Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament epistle of the apostle Paul to the saints which were at Rome, and more specifically, is found in verses eighteen through thirty. What is actually incredibly astounding and remarkable concerning this particular passage of Scripture is how the apostle Paul begins by speaking of suffering and concludes with glory. Actually, in the eighteenth verse of this chapter the apostle Paul speaks of “the sufferings of this present time,” and concludes in the thirtieth verse speaking of those “whom He justified, them He also glorified.” It’s absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize and understand the words which the apostle Paul wrote in this particular passage of Scripture, for whenever we speak of suffering, we must also in and with the same breath speak—not only of the glory of God, but also of being glorified by God in, and through, and as a result of those sufferings. There are contained within Scripture two specific passages which I am convinced are directly related to the words which the apostle Paul wrote unto the saints which were at Rome. The first passage is found in the second chapter of the epistle which the apostle wrote to the Philippians, while the second is found in the epistle the apostle Peter wrote unto the saints which were scattered upon and throughout the earth. Consider if you will the words which the apostle Paul wrote unto the saints which were at Philippi concerning Jesus who is the Christ and the Son of the living God:
“If there be therefore any consolation iN Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, fulfill ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made Himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted Him, and given Him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure. Do all things without murmurings and disputing: that ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain” (Philippians 2:1-16).
The second reference I can’t help but be reminded of is contained within the fourth chapter of apostle Peter’s first epistle found within the New Testament. Beginning with the twelfth verse of the fourth chapter we find the apostle Peter writing and speaking these words unto the saints which were scattered abroad: “Belove, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: but rejoice, inasmuch as ye are pranksters of Christ’s sufferings; that, when His glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part He is evil spoken of, but on your part He is glorified. But. L eat none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters. Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf. For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear? Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to Him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator” (1 Peter 4:12-19).
It is clear—both from the words which the apostle Paul wrote unto the Philippians, as well as from the words which the apostle Peter wrote unto the scattered saints—that suffering is indeed and is in fact directly connected to the glory of God, and even unto being glorified by God. The apostle Paul wrote concerning the suffering of Christ, and as a direct result of His obedience unto death—even death upon a cross—was directly connected to His being glorified with the Father. Scripture makes it very clear that after Christ finished the work He was sent to do, and after He had returned unto His Father—not only did He sit down at the right hand of the Father, but He was also given a name that is above every name. After Christ finished His work upon the cross here on earth, He was given a name that is above every name—a name of which there is coming a day when before that name every knee shall bow, and every tongue shall confess. For the apostle Paul, as well as the apostle Peter—both believed that the present suffering we experience within and throughout the course of our lives is nothing compared to the greater glory we shall experience in that day when we are ransomed and redeemed from this world and are caught up together with our Lord in the clouds. IN the eighteenth verse of this eighth chapter the apostle Paul emphatically wrote and declared how he did not reckon that the sufferings of this present time are even worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. This very same reality is expressed in the writings of the apostle Peter as he begins his first epistle unto the saints which were scattered abroad. Consider if you will the words the apostle wrote unto those to whom his letter was directed:
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to His abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible, and undefined, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: that the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see Him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls. Of which salvation the prophets have inquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow. Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into” (1 Peter 1:3-12).
Remember the words which James wrote in his epistle which is also found and contained within the New Testament? It was in the epistle James wrote where we again find yet another reference to the tremendous purpose that is found and contained within suffering. If you begin reading with the second verse of the first chapter within this particular epistle, you will find yet another reference concerning the trial of our faith, and the ultimate purpose, role and function that trial plays within our hearts and lives. Read the following words which were written by James unto the twelve tribes which were scattered abroad: “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. A doubled minded man is unstable in all his ways. Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted: but the rich, in that he is made low: because as the flow of the grass he shall pass away. For the sun is no sooner risen with a burning heat, but it withereth the grass, and the flower thereof falleth, and the grace of the fashion of it perisheth: so also shall the rich man fade away in his ways. Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him. Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: but every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. Do not err, my beloved brethren. Everything good and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variable ness, neither shadow of turning” (James 1:2-17).
