Following Phoebe

God is our Refuge - Part 2: Suffering

Hello! This is the second part of my sermon notes on taking refuge in God from Romans 8. If you haven't read part one you can do that here.

So far we have seen that we can take refuge in God because we are:

  1. Saved

Now we will be looking at how

We can take refuge in God because we are suffering.

For some of us when we are suffering it can seem like God has left us alone, like He doesn’t care about us and our problems, or perhaps it can sometimes even feel like He is punishing us.

It is difficult in our culture to see suffering as a good thing, right? How could suffering possibly be a good thing? Isn’t life about doing things that make you happy? As Christians we have bought into the cultural narrative that when we make decisions about what we should do in life the biggest criterion is, will I enjoy it? Will it make me happy? Or even, will it make me unhappy or cause me discomfort? And more often than not we choose the option that will optimise our comfort and happiness.

Now, I’m not saying that suffering is a good thing. And I’m not saying that happiness is bad, or that making decisions that give us maximum happiness is necessarily the wrong way to make decisions. No one wants to suffer. It’s not good to be in a constant state of unhappiness.

But I am saying that we have bought into the view that suffering is the worst possible thing that could happen to you. To be avoided at all costs. And I want to say that this view is not helpful, and it's not what God's Word teaches us.

Suffering is in our world because sin has made God’s once perfect creation, imperfect. But as we saw in point one, God has provided an ultimate solution to sin and suffering in Jesus. It’s part of the hope that we have which we saw in verses 22 to 25. The redemption of creation and our bodies is something good to hope and wait patiently for.

Instead of being surprised when it happens, this passage shows us that in fact suffering is to be expected if we are Christians.

Come with me to verse 17.

“Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” ~ Romans 8:17

Because we are saved, we are now led by the Spirit which makes us sons of God (verse 14). And now being God’s children and co-heirs with Christ, we not only inherit the good things with Christ, being part of this family relationship with our creator and all the blessing which come with that, but we also share in His suffering.

I suspect that we all have had times of suffering. Whether it's due to struggling with particular sins, uncontrollable circumstances due to other people or events, difficult relationships, physical or mental health issues, we can never fully avoid bad things in life. Some of us seem to be given more difficulty than others, earlier or later in life than others, but things will go wrong at some point. It's an undesirable fact of living in a world broken and disintegrating because of sin (verse 20).

Thankfully, it's not all bad news that we share in Christ's suffering, because Paul also says here that sharing His suffering, means that we share in His glory! Paul even says that this glory is so much better it makes our suffering not worth comparing to it, the glory we receive in Jesus is eternal!

“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us." ~ Romans 8:18

So we can take refuge in God as we suffer because in sharing in Jesus’ suffering we are reminded that we will share in His glory when we are fully redeemed as we saw earlier. What's more, we are being prepared for this glory through our suffering as Christ was (Hebrews 2:9-11). What a precious reality of suffering as a Christian!

Even better is that we aren’t left to suffer with only the hope of redemption to comfort us (as if this was not already a great comfort!) but we also have the Spirit who helps us in our weakness.
See in verse 26 and 27;

"In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.” ~ Romans 8:26-27

I can't tell you how often this truth has been a comfort to me in difficult times. When I have been in the depths of despair and have had no words to pray I have felt the spiritual reality of the Spirit interceding on my behalf. It's such a profound reality to be so deeply known and understood in the midst of suffering. What a privilege to have such access to God through Christ and the Spirit! It really blows my mind and I could go on but I'll stop there and finish with some concrete applications.

It's well and good to say all these things but when we are actually suffering how do we take refuge in God?

Well I want to suggest a few things.

  • Pray. As I mentioned just before, God knows us intimately. We have His Spirit dwelling in us who brings our needs to God when we don't know how. Lean into the Spirit, know this truth, and trust that God hears you.
  • Read the Word. It's easy for prayer and reading the Bible to be the first things that go out the window when things get tough. It happens for me too. But how can we be reminded of these beautiful truths about God which He reveals to us if we aren't reading it?
  • Be in Christian community. Our faith is one of community. When we're adopted as children into God's family, it's not just the Father, Son, Spirit and me. It's all believers who are adopted into the family of God, gathered around Jesus as the heavenly Church. And so our local churches which are expressions of the heavenly Church are our families and we can and should seek encouragement and comfort from our brothers and sisters here.

So we have now seen that we can take refuge in God because we are saved, and adopted into His family. And we can take refuge in Him because He is with us in our suffering in this profound way.

Join me (hopefully soon) for part 3: we can take refuge in God because we are being sanctified.

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