The Labour Pains are All Around US
“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. 19 For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; 21 because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. 23 Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body.
“24 For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance. 26 Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. 27 Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.
“28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. 29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30 Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.“
I love being a part of the family of God. I have been blessed to have family in the Lord all over the world. I have dear friends who are missionaries in Ukraine, the Philippines, all over the US and in many other parts of the world. I have friends that are saved in Barbados where I grew up; and as much as I love my ‘human’ family, I love the spiritual family that I will spend eternity with.
We live in perilous times, and it is impossible to see what is going on around us and not feel a sense of eternity and the nearness of it.
We live in a time where we are beginning to see the cracks in the ‘modern church movement.’ Many churches are no longer driven by the Bible and what it says; they are driven by feelings and a sense that they want to change the world and right all the wrongs, and they are missing the point. This is the very essence of what the church of Laodicea was all about; they were powerful and rich and they did things that were not about Jesus. The things they did looked religious and they sounded like the things that religions are all about, but they were not doing Jesus’ work.
Today, we find many of the people out there do not have a clear understanding of the Gospel. Many Christians today do not understand that people need to be saved from Hell, not life. They need to be reborn in Jesus, not saved from the perceived oppression of the earth. They need to be redeemed by the blood of Jesus, not given better opportunities or more things. Sadly, a lot of the people in the modern churches need Jesus as well; they are not saved and have no understanding that they need to be saved.
Paul is about to tell us some things that will fly in the face of much of what we hear in the modern pulpits of many churches today. As we get closer and closer to the return of Jesus, there will be more and more suffering. What? Are you serious, Sean? What about the utopia that our governments are building? They are going to stop people from getting offended; they are going to stop all the suffering in the world; they are going to stop all the evil in the world; everybody will be equal; everyone will have money even if they don’t work; on and on we can go; our world governments are going to solve all the issues of life.
Unfortunately, those of us that know the Bible and take it literally understand that things are NOT going to get better. In fact, they are going to get worse and worse. Those of us that understand the truth, that take the Bible literally, that understand that God is Holy and right is right and sin is sin, will be hated and outlawed and, eventually, killed.
- The Suffering is to be expected, verse 18
Paul talks as though we should not be surprised that there is suffering. Paul was writing in the first century, and he lived in a time when Christianity was under great persecution. Many of the emperors of Rome made Christianity illegal, many chased the Jews out of Rome, and for decades a lot of Christians were killed and murdered for their faith. Paul was not complaining about the suffering. He simply held the persecution in perspective. In light of eternity the current persecution was nothing. Here we are 2,000 years later and the suffering is beginning to ramp up again. Like it was in Paul’s day, the people hated the truth. People today hate the truth. Here is a truth that is not popular: all men are evil. All men are lost and are not intrinsically good. All men, left to themselves, will do evil.
As we assess Paul’s perspective, it would seem that we should expect to suffer. We should not be surprised that suffering comes and, in fact, should be expectant of it. Paul then tells us that if we take the right perspective on the suffering that we can actually get through any suffering that comes our way. This is the power of knowing the truth. This is the power of having the Holy Spirit living in us and the truth of the Bible driving our lives and ruling our emotions.
I don’t talk much about my life, but as many of you know, I grew up in Barbados. I was blessed to grow up in a Christian family and to be saved at the age of 14.
I moved to Canada after my father died in 1982. My heritage is mixed; my mom is black and mixed, my father is white, and all his siblings are mixed. I have an older brother who is mixed, his father (mine) white and his mom black. My stepdad is black, and I have all of my brothers and my sister either mixed or black. It was not until I moved to Canada that I ever had to worry about my skin color, though lighter than most from Barbados. But it is clear that I am not pure white.
The first year we went to church camp in the US in 1983, we were warned by our dear Pastor that some may say something to us. Our church here in Canada had many nations represented from all ethnicities. We were told that if someone said something to us in a derogatory way, then we should not respond, but to come and speak to our Pastor, and he would deal with things. When I surrendered to the ministry, there were certain seminaries that I could not attend; I eventually went to a seminary in Florida and was privileged to meet come of the most awesome teachers one could have. But there were many churches in the south that I could not attend; and for the years that I attended seminary, my parents, my step-dad who is black and my mom who is mixed could not come and visit with me.
Here is what I want to say: it would have been easy to give in and give up. But the Lord gave me the grace to get through some of the stuff. And truthfully, many of the men who led in this area are now gone, and us younger men who know the truth about race are the leaders. But we had to allow God to make the move; we had to allow God to change the minds and move the hearts. It took time, but we are far better off now. But I had to learn that these are just the hiccups of life.
One of the things we learn is to love like Jesus; love covers a multitude of sins (Proverbs 10:12). In the sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5), love those that hate you and despitefully use you. Love your enemies. Love and forgiveness go hand in hand; if you love someone you will forgive them. There is a serious lack of love in the Lord’s churches today. These are the things we need to learn. Jesus loved His enemies, Stephen in Acts 7 prayed for his enemies, and on and on we can go. Paul tells us that the suffering of life is real and that it will come, but the proper perspective will help us to get through it all. Too many of the Lord’s people are earthly minded, and we do not see ourselves as temporary citizens of earth. in the OT we are called ‘resident aliens,’ and in the NT we called ‘sojourners’ by the Apostle Peter.
