Present Suffering Weighed with Eternal Glory

September 12, 2004 / No. 3219

Dear radio friends,

          A beautiful portion of the Word of God is ours for today.  It is Romans 8:18:  “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”

          The apostle Paul is speaking under inspiration for every believer in whom lives the Spirit of Christ.  Note the words:  “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed inus.”  This Word of God is supremely personal.  The apostle Paul is obviously speaking for himself.  He is not merely talking about something that others have written about or described.  But he speaks of what he knows and feels himself by the Spirit testifying within him.

          Suffering.  Who among men could so well expound upon suffering as the apostle Paul?  You remember the words of our Savior concerning Paul at his conversion when Ananias was sent to him.  Ananias was told to give Paul a preview of his life as an apostle.  Ananias was to say, “I will show him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake.”  From his marvelous conversion to his martyrdom, Paul suffered greatly as a result of his being brought into union with Jesus Christ.

          But Paul says, “I reckon,” that is, “I know that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall have.”  That is, as surely as I know I suffer with Christ, I know I will be glorified.  And more.  When I contrast the sufferings with the glory, I can only conclude that those sufferings are not even worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be mine.

          This verse is personal.  It is our testimony.  Everyone, according to the context, who is led by the Spirit of God; everyone who has received the Spirit of adoption whereby we cry, “Abba, Father”; everyone in whom the Spirit beareth witness that we are the children of God and thus joint heirs with Christ — all of these make this confession:  “We know that our present sufferings are not worthy to be compared with the future glory in Christ.  And we know something more.  We know that our present sufferings work glory.  They are the way to glory.  They are the very hand of God to prepare and mold and teach us.”  Do you know these things?

          But you ask:  “How, how can we know that?  How can we know that the future glory far exceeds the present suffering?  How can we know that the present sufferings are actually our servants to work glory?”

          Go back to the first verse in Romans 8:  “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus.”  On the basis of the cross and the resurrection of Jesus Christ, we know that by grace we have been united to Jesus Christ.  There is nothing that can separate us from Him.  By the wonder of the Holy Spirit we have been made alive in Christ, made heirs of glory, made the children of God.  We know, on the basis of Christ’s work, that all things, including our sufferings, work for our good.  Standing before the cross, standing before the empty tomb, seeing the ascended Lord of glory, receiving the Holy Spirit of Christ within us — on the basis of all of these things we too reckon, we too do some estimating.  And we estimate that the sufferings that come to us from the hand of God in this present life are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be ours in Christ.

          More.  We know, too, that those sufferings work our glory.

          The apostle Paul, in this verse, is really referring to a scale — an old scale, in which two weights were compared one to the other.  He is saying to us that we must put all the weight of the present suffering on the one side of the scale and then compare it with the weight of the future glory that shall be ours.  So, let us do that.

          On one side of the scale we are to put the sufferings of this present time.  How can we do that?  How are we going to weigh that?  From Adam until the day of Jesus Christ, one great sigh and groan of grief.  In the world, for sure.  The world experiences war and poverty, disease, famine, abuse of children, mental hospitals, prison.  There is not one spot on earth where the curse is not felt.

          We as the people of God united to Jesus Christ are not exempt from the sufferings of this present time.  There are many in the church who would teach that.  But that is contrary to the Word of God.  The Bible tells us plainly that a very full measure of sufferings shall be sent to believers by the heavenly Father.  Psalm 34:  “Many are the afflictions of the righteous.”  Psalm 6:  “I make my bed to swim … with my tears.”  Psalm 73:  there the psalmist, Asaph, compares himself with the wicked around him.  And at one time he concluded that the wicked had it far better than he.  He says of God’s people, in contrast to the wicked, “Waters of a full cup are wrung out to them.”  That is, as you would twist a wet rag and drip out the last ounce of water, so, says Asaph, “a full cup of sufferings are sent to me.”

          There are the physical sufferings:  old age, deformities, cancer, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, burns, and dementia.  There are the mental sufferings:  depression, despair, a host of mental stress, fears, and worries.  There is grief.  We come to the bedside of our husband or wife, child or parent, and we watch them die.  They are taken from us.  They are gone.  A lost child, or perhaps a wayward child or young man or woman who walks away from the truth in Jesus Christ — great grief!

          And death.  No, I do not like to think of death.  You do not either.  But the reality is, for you and for me, that we shall die.  Unless Jesus comes first, we will die.  Are you ready?  That death could come to you at any moment.  Are you ready?

          Those sufferings, you understand, are great in themselves.  We must not be foolishly pious and think that as Christians we do not feel the pain or the sting of suffering.  So great are those sufferings that, of ourselves, we could only run away.  We could only try foolishly to escape.  They are great and heavy sufferings.  Physical pain can come to us that is so intense that it blots out all other thoughts of family and children.  Grief can consume all other joy.  One day, one time, of great grief can be like a burst of wind putting out the candle of all former joys.

