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“Hope For What We Do Not See”
Whatever suffering we endure because of Jesus in this present age is nothing when compared to the glory God will give us in the age to come. The sufferings of this life will seem to have no weight at all when we step into our eternal inheritance. Who better to tell us this than the apostle Paul being well acquainted with suffering:
1 Corinthians 4:9-13 For I think that God has displayed us, the apostles, last, as men condemned to death; for we have been made a spectacle [a]to the world, both to angels and to men. 10 We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are distinguished, but we are dishonored! 11 To the present hour we both hunger and thirst, and we are poorly clothed, and beaten, and homeless. 12 And we labor, working with our own hands. Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we endure; 13 being defamed, we [b]entreat. We have been made as the filth of the world, the offscouring of all things until now.
2Corinthians 11:24-33From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; 26 in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; 27 in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness— 28 besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches. 29 Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to stumble, and I do not burn with indignation? 30 If I must boast, I will boast in the things which concern my [a]infirmity. 31 The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is blessed forever, knows that I am not lying. 32 In Damascus the governor, under Aretas the king, was guarding the city of the Damascenes with a garrison, desiring to arrest me; 33 but I was let down in a basket through a window in the wall, and escaped from his hands.
First point: suffering is inevitable. I hate to break this to you, but in this life you will suffer. In fact, we are told that those in Christ are APPOINTED to suffering
Philippians 1:29 For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake,
You cannot escape suffering. But how do you view it? The problem that I see with suffering, is that most people fear death in their suffering and this fear puts you back into bondage:
Hebrews 2:14-15Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.
A lot of people, including Christians have a skewed view of life and death, in fact even to the point of making our lives here on this earth an idol. It is because your roots are in this world and not in heaven that you still fear death
Paul says that the proper way to view suffering and the fear of death is to weigh it in balance to eternity and the glory that we will have one day with Him. These are not equal. The balance falls heavily on the side of glory. Why do you still fear death? Because you have yet to realize the glory that will be revealed
We are not the only ones suffering because of the fall and waiting for God’s full redemption. The entire creation awaits and even groans, the earth, plants and animals are all groaning (think global warming and so-called climate change) The entire system is malfunctioning and miserable, waiting for relief. The prophet Isaiah describes what will happen when this curse is reversed. The animal and plant world will be dramatically transformed.
Isaiah 11:6-9 “The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, The leopard shall lie down with the young goat, The calf and the young lion and the fatling together; And a little child shall lead them.
7 The cow and the bear shall graze; Their young ones shall lie down together;
And the lion shall eat straw like the ox. 8 The nursing child shall play by the cobra’s hole, And the weaned child shall put his hand in the viper’s den. 9 They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain, For the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord As the waters cover the sea.
Isaiah 55:12-13 “For you shall go out with joy, And be led out with peace; The mountains and the hills
Shall break forth into singing before you, And all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. 13 Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress tree, And instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree;
And it shall be to the Lord for a name, For an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.”
God has allowed suffering to come upon an innocent creation, temporarily. It will one day be transformed and ruled by the Messiah and those submitted to His Lordship. All of creation is “eagerly awaiting” this redemption, but currently it is as a woman in the agony and pain of childbirth. The suffering of creation is real. This is not a meaningless theological point. God sees the enormous pain of creation and He will not let it go on forever. You will suffer- but what will you do in your suffering?
Pt. 2: Suffering should draw us nearer to Christ. The same way creation is groaning, believers groan because we suffer. The Holy spirit has been given us to help us and comfort us in this world, but He lives in dying bodies made of rebellious flesh. We still wake up everyday to a sinful world full of sorrow and death. We have been told to expect temptation, spiritual opposition and persecution for our faith. Faith in Christ does not mean we escape all the painful trials of life. Like creation, we groan, eagerly awaiting the day when our adoption is complete. O HAPPY DAY! EX: a Sunday night at New Heart church. I ran to the altar in my suffering, crying out and He gave me a glimpse of heaven. I knew it was real when I went home and Christian said, “Your face is glowing like Moses’” My husband always tells me, “You want to die.” Which is true, I had a glimpse. I am tired of this world. But for me, it is selfish to want to die because He still needs me here. I literally had the Lord tell me to quit praying to go to be with Him. In due time.
