The Best Is Yet To Come

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 Ro 8:17 and if children, then heirs--heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.
 18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.
 19 For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God.
 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope;
 21 because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.
 22 For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now.
 23 Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body.
 24 For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees?
 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.
 26 Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. (NKJV)

  Ro 8:17 and if children, then heirs--heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him,

Suffer? Wait a minute God, we were going along fine here , you know, children, heirs, inheritance, but where and why does this suffering stuff come in? Well, I’m afraid beloved that it is part of the package that Adam left for all of us when he first sinned and brought about the curse.

And if we want to be identified with Christ, then we must pick up our cross and suffer with Him.

 Lu 9:23 Then He said to them all, "If anyone desires to come after Me, ( if anyone wants to go where I am going, if anyone wants to experience resurrection from the dead, glorification of body, and eternity in heaven) let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. (NKJV)

What. Do you think that Jesus walked into a bowl of cherries when He took on flesh and entered this sin infected world? He left glory to be spat upon, despised, He had no place to rest His head, He hungered, He thirsted, He was rejected, tortured, and killed,  by the very men He created and came to save!

The world, as He had created it, had undergone over 4000 years of death and decay. This was not the Garden of Eden that He popped into, and I don’t think I have to tell you, it’s not the Garden of Eden now!

Some of this suffering we bring on ourselves through willful sinning, other suffering comes to us through the sins of others, and still other suffering comes to us such as physical pain and sickness simply because we are citizens of a fallen world.

Furthermore, when you receive Christ as your Lord and Savior, you walk into a pretty nasty family heritage of suffering as far as the world is concerned. You walk into a family that’s going to catch it from the rest of the world.

 Joh 15:20 "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.” (NKJV)

Yes, as a joint heir, we  must indeed suffer with Him, He suffered, so will we. But don’t forget the last part of this verse!

“that we may also be glorified together!”

Even though Christ never sinned, He experienced all the effects of sin on His own body, but after He was crucified, dead, and buried, He rose again from the dead with a glorified body, and that is the blessed hope of the Christian.

Even though we have been tossed about and ravaged by the effects of our own sin, the sin of others, and this fallen world, if we remain faithful, our bodies will one day be raised from the dead and glorified just as Christ’s was!

 18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.

Don’t just blow by this passage. Consider who wrote it and what he has experienced in his own life. This is Paul writing. He was one of the few ever given a glimpse of glory: He can “consider” with authority! Speaking of himself in

 2Co 12:2 I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago--whether in the body I do not know, or whether out of the body I do not know, God knows--such a one was caught up to the third heaven. (the first heaven is what you are breathing right now, the second heaven is where the sun, moon, and stars are hung, and the third heaven is the place where all departed believers go)  3 And I know such a man--whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows–  4 how he was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.  5 Of such a one I will boast; yet of myself I will not boast, except in my infirmities.  6 For though I might desire to boast, I will not be a fool; for I will speak the truth. But I refrain, lest anyone should think of me above what he sees me to be or hears from me.  7 And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure.
 8 Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me.
 9 And He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (NKJV)

Paul had seen the glory of heaven, and he couldn’t express what he saw in human language. I remember when I was in the Navy and in the midst of one of many an Atlantic storm. I cannot express it to you in words what it was like. Even the pictures I took could not capture the magnitude and power of the five story high waves.

All I can tell you is that it is like nothing you could ever experience anywhere else on earth. Now, that’s a lame example of Paul’s experience, but it’s the best I can do.  

He says, “I can’t tell you what this glory is like, I can only say “the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. You would have to experience it yourself in order to fully comprehend it.”

Now, this is easy for someone to say who is not experiencing suffering, but again, consider the source. This is Paul. Think of how he suffered for the sake of the gospel.

 2Co 11:24 From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. (195)  25 Three times I was beaten with rods; (117) once I was stoned; (he was left for dead!) 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.  (NKJV)

If that’s not enough suffering, we have read previously, he had received a thorn in his flesh, we have never been told what that thorn was, but my guess is it was some sort of a besetting sin, that he couldn’t shake free from and he begged God three times to take it away and He never did.

Paul knew pain, Paul knew suffering and yet, after his glimpse of glory he could say that all the suffering that he or anyone else has experienced or ever will experience could not compare to the glory that awaits believers in heaven.

