26/4/2020 [Thematic Message 98] www.lifechurchmissions.com
The Spirit Helps Us in Our Weakness <Ro 7:18; 8:15, 26-28, 31-37>
Prelude: It is a very real situation for human nature to be “weak and unable”. Every day we face situations or thoughts that make us weak and unable. Some people's spirit can easily enter into a state of helplessness and inability. That's because they are used to being weak. Therefore, as long as they face something different from their own method of doing things or lifestyles, or have to walk out of their comfort zone, their spirit will immediately enter into a negative and helpless state. In addition, some people really encounter situations where they are not competent enough to manage, or face difficulties they cannot overcome and hence feel incapable. Of course, relatively speaking, some people have a good learning attitude and the ability to perform well, but that does not mean that they can overcome every difficulty. Some things are not necessarily task-related, some are interpersonal or matters relating to their own spirituality. Some people are very good performers, but they cannot bear loneliness, or they cannot bear being misunderstood or blamed. Some people can work very hard, but they just cannot be joyful. During this circuit breaker period, we see the mental state of many people getting less optimistic. Some people are worried about losing their jobs or getting pay cut and thus start to get depressed. Some cases of domestic violence also emerge. According to reports, in the month of March, some mental institutions' hotlines received an increase in the number of people who called for help by more than 50%. In the United States, the mental health helplines received 9 times more calls for help in March. In this pandemic, this number will only increase with each passing day. Think about it, if we are often very productive at work outside, can we receive peace and be productive when we stay at home now? Or do you find yourself being bound by your handphone and end up not doing what ought to be done? In fact, this reveals the state of the inability of humanity. Of course, we must also understand that there is another kind of inability, that is, the weakness and inability brought about by our sinful nature and desires. In particular, as we continue to let ourselves be led by selfish desires and do not put to death the misdeeds of our body, we will slowly become incapable of handling even the most basic challenges. Of course, this is the reality that we sinners often face. Even if we believe in the Lord, if we do not know how to rely on the Holy Spirit, we will enter into a habitual helplessness, and the result is that we would develop a nature that avoids problems or be dependent on others. If not, the entire state of mind of the person cannot be peaceful and joyful. Paul said, “I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.” <Phil 4:13> Think about where Paul was when he said this? He was under house arrest. He had physical restrictions and no freedom. His future was unknown and there was no guarantee. But how was it that he “could do all this”? How did he maintain his joyful heart? In fact, Paul did not conceal his inability. Although he said that he could do everything, he also honestly described his weakness and anxiety, and also how he experienced the help of the Holy Spirit <2 Co 11:29>. Indeed, we really need to know that we are weak and unable, otherwise <Ro 8:26> would not say, “The Spirit helps us in our weakness.” Well, we cannot remain in a concept or a mere mental dependence when we rely on the help of the Holy Spirit. This is because the Holy Spirit is invisible and cannot be touched, nor can it be understood by human senses. Therefore, we should rely on the Holy Spirit by following the truth that the Bible tells us about the Holy Spirit helping us, and hence practically experience His support, help and guidance in our difficulties. Only in this way can we love to often rely on the Lord in our own weakness and inability. Weakness and inability is inherent in our nature, but the help of the Holy Spirit is the promise and method God has given us. Blessed are those who master this secret! Because they will then be able to declare like the apostle, “For when I am weak, then I am strong.” <2 Co 12:10>
1. I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out <Ro 7:18>
1) Must first understand the powerless spiritual state of the fallen man
* After man sinned and left God, he was at the same time separated from the power of God. Thus, according to the law of nature, his life disposition loses power, instead of receiving power. Before committing sin, Adam continued to draw strength from the Lord as he served Him, such that the more he worked the more he received power <Gen 2:19-20>. However, after sinning, the power of man continued to decline. He can only eat his food by the sweat of his brow <Gen 3:19>. Thus, we see that as a person ages, his physical strength will degenerate more; when a person has been racking his brains to handle matters and people for the whole day, at the end of the day, he will be exhausted; or when a person encounters difficulties or undesirable situations, his spirit is immediately oppressed. Indeed, every person has different difficulties. Some people always find it difficult to deal with people and matters, some people often find it hard to perform certain mechanical tasks. In our conduct and actions, we all have our own difficulties. And what is most difficult for us is to put to death the misdeeds of our bodies. This is the spiritual state of fallen man. Therefore, when Lord Jesus promised us the Holy Spirit, He said, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you...” Although we live in this weak and constrained body, we should practically use this power, and practice how to use the Holy Spirit’s power in our weakness to conquer everything. Although we believed in the Lord, if we do not always train in godliness in all things, we will realise that our weak and powerless nature will always occupy our hearts.
