Future Glory Outweighs Present Suffering (Part 2)
Last time we were together we looked in depth at verses 16-27 of Romans Chapter 8. We discovered that according to Paul, Creation, The Church, and God the Holy Spirit, that future glory outweighs present suffering. We looked together at the fact that all four are longing with anticipation for the day when God’s people will be glorified and completely sinless.
We looked at the fact that waiting for our future glory to be revealed is not about waiting to go to heaven so much as longing for the day when our sin is removed and we are entirely Christ like. Finally, we spent time looking at suffering in this present age as we considered Paul’s three examples of groaning while waiting.
22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.
23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.
26 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.
All of creation longs for the day that it is separated from futility and its bondage to corruption…the earth is bound to corruption and we are bound to corruption. Even God waits for the right time when He will renew all things.
Today, we’re set to look through verses 28-30.
Paul has told us back in Romans 8:17
17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
So, we see very clearly that the pathway to glorification goes through the door of suffering. Without trials there is no Christ likeness. We must remember that what Paul calls glory, when referring to us, is our being made into the image of Jesus…being like Him in every way.
Father, You have Gathered Your people that You may let us hear Your words, so that we may learn to fear You all the days that we live on the earth, and that we may also teach our children…amen
Romans 8:16–30 (ESV)
16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
26 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. 27 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. 28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.
With the reality in mind that we suffer in order to be made like Christ then and only then will current suffering be worth it. It is worth it when we realize what current suffering produces…
18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good,
What Paul is telling us here is that everything that happens to the believer, every aspect of our lives is divinely orchestrated by God’s hands to produce in us Christ likeness resulting in our glory and ultimately God’s glory. All things, the good, the great, the not so good, and all the trials and suffering come from the hands of God in order to make us more like Jesus.
And we know is the way the Apostle makes the promise and guarantee that this is a reality. Every event that comes our way is from God. Nothing is random and nothing is pointless.
It is very important that we also see the qualifying statement here… for those who love God…do you see that? Not everyone, only those who love God and are seeking to obey Him. This promise is not given to the world but only to God’s people.
Now, here is an amazing piece of this truth. When we suffer and grow in our maturity as a Christian by becoming more like Jesus we then can rightly deduce that we are really Christians. This passage shows us the truth that when the all things come our way and we struggle and persevere in the power of the Holy Spirit with those groanings we spoke about we can step back and rightly say…Praise the Lord, my salvation is genuine.
Let’s be extremely clear…God does not allow or permit things to happen to us but is the direct cause of all things. He does not step back and let something happen but is the One who makes it happen. When the thing that needs to happen involves sin, God has Satan and the others do it for Him…
Have you considered My servant Job?
for those who are called according to his purpose.
So, I want to sort of pound this point home, because if we get this concept everything changes. We can be those who suffer not as the world suffers but as God’s children who have hope.
I want to look at a few different examples in the Bible of suffering and then see God’s purpose in it.
Here is an example from Paul’s own life…
2 Corinthians 12:7–10 (ESV)
7 So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
Paul’s thorn was from Satan through God. He did not ask Satan to remove it but God. It was not God’s desire to remove it because it was God who sent it so Paul would stay humble and weak. Then Paul concluded very accurately that God wanted it there for his weakness and humility so that God’s power could be better seen in Paul’s ministry. The conclusion of those around Paul was that this amazing success in missionary work was not Paul but God working.
God’s specific purpose in Paul’s life was to make him humble and weak in order to make him strong. When Paul was at his weakest he was at his strongest because in his weakness he depended on God, and when God worked churches were started, cities heard the Gospel, and souls were eternally converted.
It is good to have a way to remember some of these so that, when we are suddenly afflicted, or have a chance to help others in their affliction, we can recall some of the truths God has given us to help us not lose hope.
Repentance: Suffering is a call for us and others to turn from treasuring anything on earth above God.
Luke 13:1–5 (ESV)
13 There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 2 And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? 3 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. 4 Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? 5 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”
Comfort: Suffering is also for the purpose of being comforted by God, Himself for the purpose of comforting others.
Salvation of others: God brings affliction and suffering so that He can comfort us then in turn we can comfort others, which may result in their salvation.
Reliance: Suffering is a call to trust God and not the life-sustaining props of this world.
2 Corinthians 1:3–11 (ESV)
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 5 For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. 6 If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. 7 Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.
8 For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. 9 Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. 10 He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. 11 You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.
Righteousness: Suffering is sometimes the discipline of our loving heavenly Father so that we come to share his righteousness and holiness.
Hebrews 12:5–6 (ESV)
5 And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?
“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
nor be weary when reproved by him.
6 For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and chastises every son whom he receives.”
Hebrews 12:10–11 (ESV)
10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
Obedience: Sometimes suffering and discipline come from God to promote a stronger more faithful commitment to Him.
Jeremiah 24:5–7 (ESV)
5 “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: Like these good figs, so I will regard as good the exiles from Judah, whom I have sent away from this place to the land of the Chaldeans. 6 I will set my eyes on them for good, and I will bring them back to this land. I will build them up, and not tear them down; I will plant them, and not pluck them up. 7 I will give them a heart to know that I am the Lord, and they shall be my people and I will be their God, for they shall return to me with their whole heart.
Reward: Suffering is working for us a great reward in heaven that will make up for every loss here a thousandfold.
2 Corinthians 4:16–18 (ESV)
16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
Know Him More: We suffer in order to know Christ in a closer more intimate way.
Philippians 3:10 (ESV)
10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,
So, it is understandable that the Christian heart would cry out in suffering, “Why?” since we don’t know most of the micro reasons for our suffering — why now, why this way, why this long? But don’t let that ignorance of the micro reasons cause you to overlook the massive help God gives in his word by telling us his macro purposes for us.
Perseverance: Sometimes suffering is so that we will persevere showing the great worth of God as we grow through it seeing God’s compassion and mercy all the way through the trial.
James 5:11 (ESV)
11 Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.
Beloved, as we endure affliction in this world as believers we can trust that God is doing something through all aspects of our lives and what He is doing is ALWAYS good.
Therefore, as believers, those who love God, all things come from the gracious loving hand of God. God is good to bring all things into our lives. It’s good of Him to do what He does. God’s goodness for us is always working for our good.
So, my challenge for you (and me) is to practice acknowledging God and His work and purpose in every aspect of your life. Trials are not random and they are not pointless.
I know all this sounds well and good but what about those times of overwhelming trials? What about those trials that are way more than we can bear? Pastor don’t tell me about God will never send us more than we can bear stuff, because right now there is no way in any universe I can bear up under such intense suffering.
I’ve had people say similar things to me and I completely understand. However, what I propose as a way of someday actually being able to suffer well and growing through intense trials is to begin acknowledging God’s hand of providence in the smaller trials. Ask God to show you how it is He wants you to grow as a result of the trial. Seek Him through it and become more Christ-like as a result of it.
MacArthur Commentary on Romans 8
John Piper’s article on suffering
Teaching Romans by Christopher Ash