4501 Waller Rd E
Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost
September 13, 2015
Ascension Lutheran Church, Tacoma WA
Paul Naumann, Pastor
THERE IS HOPE
FOR THE SUFFERING CHRISTIAN!
Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, Amen.
Today's text is in the eighth chapter of Romans, beginning with the eighteenth verse, as follows:
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. 19 For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the
revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but
because of Him who subjected it in hope; 21 because the creation itself also will be delivered from
the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. 22 For we know that the
whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. 23 Not only that, but we also
who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for
the adoption, the redemption of our body. These are the words.
In Christ Jesus, Who is our Light of Hope even in the midst of darkest suffering, Dear Fellow
On May 18, 1980, Mt. Saint Helens erupted in Washington State, killing 65 people and devastating
the surrounding countryside. Earlier this year, a huge earthquake in central Tibet took thousands of
lives, and displaced hundreds of thousands. This summer a score of wildfires in central
Washington blackened millions of acres, displaced thousands, and claimed the lives of three
firefighters. When such natural disasters take place, it almost seems - doesn't it? - as though
creation itself is groaning and suffering.
But I'm sure no one has to tell you the meaning of suffering, do they? In your personal life, each of
you has experienced suffering of one sort or another - some of it very severe! You may even be
going through something particularly painful in your life right now. Whether it's physical illness,
emotional stress, financial hardship -- WHATEVER, I'm sure you've already discovered for yourself
the truth of the passage, "We must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God." Acts
Your own personal suffering may not seem as huge or cataclysmic as an earthquake or a volcanic
eruption. But you know what's interesting? -In our text for this morning, Paul says that the
sufferings of the Christian are very closely linked with the groanings and upheavals of nature. The
Christian and Creation both suffer for the same basic reason. More important still: they both look
forward to the same ultimate deliverance. Our theme today --
THERE IS HOPE
FOR THE SUFFERING CHRISTIAN!
I. God explains the cause of suffering
II. God provides the cure for suffering
Did you know that there's a conspiracy to produce suffering in this world? It's true! One thing -
and one thing only - is at the root of all suffering in the world. If you dig deep enough, this one
factor is responsible for every evil event that takes place, personal and social, natural and
manmade, here in Washington and around the world. Every bit of suffering, from the smallest
pinprick of pain in your body to the most giant earthquake that rocks central Asia -- is caused by
That's right - sin! Think back to the Garden of Eden. There were no earthquakes, no volcanic
eruptions; no blistering heat and no chilling cold. There were no weeds, thorns or thistles. For
Adam and Eve, tending the Garden was pleasure, not work! Mankind and creation were in perfect
And then sin entered. In their sinful pride and ambition, Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit --
and that changed everything. "Through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin,"
Paul said. Rom 5:12. Nature itself was infected with Adam's sin. God said to Adam, "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." If you gardeners ever wondered how the blight got in your tomato plants, now you
know. It comes from sin. The infectious disease of sin is what causes cutworms in wheat,
brucillosis in cattle, destructive hail storms, volcanic eruptions and earthquakes. For the creation
was subjected to futility, Paul said, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope.
More to the point, sin is at the root of all our physical suffering, as well. No, not even we
Christians are exempt from the suffering caused by sin! Not only that, says Paul, but we also who
have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the
adoption, the redemption of our body. The sinfulness that has infected the world has also infected
us, often making us groan with actual physical pain. Our bodies, like the rest of creation, are
imperfect - flawed and subject to failure. Maybe you're like me, and you groaned with lower back
pain when you rolled out of bed this morning. Maybe it's a much more serious disease or disability
that plagues you. Perhaps you have arthritis, or cancer, or heart disease. Maybe it's emotional
stress or mental depression that keeps coming back to make you suffer. One thing's for sure - no
one is exempt. Sin makes everyone suffer!
All this is the outward evidence of sin. And of course, sin has infected us all in a much deeper,
spiritual way. A few moments ago you and I confessed to God that "we are sinful in thought, word
and deed," and that we "cannot free ourselves from our sinful condition." Even though we're
Christians - even though we want to serve God and we want to avoid sin - that old sinful flesh still
sticks to us. We daily sin much. With downcast eyes, we have to cry out with that wretched tax
collector in the Temple, "God be merciful to me...a sinner."
