The God Who Searches and Works for His People

The God Who Searches and Works for His People

‘blessed Lord, it is you who caused all holy scriptures to be written for our learning. ‘ And so we ask then that you would allow us to hear them, to read, to mark, to learn them. ‘And Father, that we would embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of eternal life, which you have given to us in our savior, Jesus Christ, in whose name we pray. Amen. Beginning in verse 27, ‘ Likewise, the spirit helps in our weakness, for We do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the spirit himself interceives for us with groanings too deep for words. And he, who searches hearts, knows what is the mind of the spirit, because the spirit interceives for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God, all things work together for the good. For those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew, he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his son, in order they might be the first born among many brothers. And those whom he he also called. And those whom he called, he also justified.

And those whom he justified, he also glorified. The word of the Lord. Please be seated. Last week, we looked at the full access that we have to the Father as his children. We can boldly go and, as it were, help ourselves to the fridge because we belong to him. Children. No good thing does God withholds from his children. But that is also a sticking point for us, too. Because at least from our advantage, it seems that he does withhold lots of good things from us. We live this out in our homes all the time, too. We are sure that we either need something or need to do something, and then we go ask mom or dad, and they say, No. And then we start the pleading, You don’t understand, or the why. That is how often we can come to God. With the Lord, it works in two ways. Not only do we not get what we think we should, but he also allows things in our lives that we don’t want. And that’s why so many can be angry with God. They We want a God big enough to solve their problems, but they are upset if he has reasons for allowing certain things that might be beyond their comprehension.

And it doesn’t seem like God is working for them. But because our God is at work in our lives, in all things, we must trust him even when it’s beyond the horizon of our present understanding. Paul has told us that living in a fallen world means that at times we groan, creation groans, and the spirit groans. But there is great future glory, the hope that awaits us, even while we live in present distresses of this life. Our Triune God is at work in our lives from start to finish. And Paul, he points us to this comfort for our great assurance. God, who searches the heart, knows us better than we know ourselves, and he has put his plan in action long before we were ever born. Well, as we look then at the God who searches, even as the hope we have for future glory is to sustain us now trudging through the inglorious, so too the Holy spirit sustains us in our current weaknesses. Paul says, Likewise, the spirit helps us in our weakness. And the spirit, he helps us by coming alongside us. He shares the burden. This is the same word used that Martha used when she complained to Jesus that Mary should be helping her with the work.

The spirit helps us. He bears our burden. Well, what does it mean this human weakness that he refers to? Well, certainly it’s our weakness in prayer. But more than that, it’s the weakness we all experience living in a fallen world, the tension between what is yet to come in the present age that reminds us continually that it’s not yet here. And then Paul goes on, For we do not know what to pray for as we ought. Now, none of us can confidently say what the will of God is in a particular situation. Of course, you don’t have to express this every time you pray, but there should be this attitude of, If it is your will, God. Because we don’t presume to know what God wants. But all is not lost, because Paul continues, But the spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. Now, some of us thought this refers to speaking in tongues, but there’s nothing given here to support that. Paul very clearly has said in 1 Corinthians that not all receive that gift. But here he’s speaking about all believers. And these groanings are imperceptible to Christians themselves.

Several have commented, they said, The spirit’s groanings are not spoken, but they do not need to be since God knows the spirit’s intention without it being expressed. I mentioned this last Last week, how the Lord can answer prayer that we really need and not the one that we pray for. How St. Augustine’s mother, Monica, prayed that her son would not travel to Rome because she was sure that he would be further corrupted there. But Rome was actually the place that the Lord got a hold of him. Her real prayer was, Lord, save my son. See, that’s the spirit’s work of intercession. Praying out to God the thing that is actually needed. And Paul goes on, he says, speaking of God, And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the spirit, because the spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. The Lord knows our hearts. Often in scripture, we’re reminded That is the Lord who searches our inmost being. And there’s perfect harmony in our Triune God. The Holy spirit prays in perfect agreement with the will of the Father. That is super good news for Because in all the terrible and confusing things that can happen to us, God, the searcher of hearts, knows what we need when we do not.

