Rev. Haak is pastor of Georgetown Protestant Reformed Church in Hudsonville, Michigan and radio pastor of the Reformed Witness Hour. This sermon was aired on September 9, 2001.
A beautiful portion of the Word of God is ours for today. It is found in 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 Ireckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” This Word of God is supremely personal. The apostle Paul is obviously speaking 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: “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 the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that I shall have.” That is, as surely as I know I suffer with Christ, so surely 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 who is led by the Spirit of God can 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 sufferingswork glory. They are the way to glory. They are the very hand of God to prepare and mold and teach us.” But you ask: “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 inRomans 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 we have been united to Jesus Christ. 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 tooreckon, we too do someestimating. 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.
The apostle Paul is really referring here to a scale—an older scale, in which two weights were balanced, the one with 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 to 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, there has been 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. 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: “Waters of a full cup are wrung out to them.” That is, as you would twist a wet rag and squeeze 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 and deformities, cancer and heart disease, diabetes and arthritis, burns and dementia. There are the mental sufferings: depression, despair, 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. And you do not either. But the reality is, for you and for me, that we shall die. Unless Jesus comes first, we will die.
Those sufferings are great in themselves. We must not be foolishly pious and think that as Christians we ought not feel the pain or the sting of suffering. So great are those sufferings that, of ourselves, we could only try foolishly to escape. They are great and heavy.
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. For them, suffering only begins a little bit in this world. But, no matter how great the sufferings of the child of God may now be, the Bible tells us that they are confined to the limits of our earthly sojourn. Those sufferings, then, are transient. Sorrows, says the psalmist, may come for an evening, but joy shall return in the morning.
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.” That we suffer with Christ means, first of all, that as children of God we 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 our union with Christ, the world of sin will hate us.
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, the way of sufferings, God wills our sanctification. 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, however, are great. And they are unavoidable. 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. 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.
But now 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 inus. Each child of God shall shine. All the beauty of God will be reflected out of the child of God. Emitting from each child of God will be a stream of glory, each radiating the message: “My God, how beautiful Thou art! Thy majesty, how deep.” The righteous shall shine as the stars in the heaven. They shall sparkle with the holiness of Jesus Christ.
It means that we shall be given perfect knowledge. With Paul inI 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.” Sometimes, under the veil of our suffering, we ask, “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. And 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. Never will we will, think, or say anything contrary to God. 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.
Then we shall have joy. In one word, satisfied. When I awake, I shall be satisfied with His likeness. There shall be perfect union between our will and our thoughts, 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?
Now, let us weigh them together, shall we? Let us evaluate, compute, and calculate. Put all the suffering of this present time on the scale. Then, on the other side, put the glory that shall be revealed in us. The apostle Paul says, they cannot be compared! The sufferings of this present time cannot be compared to that glory.
I was thinking that perhaps a good illustration would be if we were to take one little grain of Lake Michigan sand and put it on one side of the scale. Then, we would take Mount Everest, that tallest of all mountains, 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 nocomparison. They cannot be compared. Even my illustration does not catch it, does not show it. The sufferings are temporal, the glory is eternal. The sufferings are the weight of the cross that we bear, but we cannot compare that to the crown of glory that shall be ours.
But, you see, they cannot be compared, also, 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 under your sufferings, for it will one day be over.” 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 to the portals of glory. 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 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.