          Now the apostle Paul is telling us two things about the present sufferings.  He tells us, first of all, that they are sent in connection with Christ.  Secondly, he tells us that they are of the present time.  Let us first consider that they are of this present time.

          “I reckon that the sufferings of this present time….”  That is very comforting.  For the Christian, suffering belongs only to the present time.  That is not so for the wicked.  Suffering only begins a little bit in this world for them.  But, no matter how great the suffering of the child of God may now be, the Bible tells us that it is confined to the limits of our earthly sojourn.  Do not forget, says the Word of God, you are pilgrims and strangers on the earth.  You have here no abiding place.  You seek one that is to come.  Those sufferings, then, are transient.  Sorrows, says the psalmist, may come for an evening, but joy shall return in the morning.  Remember that!  The present life is vanishing, temporary.  It is preparatory, by the will of God, for that life which is to come.  Sufferings remind us of that.

          But, as I said, those sufferings, in the second place, come to us because we belong to Christ.  Going back to verse 17 in Romans 8, we read that we are “joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.”  Now that (to suffer with Christ) does not mean that we suffer as Christ suffered.  His suffering was unique.  It was an atonement or payment for our sins.  His suffering was the enduring of the wrath of God, which we now, as the children of God, shall never experience.  There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

          Still more.  Those sufferings with Jesus Christ are not meritorious.  They do not earn glory.  Our salvation is completely and solely in Jesus Christ, and nothing that you suffer earns your salvation.  The hours of pain and agony do not earn your glory.  Salvation is a gift of God in Jesus Christ.

          But that we suffer with Christ means that, as children of God, we first of all experience the hatred and the rejection of the world.  Jesus said in John 15, “As they hated me, they will hate you also.”   We read in Philippians 1:29 that it is given onto us “not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake.”  In II Timothy 3:12 we read that “all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.”  Because of the union with Christ, the world of sin will hate you.  Do you avoid that hatred by compromise?  Walking faithfully in Jesus Christ, you will experience the displeasure and rejection of the world.

          Still more.  Sufferings with Christ mean that now it is the will of God to mold us for glory through suffering.  In Hebrews 2 we read that the Captain of our salvation, Jesus Christ, was made perfect through suffering, and that in this way, too, God wills our sanctification.  God’s eternal purpose rules over all things.  Predestination, God’s predetermination — that is not simply a dogma, a mere dusty doctrine of the church, something to debate, to take or to leave.  But it is the very heart of the gospel.  God has predestinated who shall be saved.  And God has predestinated the way or path that they shall travel through life, all to prepare them and mold them for that salvation.  Sufferings do not just happen in your life.  God takes hold of you, child of God.  God comes in suffering to mold, to shape, to prepare, to teach.  God uses those sufferings to cause the hope given you to burn brightly in your heart.  God pulls you from the earthly and sets you on the heavenly.

          The present sufferings — they are great.  And, remember, they are unavoidable.  There is no other way to the glory that is earned in Jesus Christ than the way of suffering.  You must, through much affliction, enter into the kingdom of God (Acts 14:22).

          But now let us look at that future glory.  “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”  What is that future glory?  How can we weigh that?  Glory is the perfection of all that Christ has earned for us.  It is the final kingdom.  It is heaven right now.  And at the day of Christ’s return, it is the new heavens and new earth where God shall be all and in all.  It is real.  By faith we hold it today.  It is the end of all of God’s purposes in Christ, when we shall dwell with Him while eternity moves on, when we shall be brought before the face of God in Jesus Christ and rejoice with all the joy of the presence of the living God.

          Glory — what is that?  Glory, really, in its heart, is the radiation of God or the outshining of God.  As the sun in the heaven shines, so God, in Himself, is glorious.  God is filled with infinite goodness and virtues, perfections.  He is supremely, only, perfectly lovely.  And shining out of Him are all of His perfections, that is, His glory.  And this shall be revealed to us in the final paradise of God.  When all is brought to its conclusion we shall be brought to glory.  Then we shall stand before Him and we shall see Him as He is.  And we shall be satisfied.  Glory in the Bible is always described to us as that place where God is, where God’s fellowship is to be enjoyed, where we shall be lost in the eternal brilliance and magnitude of the living God, where God shall be all and in all, where God shall dwell among us and wipe away all tears, when we shall be led before His throne and be satisfied.

