words of encouragement
On September 11, 2001,
disaster and death flew into the World Trade Center in New York
City and the hearts of all Americans.
Perhaps an airplane
of a different kind has recently flown into your life and exploded.
You’ve lost a loved one, a family member is on drugs or
alcohol, a son or daughter languishes in prison, you’ve
been laid off from your job, or just learned you have cancer.
Someone close to you is dying from AIDS or an affliction of a
different kind. Your spouse walked out on you. Or, your retirement
fund has disappeared in investment quicksand. Your Christian faith
has not met with approval from others.
No matter what your
disaster or difficulty, Romans 8:18-39 provides four great encouragements
for every believer walking through dark valleys or along lonesome
trails. These encouragements show why it is always the right decision
to trust God!
The apostle Paul wrote
the Roman letter to believers who, within six years, would be
crucified by the Roman Emperor Nero, their bodies doused with
pitch and set afire to illuminate Nero’s gardens by night.
Paul writes to them
and to us — to every believer who, despite faith and fervent
prayer, finds that God is not delivering them from their adverse
circumstances. Paul uses words like these to describe our frailty
in such moments: “sufferings” (v. 18, NIV), “frustration”
(v. 20), “groaning” (vv. 22,23), “weakness”
(v. 26), “trouble” and “hardship” (v.
OUTWEIGHS PRESENT GROANING (Romans 8:18-25)
Think of an old-fashioned pair of scales. Put groaning on one
scale and glory on the other. Which one is heavier? Which one
tips the scale?
We load up groaning
on the first scale. It’s so heavy. We think nothing could
ever outweigh more than our present load of sorrow. We notice
we’re not the only ones groaning. Even nature groans! All
around us, plant and animal life is dying (v. 21).
it … to find the word “groaning” ascribed to
Spirit-filled believers? Have you noticed? The apostle Paul tells
us that not only is nature groaning, but we ourselves (v. 22).
Lest we think he mistakenly used the term, he repeats it again,
“We ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan
inwardly” (v. 23).
But, wait! The groaning
is the groaning of a mother in the pangs of childbirth! That’s
a different kind of groan. It’s not the groan that comes
when something terrible is to follow; it’s the groaning
that comes before the great joy!
So, Paul says, “Look
at your scales again. You’ve put your groaning on one side,
and it’s tipped the scale downward. Now, take from God’s
truth about the future the word ‘glory.’ Glory! That
five-letter word sums up all the wonder that awaits us as the
children of God: the resurrection of the body, eternal life, our
home in heaven, reunion with our saved loved ones, our joyous
appearance before the throne of God. Glory! Take glory and put
it on the remaining empty scale. Now, watch the scales tip. The
glory will outweigh the groaning.”
A Psalm in Your Heart, Volume 1
George O. Wood
Psalm in Your Heart, Volume 2
George O. Wood
Psalm in Your Heart, 2-volume set
George O. Wood
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That’s our first
great encouragement — don’t lose sight of the glorious
The late Christian
writer Joe Bayly told about losing his three sons: one as a baby,
one at the age of 5 from leukemia and the last at age 17 from
an auto accident. Sometime later he darted out of his house on
a cold winter day in Chicago to get his mail. As he stood by the
mailbox on the side of the road, he quickly scanned the correspondence
until he spotted a Burpee Seed Catalog on the bottom — bright
zinnias on the cover and huge tomatoes on the back.
He said, “For
a few moments I was oblivious to the cold, delivered from it.
I leafed through the catalog, tasting corn and cucumbers, smelling
roses. I saw the freshly plowed earth, smelled it, let it run
through my fingers. For those few brief moments, I was living
in springtime and summer, winter past. Then, the cold penetrated
my bones and I ran back to the house.”
Bayly says that later,
as he reflected on that experience, it struck him that both Christians
and non-Christians feel the biting cold. Yet, there is a difference!
As believers, in our cold times, we have a seed catalog, God’s
Word. “We open it,” Bayly says, “and smell the
promised spring, eternal spring.”
I think it’s
this very way of looking at things that Paul has in mind when
he encourages us with this truth: The coming glory will outweigh
the present groaning.
THE HOLY SPIRIT
IS HELPING (Romans 8:26,27)
There are some things we know and others we don’t. “We
know that the whole creation has been groaning” (v.
22), and “We know that in all things God works for the good
of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose”
Is there anything we
don’t know? Yes, indeed! “We do not know what we ought
to pray” (v. 26). Does that surprise you? The great apostle
Paul saying that sometimes he was stumped about how to pray!
Now, Paul does not
say, “We never know what to pray for.” His own prayers,
recorded in Ephesians 1 and 3, tell us his prayers were profound.
He gives us a sample of a specific prayer request in Romans 1:8-15.
We also know how to pray as we follow Jesus’ prayer of John
The “we do not
know” applies to situations when we are groaning, when despite
our most ardent pleas and exercise of faith, deliverance is not
forthcoming. We’re stumped. How do we then pray?
