The Apostle Paul knew that all was not well in the world. He knew suffering – both personally and in the lives of those he served and served with. Since taking up the call to follow Christ, Paul has been on the outer. He is no longer a respected Pharisee. He is more – fugitive. A rebel running.
But somehow this did not surprise Paul. In casting his lot with Jesus, Paul has aligned himself and his ministry with one who was rejected by the very authorities he once rigorously, zealously, defended.
But it is no longer these who set his agenda. He is now led by God – indeed, ‘…by the (very) Spirit of God…’. He is one who cries ‘Abba’, witnessing to his understanding that he is a child of God, an ‘heir’ of God, a ‘joint heir’ with Christ.
And so Paul suffers alongside his Messiah.
Of course, this is not a hopeless suffering. Indeed, it could only be described as hope-full. Paul lives in full expectation that he will one day know a glory foreshadowed by nothing less than the resurrected Christ.
And the two – suffering and glory – are not worthy of comparison. Paul suffers in expectation.
And this is not an expectation shared exclusively by Paul and his fellow believers. Indeed, it is all creation that waits for the restoration of God. Our universe lives in hope – praying for the same freedom that the children of God pray for – resurrection freedom. Paul sees the groans of all creation (including ours) as signs of something new coming to birth. God, Jesus, God’s people, God’s creation, are all working in one direction – freedom.
Yes, we are a part of God’s grand plan. And we possess a reminder – the ‘first fruits of the Spirit’ are ours.
Ours are labour pains of hope. God is doing something new – as new, unexpected, and unimaginable as the resurrection itself. The raised Christ was a glimpse of God’s dream for everyone and everything.
Indeed it is so unimaginable that we are in need of the very Spirit of God to help us hope and wait with patience. This is not a passive patience but as active as the patience of an expectant mother. It is a patience full of prayer, planning, naming, preparation.
How could mere words ever be enough to pray and intercede for such a vision? It will take the depths of God’s sigh to express such wonders.
Such prayer is more than mere wishing for the best. It gives birth to hope that acts, participates, works for the freedom God offers. It may be invisible to others, and at times to us, but as we live in such hope we experience and live out salvation.
I suspect we are in great need of the Spirit of God if we are to truly live somewhere in between this yearning and patience.
Could we ever live out the hope of the resurrected Christ without the very presence of God?