A reflection on Romans chapter 8
This last year for me was easily one of the most difficult. I was having a hard time keeping up with school and work, I was under a lot of relational stress with many of the people I love and I often found myself too exhausted to pray and read my bible. Pain, suffering, and hardships are experiences that all humans can relate to, which is why for the last several weeks I shared on the topic of pain with my youth group. I concluded our series with a message of hope called, Nothing Compares. It was taken from Romans 8:18, in which Paul states, “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us.” In my message I covered three main ideas: our present pain, future fulfillment and present power. This message was a huge inspiration to both the youth and myself, and I pray it will be an inspiration to you too.
OUR PRESENT PAIN
One does not need to be religious to recognize that the world we live in is broken and full of hurt. However, as Christians, we believe that there are three main sources of hardships in this world: the sin of man, sin in the world (as a result of the sin of man) and our enemy, the devil. These things result in strife, distress, persecution, famine, weakness, peril and oppression. Even more, our familiarities with these hardships do not simply go away because we are followers of Christ. On the contrary, they are likely to increase because Christ was acquainted with many sorrows. So keep in mind that hardships are not a sign that God is mad at you, nor are they always an indication that you are doing something wrong. When you’re enduring a season of strife, don’t let your heart be troubled. Instead, meditate on all that God has done and secured for us through his son, Jesus Christ.
OUR FUTURE FULFILLMENT
Romans 8:20 continues from verse 19, “The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed.” The word “revealed” is used for the second time in two consecutive verses. The use of this word; along with words like “future,” “waits,” and “expectation;” suggests that there is a reality yet to be experienced by those who are God’s children. The best way for me to explain this reality is through the analogy of a down payment on a house. Imagine you just found the house of your dreams. In order to secure your dream home, you contact the realtor and make a down payment. Now you have a receipt as proof of your payment and the house has been set aside just for you. The house is essentially yours, except you have not moved in yet. At this point, all you really have in your possession is a piece of paper – a receipt. Now you eagerly wait for the day you get to move in. This is kind of like our experience on Earth as God’s children. Our heavenly father has secured our future in heaven and has brought us into a loving and peaceful relationship with him. The only problem is that we are still here on Earth, enduring this broken life. Do we still get to encounter God? Yes. Do we also witness miracles and wonders on Earth? Yes. Does God still hear and answer our prayers? Yes. And yet in comparison to what the future holds, what we know now is but a receipt, a shadow of what is to come.
So what is our heavenly “house” like? I think that Romans 8:19-21, by referring to creation, tells us two things about our future home: it will be of the physical realm and it will be free of decay. When Jesus returns and establishes his reign, we will not become bodiless spirits floating around in white space. We will walk on solid ground with new, glorified bodies. Just as creation is physical now, so will creation be then – but that’s pretty much where the similarities end. Our heavenly home would not be exposed to sin; thus, death and decay would also not be present. The current planet endures agony as a result of sin. Animals, just like humans, are subject to death and disease. If creation was caught in the conflict of human rebellion, how much more shall it be caught in the crossfire of God’s redeeming love? You can bet that plants, animals and all of creation will also share in the benefits of our redemption (Romans 8:21 & Isaiah 11:6). Revelations 21:3 paints a beautiful picture of what it will be like: “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Imagine that - An eternal existence without the all too familiar plagues we spend our lives avoiding and instead an eternity with our loving creator. We should ponder this future fulfillment more often, imagining the colors and beauty of a world that perfectly radiates God’s glory and goodness. This will certainly help us keep our eyes on the end goal and keep life’s lemons in perspective.
OUR PRESENT POWER
At the same time, Christians are not escapists who live in isolation until the day of our deliverance. We are called to be in the world but not of it, to represent our God even in the midst of our struggles. This is why we must also recognize that our present sufferings do not compare to the present power we have in Christ. This power comes from the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ who lives in those who believe. Thus, if you have faith in Jesus Christ, you can be confident that his Spirit is now living in you!
This comes with a plethora of incredible effects. Just imagine, the same Spirit that raised Jesus Christ from the dead is now living in you and empowering you to live a godly life (Romans 8:9-11). What I find uplifting is that He helps you in your weakness (Romans 8:26). This does not mean that you won’t have moments of weakness; this means that you will have help in your weakness. Have you ever been so overwhelmed that you felt paralyzed in prayer? I certainly have. Fortunately, the Spirit of God supports us when we are pray and find ourselves at a loss of words. Not only that, but the Holy Spirit actually prays for us! This is good news since the Holy Spirit is all knowing and therefore knows exactly what to pray for (Romans 8:26-27).
Maybe you don’t see God’s Spirit or power evident in your life. If that’s the case, remember that our emotions can be deceitful. Just because you don’t feel the Holy Spirit’s presence doesn’t mean He isn’t there. Nevertheless, there is nothing wrong with simply asking God to empower you through His Spirit and make you aware of Him. In fact, I would encourage it, especially in times of doubt and distress. If you are in Christ, trust that God’s Spirit is living in you.
While on the topic of power, I want to mention that it also comes from consciously placing your faith in Jesus (which the Spirit also helps us to do). Let’s reflect for a moment on the following verse from Hebrews 12:2, “We persevere by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God's throne.” Jesus has already endured the suffering, initiated the relationship, and will bring to completion our salvation. Jesus has defeated sin and death; so he is definitely qualified to defeat whatever hardships you may be facing. As we fix our eyes on Jesus we will be able to endure our “cross" as he did and run this race called life. Whatever your cross may be; whether it be the loss of a loved one, the consequences of a past mistake, financial or relational stress; fix your eyes on Jesus, rely on the power of his Spirit and trust that he is going to bring you through it.
HOLD ONTO HOPE
“For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have?” – Romans 8:24. There will be times when life is so trying that all you can do is hold on to this hope that we have – our future fulfillment and present power. However, it is always worth it in the end. After all, nothing compares to what God has in store for those who love him. I want to leave you with a passage that I pray will encourage you. As you reflect on all these wonderful things God has revealed to us, may He move your heart from a place of sorrow to celebration.
31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written:
“For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 8:31-39.