I have preached against complaining and sought to eliminate it from my life. But I find that I still do it. There’s often temptation to look at the schedule, to think about this or that hurting, or to experience grief or difficulty and focus on those things. Then I have to fight off the desire to talk about it. A good friend once said to me, “What you need is a real problem.” That helps me remember that things could usually be worse, but I find its not a strong enough weapon.
In Romans 8 there’s a phrase that gets overshadowed compared with better-known material in that chapter. Verse 17 says, “ . . . (we are) heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.” As I studied this verse, looking hard to see what I’d previously missed, I made a connection between the phrase “provided we suffer with him” and complaining. The text, along with other passages, teaches that suffering is normal for a believer. Other scriptures came to mind, such as, Phil. 3:10 (ESV) 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.” It’s a stretch to call having a tough day “sharing in the sufferings of Christ,” however, I think it is a way of redeeming the difficulties we face.
So when we feel pain, frustration, or difficulty, rather than complaining, and rather than taking a guilt based approach that says, “shame on you for complaining when Jesus suffered for you,” what if we said to ourselves, “I know it’s small, but maybe I can see this as a way of suffering with Jesus.” Having a tough day is nothing compared to the sort of suffering some face through overt persecution, or through disasters such as the hurricane this week that has devastated parts of the Northeast. But it helps put minor hardship in perspective. It might even make us a little more pleasant to be around.
Sunday I continue in Romans 8, looking at Paul’s use of the word picture of adoption to describe what God does in bringing a person to himself. I didn’t choose to preach through Romans 8 because of this adoption material, nor did I line it up to coincide with the four year anniversary of our adopting Noelle, but there’s no way I’m not going to refer to that experience in. As a part of the message, I plan to sing, When Love Takes You in, written by Steven Curtis Chapman that meant a lot to us through our adoption journey. You can see the scripture, outline, and discussion questions for the text below.
When Love Takes You In
Confidence: A Study of Romans 8: Part 3
1. Know that you are chosen, included and loved
Romans 8:14–15 (ESV)
14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”
2. Learn to listen to God to experience this love
Romans 8:16–17 (ESV)
16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
3. Put suffering in perspective
Romans 8:17–18 (ESV)
17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. 18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
Questions for further thought and discussion
To what extend do you struggle with fear?
To what extent do you sense that you belong, that you have a place to call home?
What is the significance of the names you use to speak to God?
What contributes to you feeling close or far away from God?
In what sense are we called to suffer with Jesus?
How can this passage enable you to shift your perspective when you are suffering?