There is yet another reference which speaks directly to the reality and concept of suffering which takes place within and throughout the course of our lives. If there is one thing we must readily acknowledge and never make any attempt to ignore, it’s that suffering is most certainly inevitable. There is absolutely no avoiding, escaping, hiding or running from suffering, or the trial of our faith, or even troubles. You would be hard pressed—and quite possibly engage in an impossible task—to find a single individual within and throughout this earth who hasn’t faced a trial of some type within and throughout the course of their lives. There is not a single individual who has ever walked this earth and has managed to pass from this life to the next without undergoing and experiencing some degree and measure of suffering. Consider the fact that not even Jesus the Christ could enter into this world and return to His Father without undergoing and experiencing a tremendous deal of suffering. Consider the tremendous suffering Jesus the Christ experienced in the final week of His life—quite honestly within the last twelve hours of His life just prior to being raised from death to life from the grave. Consider how He was betrayed by one closest to Him, how He was denied by another, how He was abandoned by those closest to Him, how He was whipped and scourged by Roman soldiers, how He was falsely accused, how He was nailed to a cross and crucified upon a cruel Roman tree. It was Jesus Himself who emphatically declared that a servant is not above their master, which ultimately means that if Jesus could not enter into this earth and escape it absent any experience with suffering—what makes us even remotely think that we can somehow manage to do so? Even John the Baptist—of whom Jesus spoke very highly of concerning there not being another greater than he born among women—was imprisoned for confronting Herod and Herodias, and how he was ultimately beheaded at the behest of Herodias. If the forerunner to the Messiah and even the Messiah Himself could not escape this earth without experiencing suffering, what would cause us to even think or believe that we can somehow do so?
I am reminded of the words which the apostle Paul wrote earlier on in this very same epistle to the saints which were at Rome. If you begin reading with the first verse of the fifth chapter you will encounter yet another reference to the tremendous impact and power of suffering within the life of an individual: “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: by whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hop of the glory of God. And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope: and hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement” (Romans 5:1-11). THE GLORY IN THE TRIBULATION! THE GLORY AFTER THE TRIBULATION! What is so remarkable about the words which the apostle Paul wrote and spoke in this passage of Scripture is that he didn’t merely speak of the glory after the tribulation, but he spoke of the glory in tribulation. Perhaps there is no better way to illustrate this than in providing yet another reference concerning Jesus the Christ, and the suffering which He experienced while He was upon the earth: “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking 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. For consider Him that endured such contradiction of sinners against Himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds” (Hebrews 12:1-3).
WHO FOR THE JOY THAT WAS SET BEFORE HIM ENDURED THE CROSS! I realize that it might be incredibly difficult to equate joy with the suffering of the cross, yet when you read the words which the author of the epistle to the Hebrews wrote, you will find that Jesus endured the cross and despised its shame—not only for the joy that was set before Him, but also knowing that the cross was His path to return to the right hand of the Father of lights in heaven. There are many of us who would like to separate the right hand from the center cross between two thieves, yet the truth of the matter is that that simply isn’t the case. The author of the epistle to the Hebrews wrote of a very certain and a very specific joy that was set before the Christ, and it was that joy which was set before Him that enabled Him to endure the cross, and to despise its shame. Pause for a moment and consider those two realities—enduring and despising. It wasn’t enough for Christ to simply endure the cross with its nails, with its scorn, and with its ridicule and mockery, for he also despised the shame that came along with it. There was absolutely nothing that could separate Jesus Christ from the cross and His subsequent death upon that cross, for there was a joy that was set before Him as a direct result of the cross. What was the joy that was set before Him? I am convinced the answer lies in and is found in the fifty-third chapter of the Old Testament prophetic book of Isaiah—a passage that is altogether familiar with many of us concerning the suffering of Jesus upon the earth:
“Who hath believed our report? And to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed? For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form or comeliness; and when we shall see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him. He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; He was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgression, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to His own way; and the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and He was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? For He was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken. And He made His grave with the wicked, and with the rich in His death; because He had done no violence, neither was any deceit in His mouth. Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him; He hath put Him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul and offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand. He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by His knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities” (Isaiah 53:1-11).
In the eighth chapter of the epistle of the apostle Paul to the Romans we find him writing concerning the sufferings of this present time as not being worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. Pause for a moment and consider that reality—the reality and concept of a glory that can and will be revealed in us at the appointed time. There is perhaps no better way to describe and express this specific reality within the lives of the saints than the words of the apostle Paul when writing to the saints which were at Corinth. In the first epistle the apostle Paul wrote to this particular congregation, he wrote the following words:
“But some man will say, How are the dead raised up? And with what body do they come? Thou fool, that which thou slowest is not quickened, except it die: and that which thou slowest, thou slowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain, it may chance of wheat, or of some other grain: but God giveth it a body as it hath pleased Him, and to every seed his own body. All flesh is not the same flesh: but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of beasts, another of fishes, and another of birds. There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star different from another star in glory. So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: it is sown in dishonour; it is raise in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power: it is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit. Howbiet that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is piritual. The first man is of the earth, earthly: the second man is the Lord from heaven. As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly. Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, inm the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forsamuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:35-58).
