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“Hope Amidst Frustration”

July 9, 2017 Romans 8:18-25


Would you say you go through your days more HOPEFUL – or, more DOUBTFUL? Do you tend more toward optimism or pessimism? If you answered “hopeful” – what is the source of your being upbeat? Is it based just on abilities or circumstances or personality traits inherited from a parent – or something else?

      Leon Joseph Suenens admitted: “I am a man of hope, not for human reasons nor from any natural optimism, but because I believe the Holy Spirit is at work in the Church and in the World, even when His name remains unheard.” Suenens saw a divine dimension to life that made him a man of hope.

      No question that there are lots of things that prompt frustration in the world around us. June 29 a tractor trailer loaded 1700 turkeys at a farm east of Wingham. The loaded truck pulled out of the gateway of the farm onto the gravel road, travelled just 100 metres then left the road and rolled onto its side in the ditch! That must have been very frustrating for the driver (who was later charged with careless driving) – not to mention the turkeys. Because one man lost control, close to a couple of thousand birds were also affected.

      Frustration is felt on a cosmic level, in the world at large, ‘out there’ as a result of the Fall. Because Adam sinned, consequences were felt by the world and all that was in it. Gen 3:17 “To Adam [God] said, "Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life.”

      Paul the apostle describes the outcome of this in Romans 8:19f - “The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed.For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it...” The Greek term Paul uses for “frustration” can also mean emptiness, vanity, futility (NRSV) – a sense of pointlessness. “What’s the use?!” we exclaim as we throw up our hands. When we run into roadblocks, we become frustrated, exasperated, we don’t seem to be getting anywhere.

      Paul adds in V22, “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.” Earthquakes, floods, hurricanes cause catastrophes and destruction on a massive scale. Epidemics kill multitudes. Rafts ferrying refugees capsize in the Mediterranean. There is great agony associated with such events; Paul uses a term meaning ‘labour pains’.

      Frustration is evident not only ‘out there’ on a cosmic scale in the world at large, but also ‘in here’ personally. Rom 8:18 refers to “our present sufferings”: Paul encountered many beatings and hardships on his missionary travels. He also unsuccessfully appealed to the Lord at one time to remove a “thorn in the flesh” which tormented him (2Cor 12:9) – possibly a painful physical condition. V23 “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.”

      This past Wednesday evening I had the privilege of attending a meal and night at the theatre with my spouse and other members of a local brain injury services group. One lady I sat beside recalled that, after being hospitalized for several months due to a brain aneurism, she had to quit her social work job and now resides unemployed at home with her aging parents. Another woman complained about how her one leg had been aching due to arthritis. Our fallen bodies are imperfect and can fail us in numerous ways.

      So, we can get frustrated; life seems pointless, futile, leaving us ‘groaning inwardly’ to use Paul’s term, we sigh at our lack of purpose. We’re left asking, “Why?” and questioning the wisdom of the One who subjected creation to such frustration and decay (v3). Can God possibly have any purpose for us when things go so wrong?


But existence is not hopeless. The apostle reminds us that things have not always been like this, and they will not always remain like this. In the past, V20 “creation WAS subjected to frustration, not by its own choice” – but this was done by God’s will with a definite purpose; read on! Vv20B-21 “in hope that the creation itself WILL be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.” This is a future event, not yet accomplished, awaiting the return of our Lord Jesus through whom all things were made (1Cor 8:6).

      Note the terms carefully: “LIBERATED from its bondage...glorious FREEDOM”. There is a releasing from captivity and being bound-up that’s going to happen. This freeing is both ours, and cosmic.

      It’s OURS: v21 “the glorious freedom of the children of God.” The Lord Almighty will bring this about in an instant, in the snap of a finger. 1Cor.15:51-53 “Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality.” Similarly, as Jesus describes it in John’s gospel, and I read recently at my aunt’s interment: John 5:25,28f “I tell you the truth, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live...a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out— those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned.” We have God’s promise that, trusting in Jesus, we will hear the trumpet, we will hear the voice of God’s Son and rise to life everlasting! These present physical bodies which are susceptible to illness and aches and breakdown will be marvelously transformed to be like Jesus’ own post-Resurrection body. Won’t that be wonderful?!

      Paul’s phrasing in v18 is notable: he talks about V18 “...the glory that will be revealed IN us”. One might expect glory revealed TO us (NRSV), as Rev 22:5 talks about the Lord God Himself giving light (so no need for a sun); but NIV translates glory revealed IN us. Paul talks about the resurrected body in 1Cor 15:43 “it is sown in dishonor, it is raised IN glory...” 2Thess 2:14 has “...that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1Peter 5:1 Peter describes himself as “a witness of Christ’s sufferings and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed...” So it seems in eternity we will not just have the capacity to marvel at God’s glorious beauty, that glory will also somehow be showing through us!

      Our bodies will be bought back, ransomed, redeemed from the realm of sickness and corruption. Paul describes that time in these words: V23 “our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies”.

