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September 13, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment

Romans 8:26-28: God’s Good is in God’s Control


Sermon audio can be found at


Christianity is a religion based on faith, and scripture defines that faith as the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1).  And consistently throughout scripture, one finds there is no real hope for a relationship with God apart from faith:  As Ephesians 2.8-9 say, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

Although Christianity is faith-based, that does not mean that it should not also be an intellectual and researched faith.  In fact, researching and understanding Christianity actually reinforces the truths gifted by faith.  We see this explained in the beginning of the book of Luke:  Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, 2 just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, 3 it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 4 that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.

Unfortunately, because Christianity is based on faith, many believers in Jesus spend little or no time pursuing depth of knowledge in the scriptures, in pursuing theology, or understanding the history of the church.  When those outside the church criticize Christians for this, they are completely justified in their comments.  You see, the scriptures, and therefore the will of God, command a deep, organized Biblical theology in 2 Timothy 2:15:  Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.  The phrase “rightly handling” or as some older translations phrase it “rightly dividing” is a tent-making term which makes sense as Paul made tents for a living.  It meant to cut all the tent fabric properly and carefully so that they would fit together to make a tent.  The emphasis in this verse then is that one should study the scriptures diligently and have an educated and consistent theology.  Biblical convictions must fit within the greater framework of the scriptures.  Doing this hard study is an act of affection to God.

Again, I will say that unfortunately, many Christians don’t purse a deep level of understanding the scriptures.  In fact, right now, many may know more about the President’s proposed health plan, the stats of the their fantasy football team, or the plot lines of their favorite TV show than they do about piecing together the truths of Scripture into a consistent, God-honoring theology.  This is sad and should not be.  It is a shame, and it is a travesty for the children of God to be so ignorant.  Make no mistake:  every believer is a theologian.  They are either good ones or bad ones.

As always, and definitively consistent with the themes of the book of Romans, Paul makes the case that one of the things that God does is help you in this weakness.  One of the functions of the Holy Spirit is to lead God’s children into deeper Biblical truth.  God always equips those to which He calls.  In light of that, let’s ask this Big Picture Question this week:

Big Picture Question:  How does God help His children know Him better?

Romans 8:26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness.  For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.

Before we dig into this incredibly encouraging verse, we need to remind ourselves why it says “likewise” here.  Prior to verse 26, Paul emphasizes that sin is so bad, the very earth groans for its redemption and the redemption of God’s children.  All of creation (verse 22) groans for the complete eradicating of sin and the return to the original purpose of both people and nature.  Likewise, verses 23-25 say that all believers in Jesus groan in eager anticipation of heaven and enjoying the glory of God.  Now, in this verse, we hear there is a 3rd set of groanings.  The Spirit intercedes for believers in their weaknesses with groanings.  Now, the ESV here translates these groanings as too deep for words which can also be translated as groanings in “unspoken words.”  Both have the same impact that these are not audible words but communication between the God the Father and God the Holy Spirit.  This is a universal gift of the Spirit to every believer in Christ.  The Spirit intercedes for the children of God.

Though some interpreters who I greatly respect feel this verse references some form of speaking in tongues, I don’t think the text supports it for a couple of reason.  There are plenty of passages that speak to the gift of tongues but I don’t think this is one.  For example:  First, these groanings are silently between God the Father and God the Holy Spirit, so they are not audible tongues or speakings of a believer.  Secondly I Corinthians 12:30 makes a point to say that not every believer has or has had the gift of tongues, and this is a universal blessing to believers across the board.  These are silent, unspoken, soundless, spiritual interactions between the Spirit and God the Father on your behalf.

What we see going on here is that the Spirit groans in a similar way that nature and believers groan.  Specifically there are a few things that we can notice about these groanings.  First of all, these groanings happen because we are weak.  Creation and creatures groan for the ultimate redemption of weakened creation because of sin.  The Spirit groans to aid us and intercede for us when we are weak.  Think about that for a moment:  the Spirit helps you in your weakness.  This wonderful truth makes sense in light Jesus’ promise.  When Jesus told His disciples that He would be leaving them after His crucifixion and resurrection, they were obviously distressed.  You can imagine how it might be distressful to have walked day by day with Jesus for 3 years and then have Him tell you that He was leaving.  His response as found in John 14:16 says, And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.  18 “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.

One of the foundational purposes of the Holy Spirit is to comfort God’s children in their weaknesses.  The Spirit comforts and as the Spirit comforts, He assures God’s children that they are not orphans or left alone.  Helplessness is gone.