This reality is further expressed in the writing of the apostle Paul in this very same epistle to the Corinthian congregation when he writes these words: “For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity” (1 Corinthians 13:9-13). In the third chapter of his second epistle to the Conrithian congregation the apostle Paul writes these words concerning this very same reality: “But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the vail is upon their heart. Nevertheless when it shall turn to the Lord, the vail shall be taken away. Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with open face beholding as in a glad the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Corinthians 3:15-18). If there is one truth I am confident of when examining the concept and reality of suffering, it’s that suffering positions us for transformation—not only a transformation that is present and manifested in the here and now, but a transformation that has yet to be actualized and manifested within our hearts and lives. There is a transformation that has yet to take place within our hearts and lives—a transformation that takes that which is corruptible and transforms it into that which is incorruptible. There is coming a day when we will put aside this earthly tent and we will be raised up a spiritual body that can never be destroyed. The question I can’t help but ask is whether or not we are truly aware of how suffering does indeed and does in fact position us to experience the ultimate transformation that can and will take place when our suffering is no more, and when we are caught up together with Christ our Lord in heaven.
There is a particular passage that is found in the seventeenth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew that helps to illustrate this concept and reality. If you begin reading with the first verse of this chapter you will encounter the account of Jesus and Peter, James, and John, as He took them up into a high mountain apart from those who were around them. Beginning with the first verse we find and read these words: “And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart, and was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and His raiment was white as the light. And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with Him. Then answered Peter, and said unto Jesus, Lord, is it good for us to be here: if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias. While HE yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am will pleased; hear ye Him. And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their face, and were sore afraid. And Jesus came and touched them, and said, Arise, and be not afraid. And when they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no man, save Jesus only” (Matthew 17:1-8). Consider and compare the transfiguration of Christ in this particular passage to what we read of Christ as presented by the apostle John in the prophetic book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ: “I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ. I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet, saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and un to Pergamos, and unto Thyatria, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea. And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks; and in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a gold girdle. His head and His hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire; and His feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and His voice as the sound of many waters. And He had in His right hand seven stars: and out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword: and His countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength. And when I saw Him, I fell at his feet as dead” (Revelation 1:7-16).
If you read this particular passage of Scripture found within the eighth chapter of the epistle of Paul to the saints in Rome, you will find that it is here where the apostle speaks of suffering and transitions suffering to glory. What the apostle writes and reveals in the interim and in between is a powerful process of transformation that can and does in fact take place within the hearts and lives of the saints of God. I am convinced that what Peter, James and John witnessed atop the mountain where Christ was transfigured before them was a glimpse of the glory which Christ enjoyed before and with the Father from the beginning. What the apostles James, Peter and John saw and experienced that day was a powerful witness and testimony of a future transformation that can and will only take place after the suffering has taken its perfect work within and upon our lives. In all reality these three apostles witnessed the effect of suffering within the life of an individual before suffering had actually been fully completed and taken its full work within Christ. What the apostle John saw and witnessed while on the isle of Patmos was the final reality and manifestation of the glory that is manifested once the suffering has been completed—after and once we have fully surrendered ourselves before and unto the true and living God. In all reality, I am convinced that what was experienced atop that mountain might have been a powerful witness and testimony that there might very well be moments—and perhaps even seasons—within our lives when those around us can and will witness the manifestation of the transformation that can and will take place within our lives once the suffering has finished and completed its work within us. There are times when like Peter, James and John, those around us can witness a powerful demonstration and manifestation of the transformation and glory that comes as a direct result of the suffering we have experienced within and throughout the course of our lives. There are times when the Father of lights can and will allow us to witness and experience the manifestation of the fullness of that reality which awaits us on the other side of our suffering, and ultimately on the other side of time and space. The apostles saw a glimpse of the glory which Christ enjoyed in heaven with His Father prior to His suffering and prior to His death and resurrection, and it was the apostle John who would see the fullness of that glory which Christ enjoyed and experienced at the right hand of the Father in heaven.
In all reality, what we read in this passage of Scripture is a powerful and eager anticipation for the manifestation—and I would ultimately add the transformation—of the sons and daughters of God. Consider the words which the apostle Paul wrote in this particular passage of Scripture and you will clearly see that there is an eager groaning and expectation for the manifestation of this revelation within creation—the manifestation of the transformation of glory that awaits the sons and daughters of God when suffering has completed and finished its work: “For the earnest expectation of the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of Him who hath subjected the same in hope, because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groaned and travaileth in pain together until now. And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body. For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth ye yet hope for? But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patients wait for it. Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groaning which cannot be uttered. And He that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because He maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that all things worth together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose. For whom he did foreknow, He also did predestination to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He did predestination, them He also called: and whom He called, them also He justified: and whom He justified, them He also glorified” (Romans 8:19-30).