A WORLD IN TRAVAIL, in disquietude and ferment! Indeed, in Paul's arresting language, "the entire creation is groaning and travailing together until now." Thus, as one of many spheres in God's creation, this world of ours is vitally affected. All are agreed that there is some thing wrong.
Time and time again its grim condition assails the consciousness of its people, yet how little are they aware of its cause and purpose of continuance. Men await they know not what. They are ever on the tiptoe of expectancy. Yet, a veil is upon their minds. "The slavery of corruption" abounds, a thraldom of decay is everywhere in evidence.
It is a world in bondage. And yet, amid all the frustration, there is the hope and belief that sometime in the future all will be different. A great and beneficent era will dawn. So, in the meanwhile, every day finds busy minds planning and devising measures of reform and reconstruction. Educational, scientific, and commercial schemes have been, and will be again engineered for the world's betterment, but with it all there will remain a sense of dissatisfaction.
What, then, is wrong? Is it not that man essayed to go on his own, relying upon a power and strength divorced from God's wise direction? And did there not depart from him that vision and glory so consciously his at first? Then, like Samson, he wist not that there was such departure. Yet, threading a long experience through and through, were many lessons to be learned. Hence, the slavery of corruption, the inward sigh and prolonged lament.
It is indeed a suffering world, and in a deep sense we all are in it. No being is untouched. All creation proclaims that some great woe has fallen upon it. And, though the earth we know displays many lovely features, there are lurking foes at the heart of everything. In all around there are marks of an imperfection completely outside the power and genius of man to set aside.
Yet, with the lifting of the ban, there will be a grandeur of creation that will be a constant pleasure to behold. The physical world, wondrously transformed, will reveal landscapes of a light and loveliness the old order could never show. For the Lord has come into His own, and the earth is indeed the Lord's, and the fullness thereof.
Lands far and near, and the isles of the sea, will render willing tribute to Him. Daily will He be praised. All will be blessed in Him, and all nations will call Him blessed. Praise will ascend, not only from Zion, the fair metropolis of a renewed earth, but the whole earth will resound with carefree hearts and voices, for it will be filled with His glory.
But now, there is no escape from "the slavery of corruption" even for God's own people. All alike are affected by frustration, and by the inevitable law of mortality. Kings fall, soldiers die, and the voice that could command the obedience of millions becomes silent while the skill that restored health to many homes cannot keep the stroke of death from its own.
In all this, however, there gleams one rare illuminating thought. "We were saved in expectation." A marvelous transition will one day be ours, a transformation "from the slavery of corruption into the glorious freedom of the children of God." Could there be a change more dazzling, more entrancing? We shall forget the slavery in the enjoyment of the freedom. For it will be blessedly true "that the sufferings of this current era do not deserve the glory about to be revealed for us."
"We were saved in expectation." An expectation not only on the part of creation itself, but especially with ourselves. For with us it should be intensely and intelligently real. Creation's freedom waits upon ours. And how inexhaustibly rich is the quality of ours! No less than "the sonship, the deliverance of our body." For this we wait, and "we are awaiting it with fortitude."
The word fortitude is expressive. It has been said that the term fors denotes three elements which go to fashion human destiny. Force, or courage. Fortitude, patience, endurance. Fortune--fate. Then we have the Latin fortis--strong. And we need this fortitude, this endurance. It was Fenelon who said, "Let the waters flow on in their course. Let men be men, vain, inconstant, unjust, false, and presumptuous. Let the world be the world, you cannot help it. Let each one follow his own bent, and his own ways. You cannot form him over again. It is wiser to leave men to themselves, and to endure them. Accustom yourself to unreasonableness and injustice. Remain at peace in the presence of God, Who knows all your trials and permits them. Be satisfied with doing with calmness what depends upon yourself, and let the rest be as if it were not."
As we await the sonship in all its fullness, such counsel is good. In such a world we are flung more and more upon our God, the only wise and only good. Things are shaken, and will be shaken, yet our God is in full control. This world is not as an iceberg, aimlessly drifting one knows not where. It is controlled as is a ship with chartered course and compass, and helmsman in control. Amid all the chaos and confusion God is absolute Sovereign.