A pretty gloomy scene, isn't it? Mankind suffers, and nature suffers. And all of it - God tells us -
because of sin. But praise be to God, His Word doesn't stop there! God not only explains to us the
CAUSE of suffering, He also provides us the CURE for suffering.
First of all, God has cured our most urgent and pressing need - the need of forgiveness. If
somebody was thrashing about in a lake, and screaming for help, he might not react very kindly if
you offered him an aspirin for his headache, or a cough drop for his sore throat. What he needs is
radical help - something to keep him from drowning. The same is true about us sinners. There are all
kinds of suffering we need relief from, but God's first priority is saving our lives -- eternally. To do
that, God sent His Son Jesus to earth. He lived a perfect life in your place, in order to give you the
righteousness you need. And He died - one Friday afternoon on a lonely hill called Golgotha - in
order to buy you back from Satan and hell. Christ is the One who accomplished your radical rescue
from sin. That's your number one need, and God has fulfilled it. -So what has happened to those
sins of your past? Jesus has wiped them from God's book. When Satan comes to you and reminds
you of them, all you have to do is point him to the first verse of Romans 8: "There is therefore now
no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus!" Whatever other evils you suffer in life, there's
no longer any reason at all for you to suffer with a guilty conscience!
This forgiveness in Christ is what Paul, in our text, calls "the firstfruits of the Spirit." We don't
have to wait for that salvation; through Christ we've got it right now. But it's only the "firstfruits".
It's only a down-payment on "the glory which shall be revealed in us." For God promises us the
total cure for all our suffering -- in eternity!
Creation itself is waiting, like a woman in labor, for that glorious delivery from sin and death. The
earth will not always suffer under the corruption of sin. Through the Old Testament prophet Isaiah,
we hear the Lord say, "Behold I will create new heavens and a new earth; and the former shall not
be remembered or come to mind." Is 65:17. Like us, all of creation is yearning and striving toward
that Day when, according to our text, the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of
corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God..
And we ourselves, Paul says, are groaning within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the
redemption of our body. Through Christ, our souls have already been released from the
consequences of sin; soon, our bodies will be, too. When we are united with our Redeemer on
Judgment Day, there will be no more physical flaws in our bodies to wound us and cause us pain.
No more tears, no more diseases, no more sorrow -- only joy. Then we will have a perfect, glorified
body, like our Savior's. "For the trumpet will sound," says the Apostle, "and the dead will be raised
incorruptible, and we shall be changed. ...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.'" I Cor 15:52,54.
Drug companies are always looking for a cure for the common cold. To help them in their research,
they've been known to hire volunteers who are willing to let themselves be injected with a cold
virus in order to test new drugs. For payments of up to a thousand dollars, subjects have shown
themselves more than willing to put up with a few coughs and sniffles for a couple of weeks - they
know there's a big reward at the end of it! Paul wants Christians to view their lives from that kind of
perspective; for now, we have pain. For now, we suffer the inevitable effects of a world stained and
corrupted by sin. But keep heaven in mind, won't you? Remember the eternal reward that your
Savior has earned for you, the heavenly treasure that's just waiting for you to come and claim it. No
matter how great your suffering seems in this life, Paul says that it will one day seem to you very
small and trifling indeed. "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."
Is there hope for the suffering Christian? There certainly is! God will guard us and care for us, His
children, in this life; nothing will happen to us without his knowledge, and the loving guidance of
His hand. In Christ, He has already set us free from the guilt of sin. And the ultimate deliverance
from every form of suffering -- that will be ours, too, one Day. All we have to do is wait for the Lord.
Do good things really come to those who wait? I'll let the Psalmist answer that question: "I wait for
the Lord, my soul waits, and in His Word I do hope. My soul waits for the Lord more than those
who watch for the morning - I say, more than those who watch for the morning. O Israel, hope in
the Lord; for with the Lord there is mercy, and with Him is abundant redemption!" -- Ps 130:5-6. In
Jesus' name, AMEN.