- Only One Life
- Romans 8:18-27
- Lyndol Loyd October 20, 2019
This morning we are pressing forward in our series based on Romans 8, one of the most powerful passages of scripture that there is. It starts with the concept that there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Then last week, Pastor Brian moved us further along by helping us understand that God’s power is available to help us live a life that sets us free from the power of sin.
Today we are going to pick up with Romans 8:18, but before we do that I want to ask you to contemplate the following quote that you will find on the screen: “Only one life will soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last.”
I don’t know that we always give much thought to it, but the truth is that NOT everything we do will last into eternity. It is possible for us to live an entire lifetime on this earth and end up empty-handed in eternity, with nothing to show for our pursuits when we finally see God face-to-face.
If I allow that to sink in for a moment or two, I begin to realize what an incredible tragedy that would be.
You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to realize that we will be spending a whole lot more time in eternity than we will spend on this earth. So doesn’t it make sense that we should concentrate and focus on the things that will last beyond this lifetime?
It is the easiest thing in the world to pursue and seek after the things that cry out for our attention in this lifetime… and there are plenty of them. But there is another option; we can make a conscious decision to invest our hearts, minds, souls, and strength in things that will make an eternal impact.
Most of what we seek after and pursue isn’t going to last forever. Many of these things are not bad, they just aren’t forever. If we want to get our hearts, minds, and schedules oriented around that which is eternal, we need to remember the words of Jesus when he was asked, “What is the greatest commandment”.
37 Jesus replied, “‘You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”
– Matthew 22:37-40.
Jesus emphasized that God and people are what will last forever. This is where we should place our energies; how we should invest our lives. When we do, we are on the right track.
“Only one life will soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last.”
Our scripture passage from Romans 8 helps us understand this truth all the more. This morning we are going to look at Romans 8:18-27.
18 Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later. 19 For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are. 20 Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, 21 the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. 22 For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us. 24 We were given this hope when we were saved. (If we already have something, we don’t need to hope for it. 25 But if we look forward to something we don’t yet have, we must wait patiently and confidently.)
26 And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. 27 And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will.
Paul is making a simple, profound statement. If we could take the weight of all our suffering and struggles of this life and place it on one side of a giant scale, then place the glory that is awaiting us as children of God when we get to heaven, the scales would always tip toward the glory we will receive. The weight of glory is so much greater that there is really no comparison.
Of course, like Alexander from the famous children’s story there will be “terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days.” There will be moments (hours, days, weeks) when this will not feel like the case because we have not yet experienced the full goodness and glory of God.
But the truth remains, even when it is hard to comprehend. When we embrace this spiritual reality, we get a whole new perspective on suffering. We also find ourselves committing to invest our one and only life in the things that matter most to God and less on the temporary things of this world.
IT WILL ALL BE WORTH IT… YOU CAN BANK ON IT Paul paints the picture with bold, broad strokes. No matter what we face in this life, no matter how bad it seems, no matter how much it hurts, no matter how deep it cuts, the glory of heaven will one day make these sufferings seem small.
- He isn’t saying that our struggles do not matter, or that our losses are insignificant.
- He is not declaring that God does not care about our pain and suffering.
What he is doing is drawing a contrast. Compared to all that awaits those who follow Jesus… compared to the glory that is just on the horizon, compared to these things, there is no comparison.
For those who set their hearts on the eternal glory of God, for those who run the race set before them, for those who strive to gain the eternal prize, there is great news!
Paul says, “It will be worth it all. When we contrast the hardships of this life with the glory that awaits us, heaven wins every time. Trust God. You can bank on his goodness and promises.”
In many ways, every follower of Jesus is building their whole life on this promise. We are counting on the fact that someday God is going to say to us, “Well done my son. Well done my daughter. You ran the right race. You now receive the eternal prize. You didn’t choose to go the instant gratification route. You didn’t lead a life of self-indulgence. You lived with one eye on eternity and you made tough choices. It has all been worth it and great is your reward.”
TWO RACES WE CAN ENTER 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 reads, “24 Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! 25 All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. 26 So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing. 27 I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.”
So there are two races that every human being has the opportunity to enter. The first race is an earthly one and the passage likens it to training for the Olympics.
In this instance we train, practice and spend a lifetime preparing to compete for a perishable wreath, a prize that will wilt in a matter of hours or days. This is a picture of how we can fill our hours and days seeking things that might be fun, nice, even harmless, but they do not last forever.
