DEALING WITH DOUBTS AND DISCOURAGEMENT
Romans 8:28-31 28And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. 29For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified. 31What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?
Overall Background: The passage we just read is one of the most discussed passages in seminaries and theological circles. In college—I remember—you could walk by the dorm rooms and hear guys discussing “Predestination and Election” – Has God indeed predestined some people to go to heaven and some to go to hell? Has God indeed chosen some before they were even born? In seminary—I remember—hot debates over Calvinism and Arminianism, “Once saved always saved,” and “can you lose your salvation?” Because of this one passage, Christians across the world have been divided for centuries. Why? Some people have misunderstood this passage.
Please listen very carefully: the reason people misunderstand this passage is because they disregard the context surrounding this passage. Has someone ever misunderstood you and taken you out of context? In the same way, people have taken just a few verses here and there and disregarded the context of Romans 8. This chapter is not about how God saves people. This chapter is about how God keeps His people saved.
Meaning: This passage is not about whether God elects who will be saved and who will not. This passage is not about whether God predestines who will come to Him. This passage is about how God always finishes the work that He starts in the life of every believer. He never leaves a job half-done.
Application: No matter what is happening in your life; No matter how terrible things appear to you; No matter what bad things you have done; if you know Jesus Christ as your Savior, then God will work all things together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.
In Romans 7-8, Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, has been teaching us about the struggle in the life of every Christian. Romans 7:15 “For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do.” This is the struggle against the Old Nature, the Indwelling Sin, and “the evil present with me.” I am saved. I am a new creation in Christ. I have been crucified, buried, and resurrected in Christ but as long as I live in this world, I have to deal with this Old Nature. Romans 7:24 “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” The answer comes back in the next verse – Romans 7:25 “I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!” Meaning: the only way I can have victory is when I keep my eyes on Christ, when I follow Christ, when I reckon myself by faith to be in Christ.
Who helps me to keep my eyes on Christ and follow Christ and reckon myself to be in Christ? The Holy Spirit. When I get saved, God sends His Holy Spirit to live in me. As I walk in the Spirit, I put to death the deeds of the flesh. As I walk in the Spirit, He enables me to pray. Romans 8:26 “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.”
What’s more? As we face the doubts and discouragements of life, the Holy Spirit helps us every day.
I. HE HELPS US WITH OUR PAST QUESTIONS.
Romans 8:29-30 29For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.
Background: That word “foreknew” has been debated to no end. Prior to the coming of Augustine, the pastor of Hippo in North Africa in the fourth century, people had no problem with that word. It meant knowing something or someone beforehand. Augustine came along and said that foreknowledge is much more. In fact, God has elected some people out of His own free will and He knows them beforehand. Some people have said that the word for foreknowledge – “proginoskein” – has a pregnant meaning of “making someone the object of loving care.” They do that by breaking that word apart into fore + knowledge. Here’s the problem with that – let’s take that word “mouse pad.” We all know what that means. But if I were to break it apart into a mouse and a pad, it would not be correct. Now, that’s an extreme example but I hope you get the point.
Foreknowledge does not mean “God making someone an object of His love and saving them.” It simply means that God knew beforehand what we were going to do and what we were going to choose. He knew us even before we were born.
David says in Psalms 139:1-6 1 O Lord, You have searched me and known me. 2 You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thought afar off. 3 You comprehend my path and my lying down, And are acquainted with all my ways. 4 For there is not a word on my tongue, But behold, O Lord, You know it altogether (already).
Psalms 139:13-15 13 For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. 14 I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well. 15 My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret. . .”
David agrees with Paul that God knew Him beforehand. God knew what He would do, what He would choose, and what He would become.
What does He do with that knowledge? 29For whom He foreknew, He also predestined (proorizein – should be translated as pre-appointed or appointed beforehand – not to be saved but to become like Jesus) to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. God knows all my past. He knows what I have done. He knows my weaknesses. But, when I come to Him for salvation, He doesn’t turn me away. Instead, He sets me up to become like His Son, Jesus.
Listen to the rest – 30Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified. It is all past tense. Meaning: When I come to Christ, He does not wait for me to act. He goes ahead and applies everything to my account. As far as He is concerned, you are as good as in heaven – already glorified! 31What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?
Application: You may say “I don’t feel glorified. I don’t feel justified. I don’t feel called. Some days, I don’t even feel saved.” Dear friends, from God’s perspective, when He sees you, He sees Jesus. He is your brother. You are part of the family of God. What are you worried about?
The first thing the Holy Spirit does – 1. He helps us with our past questions.
II. HE HELPS US WITH OUR PRESENT NEEDS
Romans 8:32-37 32He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?
Background: That is simple enough. What do you need? Is there anything that is too much for God? Will God draw a line and say – “I can do only so much and no more.”
For e.g. If you go to buy a very expensive watch, the beautiful and ornate case is free.
Jesus promised His disciples back in John 16:23-28 23“And in that day you will ask Me nothing. Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you. 24Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full. . . 26In that day you will ask in My name, and I do not say to you that I shall pray the Father for you; 27for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me, and have believed that I came forth from God.
The same promise that Jesus made to His disciples are now made to every believer.
Application: What is destroying your peace? What eats your sleep? Have you turned to your Heavenly Father for it? Financial need, relationships, wisdom, strength, grace.
Someone says, “You don’t know how bad I have been. God’s not going to answer my prayers.” 33Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. Meaning: We not only have the Holy Spirit interceding for us but we also have Jesus praying for us.
For e.g. We often say “It’s not what you know but who you know that matters.” To be honest, it’s neither. “It’s not what you know or who you know that matters. What matters is who knows you.” Jesus, who knows our every weakness, is the one who is interceding for us.
Application: Why do we listen to the enemy? Why do listen to those who only desire to bring us pain? Why do we only think of negative thoughts? God has promised us so much more in Jesus Christ.
The Holy Spirit – 1. He helps us with our past questions; 2. He helps us with our present needs.
III. HE HELPS US WITH OUR FUTURE FEARS
35Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
Background: No matter what is coming, one thing is for sure – the love of Christ will always remain.
36As it is written: “For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” 37Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.
38For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Jacob cried in Genesis – “all these things are against me.”
Paul replies in Romans – “all things work together for God for me.”
Application: Are you saved? Are you looking to Christ? Are you trusting the Holy Spirit to help you?