You have probably seen the bumper sticker, “I’m spending my children’s inheritance.” I’m sure some sons and daughters cringe when they read that message on the car in front of them at the stoplight. Have you ever thought that part of your inheritance as a believer is suffering. That is Paul’s message in Romans 8:18-25. In Romans eight, Paul is giving us reason for security of salvation (“no condemnation for them who are in Christ Jesus”).
Suffering proves we are believers. In Romans 8:39, Paul promises that nothing shall separate us from the love of God. But the Devil would love to use our suffering to separate us from God’s love. During WWII when bombs were pounding London into despair and doubt, English author and skeptic, H. G. Wells reasoned, “Either God has power and does not care, or God cares and does not have power” to relieve innocent suffering.
Paul’s world view of suffering is very different. Paul believed that the believer’s suffering in this life compared to the glory of eternity is insignificant (Romans 8:18). Paul makes a similar comparison in 2 Corinthians 4:17. In comparison to the eternal weight of glory that awaits us, our burdens are as light as a feather.
We must, however, wait for this future glorification of our bodies. In Romans 8:19, creation is personified as standing on its tip toes craning it’s neck looking for the coming of Christ to remove it’s suffering. This personification is common is Scripture. In Isaiah 55:15, the mountains are singing and the trees are clapping their hands. Earth is Paul’s giant object lesson that teaches us believers that we also must wait for the glory part of our inheritance.
Paul reminds us that our waiting includes suffering in Romans 8:20. At the Fall of man into sin, God cursed the earth with “vanity” or frustration. Physical creation vents it’s frustration in hurricanes, tornadoes, volcanic eruptions, etc. At the Fall, God cursed creation in Genesis 3:11-19, but He also gave us hope for deliverance with the promise in 3:15 of the coming of Christ. Again, planet earth has hope of deliverance.
The deliverance is given more details in Romans 8:21. The curse will be lifted by God in two phases. The curse is partially lifted at the second coming of Christ. The result of this is prophesied in Isaiah 11. In the millennium that follows Christ’s return to earth, wild animals will be domesticated. Children’s pets will be lions, tigers, and cobras. In NYC, this past week a man jumped into a den of Siberian tigers. He said he wanted to be one with the tigers. He almost was. Had not the Zoo keeper intervened he would have been the tiger’s lunch. He not only jumped in the den with wild animals but he jumped the gun. He will able to play with tigers in the millennium but not now. There will still be some sickness, death, and even rebellion during this utopia. The second phase and the complete removal of the curse takes place in eternity. About the new heaven and earth, John said, there will be “no more curse” (Revelation 22:3).
Until this lifting of the curse, we suffer. But we suffer with hope. In Romans 8:22, Paul described suffering not as death bed suffering but childbirth suffering which is filled with the hope of new life. If you have been in a hospital room when the heart monitor flat lined, you know the hopeless pain of a departed loved one. The stark contrast is the pain of labor pains that eventually produce a little bundle of joy. Donald Grey Barnhouse said, “The true child of God is living a life of labor pains.” We suffer with the anticipation of future deliverance.
The believer has three sources of hope in Romans 8:23. At conversion, we were given the first fruits of the Spirit. In Leviticus 23, believers gave the first fruits of the harvest to God to acknowledge that the entire harvest belonged to God. Today, God gives believers the first fruits of the Holy Spirit as a guarantee that the full harvest of future blessings are ours.
The full harvest of God’s future blessings is next described as our adoption or our full inheritance of which the Holy Spirit is the down payment (Ephesians 1:14-15).
More specifically, the full inheritance includes the “redemption of the body” or as Paul described it in Romans 8:17, our “glorified” body. In Philippians 3:20-21, Paul we believers are looking for our Savior, who when He comes from heaven will exchange our body of humiliation for the likeness of His glorious body. Our bodies are humiliating because of their frailty and weakness. It is isn’t just the elderly either. The neighbor of one our members jumped on his motorcycle one evening this past week. Later that evening he was on life support. This is what we “groan” for or desire.
This is the “hope” or the unseen prospect in which we were saved (Romans 8:24). What we long for mostly is not the mansions, streets of gold, or gates of pearl. But “glorification” or perfect likeness to Christ i.e., the redemption of the body. We know this is what we long for if “we with patience wait for it” (Romans 8:25). This waiting is not like waiting in a doctor’s office, but the waiting on tables that a waiter does when he or she serves people.
Our suffering and our response prove our salvation to a watching and skeptical world. Nothing can separate you child of God from His love. As we serve Him in our suffering we shout to the world that God has the power to sustain us, His grace is sufficient, and He also cares. He invites us to cast all our care on Him because He cares for us. Let’s show the world the inheritance we possess instead of living like “Berti.”
“Berti” Adams was seventy-one years old when she died in West Palm Beach, Florida, on Easter Sunday, 1976. The coroner’s report read, “Cause of Death –Malnutrition”. One police officer, who inspected her apartment, declared it to be a veritable pig pen. There was trash, stench . . . old clothing . . . not much furniture. Berti had begged for food at her neighbors’ back doors and had purchased all her clothing from the Salvation Army. From all outward appearances, she was a penniless, forgotten, unwanted woman by a family who no longer cared.
As officials sifted through her pile of rubble and belongings to find identification and connection to her family, two keys were found. These two keys led officials to safety deposit boxes at two different local banks. What they found was almost unbelievable.
At one bank, they found in her container, more than seven hundred AT&T stock certificates, financial securities and bonds, not to mention a stack of cash amounting to nearly 200,000 dollars. That is just what you need to finish Christmas shopping, right?!
At the second bank, they opened her container and discovered no certificates or bonds – just stacks of cash – 600,000 dollars to be exact. CBS radio reported that the estate would be inherited by a distant niece and nephew, neither of whom dreamed they would be the heirs of a million dollar windfall.
Can you imagine the phone call to that nephew?
“Your Aunt Berti’s died . . . the one who never took a bath . . . the one you hoped wouldn’t show up at Thanksgiving . . . she died and left you and your sister all her wealth.”
“Her what?” “Her wealth . . . we have completed our investigation and she has left you and your sister an inheritance of just over one million dollars.”
Misers may be strange people, but they make wonderful ancestors! Imagine being an heir or an heiress to a fortune (Stephen Davey’s illustration on Romans 8:18).