So far, we have pondered on the reality of suffering in the world, and have seen from the Bible that suffering is to be expected for Christians, especially since we are engaged in spiritual warfare. Remember that we are not only to teach these truths faithfully, but also to model them in our own lives.
The third thing we need to continually teach our people about is the divine perspective on suffering. If you have your Bible, I do want you to see this yourself. I want you to open 2 Corinthians 4. Now, here’s a passage of Scripture, that I am not exaggerating when I say I’ve used it hundreds of times in my life, it could even be 1000! And I want you to use this when we face suffering and when we help other people, because we do not just deal with our own suffering, as shepherds. Along with that, we have to be faithful to help others through suffering. In fact, I think we spend more time helping other people through suffering than ourselves. And we need to know what Scripture text to go to.
I remember I was training this young man in our church about visitation, going to hospitals dealing with people’s problems. And I remember the first time we went out and an issue came up with the people we were talking to, and I took them to this passage. And this young man said to me later, when we left, “You know, I literally had no idea what Bible verse to open to?” He said, “I’m glad you showed me.” I said, “Well, that’s why I brought you along. So you know how to open your Bible and comfort people who are suffering and help yourself.” Let’s look at 2 Corinthians 4. Second Corinthians, is an amazing book. It is the most autobiographical of Paul’s books, and there is no other book in which we get these insights into Paul as a shepherd of the Lord’s people. And you see at one moment his severity and next moment, tenderness unlike anything else So in verse 16, he says, “For we do not lose heart.” Well, my friends, if anyone should lose heart and get depressed and discouraged, it was the Apostle Paul. He had more problems than all of you put together and multiplied. This man had every problem there is. I have never been whipped, I have never been left at sea, never been hungry. I mean, this man experienced everything. He sat in jail, he had people trying to stone him to death, whip him to death. “We do not lose heart!” Oh! I want to find out why he doesn’t lose heart, because I lose heart so easily.
“Though our outward self is wasting away.” Now if you’re over 55 you know what this means. The outer nature is wasted away. Well, you lose muscle, your skin sags, you have to have glasses, you go get hearing aids, some people get wigs (I look better this way!). And then we have knee replacements and hip replacements. Replacements seem to be nowhere near what they can repair in your body. The outward nature is wasting away, and well, it will end in your death. Now, this is my verse for my philosophy of aging. Are you ready? “Although the outward nature is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.” If you’re over 50, you better know this verse. Although the outward nature is decaying (you can do some things to slow it down, but it is going to win), the inner man, the new man in Christ, in the Holy Spirit who lives within us, every day he is being renewed. Well, that is an amazing truth, isn’t it? Your inner man is being fed and he is growing, he is expanding, he is maturing. That should be your philosophy of life.
[In fact, I was going to speak to you about this whole thing: About being a growing leader, a maturing leader. Sadly, many stop growing when they get to be about the age of 40 and older. They do not read anymore, they do not go to conferences, they do not have a greater vision for the world. That is a very, very big problem. But this text says, the inner man is being renewed every day. He is growing. He is learning and expanding. That’s what I want to do as I age.]
Now I want you to get the balance hereof words very beautifully balanced. I wish I had a scale to show this but you can imagine a weighing scale. “For this light momentary affliction…” or suffering “is preparing for us…” Well, that’s good to know. “An eternal. weight of glory beyond all comparison.” In other words, these are not comparisons. This is what happens. It is an eternal weight of heavenly glory. Here on earth what we face is a light, momentary affliction. That’s the divine perspective. And he says it is not comparable. So in this life, you have many afflictions, sorrows, heartaches, setbacks, losses, and sometimes very severe, and they really can hurt. But the divine perspective says it is light and it is momentary, lasting a very short time. A whole life here on earth is a very short time. But it is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory.
Now, if you want to know a little bit more about this glory, you go down to Chapter 5 verses 1-10. And he talks about heavenly glory. He talks about the comparison between this tent, his earthly tent, and our eternal dwelling with God forever. You know, dear saint, we need to really grasp that this is not all that there is. This light, momentary affliction is just that: light and momentary. Most of our conscious existence will be eternal. And we’ll be in the presence of God, where we share the glory of the Lord. And remember, in chapter 5 verses 1-10, in the resurrection, we receive an eternal, imperishable body, like the Lord Jesus Christ. And that eternal body, not subject to any of the curse on this earth, is prepared for the new heavens and the new earth.
And if you want to encourage yourself, or encourage others in suffering, just go to Revelation 21 and 22. And look at the new heavens and the new earth. This earth as you see it now and the heavens are going to be dissolved by fire. They will be burned up, and just by the very spoken word of God, just like in Genesis 1. God will speak a new earth into existence. Heaven, by the way, is not in the clouds. Heaven is on Earth, that’s a new earth, physical earth. And we have a body there. There will be a new bride city called Jerusalem. And the key point of the Bible in that Revelation 21 passage, is that the Lord God will be with us forever, and we will be his people. That is the end goal of God: to have a people like the Lord Jesus Christ forever and ever. So this is what I call the eternal perspective. You need to be able to open your Bible and show this to people.
