Just Another 9-5 In The Squirrel Cage?

Text: Romans 8:18-22

In the name of Jesus. Amen.


"How has your day been going?"


"I'm still kickin'. It could be worse. I've been living the dream! You know, it is the daily grind. Just another 9-5 in the squirrel cage."  


When you and I are really honest, the phrases above tend to describe how life typically goes for the average person. When asked, "How are you doing?" the automatic response is, "Good; great." However, more often than not, these responses of "Good; great!" are cliché. We say "good" and "doing great" as a commonplace response. However, in reality, more often than not, we tend not to be doing good and great, but instead, we are living through the daily grind – we are still kickin’ in this difficult world


Now, this probably doesn't sound too inspiring coming from a Pastor and this pulpit, but that is how it is for most people. Most people in this life are typically not doing great and good, but more often than not, they groan with life's difficulties.  


Take the reading from the Epistle of Romans for an example. The Apostle Paul tells you and me that all of mankind groans as if it is in labor pains with the whole of creation. This groaning is a condition of sorrow, a lamentation, a sigh of agony, or a deep grumble. Furthermore, the Apostle Paul tells us that he does not just see this sighing and groaning in certain people, but it is something that happens in all of creation. In other words, it is important to mention that we Christians are included in this groaning. That is to say, being a Chrisitan does not magically free you and me from the groaning of all creation. We Christians still have a foot in this created world, and so, with the world and with every other pagan, we all groan together. This means that versions of Christianity that promise you and me a perfect and blissful life are, well…. they are simply lying. It is heretical and, frankly, naive. To quote a character in the movie, Princess Bride, “Life is pain; anyone who says differently is selling something.” Indeed, there is no such thing as being a Christian and being free from the groans of creation.


But what does it exactly look like to groan with creation?      


Dear friends, whatever direction you turn, you will notice how creation struggles against destruction and experiences pain. In other words, everywhere you look, you will see how every creature tries to preserve its life and is under constant threat of death. And so, the suffering and groaning are unceasing and continuous.  


Perhaps it could be argued that we have minimized these struggles and threats a bit more in recent decades. For example, compare this generation to a generation from several hundred years ago. We now have climate-controlled houses, more accessible food, better sanitation, more advanced health care, and various drugs that eliminate pain and calm a troubled mind. However, the struggle and constant threat are still present, even though they may be kept at arm's length. Though it won't be popular to say this, all of us are one bad turn away from a fatal car accident, one bad infection away from the ICU, one riot way from civil unrest, and one bad rain season away from famine. Indeed, our attempts to keep our groaning at a minimum are very thin.  


As much as we try to keep this groaning and suffering to a minimum through our modern advancements, this groaning still bleeds through. We experience this suffering and groaning when natural disasters strike. We see this suffering and groaning on social media posts. We feel this suffering and groaning in our very own bodies - when we wake up in the mornings or when the recent blood work numbers come back. We hear of this suffering and groaning in the gossip of fractured social relationships at school or work. Frankly, it is everywhere. 


Indeed, Paul says that you, me, our neighbor, and all of creation will groan. This is reality. And so, contrary to what some motivational speakers may say, and contrary to what some politicians may promise, and contrary to what some environmentalists assert – we human beings will not be able to save ourselves or save this earth from suffering and groaning. No amount of makeup, no amount of positive thinking, no amount of medical advancement, and no amount of technological advancement can completely remove this suffering and groaning of creation.   


This is so because the earth and all creation are under a curse because of mankind's sin. God subjected all of creation – which includes you and me – to futile and slavish corruption because of our sin. And so, like our dying bodies, this old world will end. Things will get worse in creation before they get better. This does not mean that we are supposed to help things get worse, but instead, all of creation will constantly and continuously suffer and groan to the very end of the age. Mark this; the suffering and groaning of the world and your lives will never improve, never cease, but will continue until you find your end in death or the end of this age comes first. Bluntly stated, get used to it. It is what it is. 


But there has to be more to this – right? It can't be just suffering and groaning all the time? Dear friends, this is where you need to be careful as a Christian. The Apostle Paul never leaves the door open for your created life and all of creation to be saved and turned around by our own efforts. There is no untapped potential within you or creation to turn this suffering and groaning around. However, there are hundreds of pastors, motivational speakers, politicians, and environmentalists that believe they can save humanity and creation. The Apostle Paul says otherwise. Only God saves His created and His creation. In fact, He already has.  


Baptized Saints, this world and your life is passing through a vale of tears. In other words, you will continue to walk through this world and groan with all creation, but as you walk through this life, you walk towards an unseen but certain future of hope. Unlike pagans, who are near-sighted and cannot comprehend life beyond the here and now, you, as a Christian, have hope in a new body and a new heaven and earth, for the present body, heaven, and earth is passing away. In other words, as a Christian, you will feel the pain of death, and you will groan with creation all the days of your life; however, at the same time, you have a real conscious longing and waiting for a real resurrection and a new creation without sin, death, and the devil.  


You see, your Lord Jesus Christ has had the last word. He died and was resurrected. And so, you, too, will die, resulting in the pain, suffering, and groaning of this world to die as well. And because you are baptized into Christ, you are put into Jesus' grave, where you will experience a resurrection of your body where you will never suffer or groan ever again. And what will happen to you will also happen to this creation, as this creation will be transformed, renewed, and re-created under God's blessing and His life-giving Spirit.  


And so, dear Baptized Christian, you live this life not believing in the empty promises of those who think they can fix this created world. But rather, you live this life in hope for who you are in Christ and what Christ will do for you on the great last day. Yes, you will continue to groan as you suffer with the rest of creation; however, as you groan, you also lean forward with hope knowing that this present age will pass. The resurrection and renewal of all things are right around the corner.  


Maybe we could sum this Christian life up with this oxymoron – we Christians walk to our deaths with hope. We groan in this life with assurance. We suffer through trials with peace. Like the Apostle Paul, we can say, 


"We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair;  persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed." (2 Corinthians 4:8-9)


We can say all this because Jesus has already revealed that He has the last word and will make all things right – for you and me. 


Blessed Baptized Saints, this present vale of tears will pass, but your Jesus will endure forever and will make all things new.  


In the name of Jesus. Amen.

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