Do you know how much hope that is intended to give you?  I cannot tell you how many people I speak to regularly who confess an intense loneliness and even more people who feel absolutely helpless and weak.  The Spirit of God, the gift from God, has a primary purpose, the strengthening of those who have faith in Jesus.  When you are weak either physically, mentally, or spiritually, the Spirit of God intercedes for you.

Now, we need to ask, what does it look like to be so weak that you need the Spirit’s help in your prayers?  Well, what are the things that believers are commanded to pray for in scripture?  Here is a short list.  You are told to pray for:  a forgiving spirit, increase in knowledge of spiritual things, readiness to bear witness to Jesus Christ, courage amid affliction and persecution, helpfulness to those who are in need, and increased gratitude toward God.  When you hear that list, you might think, “Wow, I’m so bad off, I’m not even weak in the right areas.” I would say that often we do pray for the wrong things, but here is your hope.  God specifically wants to encourage you and lift you up when you are weak and the Spirit does it in ways that you can’t even imagine.  The Spirit is continually interceding for you, so even when you are without hope, you can know that the Spirit is about strengthening you with heavenly strength.

You might ask, “Well, how does that help me” or “Does that really help?”  Well, let’s look at what happens here.

27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

When the Holy Spirit intercedes for you, He does so in with groanings that are silent and too deep for words.  Fortunately, God is the one who searches hearts and knows the mind of the Spirit.  God knows what you need.  The Spirit’s groaning is directly related to His intercession for you.  “The Holy Spirit prays that the deeply hidden needs of your heart, needs which you yourself sometimes do not even recognize, may be met.”  Hendricksen   The Spirit knows what you need, and intercedes to God for that need.  But always, the Spirit intercedes for you within God’s will.  That means that the Spirit seeks exactly what God wants for you, exactly what you need in your time of trouble, exactly what is best.  That doesn’t mean the Spirit goes and gets you what you want or as some pastors would like to tell you, the Spirit does not intercede to make sure you never get sick or never go broke.  The Spirit intercedes for you according to God’s will.

Now, the majority of the questions that I and probably every other pastor get are questions about God’s will.  And I always will say that the majority of everything you ever need to know about what to do is given for you in the scriptures.  For example, if you apply the command, “Be ye holy as I am holy,” I think you will eliminate a lot of your options about God’s will as you will find them out of accord with your living a holy life.  If you place, “Consider others better than yourself,” into application, you will get a lot of your prayers about God’s will made very clear.  The Holy Spirit wants to assure you of God’s will, but sometimes your confusion is because you really want something else.  You want your will.  Often, Christians don’t get around to asking God for guidance in His will until the fan is really dirty if you know what I’m saying and then we wonder where God is.  Seek God’s will in the good times, and you can trust the Spirit is interceding for you in the bad.  The Spirit is about moving you directly into God’s will and nowhere else even if it is not what you want.

Now think about that for a minute.  Think about receiving a gift that you really, really need but don’t necessarily know you need or even want.  For example:  I remember in college, I was rocking the Reliant K car.  It was a white, four-door, ugly car.  It was absolutely and in no way, a cool car.  Chicks didn’t dig it.  I really wanted a new one.  It was what I wanted every birthday and every Christmas despite that the fact that I knew that there was no way that my parents nor I could afford to buy me a car.  I remember going home for Christmas, and over the break, I was going to car lots and looking at cars and wondering what I might get as a gift on Christmas morning, and again, these were ridiculous desires.  There was no way to get a car, and I had a car that worked just fine.  You know what I got for Christmas?  New tires for my car:  exactly what was needed.  Not what I wanted, but what I needed.  They lasted until the day that car died and it die a hard, cold death, but the tires were exactly what I needed.

This is much like the Spirits interceding for you, He takes your desires, refines them and intercedes to God within God’s will to bring you God’s best.  To illustrate that, hear one of the most well known passages.

28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

This verse really needs to be taken in halves.  First, if you love God, every single thing that happens in your life works together for good – an astounding truth that may seem hard to believe, but let’s see it play out.  Second, the reason this is true is because the people who love God are called by God to a specific purpose.  Let’s look at each one of these in detail.  Well, what does it mean to love God?  Earlier in the book of Romans 5, Paul says that God’s love has been showed to us that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.  Later on in that same chapter, we reciprocate that love by rejoicing in God through Jesus Christ through whom we are reconciled.   Basically, you love God by rejoicing in and being like Jesus who has repaired your relationship with God.  Your joy and your love of God should have nothing to do with earthly circumstances.  True joy and true love of God happens because you know Jesus.  So the people who genuinely have faith in God, all things work together for the good.  What does it mean that everything works for the good?  Does that mean the end purpose of every event in your life is health, wealth, ease, freedom?