Now, I want you to notice what he goes on to say here. “As we look not at the things that are seen.” Well, most of the time, we just only consider what we can see with our eyeballs. “But the things that are unseen, for the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen, are eternal.” And then he goes right into chapter 5, about the eternal and about heaven, and about our future with the Lord. This is what I call the eternal perspective.
Now, I want you very quickly to go over to Hebrews 12, and I want you to see that the Lord Jesus Christ, also understood the eternal perspective as he faced the cruel cross and his crucifixion. Hebrews 12 starts out with “therefore” and it continues from chapter 11, which has the heroes of the faith. But the greatest hero of the faith is the Lord Jesus Christ. “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses,” (all these old testament witnesses, who speak to us of God’s faithfulness) “let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so cozy. Now, let’s run with endurance, the race that is set before us, faithfulness. Looking to Jesus, the founder and the perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him.” Mark that in your Bible. That is what we saw in our 2 Corinthians passage. “… who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Now get this, what he means is that as the Lord Jesus Christ faced the cross, the cruel cross, the most ignominious way to die, as he faced this, he looked through the darkness, through the gloom to the joy that was set before him. What was that joy that he saw out there? Well, glorifying the Father, going back to the Father, bringing many sons and daughters to glory, defeating Satan and sin, the reconciliation of all things, according to Ephesians 1:10, all things brought under one head. In other words, the Lord Jesus Christ endured the sufferings of the cross, by looking through it to the eternal joy, the joy set before him. It is the same with us, and it goes right back to what we just looked at. On the one hand, light momentary afflictions, but on the other hand, eternal weight of glory. We have to teach people to have divine eyes and glasses to see things the way the Lord wants us to see them.
Now, lastly here are biblical principles for suffering now, but unimaginable heavenly glory. So often we are so focused on the here and the now. This is a big problem because you would think the here and now all there is. But it is simply transient. We just read that it is light and momentary. There is an eternity. But not only is there an eternity, but there is also a reward day. God is no man’s debtor, whatever you suffer on this earth, whatever you have given up for Jesus Christ, whatever you’ve done for him, it will be abundantly rewarded far beyond anything you have done. Let me just read to you a few of these scriptures that encourage us to look beyond the problems and beyond the present suffering, to look heavenward, to the heavenly rewards.
Matthew 5:11-12, “Blessed are you, when others revile you and persecute you and other all kinds of evil things against you falsely on my count.” Now listen to what our Lord Jesus Christ said: rejoice! Do not go and start crying about yourself and all that you have been through, or do not start a lawsuit against someone who hurt your feelings. No, “Rejoice and be glad for your reward is great in heaven.” Well, anything in heaven is going to be great. But he said your reward will be great in heaven. Listen to this, my dear friends, “… for your reward is great in heaven. For so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” And then 1 Peter 4:13-14 Now I want you to notice in each of these verses, the theme of gladness and joy, just the opposite of what you would think. “Rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed. Because the spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.” Wow, that’s quite a statement. Even now, although we’re not in heaven, the spirit of the glory of God rests upon you. That’s probably through the power of the Holy Spirit, and we can experience even now, this supernatural joy and gladness of heart and mind that we can stand with the Lord Jesus Christ, in suffering and in rejection and persecution.
Romans 8:16-17, “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God. And if children then heirs of God, fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. For I consider the sufferings of the present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed in us.” This is the same thing we just saw in 2 Corinthians 4. “For I consider the sufferings of the present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed” When you try to compare, don’t get a scale out—it won’t work! And then, of course, our 2 Corinthians 4 passage: the eternal weight of glory is beyond all comparison.
My dear friends, glory is our reward with the Lord. “If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed because the Spirit of the glory of God rests upon you.” We need to get our eyes off of this earth and off the temporary problems we have, and on the eternal reward day that is coming. The payday is coming. And God is no man’s debtor. whatever you have suffered, however, we have been faithful to him, that will all be brought up at the judgment seat of Christ. Again, eternal rewards are ours. Let us be faithful. Let us take these Scriptures and there are many more. Let us keep our eye on the divine perspective and prepare our hearts and prepare others for the suffering that lies ahead. God bless you all.
This article is the final one of the three-part article series of the transcript of Session 2 preached by Brother Alexander Strauch in the AIPC 2021 Online Conference held on Sep 17-19, 2021.
Please click here to view the sermon.
Alexander Strauch has served as an elder at Littleton Bible Chapel near Denver, Colorado for over forty years.