Some of you are suffering in depression, addictions, and besetting sins. Some of you are suffering in your marriages, some of you are suffering from your divorces, some of you have been unbelievably hurt by loved ones, some of you are suffering in loneliness, and some of you are suffering the pangs of adolescence.

Some of you have suffered or will suffer from disease and other physical maladies, some of you will suffer on account of your rebellious or hurting children. I am beginning to see that as a pastor I suffer daily because of my shared deep concern with Paul for all the churches.

Suffering suffering, suffering! It is our lot! Yet Paul assures us that if we would put all our sufferings on one side of a scale and the coming glory on the other side of the scale, our sufferings would have no more weight than a feather.

And often, when we are in the midst of our sufferings, we give them far too much weight, far too much consideration in light of the coming glory!

I don’t know what you are suffering today. It could be some sort of mental anguish or physical pain. My heart goes out to you. I hope and pray you can take comfort in Paul’s words. He has been there done that, and assures us that glory is well worth the enduring!

Jesus has been there too, “Christ also suffered for us (1 Peter 2:21) He can identify with your suffering. For today and one day at a time hereafter, lean on Him, seek His all sufficient grace, allow the Holy Spirit to groan within you as you eagerly look forward to the day of your deliverance and glorification.

That day will come for you in God’s perfect timing. We are not to take that day into our own hands. But when pain and suffering hits you, or you see it in the world around you, it’s okay to let the Spirit loose and allow Him to groan and utter before the Father.....”Thy kingdom come! Deliver this temple from evil! Come Lord Jesus! Deliver us from this vale of tears!

Bring on Your glory Lord and remove this pain from me and the pain that I see all around me in this fallen world!

We are not alone in this desire to put an end to suffering and pain, even God’s creation yearns to be set free from the bondage imposed upon it as a result of Adam’s sin:

19 For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God.
 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope;
 21 because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.
 22 For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now.

At first glance this seems unfair. Why should creation have to pay for the sin of Adam? Well, when you think it through, it just wouldn’t do for imperfect man to rule a perfect creation, therefore God had to place a curse on the ground.

If He wouldn’t have cursed creation it would’ve remained perfect and that which is perfect is that which rules. Creation would be ruling us. We would be taking orders from our dogs and our cats. Oh wait, bad example, most of us are doing that now.  

The point is, God had to subject His creation to futility in order for man to maintain some sort of dominion over it. Furthermore this subjection to futility breeds hope and gives us a picture of that hope. When one observes nature it is easy to see pain and suffering.

Vicious animals, birds that prey on other young birds, a hamster eating it’s young. The other day I was washing out the gutters on my house and a baby squirrel washed out the bottom disgustingly dead.  Nature can be very nasty!

Tornadoes, floods, earthquakes, volcanoes all speak of pain and suffering, but even in this pain and suffering we can look at nature and see hope!  Think of the first crocuses popping up after a harsh winter. The first flowers that pop up in volcanic ash, or the first green that begins to appear after a forest fire.

One of my favorite signs of hope use to appear on the Polish connection in Menasha every summer. A sunflower would sprout and grow right in the middle of this concrete bridge.

Nature is harsh and it paints a picture of judgement and at the same time great hope. The good news for creation is that it too shall be restored, it too shall benefit from the glorification of man, as it will return again to it’s perfect state. Therefore creation also has a hope.

The Book of Revelation speaks of a new heaven and a new earth and even now the earth is going through the travail of childbirth waiting for the new to come.

23 Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body.

Thanks to the indwelling Holy Spirit we are in this together with the creation! Just look back at v19 very quickly. Does creation await the revealing of the sons of the devil? Does it await the revealing of the atheist? The agnostic? No! The revealing, the glorification of the Sons of God.

We are in this together, but only those who have faith in Jesus Christ.

Perhaps you have heard someone say, “I can’t believe in God because there’s too much suffering in the world,” or “I’m mad at God and don’t want anything to do with Him because of the pain he has allowed into my life.” Oh, pray that such people would understand this truth.

Suffering is an inescapable part of our world, and though they double or triple in magnitude, they still will not outweigh the glory that awaits those who are the children of God. Will you throw away this glory for your pittance of suffering?  Will you forfeit an eternity in a perfect creation because you are experiencing what God said you would be experiencing?

The question isn’t about a loving God allowing suffering, the question is why can’t you believe in a God who told you that it was coming, that suffering is part of the deal. It is an inescapable product of sin! Your sin, the sin of others, and the sin of a fallen and imperfect world.