Hebrews 5:8 though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered.
Suffering will either draw you to the throne for comfort or you will be drawn into seeking your own solution, comfort and help apart from Christ. It is your choice. You can freak out and lose your mind or you can seek comfort and solace in the arms of Jesus. You can get better or you can get bitter. God is molding Himself a family that are like Christ in character and appearance.
Jeremiah 18:1-6 “The word which came to Jeremiah from the Lord, saying: 2 “Arise and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will cause you to hear My words.” 3 Then I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was, making something at the [a]wheel. 4 And the vessel that he [b]made of clay was [c]marred in the hand of the potter; so he made it again into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to make. 5 Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying: 6 “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter?” says the Lord. “Look, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in My hand, O house of Israel!
When we allow the Potter to mold us and allow Him to take us through situations and sufferings we do not like; then we become more like Christ thus fulfilling His purpose in us. But to fight His process makes us stiff-necked and rebellious, not good for anything. WE become useless lumps of hardened clay.
Pt. 3: Suffering identifies us with Christ.
Suffering and pain have a purpose. It is not for nothing.
Matthew 5:11-12 Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. 12 Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
John 15:18-21“If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 20 Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also. 21 But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me.
About 15 years ago, I had the above word, “Crystal, they will hate you for My sake”. MY whole life has prepared me for this. I was an outcast from the time I was a child. I remember in Jr. high eating lunch alone sitting on the bathroom floor, crying. This is nothing new.
Yet we are not alone in our groaning. The HS groans within us, waiting for the adoption of our bodies. Until we die or the resurrection takes place, we must live out our days in aging bodies and wrestle with rebellious flesh and fight spiritual wickedness in a fallen world. But our greatest weakness is not our bodies, our flesh or the world; it’s the poor quality of our prayer life.
Paul says we are weak because we do not know what to pray for as we ought to, so we tend to ask for the wrong things, not the things God wants to accomplish in us. Paul tells us because the LORD searches our heart, the HS makes intercession for us, we can be sure that God will answer us because our prayers arise from hearts which are under the leadership of the Spirit and we yearn to obey His will.
*We can be confident that even in our most difficult trials, HE is intervening to cause the situation to be for our “good”, WHICH is to make us more like Christ. Suffering is to make us Christ-like. Please HEAR. Embrace your trial and suffering because He is making you more like Him. Scripture tells us to REJOICE in our sufferings because God is molding us into something beautiful and useful. Don’t you want to be of use to the Master?
Pt. 4: Suffering produces in us THIS hope that we do not yet see.
Paul chooses the word “first fruit” to give us perspective. “Firstfruit” is from the Exodus onward. God required His people to present to Him a small portion from the first cutting or picking of the season’s harvest. It was only a small amount, but it was the beginning of the great harvest that was to come and acknowledged God as their Source of provision.
He wants us to remember there is much more of the Spirit yet to come. We know in part and prophesy in part. The Spirit is like the earnest money in a real estate transaction. It is God’s deposit that He will one day fully purchase us. Yes, His Spirit dwells in us, but we are still broken vessels. We have this hope in His promise that one day we will be in the full presence of Light, Joy, Peace, Comfort. My favorite book is Revelation because it is the book that reveals Him as Lord and King. It reveals His future kingdom and my future with Him. It reveals His glory, His holiness and His majesty and my heritage with Him.
Revelation 21:1, 10-11, 23-25Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea.
10 And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the [a]great city, the [b]holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, 11 having the glory of God. Her light was like a most precious stone, like a jasper stone, clear as crystal.
23 The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine [a]in it, for the [b]glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light. 24 And the nations [c]of those who are saved shall walk in its light, and the kings of the earth bring their glory and honor [d]into it. 25 Its gates shall not be shut at all by day (there shall be no night there).
