesus has taken away the sin that has brought all this misery and burden to the earth. The Holy Spirit creates a deepening faith and seals you for salvation. He holds and preserves you in faith so that you do have the confidence that "Yes, I’m groaning now, but there is glory forever!"
The Holy Spirit gives you confidence which Paul also expressed to the Corinthians: “For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven, if indeed, having been clothed, we shall not be found naked. For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life” (2 Corinthians 5:2-4).
Paul described our earthly bodies as a tent. For those of you have been camping you know that a tent can blow away, sooner or later it may develop holes, even the best of tents can leak, and some day it has to be replaced. Our bodies, likewise, are temporary but we yearn to be clothed with a greater glory. When this earthly tent folds up and dies, that’s OK, because we have Jesus as the resurrection and life. “I am the resurrection and life. He who believes in Me shall never die” (John 11:25-26). We have life with Jesus.
Paul describes a change that will take place on Judgment Day: “…in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye…the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: "Death is swallowed up in victory.” (1 Corinthians 15:52-54).
All of the weaknesses of this earthly tent and all of the miseries of this life under which we groan will, in a moment in the twinkling of an eye, be GONE. At the resurrection of the dead, God will give us glorified bodies. Every part of sin’s burden in our bodies and lives will be gone for we will be perfected. All of the sorrows of the earth will be gone because we won’t be on this earth anymore, we’ll be forever with our Lord seeing Him face to face (cf: 1 Thessalonians 4:17; 1 Corinthians 13:12). This is the glory that awaits us. This is the glory for which we hope, for which we yearn, longing to be clothed in immortality with death and misery and sin swallowed up by LIFE.
In our text, Paul writes, “For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.” [vv.24-25]
We’re groaning now, but we wait in hope. It is a certain hope. We may grow weary in waiting, but as Paul says, we are saved in this hope—the confidence that Jesus did die for our sins. The confidence that Jesus lives and we too will live with Him forever in the perfection of heaven. Hope that is seen is not hope. If the glory of heaven is our hope, then it stands to reason that in THIS life we aren’t going to have that glory. If the joy and pain-free life with Christ in heaven is our HOPE, that is not going to be the reality while we’re living in this sinful earth. No matter what the groaning may involve here, the HOPE stands SURE and is STRONG.
To the Romans, Paul wrote, “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint…” (Romans 5:1-5).
Putting our confidence in God’s promise of glory will not lead to shame or disappointment. It leads to eternal glory with Him in heaven. Do we see it now? No, but such is the nature of hope. Such is the nature of faith. The writer to the Hebrews says, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).
Paul began in the text by saying, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” [v. 18]
At times in earthly trades, one party may scoff at the proposal of a trade because the imbalance is so great. Such is the thought that Paul conveys. When we are in the misery, when we are groaning in this life, it is BIG. It is SORROWFUL. It is REAL. But no matter how deep that suffering might be, it cannot even be compared to the glory that awaits us. What confidence, what joy this gives you for your life. Yes, this world may be miserable. There may be times when you are groaning inwardly and outwardly and don’t know where to turn or what to do, and you wonder "God, how long will you let this continue!?!" How long He will allow your groaning to continue, we do not know. How long your glory will continue, we DO know, for God promises we shall be with Him forever! (cf: 1 Thessalonians 4:17).
Groaning for now…short and then gone. Glory FOREVER!! Amen.
—Pastor Wayne C. Eichstadt