Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Present Sufferings - March 25th, 2009

Rom.8:18 - “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” Paul reiterates this same idea in 2 Cor.4:17, saying, “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” Paul’s hardships were numerous and would have stopped most of us (remember Howard Hendricks - “the measure of a man is what it takes to get him going and what it takes to stop him”). Paul had a physical infirmity, the thorn in his flesh (2 Cor.12:7-10) - most likely the loss of his sight (Gal.4:15, 6:11), which would have been a detrimental problem for a persecuted Christian leader in the 1st century AD. He also encountered discouragement in ministry, as all ministers will at some point, having been abandoned by many of those he invested most in (2 Tim.4:9-16). Beyond his health and ministry trials he also faced constant persecution (as all believers will in some way or another - 2 Tim.3:12). He described this persecution as hard work, imprisonment, floggings and beatings, near death experiences, being shipwrecked, cold, naked, sleepless, hungry and weak and he had even survived being stoned and fed to lions (2 Cor.11:23-29, 2 Tim.4:17). In the context of those trials Paul said they weren’t “worth comparing to the glory that will be revealed in us;” he described these severe and constant sufferings as “light and momentary,” because he viewed them with an eternal mindset. He continued in 2 Cor.4:18 saying, “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” Even while experiencing the reality of horrendous persecution, Paul, because of his eternal perspective, had confidence in God and was able to say, in 2 Tim.4:18, “The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” His hope was not in being saved from danger on this earth (Phil.1:21), but in being brought safely into God’s kingdom. His eternal perspective was found “in the glory that will be revealed in us.” 1 Peter 5:10 describes that eternal glory as being found in Christ, restored, strong, firm and steadfast in Him, following a little bit of suffering. Nothing compares with being found in Him (Phil.3:7-11), recognized by Him, for all eternity, as a good and faithful servant (Mt.25:21). That is the eternal mindset that gives perspective to everything else I do. 1 Peter 4:19 - “So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.”

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