And so we are actually encouraged to pray To pour our hearts to the Lord beyond our own limitation because the Holy spirit is doing what we could not. And part of this great work is redirecting our hearts and our minds toward the will of God. And sometimes we do become aware of that. For example, there’s nothing wrong with praying for healing. At some point, though, it becomes apparent that that is not the way the Lord is going to answer that prayer. And so we redirect in what we now ask of him in those circumstances. Sometimes we’re aware of it, sometimes not. But a life lived, yielded to the Holy spirit is to transform our lives. There’s a sense that we grow in our prayers, and even so, we are weak, and the Lord himself is working on our behalf, which is more good news for us. It’s God who is at work. Paul goes on. He says, We know that for those who love God, all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. Now, for God’s people, there is no in your life that cannot bring about good in it.

No event, because God is at work. Now, it does not mean that bad events are good things. If you break your arm, that’s a bad thing. It’s not a good thing. It does not mean that he mixes the bad and the good together to make it palatable. Nor does it mean that if you put up with whatever the bad thing is, then the Lord would give you a a better thing. I lost my job, so he has an even better, higher paying job for me. No, there’s no guarantee of that. That’s not what Paul is saying. As always, the hard part of living by faith is that it’s the Lord who determines what the good for our life needs to be. And that, admittedly, is hard, isn’t it? Because he’s preparing us for future glory, not a comfy life here and now. We’ve been called by God to be like his son. There’s this astounding verse in the Book of Hebrews. Hebrews 5, it says, Although Jesus was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. That’s amazing to consider. Jesus foreordained path included earthly suffering in obedience. There was no shortcut taken. He learned obedience in the sense that he followed the path that God had laid out all the way to the end.

He completed what God had started. The God who searches our hearts also knows what our hearts need and has appointed a path. He uses our suffering to make us more like Jesus in our character. You see, included in the all things are the same all kinds of things that happen to everybody. Just because you’re a Christian, it does not mean you’re exempt from difficult things. Christians get cancer. They get into car wrecks. Natural and manmade disasters destroy their homes, too. And Paul, he tells us, Stop being shocked by the things that happen. We’re not exempt from the all things part, but we’re also not left alone. Paul goes on to spell out this work of God in great detail. He presents this with five verbs, what John Stott refers to as five unshakable convictions. You think about what’s one of the hardest parts about suffering? It often is feeling like it’s pointless, like it’s arbitrary. And what does Paul affirm? None of it’s pointless, none of it’s arbitrary. God is at work. God has a plan. In verse 29, he says, For those whom he forenew, he predestined to be conformed to the image of his son.

Now, while we don’t even know what to pray for, God has foreknown us. Now, this does not mean that he peaks ahead to the end of the chapter to see what’s going to happen. It means he maps it out. He knows in advance what his purposes are for his people that he has called to himself. Not a peak ahead. It’s highly relational. It’s not just a philosophical abstraction. I appreciate Scottish theologian John Murray, his observations here. He said, No is used in a sense, practically synonymous with love. Whom he foreknew is virtually equivalent to whom he forloved. It is not God going, I see ahead into the future, so I will decide by what you have done, whether I will like you No, God has set his people apart for himself. He knows them personally, and he loves them. In four other occurrences of this particular word in the New Testament, Acts, Romans, and 1 Peter, it speaks of God’s foreknowledge as entering into a relationship with before. It’s relational knowing. The basis, the ground of our salvation is God’s free grace given to us in Jesus Christ. It is not grounded in God peaking ahead to see the choices we would make independent of him.

Those he forenew, he predustined. This biblical word means what it says. God decided ahead of time. Here, Paul is not only talking about God’s… He’s talking about God’s people, that God has predestined them. He’s addressing this complaint that these hard things make it seem like God doesn’t care about me. Why would God allow these things into my life? No, none of what’s happening is an accident. God has mapped out for you his plan to conform you to the image of his son. Paul says, in order that Jesus might be the first born among many brothers, God, in his great love, included you to be in Christ. Then he says, Whoever he predestined, he called. Those he called, he justified. Those whom he justified, he also glorified. See, God not only maps it out, he has the power to make it so. God is the one who initiates. He’s the one who chooses us. I appreciate what New Testament scholar N. T. Wright, he said about this. He said, This is a mystery which Paul does not attempt to penetrate either here elsewhere. Indeed, he concentrates on that which God planned and purpose for them. They should be shaped into the pattern and the model of Jesus.