      But the effect of Jesus’ return will be much larger than just our own personal renewal. This ‘glorious freedom’ will also extend to the rest of creation, which will be purged of evil, refreshed, renewed as when Adam and Eve first experienced it in the Garden of Eden before the Fall. There will be a cosmic shift. As Adam’s sin brought a curse upon the earth, so the cosmos will be dramatically redeemed by its Maker. V21 “...the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and BROUGHT INTO the glorious freedom of the children of God.”

      This past Tuesday the citizens of the United States were celebrating their Independence Day with fireworks, marking their freedom from British taxation and tyranny. But how much more wonderful will be our freedom from the realm of sin and death! New Living Translation translates VV21&23 this way: “...the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay...We long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering.We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us.” That will be glorious freedom indeed!


V20 “the creation was subjected...IN HOPE...” Christians as people of faith in Christ should be noticeably different on account of their HOPE. 1Peter 1:3 “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into A LIVING HOPE through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead...” Romans 5:2 “...we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.And we rejoice [we glory, we boast, we EXULT] in the hope of the glory of God.” 2Thess 2:16 “...our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father...loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope...” Heb 6:19 “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.” Because of Jesus, because of the gospel, we can have HOPE no matter what life throws at us.

      This remarkable hope isn’t just something we put in its own little box-category as if it has nothing to do with our day-to-day life here and now. Genuine hope dramatically affects our attitude and behaviour now, each moment. It has a honing effect, sharpening us, focusing us, helping us not get bogged down or defeated in the interim. Our waiting has at least 3 characteristics: we wait PATIENTLY; we wait EAGERLY; and we wait PROPORTIONATELY. Let me explain each of this.

      We wait PATIENTLY. There’s a time-delay, we don’t have it right away, so we must be patient. Vv24-25 “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.”

      Next time some person is rude to you or bullies you or makes you wait longer to be served, remember your ultimate future, the prize God has waiting for you, and respond patiently. St.Francis de Sales said, “The virtue of patience is the one which most assures us of perfection.” Ulrike Ruffert put it this way: “Patience is the ability to put up with people you’d like to put down.”

      Paul admonished the church at Rome: Romans 12:12 - “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” Elsewhere in the NT we have Heb 6:12,15 “...imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised...after waiting patiently, Abraham received what was promised.” About ten years passed between the time when Abraham received the promise of an heir, and the time Isaac was born. He had to wait patiently.

      Second, hope’s honing leads us to WAIT EAGERLY. Is there anticipation in your looking forward to your eternal being, relationships, and inheritance? Or are you a bit “ho-hum” about the whole thing? V23 says “we wait EAGERLY for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” And V19 “The creation waits in EAGER EXPECTATION for the sons of God to be revealed.” A commentator notes the terminology here means “to watch eagerly with outstretched head.” (When was the last time you did that, you were so keen to catch a glimpse of the person coming?)

      If we value something highly, we look forward to it, anticipate it eagerly. 2Peter 3:13 “...in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.” Paul says in 2Cor 5:2 “Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling...” Is there eagerness, a longing, a looking forward to heaven that flavours your daily existence?

      We wait PATIENTLY; we wait EAGERLY; and, third, we wait PROPORTIONATELY. What do I mean by that? I mean, we keep things in perspective, we take the long view on things, we let the magnitude of the blessings that are coming guide our reaction to the disappointments that may come our way through the week. Note carefully Paul’s wording in V18: “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” In other words, if you were to compare our present sufferings side-by-side with our eventual glory, they don’t amount to a hill of beans, relatively speaking. THIS from a man who was repeatedly beaten, stoned, shipwrecked, and generally abused whenever his enemies could arrange it!

      “I CONSIDER that our present sufferings are not worth comparing...” The Greek for ‘consider’ is logizomai related to ‘logic’ - to reckon / calculate / compute. You’re weighing the things, analysing, tallying them up – and your present hardships just don’t compare to the future glory. Hebrews 11:26 “[Moses] regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward.” Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount, “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven...” And Paul wrote in 2Cor 4:17 “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.”

      Do you hear the weighing, the comparing, the evaluating going on? Keep things in perspective, keep this world’s passing woes in true PROPORTION relative to an eternity of blessing.


Hope in everlasting life with God through Christ doesn’t just help in the next life: it helps already in this earthly life. Growing evidence links a belief in God to better physical health. In 22 studies, frequent churchgoers had lower rates of many illnesses, from hypertension and heart disease to tuberculosis and cervical cancer. Scientists aren't sure why. Jeffrey S.Levin at Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk, Virginia, notes, "It might be that being more religious fosters a healthier lifestyle, offers greater social support, or provides a buffer against stress.Or it could be that hope and optimism somehow bolster the immune system." For example, when doctors examined men over 65 who’d been admitted to a veterans’ hospital in Durham, North Carolina, they found those who said religion was ‘very important’ to them were less likely to become depressed – a feeling that by itself can hinder recovery.

      So, keep waiting, with hope, for future glory – despite your present frustrations and groans! It’s good medicine. Jesus has a reward stored up for you that far outweighs this life’s passing troubles. Let’s pray.