A further reflection from SWBF Chairman, Tony Mason
[First of all, let me correct a mistake I made in last month’s Message. There I said that God “delivered Daniel from the mouths of lions and the flames of a furnace”. But of course, it was not Daniel but his friends who were thrown into the fiery furnace. My apologies!]
Have you found yourself caught up in any of the dissatisfaction that seems to have been so prevalent of late? Does the mention of Brexit make you groan with boredom, or climate change groan with anxiety, or reports of suffering groan with compassion, or the spiritual state of our nation groan with despair?
Groaning can be very negative, unproductive, even destructive. But, rightly directed, groaning can be focused, fruitful and encouraging. In Romans 8:22-27 we have three very positive groanings.
Firstly (v22), “the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.” There have always been changes in the climate, and earthquakes and floods and droughts, and so on. The groanings of creation are like birth-pangs – painful but leading to a wonderful outcome! One day there will be a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness (II Peter 3:13).
Secondly (v23), “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.” I have just got back from the doctor’s. My blood pressure and cholesterol levels are good; my blood-glucose and kidney-function are not so good. So, I groan inwardly, longing for the redemption of my body! The indwelling Holy Spirit assures the Christian that one day the mortal will be clothed with immortality (I Cor 15:53).
Thirdly (v26), the Spirit – yes, even the Holy Spirit – groans! But he does so on our behalf. “the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express”. Faced with all that troubles us in our world and in our personal lives, how true it is that “we do not know what we ought to pray”(v26). But the Holy Spirit intercedes for us, literally, “wordlessly”. As John Stott put it “the Holy Spirit identifies with our groans, with the pain of the world and the church, and shares in the longing for the final freedom of both. We and he groan together”. (‘The Message of Romans’, IVF, p245).
So it’s OK to groan, provided the groaning is directed towards the sure and certain “hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God” (v21).
See you on the 21st September at the third Saffron Walden Bible Focus – and bring your friends!