2) Desire to do what is good
* There are two kinds of doing good: (1) He acknowledges good and loves good. This is like a person loves to draw close to God, and cheerfully obeys His will. He has mercy on sinners, loves to help others, loves to give, and shares what he has with others. That is the good within his heart. That is originated from his love for God, not because he wants to act before man, and not because of the demands of the country’s laws; (2) his actions match the good he loves in his heart. That is, he does what he should and do not do what he should not. Evil is just the opposite, that is, doing what one should not, and not doing what one should. If we want to clearly know the good within us, then we should ask ourselves two questions: First, how much do we love what the Lord deems as good? To love is the first step. If we do not even have the heart to love but solely have the desire to do good, that kind of resolution is a form of burden and will eventually make us fail in doing good, such that we end up feeling accused. Because no one can keep doing what he does not love. However, we must also ask, even if we love that good, can we carry it out? Paul said he delighted in God’s law<Ro 7:22>, but there is another law of sin at work in him, making him a prisoner <Ro 7:23>. This is how deep our sinful nature is. Think about it, why is it that we want to do good yet cannot do it? Why is it that we wish our family members can be blissful but our words and actions always hurt them?
3) Cannot carry out the good
* Many believers often like to use this verse as an excuse for their weakness, but they do not study and ponder deeply on the meaning of this verse. Paul was not merely letting us know that he was “unable”, but “why he was unable”, and how he later on “overcame by the help of the Holy Spirit” <Ro 8:26-27, 37>. When we talk about human inability, it is not as simple as being “unable to do it because of weak will”. Let us talk about it in two areas. “Unable” means: (1) Inability in the area of morality. Example: Sometimes we do not feel that taking others’ things is wrong, or that gossiping about others is wrong, or that grumbling is wrong, etc. Indeed, we ourselves also do not love good, but love gratifying our weakness. Because of the moral inability, we will always find excuses for our weakness, such that we cannot walk out of that weak and powerless state for months and years; (2) inability in terms of power. Here it means we cannot handle the challenges brought about by difficulties. Sometimes, because of our weak nature, we also cannot overcome certain tricky situations or complex human affairs.
2. The Spirit helps us in our weakness
1) The Holy Spirit is the Helper of saints and He will proactively help saints
* Many believers think that the Holy Spirit will only help us after we rely on Him. Actually that is not the case! The Bible says, “The Spirit helps us in our weakness…the Spirit Himself intercedes for us”. In fact, we must not always think that only when we can feel the help of the Spirit then the Spirit is helping us. Because of this misinterpretation, many people keep wanting to see or hear certain things in visions so as to experience the work of the Holy Spirit. In fact, when we feel His help and support, that is when our senses can feel Him, but it is not only then that the Holy Spirit is helping us. The Holy Spirit has been keeping our faith. The Holy Spirit is also already helping us before we even call to Him or feel Him, and He is interceding for us. When a person knows this truth, his heart can confirm the Holy Spirit’s help even faster. On the contrary, if a person does not follow the truth but keeps relying on his senses to experience the Holy Spirit, he will misunderstand the Holy Spirit’s work even more.
2) How is the Holy Spirit helping us?
(1) The Holy Spirit first shines on us, so that we know our weakness and inability. When Paul said, “I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out <Ro 7:18>, this is the Holy Spirit’s work of illumination, so that he could clearly see his own sinful nature and could produce true repentance. Only when a person is so humble before God, can he receive the power of grace.
(2) The Holy Spirit gives us the heart of sonship, so that we no longer fear because of our weakness and inability <Ro 8:15>. Today, many people keep wanting to hide themselves because of their own weakness and transgressions. They try to present themselves as refined, spiritual, selfless, etc. In fact, they all live in certain fears. The Holy Spirit’s help will make us assured that God will not abandon us, even though we have weakness and inability, He stands by us, and is always ready to help us. Thus, Paul said, “What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? <Ro 8:31>
(3) The Spirit Himself intercedes for us through wordless groans <Ro 8:26>. Can we hear the Holy Spirit’s intercession? The Bible tells us that the Holy Spirit’s intercession comes with groans. <Ro 8:22> also says, “The whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.” Why is there groaning? Because the world is now trapped in sin, nothing glorifies God, even we saints also live in this sinful body, waiting for the redemption of our bodies. Therefore, the Holy Spirit groans for us saints, this groaning is just like the struggles of a pregnant woman who is about to give birth. While we are still living in this world, experiencing inner and external struggles, the Holy Spirit’s intercession will keep making us set apart from the world, to pursue the glory of the future redemption. The intercession of the Holy Spirit is certainly not to make us long for earthly living or to crave the enjoyment of this life. The more we saints see our weakness, the more we will look beyond these light and momentary troubles but look to the eternal glory that far outweighs all.