There is another kind of race we can choose to enter. It is a heavenly pursuit. When we train, practice, and commit ourselves to winning this race, God offers an imperishable wreath, a reward that goes into eternity and lasts forever. This is the race God invites us to sign up for.
There are many ways to train for the second race:
- studying God’ s Word
- going deep in prayer
- learning to fast
- Seeking God through solitude
- committing to service
- worshipping wholeheartedly
These are among the spiritual disciplines and practices that will pave the way to victory.
Paul lets us know that a regimen of strict training and submission of our lives to God’s will is part of the package. This is a core element when it comes to being a follower of Jesus.
HANG IN THERE
Speaking as a spiritual leader and friend, Paul cheers on those who follow Jesus. He knows the journey gets hard. He understands the temptation to give up. He too has felt the burden of carrying a heavy load for Jesus, and knows how the weight can feel crushing. So he urges them – and us – to hang in there, to stay faithful… even when things get difficult.
- When the cross of Christ gets heavy.
- When the rigors of doing the right thing get exhausting.
- When the responsibilities for teaching and discipling get overwhelming.
- When the weight of serving others gets discouraging.
- When the sacrifices of giving money get tiring.
- When attempts to lead people to Christ feel futile
- Endure and press on.
The light and momentary affliction that you are experiencing at this moment is producing for you an eternal reward that is beyond your wildest dreams. Stay in the battle. Remain faithful.
Scripture teaches us that a great cloud of witnesses is surrounding each of us – cheering, rejoicing, praying, and spurring us on. We might not be able to see them or hear their cheers, but they are real.
Sometimes it helps to imagine the crowd… to think about those who have gone before us, those who ran hard and crossed the line, who understand what we are going through.
Perhaps we’ll picture a faithful Christian grandparent or maybe the Apostle Paul himself urging us on from the grandstands of heaven. As we hear them cheer, “Hang in there, it will all be worth it,” our hearts will be stirred.
We are also called to travel light. In the times when we feel it is hard to run the race that God has set before us, we should examine ourselves to see if we are trying to run with a 100 pound backpack of disobedience strapped on. Confession, repentance, and casting sin aside are what we need to do in these moments.
Maybe the most inspiring thing we can do as we seek to run the race of faith, is to look hard at the finish line and see Jesus standing there with his nail-pierced hands stretched out toward us. As we fix our eyes upon him and remember the race he ran for us, the price he paid, we can press on and live the life he has given us to the fullest.
HELP ALONG THE WAY
We have one life to live for God… only this one life. When we make the decision to pursue the things that last forever, that have eternal impact, we are on the right track. When we have purpose in our hearts to run the race, eyes fixed on Jesus, and remain faithful to the end, heaven notices.
At these pivotal moments we realize that the inseparable love and presence of God is ready to help us move forward. At every moment the Holy Spirit is filling us, empowering us, and interceding for us in perfect harmony with the Father’s will.
When we feel weak and even our prayers are faint, we don’t have to worry. In these times we can remember that God knows us in all our humanity and he says, “Some of you beat yourselves up because your prayers aren’t strong enough. I don’t want that to separate us. My Spirit, who knows your heart better than you do, will pray on your behalf.”
Just think about it. God even helps us pray when we don’t know what to say. What a comfort and hope we have in the Holy Spirit. Even when we run out of words and don’t know how to pray, the Spirit steps in for us.
What a reminder that we are inseparable from God. He even prays when we come to the end of ourselves. What an inspiration to keep living this one life we have for the glory of God.
LOVING AND BEING LOVED God longs for all his children to make a radical shift in their values and priorities. He wants us to stop running in a cheap race, looking for cheap thrills, and competing for a cheap prize.
Instead he wants to see us enter the real race, the eternal race, and compete for the real prize… an imperishable wreath. He wants to see us start focusing on building our heavenly portfolios and less on having it all here and now.
He desires his beloved children to grow more in love with him. Since the first and greatest commandment is to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and all your mind”, one of the best things we can do is pour our energies into this pursuit.
In the days and weeks ahead may our prayer be that our life’s song does sing to God. May we…
- Worship with greater passion.
- Live for him with deeper devotion.
- Converse with him more often.
- Be mindful of him and his will throughout the day.
- Yield ourselves to him with every ounce of intensity we can muster
- Use our gifts and abilities for his purposes in greater measure.