Devotional Thoughts on Romans 8:18-39
May 18-24, 2015
Monday, May 18, 2015
“I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18).
Trang was a rambunctious little boy who was into everything. Whenever he would fall and hurt himself his American mother would kiss his wound saying that her kiss would make it all better. Forty years later Trang was a successful business man—with pancreatic cancer. His mother’s kisses would not make it better. Trang was also a Christian who was determined to live out his earthly life in the promise and hope of the resurrection.
There are times when the cliché, “Don’t worry, things will get better,” won’t work. Paul was writing to Christians who were being ostracized, persecuted and even executed for their faith. Things would not get better. Today there are Christians in the Middle East and Africa who are being beheaded by the Islamic extremists of ISIS. Other Christians are living with terminal diseases, chronic illnesses or injuries that have changed their lives forever. There are hundreds and thousands of situations where things will never be the same and will never get better. The Christian gospel must address these situations.
Paul doesn’t deny that the suffering is real. In fact, he validates it. Paul doesn’t say that the suffering will go away—so just hang on. Paul points to the cross of Christ and the resurrection. Suffering is a part of our present lives as it was a part of the cross. But there’s more to life than suffering. There will be a time when suffering will be no more. Christians don’t look for an end, we look for a new beginning.
Lord of life, no matter what the circumstances empower us to place our hope in you and in nothing else. Amen.
Tuesday, May 9, 2015
“In hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the kingdom of the glory of the children of God” (Romans 8:21).
Creation is broken. Polar ice caps are melting, average temperatures are rising and the weather is becoming more violent. There’s pollution, the depletion of fossil fuels and the misuse of natural resources. Humankind is responsible for breaking a lot of creation, but not all. Even when creation is pristine it is not perfect.
Survival of the fittest, disease, death and decay all hint that something is wrong. Love and grace are often in short supply. All of creation joins humankind in waiting for a change—something new. Though conservation efforts and environmentalism is important, our hope is not focused on the efforts of humankind. Rather we place our hope in the God of all creation who has promised that there will come a day when the groans will cease, the chains will fall and a new day will arrive.
While celebrating and being thankful for this day, we look forward with anticipation to what has been promised.
Faithful Lord, you keep your promises—always. Replace the dread and the despair that is so often a part of life. Enable us to face each day with anticipation and hope. Amen.
Wednesday, May 20, 2015
“Now hope that is seen is not hope … But if we hope for what we do not see we wait for it with patience” (Romans 8:24-25).
Hope is a gift that is given in hopeless situations. Children wait for birthdays with eager anticipation. Their birthday celebrations can’t come soon enough. Adults plan and plot their vacations with anxious expectations. Their vacations are too long in coming and last for too short a time. Though we may say that we are hopeful, Paul might argue that hope is not needed for situations that naturally occur or are dependent upon our own efforts.
With no job, no money and closed doors everywhere Sue looked, she still hoped. Sue focused her hope in a God who loved her and had promised to never leave her. Sitting by the hospital bed of their injured child, Juan and Julia hoped in a God who (they believed) held their child in the palm of God’s hand. Ken sat holding the cooling hand of his wife of fifty-two years. Through his tears and sorrow he hoped in the God of the resurrection and the God of life.
Hope can’t be conjured up in us. It doesn’t come through possibility thinking or mantras. Hope is a gift that sees us through the darkest times of our lives.
God of hope, we join all of creation in looking to you with hope because you are our provider, protector and Lord. Amen.
Thursday, May 21, 2015
“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with signs too deep for words” (Romans 8:26).
Carol sat down with three homeless women who were eating the meal provided for them by the shelter. The women shared their stories while Carol listened. The women didn’t want pity, but they appreciated a listening ear. Before the women left for the sleeping quarters, Carol asked them if she could pray for them. They held hands and joined together in this simple act of love.
There are times when we are so crushed by life that we cannot pray. It is comforting and strengthening to know that our brothers and sisters in Christ are praying for us. The fellowship of believers prayer for those they send on special missions from VBS teachers and council representatives to foreign missionaries. When we venture on a faith journey it is exhilarating to have people surrounding us in prayer.
The fact that the Holy Spirit intercedes for us in addition to our family and friends is almost too great to comprehend. When we are weak the Spirit prays. When we are confused and don’t know what to pray for the Spirit intercedes for us. The Spirit takes our tears, cries and groans and lifts them up to the Lord. We are not alone. The church is with us and also the God of the church.
Holy Spirit, thank you for your prayers. May they be answered to God’s glory. Amen.
Friday, May 22, 2015
“We know that all things work together for good, for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).
These are powerful words that contain a fantastic promise, but they must be shared carefully. There are times in the midst of tragedies, when the pain is great and darkness surrounds us that we can’t hear these words. We rebel against them and strike out at the God who made such outlandish promises.
There is good news in these words. Paul is writing to the Christians in Rome. The phrases, “who love God” and “who are called” are not exclusionary, but are inclusive. All of the Christians in Rome love God and are called according to his purpose.
These words are also audacious. They invite the hearers to hope that the God who brought life out of death in the cross of Christ can also bring good out of whatever evil we are experiencing. These words proclaim that God is a God of life and not of death. At the proper time, these words give the gift of hope.
Powerful Lord, it is almost impossible to believe that you can bring life out of death and good out of evil. You have demonstrated that you are indeed a God who can do just that. Empower us to live each day in this truth and hope.
Saturday, May 23, 2015
“What can we say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us” (Romans 8:31)?
A car turned in front of Lolita and she hit it with her car. No one was hurt, but both cars were badly damaged. Climbing out of her car Lolita mumbled to herself, “What did I do to deserve this?” A pile of rags in the Johnson garage burst into flames from spontaneous combustion. The quick response of the fire department kept the fire contained to the garage and no one was hurt. With a shrug of his shoulders and uplifted hands the man said to his wife, “Why did this have to happen to us?”
It seems that a natural response to bad events is to believe that God is punishing us. Since what we are experiencing is out of proportion to anything that we have done, God is punishing us unjustly. We begin to think that God is our enemy and not our friend. Instead of loving us, God must not like us.
These thoughts probably went through the minds of those Christians in Rome who were enduring persecution. Paul wants to put these destructive thoughts to rest. No matter what our circumstances we can always be assured that God is for us. If God is for us, then nothing can stand against us. God is for us! Instead of being beaten down and defeated by the forces of life we can be more than conquerors.
Gracious God, forbid that we are beaten down by life and doubt your love for us. Remind us again and again that you are for us and that nothing can stand against us. Amen.
Sunday, May 24, 2015
“For I am convinced that neither death nor life … nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38).
Martin Luther said it so well five hundred years ago in the words of his hymn, “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.” The fourth verse goes: “God’s Word forever shall abide,/ No thanks to foes who fear it;/ For God himself fights by our side/ With weapons of the Spirit./ Were they to take our house,/ Goods, honor, child, or spouse,/ Though life be wrenched away,/ They cannot win the day./ The Kingdom’s ours forever!”
Everything that we prize so highly in life can be lost or taken away. Those items in which we place our hope and trust—our 401K’s, pension funds, exercise and healthy living can fail us. We can even lose our freedom and the liberty we cherish. The one thing no one and nothing can take away from us is God’s relationship with us. We are God’s forever. We are God’s whatever. We are God’s Alleluia!
Loving Lord, it is good to be held in your hands, resting in your embrace, knowing that nothing will be able to take us from you. Thank you. Amen.