- The Creation is Waiting as well for Jesus, verse 20-22
The UN will not save the planet. Greta Thunberg will not save the planet. Al Gore will not save the planet. The creation is smart enough to know that Jesus is its salvation. The creation, like those of us that are saved, is waiting for the return of Jesus.
I have a dear friend who had a program on his computer or smartphone that tracks earthquakes, and he had to turn it off because there were so many earthquakes that the app just kept alarming. The birth pains signaling the Lord’s return are happening all around us. We have some places on earth with drought, others with too much rain. There are places where huge cracks have opened in the ground. On July 9th, 2019, a huge opening visible from space was caused by a 7.1 magnitude earthquake in Ridgecrest, California. In 2017 a huge crack opened over in Pinal County, Arizona; it is 2 miles long. They have had other huge cracks, one in Mexico from 2017 as well. In April a 50-foot-deep and 65-foot-wide crack opened up in Kenya, Africa, and is still there as far as I can tell. They say it was caused by torrential rains. This year so far, there have been over 6,100 earthquakes over 4.0 magnitude.
Jesus is coming back to save the planet and bring in the new Millennia. But it will not be a man or any manmade institution that saves the planet. The planet is waiting for Jesus. But a reading of the Revelation tells us that there is a lot more destruction coming to the earth before the utopia comes upon us. But it will come at the hand of Jesus and He alone. Look at Isaiah 11: 6-9:
“The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb,
The leopard shall lie down with the young goat,
The calf and the young lion and the fatling together;
And a little child shall lead them.
The cow and the bear shall graze;
Their young ones shall lie down together;
And the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
The nursing child shall play by the cobra’s hole,
And the weaned child shall put his hand in the viper’s den.
They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain,
For the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord
As the waters cover the sea.”
Jesus will solve all of the world’s problems and bring in peace, provide for all and rule in righteousness; and yet still, at the end of 1,000 years, Satan will be able to find men to rebel against Jesus. Why? Because, people need to be reborn, they need the rebirth of salvation, they need the life of the Holy Spirit in them. Without salvation all of man’s evil comes to the surface even when they see the goodness of God firsthand. All of us, all of creation is waiting for Jesus. Are you waiting for Jesus as well? Are you looking for your redemption from on high or are you seeking your salvation from an earthly source?
- We have a Prayer Partner in the Holy Spirit, verses 25-27
In John 17 Jesus prayed for us that we would have unity like He and the Father. But in our daily lives, our everyday walk, the Holy Spirit is praying for us. He is wording our deepest desires and speaks for us when we cannot speak. He prays when we are too weak or too hurt to speak. He prays for us when life takes our words and kidnaps our emotions. You see, this is why Paul could endure the sufferings of life and sing in the persecutions of life; the Holy Spirit was his companion when it looked like he was alone.
And for you and me who are saved, He is our companion as well. We are never alone, never abandoned and never without someone on our side. The Holy Spirit has our backs, He has our minds and He comforts our broken hearts when we are hurt by those we love and that love us. He gives us the grace to forgive, to forget and love again. He helps us to know hope when it seems we have no hope, and He clears our vision to the truth when the lies are loud.
With this knowledge we can face all of the trials and tests of life and grow in the Lord, grow in grace, grow in love, grow in forgiveness and grow in patience, grow in faith and grow in peace. We stop looking for revenge and we stop asking ‘why me’? We begin to have compassion for people and seek to serve and help rather than chastise and condemn. We are more able to speak the truth and to say that God’s way is the only way; we can say it boldly in the Holy Spirit and lovingly, even if it is taken wrong.
- Perspective, verse 28-30
In the book of Genesis, we find an amazing story of Joseph; he is sold into slavery by his brothers and is wrongly accused of sexual misconduct and is put into prison. He eventually, by the hand of God, comes to be the Pharaoh of Egypt and is used by God to save his family from starvation. As Jacob comes to the end of his life, Joseph’s brothers are afraid that once Dad is dead, then Joseph will get back at them for their evil deeds. But over the course of the 13 years from the time he was sold into slavery to the time he became ruler, Joseph had learned a great lesson from the Lord, and it is recorded for us in Genesis 50:20:
“But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive. ”
No matter what man does to us, God is in charge; and He can take even evil actions and turn them for good. God can do this. We need to have this perspective, that God is in control. We are His children, He has bought us and ransomed us from the enemy, and He is allowed to let us go through anything He determines is necessary for His glory and our edification. Once we have the right perspective, then we are less likely to be angered by the ‘hand we are dealt.’ We realize that God is simply doing what a loving Father does to grow us into the image of Jesus. All that happens to us is for the good of those that love God and are called for His purpose.
If you have a desire to be like Jesus, if you have a desire to grow and become more like Jesus, then God will work in you and through the circumstances around you to change you. You are surrendered, and understand that you are not your own; you are bought with a price, and God is in control.
In this life we will have trials and troubles; in this life we will have times of suffering; and in this life we will have tests and trials that are sent by God to purge us and grow us into the image of Jesus. Remember, you are not alone; as a child of God, the Holy Spirit is praying for you; as a child of God, He is working all things for good, even the things that hurt; and as a child of God we know our home is not here and we stop looking to man and manmade solutions for our hurts. Instead, we depend on the Lord and His awesome, eternal power.
God bless you,
Dr. Sean Gooding
Pastor of Mississauga Missionary Baptist Church