          Notice that the apostle Paul does not speak of glory itself but of the glory that shall be revealed in us.  He does not say that our present sufferings are not worthy to be compared to the glory that shall be shown us, or that shall surround us, or shall be near to us.  But he says the glory that shall be revealed in us.  The glory of God revealed in us — each child of God shall shine.  All the beauty of God, by grace, will be reflected out of the child of God.  It means that there shall be no more sin, no more corruption, no more death, no more pain or sorrow or tears.  But emitting from each child of God will be a stream of glory, each one radiating the message:  “My God, how beautiful Thou art!  Thy majesty, how deep.”  The righteous, says the Bible, shall shine as the stars in the heaven.  They shall sparkle with the holiness of Jesus Christ.  They shall radiate His love and mercy.

          It means that we shall be given perfect knowledge.  With I Corinthians 13 we confess that now we know in part, but then we shall know face-to-face, even as we are known.  Now we believe, but we cry out, “Help Thou our unbelief.”  We know that all things work for our good.  We are told that in the Bible.  We know that our God makes no mistakes in our lives.  But sometimes, under the veil of our suffering, we lose sight of that.  We question, we say, “Why, Lord, why?  I can’t, Lord, I can’t do that.”  But then we will know and we will rejoice in the way that God has led us.  We will look back upon those days of struggle and we will say, “Oh, well done, Lord, well done.”  Every truth of God will become clear to us.  We will see the perfect will of God.  We will drink in the majesty of God, deeper and deeper into the fullness of God.

          We will be given perfect holiness.  The good work of God will be completed.  Never will we will, think, say anything contrary to God.  We shall not be soiled, sullied, stained, halting, crippled in sin.  We shall awake to righteousness.  We read in I John 3 that it doth not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when He shall appear, we shall be like Him, like Christ.  And everyone who has this hope purifieth himself even as He is pure.  Do you?  Do you live a holy life in the hope of perfect holiness in glory?

          Then we shall have joy.  In one word, satisfied.  When I awake, I shall be satisfied with Thy likeness.  There shall be perfect union between our will and our thought, our heart and our deeds.  We shall have fellowship with God.  Who can tell of this glory?  What tongue, what words, what thoughts, what sanctified emotions?  The glory that shall be revealed in us!

          Now, let us weigh them together, shall we?  Let us evaluate, compute, and calculate.  Put all the suffering of this present time on one side of the scale.  Then, on the other side, put the glory that shall be revealed in us.  The apostle Paul says, they cannot be compared!  It is incomparable.  The sufferings of this present time cannot be compared to it.  They are totally disproportionate with the magnitude of the glory that shall be ours.

          I was thinking that perhaps a good illustration would be if we were to take one little grain of Lake Michigan sand.  Get the perfect scale, stainless steel.  Wipe off all the dust and put one little grain on one side.  Then, we would travel and take Mount Everest, that tallest of all mountains that God made on the earth, and pull it up by its roots and place it on the other side of the scale.  Then I thought, now there is the comparison between the grain of suffering and the weight of glory.

          But the apostle says there is no comparison.  It cannot be compared.  Even my illustration does not catch it, does not show it.  There is no comparison with the glory that shall be revealed in us.  Those sufferings are temporal, the glory is eternal.  Those sufferings are the weight of the cross that we bear, but you cannot compare that to the crown of glory which shall be ours.

          But, you see, they cannot be compared because suffering works glory.  It is all glory.  It is all our victory in Christ.  The suffering of this present time serves the glory of the children of God.  It is attached to that glory.  It is the way of God to prepare and mold, to teach, and to bring to glory.  The Word of God to us is not simply, “Bear up now with your sufferings for it will be over one day.”  That is not the Word of God.  But the Word of God is, “Right now, through Jesus Christ, in the midst of your present sufferings, you are more than conquerors through Jesus Christ.  Even your sufferings, your tears, your griefs and sorrows — they must serve your glory!”  That is the Word of God.

          Suffering is the hand of God to pull you back from vanity.  Sufferings are the fingers of God to mold you to His image.  They are the chisel of God to sculpt and cut away carnality.  And they are the servants of God to usher you in to the portals of glory.  Death is the passage to glory.  We shall be transformed unto Jesus Christ.  Here is our faith.  Here is our victory.  All things work together for good to them that love God.  All things are our servants.  All things are yours, for ye are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.  That is our victory.  Nothing less!

          Do you believe this?  Do you compromise your faith before the world?  Do you try to avoid suffering for Christ?  There is one word:  Repent!

          Do you, in the midst of your sufferings, become bitter and resentful, and do you tell God that He made a mistake?  There is one word:  Repent!

          By faith, I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory.  How do I know?  There is, therefore, now no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus.  In Christ we are more than conquerors.  In Christ, God says, I have loved you from everlasting.  I have given My Son.  I have made you rich.  Now, God says, I swear, I will glorify you in Christ through all things and one day you shall be where I am and you shall see My glory shining through you.  And you will be satisfied.  Come, Lord Jesus.

    Father, we thank Thee for Thy word.  Amen.