The world is aerial-minded, and in the near future may be visual-minded. Its great need, of which it is so blindly unconscious, is Christ-mindedness. How necessary, then, that we should be aware of its true state as before God, and alert as to its seductive spirit. God, however, is aware of it all, as also of "the spirit's disposition." So, also, He would have us aware of Himself, even that He is working all together for the good of those who are loving Him.
Today, the thought of God, and all that He is, and can be in Christ, is very nearly wiped out in the cities of this chaotic world. There are continents with wonderful resources, but their deepest need is not met by such abundance. But our need, whatever may be its character, is truly filled, filled in accord with God's wealth, even "with His riches in glory in Christ Jesus."
Let us keep so great a thought ever in mind, especially the phrase "in Christ Jesus." In the Anointed Saviour of men, of the world and of the entire creation of God. Our place "in Him," as that of a son, has unimagined possibilities. And we are awaiting the full extent of that sonship, the deliverance of our body. Is not that the outstanding excellence of our expectation?
Then, all that this means will be a literal fact. There will be impressed upon us three real and vital features of new being -- immortality, incorruption, and sinlessness. We shall be what we would be, in life without blemish, in freedom unmarred. Immortals in very truth, yet not because of particular merit, of genius or heroism, but only and altogether as sharers of His grace glorious.
Corruption will give place to incorruption. Our being, with full play of perfect faculties, will reveal a rare vitality. Life will be on a wondrously high level, with movement befitting a body no longer bound by the ties of earth. Being a spiritual body, it will be in complete harmony with a celestial environment.
As to sinlessness, our every thought will know a purity we could never experience down here. For no unbidden thought will vex the mind or move to wrong desire. Literally "walking in newness of life," we shall pursue the tenor of a way in veritable joy and peace. Free from all the subtleties of soulishness, and the antagonisms we knew aforetime, we shall be truly "living to God" always and everywhere.
Looming through the whole written passage, there is the paramount thought that we "shall be freed from the slavery of corruption into the glorious freedom of the children of God." In view of all this will mean, Paul well writes, that "the sufferings of this current era do not deserve the glory about to be revealed for us." By contrast, the glory yet to be disclosed, altogether outweighs the intermediate sufferings. Indeed, great honor is placed upon us, to be so linked up with the entire creation.
Most truly, then, may we "be glorying in expectation of the glory of God." Note how Paul continues, and so fittingly. "Yet not only so, but we may be glorying also in afflictions, having perceived that affliction is producing endurance, and endurance testedness, and testedness expectation. Now expectation is not mortifying, seeing that God's love has been poured out in our hearts, through the holy spirit which is being given to us" (Rom.5:3,4,5).
Thus, it is our privilege to perceive affliction as leading to expectation. And this perception should be a distinguishing quality of the children of God. Who can feel so intensely creation's thraldom as the saint of God? Belonging to a new creation so very different, there is an ever-present longing for the lifting of the ban. There is deep desire and expectation for the glory of the Lord.
A world in travail! For long, long years the heavens have looked down on a world blind to its highest good. With gaze only for the glamour of fleeting things, it has succumbed to the subtleties of the aerial powers. Hence the great gulf between man and God, the disquiet so disastrously felt.
How fair, then, will be the change, when rest and freedom comes! A joyousness will pervade every scene unknown before. Fruitful fields will laugh with abundance, as rivers of gladness water the whole earth. The seasons, woven into one, will be one long perpetual spring, while birds and beasts and fearless flocks will drink one common stream. Gone will be the antagonisms which now so rend the nations, for they will live in peace and be unafraid in God's most fair millennium.
For He Whose ear the winds are, and the clouds
The dust that waits upon His sultry march;
When sin hath moved Him and His wrath is hot,
Shall visit earth in mercy; shall descend
Propitious, in His chariot paved with love,
And what His storms have blasted and defaced
For man's revolt, shall with a smile repair.
In the meanwhile, there is always for God's people Paul's heartening crescendo of faith and courage: "For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor messengers, nor sovereignties, nor the present, nor the future, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."