This is so Christocentric. God has mapped out how you and I are to look and be transformed in the image of Jesus. And he speaks of being justified. He’s covered that sufficiently. But it is your relational status with God has been updated by Jesus. You are in him. His righteousness, his right standing with the Father is now accounted to you. That is great news. The righteousness of Jesus has been accounted to you. His right standing with the Father is now your right standing with the Father. And with this, he said, he has glorified us. Notice it’s the past tense. One scholar said that this tense, this last word is amazing. It’s the most daring anticipation of faith, even that the New Testament contains. So sure and certain because from God’s perspective, it is already accomplished. And what is true of Jesus as our Messiah is now true for us. And so his suffering is to be true of us as well. And he right goes on. He said, The steady beat of the verbs in Paul’s rhetoric underscores the steady beat of God’s unshakable purpose set forth in the Messiah, completed by the spirit, this unshakable purpose.

Now, does this explain the great mystery of how God works? No, not really. And there always be people mad about this, demanding that an omniscient God explain to them in a way that they can understand why he does what he does. Now, I’ve spent a bit of time trying to understand not really succeeding, how gravity is not a force in the theory of relativity. There’s no gravitational field. The straight line of matter moving through space, time, being bent by heavy masses of objects. I don’t really get it entirely. When I think I do, I’m still stumped. And yet, for my lack of understanding, still works. I don’t have to understand it for it to work. And I’m not really mad about it. Maybe if I fell off a ladder, I might be mad about it because it’d be more personal. But people get upset with God for hard events. It doesn’t remove the hard events. They’re just left now with what it seems like is arbitrary in meaningless circumstances. I don’t know how a loving God could do X. Well, X still happened. Now what? Romans 8 is filled with divine assurances from start to finish.

I’m not even sure how to pray. The Holy spirit in me is interceding on my behalf. I don’t understand how all these life events are going to work out. The Lord has already mapped all of this out, and it ends in future glory. Our Triune God is fully at work in the lives of his people. Now, when someone is in the thick of life circumstances, it’s usually not very comforting to give them Bible verses like bandaids. So applying some of this in terms of human suffering. Job’s friends were a great support until they opened their mouths. Most of the time, just be present with people suffering and avoid saying too much. It’s hard because we feel so helpless. It’s like, I’ve got to do something. Remember, Jesus wept at Lazarus whom. He sighed deeply at the healing of a deaf and the mute man. Human suffering is hard, it’s difficult, and it affects us deeply. There’s no removing that. Paul has given us solid truths of assurance to help bolster us in those times that we can draw strength from in our hour of need. The spirit himself intercedes for us with groaning too deep for words.

For those who love God, all things work together for good. For those whom he foreknew, he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his son. Those are true and those are real. And we build those firmly into the truths of our faith, especially when the sun is shining in this glory, it’s wonderful. To hold strong, insecure, to sucreus in those days when the clouds come and a hard hand of providence locks out the great rays of sunshine that are still there, but they’re hard to see. It doesn’t change. The circumstances can be awful. They can be wonderful. But in the midst of them all, God is at work, drawing us through our very lives to an appointed end, a future glory in him. I don’t have to fully understand it for it to be true. I am called by faith to trust him, to worship him, to give my heart to the God who searches my heart, who is dedicated in his love to changing it, causing me to call out, ‘Abba, Father, ‘ in worship and joy. That is the assurance that God has given to his people in his son. With me.

Father, as we come before you this day, Lord, I know all of us have walked through difficult times. And Father, I pray that you would continue to sustain us. We thank you that your spirit, he calls out even in a way that we do not understand. And Father, we bless you for that kindness. And Lord, we ask that you would strengthen our faith, the hope that you have given us in your son, that, Father, that we, too, would learn to be content in all circumstances. Because, Father, you are able to do all things in us. We bless you this day through your son. We bless you, Father, Son, and spirit. Amen.

Discaimer: This sermon text was generated by an automated transcription service.