Saturday, 23 March 2013

Romans 8:18 - Sufferings

Romans 8:18
I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.

What an awesome verse.

The truth is, we will suffer here. We will face hardship, we will be sick, we will be persecuted, we will have broken relationships, we will have friends and family become sick and die, we will suffer. God never tells us in his word that we won't suffer, the prosperity gospel is not biblical. In actual face 2 Timothy 3:12 says
 In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted and Jesus explains this more in John 15:18-19: “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 19 If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.". We will be hated if we follow Jesus, and not only will we suffer because of our faith, but we will suffer like anyone else int he world and face sickness and death as well.

Why do we suffer? How can a good God allow suffering? At creation, God created everything perfectly. There was no suffering, no death and no sickness. Then we chose to disobey God, Adam and Eve ate the fruit, and the punishment (as God said it would be) is sickness and death. That is the result of sin. God will right it when he returns to judge, and he will put an end to it, but in not judging yet he is showing mercy, gathering more people into his kingdom. We suffer because we live in a fallen, sinful world and because we ourselves are fallen and sinful. 

Yet there is so much hope in this verse. Our sufferings are NOTHING compared to what heaven will be. When Christ returns, he will gather all his people and bring us to heaven with him - we will be with God for eternity. Revelations 21:1-4 says: Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 
 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” We have the promise of eternity with God, and with no more sin, pain, death, crying, mourning or suffering of any kind. We may suffer for a little while here, but don't give up! An eternity without suffering awaits all who trust in Christ! On the other side of the coin, all those who reject Christ will suffer for eternity in hell. What's worth more? Suffering here for a short time and then eternal life with Christ? Or living how we want here (though still suffering often) and then eternal suffering because of sin? Don't give up, fix your eyes on Christ and persevere.

Yet God also gives us so much hope in our sufferings here. Romans 8:28 says "we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." God works everything for our good - even suffering. So we can trust him, we don't have to worry about suffering because we know God will work it all for our good. Isaiah 41:10 and 43:1b-2 - 

"So do not fear, for I am with you;
 do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." 


'“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze."'

We have God promising that he is with us, that he will protect us and be with us. Zephaniah 3:17 is similar, saying: "The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.”

We also learn that God allows sufferings to mature and teach us -
  James 1:2-4: "Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.". 
  1 Peter 1:3-9 is similar saying - Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls."
Hebrews 12:7-11: Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

Other great verses to look at include
John 16:33
 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcomethe world
Philippians 4:4-13

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God,which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.  Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. 
I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
2 Corinthians 4:8-12,16-18
"We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus,so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body.  So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you...Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal."
1 Peter 5:6-10

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.
 And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.  To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.

God's word is absolutely packed full of encouragements about suffering. We will certainly suffer if we follow Jesus wholeheartedly, but it is well worth it in the eternal perspective. By sufferings we learn and grow and become more like God, by them we seek deeper into God's word and we look forward to heaven where there will be no more suffering. We also have God's continual sustaining power and grace throughout them, helping and encouraging us, even though we don't deserve it and continually stuff it up. We have an awesome God, a mighty saviour, and there is much reason to be joyful, even if you're suffering. Fix your eyes on Christ and his promises. He is always faithful, he will save and he is in control. Trust him and don't lose heart.

Soli Deo Gloria!

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