October 17, 2017

The Sufferings of This Present World and the Glories to Follow

By Mike Willis

One of the hardest things to do is to forego today's pleasures for greater good tomorrow. Who has not tried dieting? Everyone knows that he needs to control what he eats today for the better goal of a lesser weight. But when the cake and ice cream are served, to refuse to eat for the greater good tomorrow is hard to do. What is true of such physical things is also true of spiritual things. To voluntarily endure today's sorrows for a better tomorrow  a home in heaven  is not easy to do.

Jesus did this when he voluntarily chose the cross. Hebrews 12:2 exhorts us to look "unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God." He saw beyond the suffering of the cross to the eternal joy with the Lord.

So also did Moses. The writer of Hebrews says, "By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter; choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompense of the reward. By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible" (Heb. 11:24-27). Moses was willing to forego the pleasures available as the son of Pharaoh's daughter to receive the greater riches associated with the "reproach of Christ." He "had respect unto the recompense of the reward" and therefore forsook Egypt to have heaven.

This is the same principle Paul is emphasizing in Romans 8:18. He said, "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." Consider what this verse is teaching.

The Sufferings of This Present World

We serve no good in denying that there are sufferings in this present world. There are plenty of them and they come in many different forms. We live in a sin-cursed world, a world that was cursed because of man's sins (see Gen. 3:17-19; cf. Rom. 8:19-20). As a result of this we witness such sufferings as the following:

1. Physical problems. The curse that fell on man was to return to this dust, because God said, "for out of it west thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return" (Gen. 3:19). Because death has come to man, he faces the sufferings attached to it. We face the ravages of the diseases that lead to death. Each of us knows someone who has endured horrible sufferings because of disease. I watched two of my close friends and some of my relatives endure the sufferings of death as a result of cancer. The vigor of life was stolen from them and their physical bodies were eaten by the parasite that ultimately killed them. The pain of their sufferings was not limited to physical pain. Watching their bodies deteriorate and losing even the ability to go to the bathroom by themselves were hard to accept. We do no one any service by denying the reality of these sufferings.

2. Earning a living. Many people suffer in trying to provide for their families. They know by experience the "thorns and thistles" that make providing a living difficult. Some are unemployed through no fault of their own. Others are in dead-end jobs that pay so little that they cannot provide adequately for their families. Many go without the benefits that others enjoy in their comfortable jobs with many fringe benefits and have nothing to look forward to but an old age with nothing to live on but social security.

3. Emotional problems. Many have a difficult time coping with life's realities and suffer from depression or anxiety. Some become so emotionally distraught that they are committed to institutions because they lost touch with reality. Some of the problems are physically caused by chemical imbalances that even the doctors do not fully understand.

4. Suffering for Christ. The sufferings mentioned above are the common lot of all men. We who are Christians do not escape them. Rather, our lot is to bear another level of suffering added to those born because we are men. We sometimes are called to suffer for Christ. Paul warned that "all who live godly will suffer persecution" (2 Tim. 3:12). Jesus foretold that many would be "persecuted for righteousness' sake" (Matt. 5:11; cf. 10:18, 39; Mark 10:29; 13:9). Our sufferings are different from those of previous generations. Some early Christians lost their lives for Christ. Nonetheless, we do endure suffering for Christ. We have been belittled in classrooms as "Bible thumpers," ostracized from a social group because we would not laugh at their jokes or approve their foul language, mocked by TV programs who portray Bible believing folks as narrow-minded bigoted little idiots, and such like things.

These are some of the sufferings of this present world and no one needs to tell us about them because we know them through experience.

Not Worthy to Be Compared

When the sufferings of this present world are placed beside the glory to come, Paul said that they are "not worthy to be compared." That means that our present sufferings are so little in contrast to the glories of heaven that, by comparison, they are mere triflings, They are insignificant.

How can I know this? Certainly I cannot know this by experience. I have never been to heaven to see how its glories compare with the sufferings of this present world. This I can know only through revelation. The God who made us is the one who has revealed to us that the sufferings of this present world are nothing when compared to the glories of heaven. W. Oliver Cooper wrote "Heaven Will Surely Be Worth It All" to emphasize this point.

Often I'm hindered on my way,

Burdened so heavy I almost fall;

Then I hear Jesus sweetly say;

"Heaven will surely be worth it all."

Many the trials, toils and tears,

Many a heartache may here appall;

But the dear Lord so truly says:

"Heaven will surely be worth it all."

Toil and pain I will endure,

Till I shall hear the death angel call:

Jesus has promised and I'm sure

Heaven will surely be worth it all.

Heaven will surely be worth it all.

Worth all the sorrows that here befall;

After this life with all its strife,

Heaven will surely be worth it all.

The Glories of the World to Come

Let us consider what God's revelation tells us about the world to come.

1. The absence of things that make earth life painful. John described heaven by saying, "And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away" (Rev. 21:4). What a beautiful picture this displays about God. As a parent, I often have wiped the tears from by daughter and son who scraped their knees while playing. I would take them on my lap, wipe away their tears, minister to their needs, and kiss the hurt away. When life is over for me, God will take me on his knees and gently wipe away the tears of my grief and suffering, reassuring me that there will be no more death, sorrow and crying. The things associated with pain are gone.

2. The absence of sin. Heaven is a place where sin does not exist. Impenitent sinners have no entrance into heaven (Rev. 21:8, 27; 22:15). In heaven we will not suffer the inhumanities that sinful men commit against each other. We will not awaken to the radio's report of another homicide in our city, a rape on the east side, a robbery downtown, or a war in some country that causes starvation and death to hundreds or thousands. These things will not exist in heaven.

3. To dwell with the Lord. David looked forward to dwelling "in the house of the Lord forever" (Ps. 23:6). Asaph expected that God would guide him with his counsel, and "afterward receive me to glory" (Ps. 73:24). John described heaven as the Lord tabernacling with men (Rev. 21:3). Jesus promised that "where I am, there ye may be also" (John 14:3). What a blessed hope this is to know that "face to face shall I behold him." Indeed, that "will be glory for me."

When all my labors and trials are o'er, And I am safe on that beautiful shore, Just to be near the dear Lord I adore. Will thru the ages be glory for me.

4. Access to the tree and water of life. Heaven is described as a place where man has access again to the tree of life (Rev. 22:2, 14). The tree of life was originally in the Garden of Eden. When Adam and Eve ate of it they could live and not die. The Lord drove them from the Garden so that they no longer had access to the tree of life. By telling us that we will have access again to the tree of life in heaven, the Lord is describing the eternal nature of our inheritance. Indeed, this will be a land in which "we never grow old." I therefore wish for men to

Sing to me of heaven, sing that song of peace,

From the toils that bind me it will bring release;

Burdens will be lifted that are pressing so,

Showers of great blessings o'er my heart will flow.

Sing to me of heaven, let me fondly dream

Of its golden glory, of its pearly gleam;

Sing to me when shadows of the evening fall,

Sing to me of heaven, sweetest song of all.

Conclusion

Indeed, the sufferings of this present world, real and painful as they are, are not worthy to be compared to the glories of the world to come. So let me renew my strength and rise above the struggles that pull my soul downward.

Just a few more years

With their toil and tears,

And the journey will be ended;

Then I'll be with Him.

Where the tide of time

With eternity is blended.

I'll exchange my cross for a shining crown,

Where the gates swing outward never:

At His feet I'll lay ev'ry burden down,

And with Jesus live for ever.

Don't become discouraged and lose heart, like you do on your dieting program. Fix your eyes on the goal before you and keep on serving the Lord.

Guardian of Truth XXXIX: 2 p. 2
January 19, 1995

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