Living in Suffering/Glory

Romans 8:17

July 12th & 13th, 2008


            This weekend we are continuing our series on “Living with Contrasts”.  That is two seemingly opposite truths at the same time.  Last week, we heard that we are both 100 % sinners and saints through out our lives, and that God’s love for us is not based on what we have done or have not done, but completely on what Christ has done, so that in the end, what Christ sees in a believer is only his holiness.

            This week we are going to look at “Living in suffering/glory”, and how understanding the way these two truths work together can help us to live out our calling as Christians.  Paul writes in Romans 8:17 “and if children, then heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him”.   First a note on the translation.  On an initial look at the verse it looks to be saying something like as long as you suffer more, then you will achieve glory.  Could it be that the tougher our life here the greater our life in heaven.  This would make salvation or at least a greater salvation dependent on how one suffered.  Rather the translation should read “since indeed we share in his suffering that we may also share in his glory”.  In other words its not, try to suffer more, but rather know this that for believers in Jesus here will be suffering. Yet, in the midst of this suffering glory is just around the corner. 

            How does a Christian deal with suffering?  While books have been given on this subject, let me suggest a few approaches from God’s Word.  The first is to not be surprised by it.  Maybe that is easier said then done, but its part of living in a world that has been turned upside down by sin.  This past week you may have heard the account of Ingrid Betancourt, a former candidate for the Columbian presidency who was kidnapped 7 years ago, and just recently in a daring rescue was reunited with her family.  Over and over again she expressed shock that human beings could treat one another in such a harsh way.  Folks no one, and I mean no one,  leaves this world scar free.   Even our perfect Savior though he didn’t sin at all, experienced for us the sufferings that come from placing himself in this fallen world, among fallen people.  Helmut Theilicke a Pastor in Germany during WW 2 , came to live in America.  After some time he was asked what have you noticed about this country.  He said something to the effect that this nation has much that is commendable, but they don’t deal with suffering very well.  We are so youth orientated, so optimistic, we have medicine for practically every pain imaginable, and while this is good, we might believe the lie that we can skirt suffering.  Yet, suffering is part of life. 

            Yet, we do it with the Savior.  Paul in the NT almost always looks at suffering in relation to his Lord.  Philippians 3 says “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings.”  In 2 Corinthians 1 he writes “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort”.  When this Ingrid Betancourt was asked about her faith in God, without hesitation she said it was a miracle that she was released and that he was with her in the midst of it all.  She understand that we don’t suffer with a detached God who simply is to far away or unconcerned with our plight.  We have one who suffers with us, and who has suffered for us. 

            Thirdly, as believers we suffer as those already complete in our relationship with God.   In other words, while God does use suffering in him to shape and change us, as Christians this doesn’t mean that God’s righteousness for us in Christ Jesus departs when suffering arrives.    The suffering Christian.  as Romans 8 says,  still has the Spirit of God by which we know we are sons of God.  According to verse 15 “believers do not receive the spirit of slavery , but rather the adoption of sons.”  As a child cries out to his loving father, so we in the midst of suffering have the ability to cry out to a caring God “Abba Fahter”.  Why?  Because we are heirs of God, and fellow heirs with Christ.   We have already as saved people been given our Lord’s gifts in baptism. 

            So suffering is a given, as a Christian it doesn’t happen with a detached Savior but one who is with us, and we are complete in God’s eyes even if suffering makes us think other wise. Our text today says we are heirs of Christ, and adopted as children of God.

            All of this leads to this “that we may be glorified with him.”  For the Christian suffering and glory go hand in glove.  Let’s take a further look at the glory of God, and how God allows us to enter that glory.  It is a glory that has a past in our God, a present in our life, and gives us a future.

            First the past.  Glory is not some throw away term, but a loaded term in the bible.  It means the very presence or manifestation of God in our midst.  In the Old Testament the glory of God was with Moses on Mount Sinai, and when he came down his face shined.  The glory of God was the sure presence of God in temple, as clouds showed forth his glory.  The glory of God is seen with the shepherds in the fields, as the angels came and the “glory of God” shown around them.  The glory of God is seen in the transfiguration, as just prior to Jesus death and resurrection, he was gloriously transfigured before his disciples.  Hebrews 1:3 says Jesus is the radiance of God’s glory. 

            Glory and all that it means, the presence of God into our world, has now been presently placed in our lives.  1 Thessalonians 2:14 says “He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  In to other words when you and I were called to Jesus, we now by faith share in that glory.  As baptized believers we can say where two or three are gathered in my name there I am in the midst of them.   He is gloriously present right now, and that is a good thing.  His glory is a past thing, it is a present gift, but of course it is also a future gift.

            Next weeks epistle readings has the verse that follows Romans 8:17. Romans 8:18 says “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”  Of course this is heaven, and yes this will be fully seen when Christ comes when Christ comes again.  But note this, for the Christian the glorious after life is not just eternal existence or self involved joy.  Rather it is entering the same glory as Moses, of having Christ visibly and experientialily present among us.  Doubt will be gone.  Our future glory means that in heaven we will be with one who loves us more than any spouse, parent, child or friend.  Imagine, that being with the one who loves you more than anyone else.  Ultimately, this is the picture of heaven.  Not just a place of paradise, that is pain free, where our relatives are visible to us, but in addition and more importantly a place where the glorious Jesus is in our midst.       

            Yes, suffering is real, and shouldn’t be ignored, but it doesn’t every have the final say, because in Jesus things just get more and more glorious.  Amen.