The Groaning Of The Children Of God
Attitude Of Groaning

In a Brief Survey of the Epistle of Paul to the Romans
Based on sermons preached in PCC Worship Services, July 2003 to Sep 2005
Part 38c of 83


23And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body. 24For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? 25But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it” (Romans 8:23-25).

[The apostle Paul is in our text speaking about how the children of God groan in pain and longing for the day when all that is anticipated in our redemption in Christ will come to pass. In the previous two installments of our study of this profound passage, we answered three questions: (1) What is it to groan within ourselves? (2) What causes the pain that makes us groan? And (3) What are we groaning in wait for?

In this concluding installment, we want to consider how we should respond to the reality that provokes us to groan in our soul. In other words, we want to consider what conscious attitude we should seek to cultivate in the light of what evoke our groaning. This attitude, as we shall discover, is not very different from the attitude with which we should come to the Lord’s Table to partake of His body and blood broken and shed for us. —JJL]

4.   With what Attitude 
should We Groan?

We noted that as the Spirit has whetted our appetites for better things to come, we must groan in hope. Paul confirms this truth:

 24 For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?

Now, throughout this chapter, you will notice the little word ‘for’ occurring over and over again. ‘For’ generally means ‘because’. So when we see the word ‘for’, we know that Paul is giving a reason for something he is saying.

So what is Paul saying here?

He is saying that our being “saved by hope” is the reason why we are groaning and waiting for the redemption of our body.

To put it simply, he is saying, it is because we hope, that we groan. Or to put it in another way: We do not groan because we have no hope and we not groan hopelessly. We groan because we hope!

Therefore, our attitude as we groan must be one of hope! This is another great difference between the groaning of the children of God and the groaning of the children of the world.

Christians are saved by hope, says Paul. What is it to hope? The word ‘hope’ is used very loosely today.

If you are planning an outing to the park, you may say: “I hope it does not rain today.”

If you drop your wallet in the bus, you would say: “I hope that whoever finds it will return it to me.”

What you mean by saying, “you hope” is that “you wish” or “you desire.” You wish it would not rain or you wish that someone would return you your wallet. And you can never be certain that it will turn out as you wish.

The meaning of ‘hope’ in the Scripture is very different. Hope in the Scripture speaks of a firm assurance based on conviction of a truth or on faith in God.

This is why the apostle to the Hebrews tells us that “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Heb 11:1).

Faith and hope are closely related. Hope is faith in God concerning His promises.

Paul writing to Titus introduces himself in this way:

“Paul, a servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God’s elect, and the acknowledging of the truth which is after godliness; 2 in hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world begun…” (Tit 1:1-2)

Notice how he ties hope with God’s promise. When Paul speaks about hope, it is not just a mere wish. It is a deep settled conviction that God will keep His promises.

When Paul says “we are saved by hope” (v. 24), he is reminding us that we are saved in believing that God has, is and will deliver us from our sin through Christ Jesus our Lord. Our faith is not just that Christ died for us, but that He will save us unto the uttermost. He will completely rid our hearts from sin, and one day He will restore our bodies to us again free of all corruption and hindrances (1 Cor 15:49-55; 1 Jn 3:1-3).

Yes, eternal life has begun. What is eternal life? Eternal life is knowing and enjoying God in Christ Jesus today and forever. We have indeed begun to enjoy God today.

However, the full enjoyment of our adoption as the sons and daughters of God awaits a better day.

This is why Paul teaches us that we are saved by hope. It pleases God that we should today walk by hope and faith. If we can see everything today, why do we need to hope?

Why does God want us to hope rather than see? Because hope builds up our relationship with God in a way that sight does not. In a way, God is training us today. If we see everything, we would not grow. Because of sin in us, we will begin to take God for granted. We will not learn to trust Him. So God appointed for us to remain in hope today.

We must hope. But if we are hoping, then “Do we with patience wait for it?” Wait for what? Wait for what we hope for?

What are we hoping for?

For the redemption of our bodies! To be delivered from the body of this death. To have a new body with which to glorify and enjoy God in.

The Holy Spirit has whetted our appetite and He has given us a desire to enjoy God and glorify Him.

Today we feel wretched and we groan within ourselves at our failures.

Have you not often cried unto the Lord: “Lord, thou does know the desires of my heart. I want to see you. I want to feel your love more. I desire to worship you more. I desire to glorify you with my life. But my flesh is weak, I struggle with sin”?

The day will come when all these impediments will be removed.

If we are hoping, what will we do?

25 But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it.

How shall we wait? We shall “with patience wait for it”.

If we are really hoping, we will be patient. If we have no hope, we would not be patiently waiting for it! Likewise, if we are not patiently waiting for it, then we are not really hoping.

Are you patiently waiting? If you are truly groaning in your heart, it must be because of hope in Christ. If you are hoping in Christ, you will wait expectantly and yet patiently.

Or let me put it this way: If you are groaning because of suffering today, but you are groaning hopelessly, then you are not truly groaning in the way that Paul is describing. Paul is describing the groanings of the children of God.

They will groan under the burden of suffering and sin, but their groans will be tempered with hope and patience.

They groan with a patient trust that God will deliver them from all sin and suffering.

They will never give up and decide to walk in the way of the world, or worst take their own life.

They bear up under their present struggles with an assured hope of better days to come.

This is what Paul is saying will happen in the lives of all true children of God.

