Friday, January 21, 2022
Even though we have been spiritually adopted as children of God, as we discovered yesterday, the reality is that we still have to endure the hardships of this physical life for a time. Paul understood that when he wrote this next passage of encouragement to us in Romans chapter 8. Let’s be honest, for most of us the physical hardships, troubles, and trials of life usually overwhelm our spirits and we long for them to be over. Our patience runs thin. We run after the pursuits of the flesh rather than rest in our position as a child of God.
Romans 8:22-25 “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.”
According to Paul, the reason we run out of patience and run into problems is that we have displaced hope. For some reason we have bought into a self-serving spiritual philosophy of adoption that seeks to guarantee the fulfillment of the desires of the flesh. “Give me my inheritance now!” is the cry of the prodigal followers of this position. The hope of such people is placed in the fulfillment of life today. But Paul refutes that prosperity gospel with hope in the ultimate redemption of our current physical body when Jesus returns to give us our eternal, spiritual body. Until then, we groan inwardly as we wait patiently for that to occur.
I like to think of this in terms of a caterpillar, even though the analogy is not perfect. Prior to my salvation, I was just wandering around feeding on any green leaf I could find. I may not have been the nicest creature to look at, but I did my best to combine my colors and my defense systems into an external appearance that could be tolerated. On the inside I was filled with bitterness: just ask the robin that tried to pick me up until I squirted his beak with my juice when he squeezed me too hard. I was afraid of intimacy, because any time someone would get too close I would curl up in a ball and protect myself from harm. Then one day I was moved in my spirit to leave that life behind. I suddenly understood that there was a purpose for my life and that I could be free to fly. I put to death the old ways and was transformed into a new being. I spun myself into a grave where death would normally be certain, but where God’s power would transform me. This grave is ugly and hard. I am bound up in it, but I am patiently waiting to be fully released because I know that when I am I will be complete. Inside this shell I groan to be set free. My wings have formed. My spirit is transformed. My will is conformed to that of my creator. Very soon He will energize me to break out of the grave I am in and fly into His arms. Until He does, I wait patiently.
As I said, the analogy is not perfect, for in one sense we have already been set free from our cocoons to serve Jesus Christ in freedom. But in light of what Paul says in today’s Scripture, we are still in a physical cocoon. It limits us. It confines us. It makes us long to be free from its restrictions. But our hope is not in this physical life: it is in the death of this flesh and the resurrection into spiritual eternity. With our hope fixed firmly on that guarantee, we can patiently endure the hardships of our current cocoon.