The Great Eight (Part 21)

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 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. (Romans 8:26-27 ESV). So, let’s wind up our look at these verses of our reading. Why does the Holy Spirit pray for us in this way? It certainly sounds strange to us: God praying to God according to the will of God. Wow, that stretches me enormously. However, the answer to this conundrum is very important. One of the greatest preachers and theologians of recent decades was Charles Spurgeon. Perhaps he has said it most concisely and best: “Groanings which cannot be uttered are often prayers which cannot be refused.” I want to show you five statements that will both inform and encourage you in your prayer: First, God created the universe and all that is in it to display the riches of the glory of his grace. God’s redemptive work is not to show His power and character as much as it is to pour out his mercy on those who have been chosen to be His children, “the vessels of mercy” (cf. Romans 9:23). Second, this act of mercy is designed so that we may now act in a way that calls attention to the glory of God’s grace. Paul says, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). Third, the obedience and service of God’s people will glorify him most when they consciously and intentionally depend on him for the grace and power to do what they do. There really is no victory in self-sufficiency. Fourth, prayer for God’s help is one way that God preserves and manifests the dependence of his people on his grace and power. The necessity of prayer is a constant reminder and display of our dependence on God for everything, so that he gets the glory when we get the help. Fifth, when the Spirit inspires and directs the groanings in our hearts, the ultimate purpose of the universe happens: God gets the glory. The progression is simple: because God the Spirit creates the groanings in us, God gets the glory; because God the Father is the one who hears and performs what the Spirit asks, God gets glory; because God the Son purchased for sinners every blessing they ever receive, God gets glory. And this produces a conscious gratefulness in us....

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The Great Eight (Part 20)

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 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. (Romans 8:26-27 ESV). Now let’s look at how the Holy Spirit prays for us. In the last part of our reading Paul says, “The Spirit himself intercedes for us with “groanings too deep for words.” There has been some disagreement through the years as the exact meaning of this phrase. Is this us groaning; is it the Holy Spirit groaning? If the Holy Spirit is simply communicating with the Father about what we need, I cannot imagine why he would have to use wordless groans. He knows exactly what he wants to ask for. There is not the slightest confusion in his mind and he is never at a loss for how to communicate with the Father. So I doubt that these groans are groans that the Spirit addresses to the Father which are not our groans. The groans are in our heart; they penetrate the very fabric of our soul. That is where they are experienced as groanings and heard. And the Spirit, who searches hearts, knows and acts accordingly. In other words, the Spirit doesn’t send his groanings to the Father in heaven directly. He registers them in our hearts. That is where they are experienced as groans; they are in our hearts. This is the mark of our fallen world. This kind of groaning is part of the weakness and futility and pain and decay of this world. However, when we understand the truth already presented (vv 15-16): “You have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a Spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God.” This is the witness of the Spirit. This heartfelt cry that God is our Father is inspired and directed by the Spirit. It is his witness! So here we have a helpful analogy and parallel with the groaning of the Spirit. The Spirit groans the same way the Spirit witnesses: he inspires the groaning, and he inspires the witness. The groaning is his groaning, and the witnessing is his witness. But we experience the witness of the Spirit as the heartfelt, authentic welling up in us of a cry, “Abba, father!” And we experience the groaning of the Spirit in the welling up within us of groanings for the glory of Christ, but in ways and means that we do not know. We have seen this before with our children. When they are sick, they can’t really explain or describe how they got there. They simply know they’re sick. The cry to us and that cry prompts us to act on their behalf. We are hurt for them. We see their confusion and pain. And, we act for them. There you are. Cry out “Abba,...

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The Great Eight (Part 19)

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 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. (Romans 8:26-27 ESV). Our focus again today is on three verses in the Great Eight. At the end of our reading It says that in our weakness, the Spirit of God helps us because we don’t know how to pray as we ought, and so the Spirit intercedes for us with “groaning too deep for words.” And it says that God the Father – the one who searches our hearts – knows the mind of the Spirit because the Spirit prays for us according to God’s will. So God the Father always answers the Spirit’s prayers. We have been looking at several questions concerning the principles of this passage. Today I want to look at “what” the Spirit prays for us? What the Spirit prays for us is that God would bring about the decisions and circumstances that would most magnify Christ in our lives when we are at a loss as to what the specific will of God is because of our weakness. We saw in previous devotionals that this “weakness” is the same as the sufferings and decay Paul speaks of earlier. In other words, the sicknesses and calamities and challenges of life put us in situations where we are simply at a loss as to whether we should escape danger or stand, be healed or endure sickness, take a risk or stay safe. We just don’t know. What we do know is that we want Christ to be exalted in our bodies whether by life or by death (cf. Philippians 1:20). This is what it means to be a “saint.” So this is what the Holy Spirit asks the Father for, but he knows the will of the Father and he asks that the particular decisions and circumstances come to pass which will in fact magnify Christ best and work together for our good. I have said that this is relevant to all of us as we wrestle with various kinds of sickness and suffering. So, we can easily see how helpful it would be to hear from the Lord or to have the grace of complete wisdom. And it is certainly right to pray for that. But it may be that this situation will be one of those moments when we “do not know how we must pray” and instead groan over our weakness. Is it not wonderful that God is not condemning or ever criticizing us here for not having the faith (as some might put it) to discern his will. The Apostle Paul’s point is to encourage us and help us. Even when we don’t know what we would like to know, and can’t pray with more specificity and assurance of God’s will, we must not lose heart, but trust that God has his purposes in this and has provided for us in our weakness. The Spirit prays for...