Conclusion

What do we say to these things?

In the first place, you will notice that the apostle Paul is not giving us any imperative in our text. He is not telling us what to do. He is telling us what is the experience of the children of God. As the children of God indwelt by the Spirit of Adoption, the following will be true of you:

(1) You will be filled with hope upon the promises of God in Christ.

(2) You will groan within yourself because of your present sin and suffering. You will groan because you are not satisfied with you present life.

(3) You will wait expectantly for the redemption of your body, which is the display of your true status as a child of God.

But you will wait patiently, trusting that your heavenly Father knows what is best; and that Christ your Lord will not delay His return one day longer than necessary.

These things will be true for all who are true sons and daughters of God. Are these things true of you?

Blessed are you, if these things so describe you, for you can be assured that the Spirit of Christ has begun a good work in you and will perfect it unto the day of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Go on, therefore, in your walk in the way everlasting. It is a difficult way of suffering, but know for sure that the suffering of this present day is not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in you.

Are you groaning in your heart so much that you are discouraged and even wonder if you are a true child of God? Perhaps you have been struggling against a particular sin, and the burden of guilt is almost impossible to bear. You know there is no condemnation to them, which are in Christ Jesus. But you wonder if you are in Christ Jesus. So you groan in your heart.

Is that you? Well let me encourage you by reminding you that you will not groan for sin if you are not a child of God. A dead man does not groan under any burden no matter how heavy. So if you are groaning because of sin, and not just because of suffering, you can be confident that you are a child of God.

Groan therefore, dear child of God. Let your groaning move you to grateful prayers. The Lord hears your groaning and will soon deliver you.

But secondly, Let me remind you that though Paul is speaking of the things that will happen in our hearts, yet we must cultivate the same things. Let me put it this way: The hope and patience that Paul speaks about does not grow out of natural adamic soil. They come about through the work of the Holy Spirit in our heart. They are, if you like, fruit of the Spirit.

But in so far as they are fruits of the Spirit, they are also that which we must seek to cultivate. This is a biblical principle we must learn and apply.

Is this not a biblical principle? Think of love, joy and meekness. These are the fruit of the Spirit according to Paul in Galatians 5:22. Does this mean that these things are not our duty and we do not need to cultivate them? Does it mean we should simply wait for the Spirit to grow these things?

No, no; Paul says in Philippians 4:4, “Rejoice in the Lord always; and again I say, Rejoice.” Likewise, he tells us in Colossians 3:12 and 14 that as the elect of God, we must put on (among other things) meekness and love.

It is a biblical principle, therefore, that whatever is the fruit of the Spirit, that is the very thing we must exercise and cultivate in our lives.

So here it is in Romans 8. Paul is reminding us that the true child of God will groan in hope and patience. What does this mean for us? This means that we must put on hope and patience. We must hope, and patiently wait for what we hope for. Such patience and hope must characterise the groaning of the children of God. Therefore, when you are tried and you feel cast down, and your soul is groaning in disquiet, then exhort yourself to hope.

Not to hope is to disbelieve and to sin against God. We must never doubt God. Therefore, exhort yourself as David did – to hope in God for you shall yet praise Him who is the helper of your countenance (Ps 42:1). Likewise, not to be patient is also to distrust God. So we must never allow ourselves to ever consider taking our own life even when the going gets tough. We must rather take heed to James’ exhortation. Be ye patient, stablish your heart: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh (Jas 5:8).

Suicide comes about because of hopelessness and impatience. Christians will groan, but we cannot be hopeless and impatient for we serve a loving heavenly Father and an understanding elder brother.

So put on hope and patience as you groan within yourself. So learn to cultivate hope and patience.

How can you cultivate hope and patience? There is no better way than reading, hearing and meditating on the promises of God, and making use of every opportunity to remind yourself of God’s promises. We saw previously that death and decay in nature ought to remind us of God’s promise of better things to come. So it must be. Let us remind ourselves constantly that God has promised and He will keep His Word. When we do so, we will put on and cultivate the hope and patience that the Holy Spirit works in our hearts.

Finally, let me address you if you have for some reason read up to this point, but yet do not really appreciate the kind of groaning of the soul that we have been talking about. You may know something about groaning under suffering. But you are neither suffering for Christ, nor do you know what it is to groan under the burden of sin.

Maybe you are a child, you know what it is to cry when your parents spank you. But if your parents did not find out about your sin, then your sin does not trouble you.

Or maybe you are an adult, and the same if true with you. You have been indulging in some immoral activity, but because no one knows, you are not bothered. Or you have no regards to the speed limit. You only slow down when you see the speed trap. Or you don’t really care about keeping the Sabbath. Because you don’t care, you don’t groan in your heart when you break God’s law.

If I am describing you, then, I must warn you that you are in a very dangerous situation. If you do not groaning for your sin today, you end up weeping and gnashing your teeth for your sin tomorrow.

This is the warning of Scripture. May I warn you not to continue in the foolish way? God is holy and just. You must fear him, or you will for all eternity cringe in fear.

Think about the wrath of God that will be poured down on you if you remain in sin. Groan. If you cannot groan for sin today, groan for the punishment that awaits you. If you truly groan and you go to the Lord confessing that you are a sinner deserving God’s wrath, you will find salvation and deliverance in Christ Jesus.

For Christ Jesus says:

“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart; and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Mt 11:28-30). Amen.

—JJ Lim