The sufferings of this present evil age bring to mind difficult questions. Are we really the people of God? If He is Lord, if He is the ruler of this order, why do we still suffer?
There are times when we do not feel like His people. There are times when we do not easily see that God loves us and has given us glorious promises of peace and salvation.
Paul was aware of these difficulties when he triumphantly proclaimed the salvation that is ours through Jesus Christ:
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1)
Your sufferings now are nothing compared to the good that is to come.
In Romans 8:18 Paul dealt with what I would call a “contra-indication of blessing”. God has promised us blessing. He has promised us salvation, but there are counter-signs–afflictions and sufferings that can make us wonder whether we are really God’s children:
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. (Romans 8:18)
Paul confidently asserted that there is a marvelous glory that is greater than any suffering that we may now experience. Notice, though, that in saying this he assumed that we do experience suffering:
For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. (Romans 8:22)
Paul was referring here to the curse, and the fact that the entire created order also longs for its day of redemption.
You won’t always live in this present evil age.
We live in an age of death and decay, affliction and suffering. We live in an age of futility.
Even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting… (Romans 8:23)
We have not yet experienced the blessings of God in all of their fullness. We are still “waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons…” (Romans 8:23), that is, the resurrection from the dead.
Some folks live out their Christian experience as if life is always wonderful. Yes, the Christian ought to be an optimist, and yes, the Christian has what Paul would describe as the “joy of the Lord.” But the Christian ought never to overlook the fact that this present age still is evil. There still is suffering to be endured. We ought never to make light of the fact that, while we have a great and glorious promise in Christ Jesus, our salvation is not yet complete.
You can look forward to the future with hope and confidence.
Our salvation has certainly been promised by God in Christ Jesus, but Paul called the gift of the Spirit the “first fruits of our salvation,” (Romans 8:23) implying that there is a bumper crop yet to come. Paul wrote of the gift of the Spirit as the pledge of God, the down payment, which suggests that there is still a day of closing yet in front of us.
There is still a future, a hope. There is still something in prospect for the people of God.
The preceding was adapted by Rachel Motte from a sermon Dr. Sloan delivered on February 18, 1990 at Tallowood Baptist Church.