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Romans 8: Sufferings Compared to Glory
Romans 8:18, 2 Corinthians 4:16-18
“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”
Romans 8:18 NASB1995
One of the biggest stumbling blocks for people uncertain about belief is the fact that this fallen world is full of suffering. Unless you have been living in a remote shack in the wilderness by yourself your whole life, you have seen friends and family suffer through agonizing deaths from cancer or heart disease or watched in horror as the news reports about children are gunned down in their schools by a lunatic or flinched at stories about a plane load of people crashing into the ocean or slamming into a mountain. You have seen terrorists take down skyscrapers full of people just doing their jobs, murder athletes at the “peaceful” Olympics, and bomb public buses and trains. You have seen whole towns destroyed by forest fires or floods or earthquakes or volcanic eruptions or tsunamis. You have seen refugees fleeing from horrible wars and have watched documentaries about the Holocaust, wondering how this atrocity could have happened. You may be suffering yourself, fighting a chronic or acute illness, a bad marriage, estrangement from family members or financial difficulties.
How can a loving God allow suffering and cruelty like this? Quite often, when you have a discussion with a non-believer, this is the first thing they bring up and it is a challenge to our discernment and knowledge of the true goodness of God to provide a worthy explanation. I did some extensive research on this verse in particular and this topic in general using the Precept Austin resources and found a superb sermon by a Welsh pastor named Geoff Thomas on this very verse and topic of suffering. Suffering came into the world through our decision to sin and turn away from God and it permeates God’s good creation; suffering and death are permanent fixtures in this life because of our choices, as difficult as that may be to consider.
In this particular verse, Paul uses reason and comes to the conclusion that dwelling on our mortal suffering is an unworthy pursuit when compared to the glory that awaits us. Paul suffered extensively in his life, as he documented in his epistles (shipwrecks, health issues, multiple imprisonments, stonings, etc.) and his life ended when he was beheaded in Rome between A.D. 64-68. But that suffering disappears in an instant the moment we are brought into the Glory of God! We don’t just see the glory, we become glorified! The suffering Jesus in my picture for today (do your sufferings compare to His?) before His crucifixion will stand before us in His eternal glory and all the temporal woes melt away. Pastor Thomas says this about that moment:
The apostle is saying that it doesn’t matter what mental or psychiatric deficiencies we have experienced, if we’ve been reduced by a stroke to being unable to speak a single word or even show a flicker of recognition when family or friends have spoken to us – what do people say? “a cabbage like state”? The moment such a Christian will see Christ in glory then in the twinkling of an eye they shall be like him. We are to undergo a transformation of the most extraordinary dimensions, from weakness to unwearying strength, from guilt to Godlikeness, from ignorance to knowledge, from folly to wisdom, from worry to everlasting peace, from dullness to extraordinary creativity, from clumsiness to marvelous dexterity, from frustration to complete fulfilment. The only limit on what we can do will be our creaturehood and the will of God. That is the glory that will be revealed in every one of us. There is going to be such a metamorphosis, not just a glory revealed to us but in us. The commentator Bengel comes to this point in his commentary and he stops for a moment as he considers that we are going to be glorified, and he picks up his pen and he writes, “We will be glorified! O God, what are you making of us?” God is inhabiting the new heavens and the new earth with a countless number of men and women all of whom have been transformed into the image of Jesus. God loves his Son so much that all of the divine power and all of the divine aesthetic are at work achieving this end, of making each one of us – billions of us – as glorious as the Son of God himself.
In this world nobody’s completed what he set out to do. Only one man could say, “It is finished!” For all the rest of us we know we haven’t measured up, we could have achieved much more, and we are frustrated men and women. We are like ageing athletes who can remember the time when our bodies were faster, suppler, stronger, but now we can only look back to those days. Today Christians are always conscious of a gap between goal and attainment. God made us for this . . . and yet we are actually that . . . But Paul is telling us that a day will come when all our frustration will be over because the glory of God is going to be displayed in our bodies, and in our hearts, and in our minds, and in our spirits. Our ignorance as to why God allowed such a tragedy to come to us will be gone – then we will know even as also we are known. “Ah, that was the reason . . .” we will say to God with joy. Suffering is a grain of sand; glory is the Himalayas. Suffering is a teaspoonful; glory is the Pacific Ocean. Suffering is a single letter of the alphabet; glory is the 26 volumes of the Encyclopedia Britannica. Suffering is the earth; glory is the entire cosmos. The one is not worth comparing with the other. Paul said, “Our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory”
We can deny our sufferings, we can get angry, we can blame everyone else or blame God or we can take our sufferings to Jesus. Jesus knows about suffering. Pastor Thomas also says that suffering is a part of the Christian life, a preparation for future glory, and permitted by God so we are not separated from God’s love. Paul also says it so well in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18:
“Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”
2 Corinthians 4:16-18 NASB1995
My next devotional will examine verses that continue in this theme in Romans 8:19-25: Hope for what is unseen.
Sermons by Pastor Geoff Thomas are available through links on Precept Austin or on the Geoff Thomas sermon archive (see links in the article).