CO-SUFFERERS, CO-HEIRS
Motivation to Suffer

In a Brief Survey of the Epistle of Paul to the Romans
Based on sermons preached in PCC Worship Services, July 2003 to Sep 2005
Part 36c of 83


17 And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. 18 For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Romans 8:17-18).

[We have seen how believers are heirs of God and joints with Christ, and how we must expect to suffer as Christ suffered. But we also noted that we have a choice whether we wish so to suffer or not. In this concluding installment of our exposition, we must consider why  true believers are willing cheerfully to suffer for Christ. JJL]

3.  Encouragement to
Suffer for Christ

The first encouragement must be the assurance that we belong to Him and are joint-heirs with Him. If we are suffering with Him. It shows that He is in us. “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you” (Jn 15:18) says our Lord.

This assurance brings much joy:

11 Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. 12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven…” (Mt 5:11-12)

It is this greatness of our reward that Paul puts forward particularly to encourage us to suffer for Christ. He tell us that the suffering that we endure today “are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (v. 18).

Paul is making a comparison. He is putting two things on a balance. On one pan he puts all the sufferings that weigh us down today. On the other pan he is putting the weight of eternal glory that shall be revealed in us.

This glory is not a glory that we shall behold. It is not a glory that we shall go to. It is glory that belongs to us.

We already possess this glory. But today it is hidden behind a veil of sin and suffering. One day the veil will drawn away, and the glory that is ours through Christ will be revealed.

Paul has heaped the burden of suffering we have to endure on one pan. On the other pan he is the weight of glory that we shall receive.

What is the result of the experiment? As soon as he puts the weight of glory that shall be revealed in us on the pan, the other pans shoots up.

There is no balance! The suffering that we endure today “are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” It is like comparing feathers with gold bars.

How ever great the suffering we may have to endure today, it can never be compared to the glory that shall be revealed in us.

This is the reckoning or logical reasoning of the apostle Paul. His reckoning is surely right. He is writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

Now, he does not tell us how he comes to this conclusion. But can we not see something of it? We surely can.

In the first place, our suffering is temporal, whereas the glory that will be revealed is eternal. Time cannot be compared to eternity. Shall we not be willing to suffer for a little while, then to enjoy eternal glory?

Secondly, what we can lose today by suffering for Christ are temporal things: our wealth, our honour in the eye of men, our temporal relationships or at the most, our earthly lives. On the other hand, what we shall gain in eternity are things we cannot loose.

The famous missionary Jim Eliot who was eaten by cannibals said it very well: “He is no fool to loose what he cannot keep, to gain what he cannot loose.”

Thirdly, our capacity for suffering today is limited, whereas our capacity to enjoy glory in eternity is unlimited. I mean: How much can we suffer today? At the most our persecutors can kill us. But our Lord says:

“And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Mt 10:28).

And He who is “able to destroy both soul and body in hell,” is willing also bless such as suffered for Christ today. He will give us an inexhaustible capacity for glory and then fill it up for all eternity. He will give us the cup and He will fill it brim full.

Finally, the suffering of this present time is not unmixed. It carries with it much joy too, as we saw. This is why the apostle Paul could speak about glorying and rejoicing in tribulation (Rom 5:3, 2 Cor 7:4).

On the other hand, the glory that we shall enjoy as joint-heirs with Christ will be unmixed. It will be pure joy, joy unspeakable. There will be no traces whatsoever of suffering, pain or sorrow in heaven.

Therefore beloved brethren, may I urge you with the words of the apostle Peter:

“Rejoice [he says], inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy” (1 Pet 4:13).

Conclusion

The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”

Shall we not choose to suffer for Christ today?

Beloved brethren, it is a tremendous comfort to know that we are the children of God and joint-heirs with Christ. But let us also remember that this assured hope belongs only to those of us who would suffer with Christ.

The apostle Paul leaves us with no middle ground: “if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together” he says. If you are consistently choosing your honour, job, riches, freedom and relations before Christ, you will not be gloried with Him.

Our Lord himself said:

37 He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. 39 He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it” (Mt 10:37-39).

Are you, beloved brethren and children, ready to suffer for Christ? Are you prepared to take up your cross?

·  Are you prepared to turn down a job for Christ’s sake—although it will involve suffering?

·  Are you prepared to sleep less for Christ’s sake?

·  Are you prepared to give of your substance for Christ’s sake—although you may have to suffer for it?

·  Are you prepared to have more children to bring up for Christ’s sake—although it will involve suffering?

·  Are you ready to admonish your friend for Christ’s sake—although you may lose your friend?

·  Are you willing to be a blessing to the people of God for Christ’s sake—although your loved ones may despise you for not putting them as your priority?

These are but a few examples. But beloved, if you are ready and willing to take up your cross to follow the Lord, you will probably suffer. But what great glory awaits you. You are a co-heir with Christ even as you co-suffer with Him. “The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”

So take comfort in your tribulations for Christ’s sake. Remember the words of your Lord:

“In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” (Jn 16:33).

But once again as we end, I would address you who are still outside Christ. Despite all that we have said, it may still be mind-boggling for you that Christians will choose suffering. Perhaps you think we have been brain washed.

Well, let me assure you that we do not enjoy suffering. But let me be quick to point out that if we have to suffer for Christ, then we will gladly do so. Why? Let me tell you why?

The promise of eternal inheritance is just an encouragement to suffer for him. Sometimes we need the extra push, and this provides the extra push. But this is not the reason why we are willing to suffer for Christ.

The reason why we are willing to suffer for Christ is that He suffered for us in the first place. He lived, suffered and died for us while we were still his enemies. He suffered for us though we were unworthy. How much more should we not suffer for Him when He is altogether worthy.

Oh friends, you will never understand what we are saying until you taste of the love of God that is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit.

You will never understand until you can cry out in your heart “Abba, Father.” But I would urge you to consider your life. Your life is temporal and meaningless. Unless you are in Christ, your present misery will capped with far far greater misery than you can imagine today.

Unless you repent of your sin today, you will suffer in the hands of an angry God. Oh will you not repent? Oh will you not flee to Christ? The terror of exceeding wrath awaits all who are of the world. The weight of exceeding glory awaits all who are in Christ. There is no middle ground. Will you not turn away from your sin and turn to Christ! Amen.

—JJ Lim