(4) The Holy Spirit makes us see that in all things God works for the good of those who have been called from the world <Ro 8:28>. Some people come to the Lord after going through tribulations, others become more spiritual after experiencing tribulations. In fact, many a times, after going through all kinds of tribulations then we discover the beautiful things God has done on us. The beautiful thing God did is not merely changing the situation for the better, but to refine our inner person, to prepare us to do more important things. The molding of the inner person is what God values most. Rather than us always wanting to change the current situation, it is more important to confirm how God is helping us <Ro 8:31>, how God is providing for all our needs <Ro 8:32>, how God is showing us mercy, not condemning us but interceding for us <Ro 8:34>; and how God is making us more than conquerors in all kinds of tribulations <Ro 8:35-37>.
3. Who can practically experience the help of the Holy Spirit?
1) Those who firmly believe in the Lord’s love and rely on the Lord
* <Ro 8:37> clearly says, “In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” We must know that those who firmly believe the Lord’s love will all the more experience and witness God’s help in their weakness. Often, the reason why believers do not rely on the Lord is not because their will is not strong enough, nor is it because their prayers are not loud enough, but their hearts do not truly and solidly know the Lord’s love. Think about it, will a wife who knows well that her husband loves her deeply not always depend on him in all things? Likewise, a believer who firmly believes God’s love will also surely rely on the Lord unswervingly. If we ask the ordinary believer whether he firmly believes that God loves him, everyone will unanimously say yes. However, how much a person knows God’s love does not lie in what his mouth professes, but in whether his understanding of the Lord’s love can pass through what <Ro 8:31-36> says – see God helping him when being opposed; in his lack, can see that God gave him Christ and everything; when he is being accused, can firmly believe that God already justified him; even when enemies condemn him, can firmly believe that God does not condemn him; firmly believe that he is not separated from God’s love even when going through all kinds of troubles, hardships, persecutions, famine, nakedness, danger or sword. The love of God which he knew will all the more withstand these tests, then in his weakness he will naturally rely more on the Lord.
2) Centre our living on evangelism and shepherding lives
The chief purpose of sending the Holy Spirit is to testify about Christ <Jn 15:26>, and to build and keep the Lord’s church <Jn 14:16-27>. Think about it, during this circuit breaker, why is it so difficult to be cooped up at home? Sometimes after praying and reading the Bible in the morning, the heart will feel bored after a while, then one may uncontrollably take up the phone to kill time. But when we look at Paul, he could still rejoice even though he was under house arrest for 2 years. Why? This is because our lives have yet to receive the mission given by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit wants to help believers who live on earth fulfil the Great Commission. Therefore, this circuit breaker is good opportunity for us to pray for our family members, serve them, and use the Internet to bless and encourage brethren. Think about it, in normal days, it is difficult even to give time for our families and brethren, but God gives us such opportunities now. Actually, if we do not receive the heart of the Holy Spirit and co-work with Him in evangelism, we will then find ourselves always falling into avoidable weakness.
3) Those who are always victorious by the help of the Holy Spirit
Those who are always victorious by the help of the Holy Spirit will always joyfully rely on the Holy Spirit. To them, the help of the Holy Spirit is absolutely not imaginary, but the Holy Spirit is a Spirit who truly helps, supports, and guides saints. Thinks about it, if a person asks and receives, seeks and finds, how would he not love to ask and seek? He will not only ask and seek God, but he will also do so in all things. (Pastor’s testimony: If one day do not pray, will feel that whatever is done is all man-driven, even if done well, will not have an assured heart). Actually, when we ask for the Holy Spirit’s help, the most important is to ask the Holy Spirit to guard and sustain our hearts, because everything we do flows from it. In the current pandemic, it is not that people of the world have never been through such a difficulty, but because of the daily media reports and the bombardment of all kinds of information, when human opinions increase, the peace in human heart decreases. Therefore, we must ask the Holy Spirit to sustain our hearts, so that our hearts have wisdom and power, and in these short few months of the pandemic, we can accomplish great things by relying on the Lord who loves us.
4) Those who train themselves up in all kinds of situations
In <1 Ti 4:8>, the Bible instructs us to train ourselves to be godly. Training for godliness is not just reading the Bible and praying, but it includes all training. This is just like Paul instructed Timothy to set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity <1 Ti 4:12>. Think about it, if a person is easily impatient in speech, flustered while doing things, and grumbles easily, he will realise that he cannot easily overcome certain challenging situations. But those who accept challenges in all kinds of environment and use them to train themselves in their temperament and attitudes in handling matters, will slowly see that they will not easily fall into a helpless state in relative situations.