Introduction: Look around and you find hardships. Natural disasters.
Loss of jobs. Human disasters. Some hardships are so terrible that
I do not like to think about them. Consider the miners who have been
trapped alive underground for more than two weeks. I just read that
those on the surface were able to get air, water and food to the
miners. But, rescuers project, it will be four months before those
miners can be rescued! Other disasters are of a spiritual nature.
What does God say about the hardships that we face? Do we have any
control over our lives? Let’s jump into our study of the Bible and
- Read Romans 8:18. How should we look at suffering?
- Is Paul writing about heaven? If so, why does he say
“revealed in us?” (Heaven is the ultimate cure for
suffering. But, suffering can raise us to a level
that we better reflect God’s glory.)
- Read Romans 8:19-21. Who else, besides humans, is
suffering? (“The creation.”)
- What is the creation? (The commentators cannot agree
on what is being described by Paul. Let’s just say
that it means more than Christians.)
- Is the creation waiting for God to be revealed
in you? How long will it have to wait?
- Read Romans 8:22-25. Are Christians free from groaning in
life? (Paul says there is a lot of groaning in the world
– and Christians are not exempt from it.)
- What is our hope? (Heaven: our ultimate solution to
living through times of groaning.)
- Compare Romans 8:15 with Romans 8:23. I though we
were already adopted as sons of God? (Our adoption
becomes complete in heaven.)
- Read Romans 8:26-27. What does Paul mean “in that same
way?” (Just as our hope is based on something we cannot
see, so the Holy Spirit cannot be seen.)
- What is the first thing that you do when you run
into a “groan” problem? (My first reaction is to
think of a solution. My second reaction is to pray.
I need to pray about reversing the order of those
- What if you face a problem with no apparent
solution? What if you don’t know what to ask
God? (We are weak and we do not know how to
pray. The Holy Spirit will help us with that.
The Holy Spirit takes our miserable confused
prayers and transforms them.)
- What does it mean that the Holy Spirit
“intercedes for us with groans that words
cannot express?” Is the Holy Spirit groaning to
God on our behalf? (Yes! Our words may not
adequately express our desperation – yet the
Holy Spirit transmits that message to the rest
of the Trinity.)
- Our Solution to Problems
- Read Romans 8:28. What should give us confidence in every
problem? (God is working out the problems of those who
- Read Romans 8:31-32. How can we know that we can trust
God? (God gave up Jesus for us! How can we doubt God’s
- Why is confidence in God’s love so important? (God
is the powerhouse of the universe! If God is with
us, who can overcome God? We need not worry about
the outcome of our problems.)
- Let’s skip down to Romans 8:37-39. How can we be more
than conquerors? Isn’t that the top rank? (Conquerors can
later be conquered. The Bible tells us that no power on
earth can separate us from God’s love! Friend, what
better news can we have than that?)
- A Defective Solution?
- God promises us that nothing can overcome us. He promises
that nothing can separate us from His love. He promises
that heaven is the ultimate answer to all of our
hardships. Do these promises apply equally to everyone?
- Let’s skip down several verses and read Romans 9:10-14.
If Esau was hated by God, before he did anything good or
bad, how would you answer the question “Is God unjust?”
- Just as we decided that nothing can separate us from
God’s love, we learn that God can separate us from
His love. Is this unjust? ( Romans 9:14 says, “No.
God is just.”)
- Do we need to fear that God will walk away from us
sometime because we are no longer part of the
- Read Job 1:6-11. What is Satan’s charge against God?
(That He is unfair. Job serves God because God gives him
- What if Satan came to God and said “Isaac serves you
because you gave him special favors.” Esau doesn’t
serve you because you hate him. What would you say
to those charges? (The whole point of the book of
Job is to show that Job served God voluntarily, not
because he was bribed. If the charge is “people have
no choice,” it is even worse than Satan’s charge.)
- Let’s study what lead Paul to this point to see if we can
work out this apparent conflict. Read Romans 9:1-5. Did
the Jewish race have an unfair advantage? (I’m not going
to say it was unfair, but they certainly had an
- Read Romans 9:6-8. What does this suggest about the issue
of whether humans can freely choose God? (Being in a
relationship with God is not a matter of birth –
something over which we have no choice. Israel is not
natural children, but “children of the promise.” We can
choose to accept God’s promise. The “God hated Esau”
comment did not mean Esau was eternally lost. Simply that
Isaac was especially blessed.)
- Read Romans 9:9. How much free-choice is involved in that
promise? (God seems to be saying something else – that
Abraham and Sarah did nothing to merit the promise.)
- Now, re-read Romans 9:10-14. Is Paul contradicting what
he wrote in Romans 9:6-8?
- Read Romans 9:17-18. How much free-choice did Pharaoh
have to become a child of the promise?
- How much free-choice do I have if God chooses to
“harden” my heart?
- Read Romans 9:19. Are you among the “ones” who say this?
If God hardens my heart, how can He blame me for my sin!
- Read Romans 9:20-21. Is Paul right? (Of course he is
right! As humans created by God, we have no right to
accuse God of acting improperly.)
- But, does that make the situation fair? (God may
have the power. God may have the right. But, an
outside observer might still conclude God was not
- Doesn’t this conclusion seem foreign to the God
- Step back a moment. In the Egypt versus the Hebrews
situation, who were the “good guys?” (There might
not have been any good guys, but clearly the
Egyptians were wrong in their religious beliefs and
wrong in enslaving the Hebrews.)
- Had Pharaoh made a choice between good and evil
before Moses approached him? (Yes.)
- Read Romans 9:22. Who are the objects of God’s wrath? How
is He showing patience? (Wait a minute! Paul is taking us
back to basics. What do humans deserve? What did Pharaoh
deserve? We all deserve to die because we all sinned. If
God shows mercy to some, but not all, is that unfair?
- Read Romans 9:23-24. How does this text apply to Pharaoh?
(Pharaoh rejected God. God’s own people rejected Him.
But, God used Pharaoh to demonstrate His power (and love)
against the evil forces of the world.)
- Is that fair? (Yes.)
- Notice the flow of Paul’s argument. He starts out
( Romans 9:20-21) by saying God can do what He wants
and who are His created beings to complain?
However, after establishing the point that we have
no right to complain, Paul shows us why God is
acting with justice towards all created beings!
- Why do you think Paul gets into this argument over God’s
justice? Is he on a detour from his main point about
righteousness by faith? Has this something to do with
suffering? (Read Romans 9:30-33. Paul’s main point is
that God is the powerhouse in our relationship with Him.
Humans can reject God and be lost. But, righteousness by
faith is all God. Mercy is all God. Salvation is all God.
When bad things happen in life, the solution is all God.)
- Friend, we started out talking about hardship. God’s
answer to hardship is to trust Him for the future. Paul
then moved to the issue of salvation for Gentiles (those
not chosen by God). God’s answer to salvation is to
trust Him. Will you agree to do exactly that: trust God
in hardships and with your eternal salvation?
- Next week: The Election of Grace.