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The Great Eight (Part 18)

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 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. (Romans 8:26-27 ESV). Let me begin to close our look at these verses before we move on to the remainder of the Great Eight by suggesting at least five ways you can be encouraged by this text if you trust Christ and groan in your heart for his name to be exalted in your life. First, be encouraged that you are not expected to know the will of God in every respect. Yes his revealed will for you is always faith and hope and love and purity. But whether to trust him to deliver from sickness or hardship or prison, or whether to trust him to help you die, you do not always know. And this text says it’s OK not to know. There is one who knows. And he is praying the way one ought to pray who knows. Don’t add to your burdens the worry that you don’t know all the will of God. Second, be encouraged that in your perplexity and groaning you are not being watched, you are being understood. God is searching your heart, and he is finding a meaning deeper than words. Third, be encouraged that God’s work for you is not limited to what you can understand and express with words. Be glad that God is able to do exceedingly above all that you ask or think (cf. Ephesians 3:20). Your thinking, especially in times of stress and groaning, is not the limit of God’s acting. God is not limited by your limited mind. Fourth, be encouraged that in your weakness and sickness and loss and hardship and danger the Spirit of God is praying for you and not against you. In verse 31 we will hear Paul exult: “If God is for us, who is against us?” And here we see part of that great “for us” in verse 26. The Spirit intercedes FOR us, not against us. Be encouraged that as you cling to Christ and groan for his exaltation in your uncertainty and pain, the Spirit is for you and not against you. Fifth, be encouraged that God the Father hears the prayer of the Spirit. This prayer is for you. And it is always heard! Always answered! God does not reject this prayer in any means. Regardless of the magnitude of the decision you are facing, the challenge before you, or the hardship you are experiencing God, Himself, is even making intercession on your behalf for you good. Be wise; but be...

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The Great Eight (Part 17)

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 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. (Romans 8:26-27 ESV). Isn’t taking risk the antithesis of being wise? Yet, God calls us to take risks (cf. Luke 21:16). The real question is which risks do we take? John Bunyan, the pastor who wrote Pilgrim’s Progress over 300 years ago stayed in prison for 12 years for conscience sake. He could have gotten out if he had agreed not to preach the gospel. He had a wife and four small children, one of whom was blind. This could not have been an easy decision. He could stay in prison for conscience sake, or get out and take care of his family. I must confess I’m not sure what I would have done in the same circumstance. Yet, we will all face similar decisions, though not all as dangerous. Bunyan wrote a book called Advice to Sufferers. In it he captured the perplexity and uncertainty that we face in danger or in front of a risk for Christ’s sake. He asks, “May we try to escape” from the danger? And he answers: Thou mayest do in this as it is in thy heart. If it is in thy heart to fly, fly: if it be in thy heart to stand, stand. Anything but a denial of the truth. He that flies, has warrant to do so; he that stands, has warrant to do so. Yea, the same man may both fly and stand, as the call and working of God with his heart may be. Moses fled (Exodus 2:15); Moses stood (Hebrews 11:27); David fled (1 Samuel 19:12); David stood (1 Samuel 24:8); Jeremiah fled (Jeremiah 37:11-12); Jeremiah stood (Jeremiah 38:17); Christ withdrew himself (Luke 19:10); Christ stood (John 18:1-8); Paul fled (2 Corinthians 11:33); and, Paul stood (Acts 20:22-13). There are few rules in this case. The man himself is best able to judge concerning his present strength, and what weight this or that argument has upon his heart to stand or fly. Do not fly out of a slavish fear, but rather because flying is an ordinance of God, opening a door for the escape of some, which door is opened by God’s providence, and the escape countenanced by God’s Word (Matthew 10:23). Paul’s point is that when you groan with desires that are rooted in bringing glory to God but uncertainty how Christ might best be glorified, the Spirit prays for you and brings it to pass. So, here’s the kernel of truth for you to rest in today. Paul says: “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness.” He helps us. Like the little sparrow who is leaping off the ledge in the picture above, we were made to leap into the air. Be wise when you leap, but remember you are born again to do just that. God’s desire and plan for all of us is to bring Him glory. Leave the worry to Him. Take a step off the...

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