“Hope” as Paul uses here is a special type of faith. Faith is the confidence that God keeps His promises. I believe that He will do what He said He would do, so I act accordingly. We have faith in many different areas: for salvation, healing, provision, protection, etc. But the “hope” Paul talks about here to overcome suffering and the fear of death is faith focused on a specific subject: God’s future kingdom, the day when the glory of our salvation will fully arrive and I will look upon the face of the One that I love
We are trained by grace to look forward to that day:
Titus 2:11-13 11 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, 12 teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, 13 looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,
Grace teaches us to look away from sin and the world and to be looking, expecting this blessed Hope! During this present age, our salvation is incomplete. Our bodies have not yet been resurrected, the earth is still held captive by the curse; we still wrestle against spiritual wickedness in high places, and we still do not see our Lord face to face or know Him as we are known. Someday, we will stand in resurrected bodies and behold Jesus face to face. Death, sorrow and sin will have passed away, and we will glorify God and enjoy Him forever. On that day our waiting will end; our full inheritance will arrive; our hoping will cease. But this is in the future so the faith that saves us must now contain this hope, and this hope must endure over the course of our entire life.
1 Corinthians 13:12For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.
2 Corinthians 4:18 while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.
Paul now uses a term that many mistranslate. “those whom God foreordained”- before God made the world He saw all those who would someday be saved. He didn’t determine person by person, and He did not appoint some to heaven and some to hell. This teaching negates His character. Rather he determined what a person must do to be saved, and He foreknew who would respond appropriately. A person is called to a certain position, but God’s “calling” is a genuine invitation to all humans. HOWEVER He requires us to come on His terms, not ours, and since His way greatly conflicts with human pride because He requires repentance and faith, many refuse the call.
There is a foreordained family of God- God determined to save a PEOPLE in Christ. Think of it this way- there is a foreordained ship predestined for heaven. This ship is going to heaven. But whether you get on or off is your choice. God has made a way for you to get on, through the blood of His Son. This is similar to the Passover. The family of Israel was told to put the blood of a slaughtered lamb over the door posts of their homes. The angel of death passed over the homes where the blood was applied to their doors. God will Passover all who have applied the blood of the Lamb to their lives- but you have this choice. All those who do not obey this command will experience eternal death. You can also jump off- that does not change the course of the ship, the ship is still destined for heaven. This is what’s called apostasy- departing from faith.
He foreordained that a great family would be created, made up of people who are holy in character and resurrected in body like His Son. To produce this family, He issued a call to the human race to come to Him by repentance and faith. This call has been given to every generation and in every generation there are those who accept it and those who reject it. Because of PRIDE, they refuse to acknowledge their spiritual need or to humble themselves. If someone believes they are righteous by their own efforts, they will find it difficult to receive His righteousness as a gift. Their natural tendency is to try harder to be good, rather than repent. Instead of admitting their attitudes and behavior fall hopelessly short of God’s standards, they try to justify themselves. Only those who are willing to come to Him on His terms will be saved. In the end, those who are excluded, only have themselves to blame.
We are justified. Those who respond to His call, He imparts the righteousness of Christ to each one of us as a free gift. WE become the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus.
Pt. 5: We are glorified. Suffering in this world, for Christ is not worthy to be compared to the glory we will have with Him one day! This is our hope- to be glorified. This refers to the entire transformation that will take place when we are resurrected, including a glorious and immortal new body which radiates God’s visible glory; a new form of flesh that contains no sinful tendencies and a moral character which is sinless and Christ-like. Paul uses this word to describe the finished product. Those who are justified will be made glorious in body and character. Before creating the world, God determined the steps needed to prepare humans to fellowship with Him forever. The final step is being glorified, the final act of separating us from everything which is mortal and fallen, and raising us to the level of being like Christ. THIS IS OUR GLORIOUS HOPE. In the midst of our suffering, we can rejoice because one day we will be glorified! God is working in us to make us a beautiful and glorious vessel. Rejoice in your suffering- God is working things out for your good. Rejoice in your suffering- you identify with Christ.
Acts 20:24[a]But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my [b]race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.
1 Corinthians 15:55-58 “O[a] Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?” The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.
Revelation 12:11 And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.
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