You can moan and groan about a God who does not deliver you from your suffering, but you miss the point of Scripture. One day He will deliver the faithful from all suffering.

And let’s talk about this idea of firstfruits. It is a very important term as it relates to assurance of salvation. In the OT, the “sheaf of the firstfruits” was presented in the temple. It was waved before the Lord as an assurance of the coming harvest.

C.O. Rosenius puts it this way in his commentary on Romans. “So we who have the indwelling Holy Spirit are given the seal of assurance that heavenly bliss is to be manifested to us in God’s own time. Why should our God give us His Spirit, implant spiritual life in our hearts, nurture and sanctify us if He were not planning to make us eternally blessed? Why should He make us His children in this world if He were not intending to make us His heirs in eternity? We may be assured that the greatest work of the Spirit in us constitutes the “sheaf of the firstfruits” a promise of the coming harvest. “

The firstfruits signifies the assurance of much more to follow. Friends this is the witness that was put in you at your baptism. The firstfruits of the Spirit is the Holy Spirit who indwells all who believe. And I pray that He and this hope will be rekindled in our hearts here this morning.

May hope be reborn in each one of us when we consider that the deposit has been made, the earnest money has been put into our account. Earnest money is what you put down on something when you are serious about purchasing it and owning it.

God gave you the Holy Spirit to let you know that He is serious about owning you,  and when Jesus finishes preparing our mansions, He will come again , to finish the deal, to remove us from this temporary life of suffering and move us into our new adopted home.

Yes, the same Holy Spirit who hovered over the face of the waters before creation, is living in us and groaning with His Creation for that time when all things will be made new. He eagerly awaits the time when the children who have been officially adopted, waved as firstfruits before the Father, may finally come home and enjoy their new digs and new life.

24 For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees?
 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.

This redemption of our bodies, this restoration of creation, this is the hope of our salvation! Yes, we have received forgiveness. Yes we have been set free from sin. Many of our lives have been completely changed by Jesus , but our real hope is life after death...the resurrection.

 1Co 15:19 If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.
 (NKJV)

For what good is a changed life if there is no hope beyond the grave? One of the curses of Christian media and the emphasis on Christian testimonies of changed lives is that people begin to believe that the changed life defines Christianity. It does not!

Plenty of people change their lives without Christ. Alcoholics anonymous is full of people who have changed their lives without the aid of a personal relationship with Christ. I prayed with a man this past Friday at Lifest for his son who was a former drug addict, drunk and sexual deviant. He gave his life to Allah, he became a Muslim and all those things were taken away.

But what good will it do this young man? Unless he repents and comes to Jesus, (and that was our prayer,) he is nothing but a cleaned fish headed for the fryer!   Muhammed did not rise from the dead, Jesus did! And one day those who have put their faith in Him will be raised from the dead with glorified bodies.

It is the hope of the resurrection that defines the Christian! I wonder how that wonderful knowledge will help you with your pain and suffering today. How much of your pain and suffering comes from witnessing the changed lives of others while you still are being overwhelmed by your besetting sins, your own “thorns in the flesh?”

Perhaps we need to do some rethinking here. Perhaps you and I need to put the hope of the resurrection before us first before we put the hope of a changed life before us. Your life may never change! By that I mean that you may battle sin and suffering all your days! In fact we all likely will. Don’t give up the battle!

Daily confess of your sins, repent of them, and receive God’s forgiveness, remembering that if you continue these three things you are walking in the Spirit and if you are walking in the Spirit when the Lord comes you will receive your reward!  And the glory that you will receive will far outweigh the present sufferings and torment you are experiencing now!

Now, we don’t know what our glorified body will look like, we don’t know what heaven will be like, that’s why we call it a blessed hope. The essence of hope is the unseen, the unknown. It’s why we wrap presents. The recipient can only hope that underneath that wrapping is the gift that they longed for.

Look in the mirror today. What you are seeing is God’s wrapping paper.  Inside is the firstfruits of the perfect present. There is a sign on you that says “do not open until I come again to make all things new.”

And so wait beloved. No matter the trial, no matter the pain, we wait. Knowing with all certainty that the present will be opened in God’s good and perfect timing. Oh the unspeakable joy of the unraveling, for those who know Christ Jesus and are joint heirs with Him.  For “the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”

And if we persevere in the faith, the best is yet to come.