Paul reminds us that
the Holy Spirit is helping; He’s praying through us with
unutterable words. Most likely Paul is referring to praying in
other tongues (1 Corinthians 14:15), but the phrase can also be
inclusive of an inarticulate sigh or inexpressible emotion.
When our daughter,
Evangeline, was a toddler I stood at the door of her room late
one evening, watching her sleep. I felt overcome by love for her,
and began praying for her. I thought to myself, She’s not
aware of my praying for her. Then, I felt the Lord whisper to
my spirit, George, neither have you been aware of how many times
I have prayed for you.
We are possessed with
this wonderful truth: In our prayers, God is helping us. Not only
is the Spirit interceding from within us, but Jesus also sits
at the right hand of God (Romans 8:34), always living to make
intercession for us (Hebrews 7:25) as our Advocate with the Father
(1 John 2:1). We therefore have an Intercessor in the heart and
an Intercessor in the heavens.
GOD IS WORKING
FOR THE GOOD (Romans 8:28,29)
Paul does not say, “Everything that happens to us is good.”
Some events prove extremely destructive. Rather, the apostle declares,
“God works good in all things.”
Your feelings aren’t
what’s at issue here. Some years ago, John F. Kennedy Jr.
felt he was piloting his plane through clouds right side up. His
feelings led him astray — the instruments said he was flying
the plane downward into the ocean and death.
Paul does not say,
“We feel that in all things God is working for the good.”
Oh, no. He says, “We know.”
A missionary friend
and his family experienced a horrible trauma on a remote Pacific
island that involved a savage attack against them in their home
by four thugs in the middle of the night. In later reflection
on that terrifying experience and the emotional aftermath, my
friend said, “We learned to distinguish our feelings from
Note three things about
the fact God works for the good in our lives.
1. The comprehensiveness
of the working: “All things.” Did you ever try eating
a tablespoonful of baking soda. Doesn’t taste very good,
does it? But, put that same baking soda in a chocolate cake mix.
The cake won’t taste good without it. Some things, taken
by themselves, don’t taste good, but when mixed in with
other things and fired in the oven, the result is good. God is
working to transform all the distasteful ingredients of your life
into a final recipe of good.
2. The goal of the
working: “for good.” Theodore E. Steinway, the late
president of Steinway and Sons, once noted, “In one of our
concert grand pianos, 243 taut strings exert a pull of 40,000
pounds on an iron frame. It is proof that out of great tension
may come great harmony.”
In the 1980s a terrible
wildfire burned more than 1.2 million acres in the greater Yellowstone
area. Several years later foresters discovered the new seedling
density was much greater than the original density. The reason?
Some lodgepole seeds require fire to open them. Perhaps a fire
has burned in your life recently, but trust God to work it for
good, that nothing other than the blazing heat of circumstance
could produce such an abundance of later good.
3. The limitation of
the working: “who love him, who have been called.”
This encouragement is not open to all humanity. Only those who
trust in Christ are able to rely upon the promise of God’s
working good in all things.
GOD IS FOR
US (Romans 8:31-39)
Who is against us? Sin? Certainly! The devil? Surely! Death and
hell? Absolutely! But, not God!
Here are the answers
to the five great questions Paul raises:
It’s the very
last question, regarding potential separation from Christ, that
Paul spends the most time answering. He rejects any one or all
of seven adversities that try to separate us from Christ: trouble,
hardship, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger or sword. He’s
convinced that the polarities he mentions likewise have no ability
to divorce us from Christ: death or life, angels or demons, present
or future, powers, height or depth, or anything else in all creation.
There may be times
when we feel that everyone and everything are against us, but
there is One who is always for us.
At the end of each
baseball season, I review the final standings for each team in
the American and National leagues. My theory is that the teams
at the top of the standings win more games on the road than they
over the years, that about two-thirds of the major-league baseball
teams actually win more games at home than on the road, but only
one-third win more games away than at home. Simply put —
champions consistently win on the road. Losers more easily win
When Paul writes this
Roman letter, he addresses all of us believers who are playing
an away game. As the old gospel song put it, “This world
is not my home, I’m just a’ passing through.”
Paul stated it more elegantly in Philippians 3:20: “Our
citizenship is in heaven.”
The real winners, whether
in major league baseball or among Christians, are those who do
not get distracted by a hostile environment, or become discouraged
when the cheers turn to jeers.
The entire Christian
life is one long road game, and these encouragements are given
to help us win.
At the end of this
magnificent section of Scripture, Paul says, “We are more
than conquerors.” The expression “more than conquerors”
translates the Greek word hypernike. Nike comes directly across
to us as a modern brand of shoes and sportswear. The word means
“conqueror” or “winner.” The word hyper
attaches to terms like hyperactive and hypersensitivity. It carries
the idea of “above and beyond.”
When you put the words
hyper and nike together, you get the idea of a super-winner. Not
someone who wins the race by a whisker, but by a mile —
Take these four great
encouragements — the glory will outweigh the groaning, the
Holy Spirit is helping, God is working for the good, and God is
for us — and win the race of life, not by a hairbreadth
but by the margin of a super-winner.
O. Wood is general secretary of the Assemblies of God.
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