Today’s Sufferings, Tomorrow’s Joys
November 18, 2018
This coming week we will celebrate Thanksgiving. But those who are suffering often find it difficult to be thankful in the midst of their suffering. There may be turkey, dressing, and pecan pie on the table, but there is resentment, anger, hostility, and ingratitude in the hearts of many of us who suffer.
In contrast, consider the different story of Fanny Crosby. When she was six weeks old a doctor treated her common illness with a mustard plaster on her face that burned her eyes and left her permanently blind. In her autobiography, one of the greatest hymn writers of the faith said, “It seemed intended by the blessed Providence of God that I should be blind all my life, and I thank Him for the dispensation.…If I could meet [my doctor] now, I would say ‘Thank you, thank you’ — over and over again — for making me blind.” How could she say that? Because, she said, “I could not have written thousands of hymns if I had been hindered by the distractions of seeing all the interesting and beautiful objects that would have been presented to my notice.”
In fact, even her first poem, written when she was 8-years-old, reflects that conviction:
Oh, what a happy child I am,
Although I cannot see!
I am resolved that in this world
Contented I will be.
How many blessings I enjoy
That other people don’t!
So weep or sigh because I’m blind,
I cannot, nor I won’t!
You and I are likely similar to most American Christians; we don’t suffer well. As John Piper has noted, we expect things to work and we expect help when we need it and relief when we want it. We expect respect and courtesy. We never expect to be told that there is nothing that can be done. [Lessons from a Hospital Bed, 44.] We want answers. We want solutions. We don’t expect, want, or like problems. And we especially don’t expect, want, or like suffering and persecution.
But we live in a world where problems, troubles, suffering, and persecution are normal. Even for believers. In fact, we might even say that problems, troubles, suffering, and persecution are particularly experienced by believers. It seems that we have more of these difficulties than the rest of the world (and that doesn’t make us particularly happy, either).
So how will we respond when we suffer? What should we think about our suffering?
It is those kinds of questions that Paul addresses in the middle of Romans 8. In his introductory statements to this section in vv. 17-18, we will see his theme is —
Always evaluate your present suffering in light of your coming glorification.
Paul will not minimize suffering and he will not attempt to remove suffering. But he will tell us that we need to think in new ways about our suffering. And he will give us two particular thoughts to consider.
- God’s children are inheritors (v. 17a)
- God’s children are sufferers (v. 17b)
How should we think about suffering?
- Consider Your Sufferings (v. 18a)
- You must think about your sufferings
- Your sufferings are various
- Your sufferings are now
- Consider Your Glorification (v. 18b)
- You must think about Glory (it’s incomparable)
- Your glory is all-transforming
- Your glory is certain
Download the rest of this sermon on Romans 8:17-18.
The audio will be posted on the GBC website by tomorrow.