Well, if you listen to most people as they struggle with difficult circumstances, they always think about the good as some future moment when there aren’t difficulties or when some lesson is learned.  They’ll say, “Well I know that things are going to turn around,” as if the turning around is the good part.  Though your circumstances improving may be good, that isn’t the definition of good.  Good is being drawn closer in intimacy and affection and dependence on God.

I mean, my family has struggled with health issues for the past ten years.  We have folks in our congregation who don’t know where their next paycheck is coming from.  Some folks either own or work for business that could shut down any day.  Some of you have tragically lost loved ones.  What does it mean for those things to work together for good now?

Well, we know that these things are good first of all because God in His infinite wisdom ordains them.  Whatever God ordains is good because God has ordained to ultimately bring Himself glory.  Don’t get confused about this:  God is not a cosmic janitor sweeping up our messes and making them good.   He doesn’t look into our lives and see our mess and say, “Oh, I can fix that.”  He intends for good out of all things because He ordains and put all things into place for His purpose alone.  This can be a difficult truth to grasp, so let me you a few examples from scripture, and there are tons of them, but here is just a sampling.

God ordained the creation of all things:  Col 1:16 For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities–all things have been created by Him and for Him.  If it exists, God created it.

Not matter what, God has a plan and it be changed or stopped.  Isa 14:27 For the LORD of hosts has planned, and who can frustrate it? And as for His stretched-out hand, who can turn it back? The rhetorical answer is no one can.

You may like to play poker or roll the dice or go enny meeny minie moe, but there are no chance or lucky events.  God plans all of those.  Pro 16:33 The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord. Casting lots was the biblical equivalent of drawing straws, and this verse God plans and ordains the shortest straw.

Now, the bad things that happen in life, you know adversity, calamity?  God has ordained those as well with a purpose.  Isa 45: I am the LORD, and there is no other, 7 the One forming light and creating darkness, causing well-being and creating calamity; I am the Lord who does all these. Good times and bad times are in the hand of God.

Just in case that one is hard to swallow, let’s try another.  Amos 3:6 If a trumpet is blown in a city will not the people tremble? If a calamity occurs in a city has not the LORD done it?

What about evil people?  God has planned for them as well.  Pro 16:4 The LORD has made everything for its own purpose, even the wicked for the day of evil.

You might say, “Surely sickness, deformities, and weakness, God couldn’t have ordained those?”  God ordains those as well.  John 9:1 And as He passed by, He saw a man blind from birth. 2 And His disciples asked Him, saying, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he should be born blind?” 3 Jesus answered, “It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was in order that the works of God might be displayed in him.” The man was sick so that God might be glorified.

Folks, every day of your life has been ordained and planned by God.  Psa 139:16 Thine eyes have seen my unformed substance; and in Thy book they were all written, the days that were ordained for me, When as yet there was not one of them. God is not a reporter of the events of your life.  God is the author.  Pro 20:24 Man’s steps are ordained by the LORD, how then can man understand his way?

You see, you can make all the plans in the world, but God decides what will happen.  Jam 4:13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow, we shall go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.” 14 Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. 15 Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and also do this or that.”

You see, God works everything to the good because He is the author of your life.  This promise is specifically for the believer.  The non-believer has no hope of everything working to the good.  In fact, their purpose and their end is ultimately toward judgment and destruction.  Now, next week, we are taking this idea of God’s ordination to its logical conclusion.  If God ordains all things, then of course He ordains salvation which is exactly what the next verse says, but before we get there, we need to understand these truths.  Here is your takeaway.

  • God intends to help His children know Him better.
  • God helps His children in their weakness.
  • The Spirit of God hears your pain and prayers, intercedes with God the Father to bring about God’s perfect, holy will in your life.
  • You then can be strengthened in your weakness and worry knowing that God is doing exactly what is best for you.
  • So as you love God, you can know that the absolute best thing that God can do for you is being done because you have been called to the purpose of loving God and giving Him glory.

When you don’t why your circumstances are as they are (sickness, money problems, etc), it is time in all humility to accept that God has the best for you even if it hurts.

  • God’s best for you is to call Him good.
  • God’s best for you is to glorify Him no matter the circumstance.
  • God’s best for you is to praise Him even if He slays you.
  • God’s best for you is for you to be absolutely dependent on Him for all things thanking Him for His wisdom.

Let’s pray.

September 13, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | 2 Comments