by Ed Nugent
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Romans 8 Discussion Questions
Play the intro video.
Read Romans 8:26-28
26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.
28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
How would you describe your weaknesses? In what ways are you weak physically? In what ways are you weak mentally or emotionally? In what ways are you weak spiritually?
While no one wants to admit weakness, none of us is perfectly strong. I may be strong in the weight room, but slow on the track. I may be great at math but lost when it comes to history. Spiritually we struggle with sin and doubt. We are on dangerous ground when we can’t admit or are unaware of our weaknesses. Try to get you students to talk honestly about the weaknesses that we all have. Talk about some of your own weaknesses to help break the ice.
No one likes to admit their weaknesses. As a matter of fact, if we’re honest, we’ve all worked hard to hide our weaknesses. It isn’t all that different in the church. We’d rather pretend to be spiritual giants than admit that we are weak. But as long as we’re pretending we won’t look for a Savior. As long as we’re pretending to be strong, we won’t learn to depend on the One who is strong for us. The Apostle Paul (who wrote this Epistle) doesn’t waste time pretending. He knows that he is weak and that the readers of his letter are also weak. That’s why he includes himself in verse 26; the Spirit helps us in our weakness.
Are you a little offended to read that you don’t know what you ought to pray for? Don’t you think that you have a pretty good understanding of what you need? Why do we need help in prayer?
Offended may be a little strong, but I tend to think that I know what I need. But according to Paul, that is definitely not the case. Ask your students why it is that God would know our true needs better than we do. Explain to them that our vision is limited by the fact that we don’t know everything. Even our desires and our will have been corrupted by sin, so we want and demand things that will not be good for us. Even good things that we want may not be what God has planned for us. We truly don’t know what to pray for. But that’s not as bad as it sounds.
It’s never comfortable when your weakness is exposed. Even the phrase implies a negative. But does the fact that we don’t know what we should be praying for make our prayers weak or ineffective? Absolutely not! Even in this weakness God is working for us. He sends His Son to tell us how to pray (Luke 11:1-4) and He sends His Spirit to personally pray with and for us.
Did you know that you never pray alone?
In the Lord’s prayer Jesus teaches us to pray to Our Father. In Romans we learn that we prayer through the Holy Spirit. So when we pray we always pray with Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, to God the Father. The entire Trinity is involved in every prayer!
Earlier in Romans 8:22-23 Paul describes all of creation as groaning like a woman in labor. He says that all Christians also groan inwardly as we wait for our adoption as God’s children to be fully realized. Now we read that the Holy Spirit intercedes for us in prayer with wordless groans. These groans of the Holy Spirit imply that God Himself knows and experiences the pain that we feel. These groans preach that God is not absent or unsympathetic to our suffering. He will not leave us to suffer alone and without hope.
Read verse 27 again and see if you can discover why it is good news that the Holy Spirit intercedes for us.
While we do not know what we ought to pray for, the Holy Spirit does. His groans are in perfect harmony with God’s will.
I don’t know about you, but my prayers usually sound more like me trying to get my way than me asking that God’s will would be done. It really is good news that the Holy Spirit is always interceding for me! But can we trust God’s will for us?
This leads us to one of the most beautiful and promising verses in the Bible. Romans 8:28 says this:
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose.
Let’s look at this amazing promise piece by piece so we learn what it really says.
What does Paul mean by all things?
God is never absent. There is no experience in life that God cannot redeem. No suffering is meaningless and no struggle is in vain. God is at work in any and all circumstances that you may experience in your life. He was at work through Jesus’ suffering, and He is at work through yours as well.
What is the good that Paul is talking about? Does he mean that life in this world will always be good for Christians? See John 16:33
This is so important for our kids (and adults) to grasp. Paul is NOT making a promise that you will have an easy life with more money than you need and an absence of suffering. As a matter of fact, the context in Romans 8 is suffering in this life. The good that Paul talks about is our ultimate, eternal good. Even our death will not separate us from the good that is to come! (See Romans 6:3-5) Whatever suffering we experience in this life is not worthy of comparison to the glory (good) that will be revealed in us – Romans 8:18. We will suffer in this life, but we can take heart because Jesus has overcome the world and his victory is our victory, his resurrection is proof of our coming resurrection! Another way that this verse is misunderstood is when we expect to see something “good” that comes out of hard times. But the promise is not that we will see or even understand the good that God is doing. It only promises that God will use it for our good. We are called to faith not sight (See Rom 8:24-25).
Who are those who “love him”? Is this promise only for those who love God enough? How can I know if I love God enough?
All of our love for God is response love. In other words, we love because we have been loved. The real question is not, “do I love God enough”? The real question is, “do I know how much God loves me”? In 1 John 4 we are repeatedly called beloved; that is someone who is loved. And how has God loved us? 1 John 4:9-10 – This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.
Finally, Paul mentions that we have been called according to His purpose. In other words, we are a part of God’s purpose and plans. We tend to get this totally wrong and act as if God were part of our purposes and our plans. When we do this we turn ourselves into little gods which means we are left with the responsibility of justifying (saving) ourselves. There is no hope in that.
How can the truth that you don’t have to save yourself actually give you hope? How does that fact that you are not your own god actually set you free to live without fear?
We make terrible gods. Our plans and purposes for our lives are imperfect, tainted with sin and rooted in our own selfish interests. When you act as if you are in charge, everything is on your shoulders. If you lose, that’s it. Failure = death. To put it in another way; when you act like a little god you will live as if you had to save yourself, and if you have to save yourself then your plans had better be perfect and you better be perfect at executing those perfect plans as well. This is a recipe for fear, stress and worry. It’s about as anti-Gospel as it gets! The truth is that you are not God and you are not your own, and this is good. The promise is that God’s will for you is already “good” and that He is the One who has already acted to save you. He is at work and will continue to work in your life to bring about His glory and your good. Win or lose in life – you win! This is a recipe for peace, rest and hope!
Play the closing video.