“Glory” in suffering? 18-06-2023

Romans 5:1-8

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Friends, is this passage from Paul to the Romans seems right up there with John 3:16 as a pure expression of the good news? So much good news in these words, especially if you or someone you love is suffering something hard at the moment.

You are ‘justified’ – declared right with, made as one and made holy by the Lord of all creation. And this is not because you have appeasing him, paid him off enough by being very, very good by keeping his lofty laws or observing his special ceremonies – but only by faith: trusting his grace given in his Son…

You have access to God’s grace. You have the ‘password’ for access to his underserved, unearned favour, blessing and love every day, whatever the day brings. The password? ‘Jesus’.

You are still standing; even standing tall, standing upright in the storm and in the calm, in the good and the bad – not in your own graces, favours and powers but God’s, in Jesus’ standing tall after being raised from our greatest enemy, death.

Often it does not seem like it, but God has perfect timing, says Paul: the perfect timing of love and acceptance when we often feel like the world is ganging up on us or there are too many things to handle at once.

He has great love for us when we are very wrong, very bad, very lost, very unsure, very proud, very sure of ourselves, very set in our ways.

And even in this suffering, God is still giving his all so we can have his all – character, hope, perseverance for walking through it.

But one thing puzzles me. Paul says we not only glory in all of this goodness and presence in Jesus, but;

“…. we …. glory in our sufferings …”

‘Glory’ in our sufferings? That seems strange. It is the last thing we want to do.

I might glory in the beauty I see in the vista of God’s creation I see before me somewhere. I might glory in an achievement made and celebrated. I might glory in our youngest son who had his 21st birthday party last weekend. I might glory in our kids and their kids. I might glory in a win. But glory in my suffering?

This seems impossible.

Seems more like we tend to run from our sufferings, hide them from others, feel shamed by them, get angry at others for them, get angry at God for them, write them off as useless and decide that they are to be avoided at all costs!

How can Paul ‘glory in his sufferings’ and encourage us to do the same?

Well whenever you hear a ‘therefore’ when listening to the Scriptures, you need to go back and listen to what was ‘there’ ‘before’. This is where Paul’s words here come from …

18 Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him … 19 Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead – since he was about a hundred years old – and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. 20 Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, 21 being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. 22 This is … also for us … who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. 25 He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification

So, the beginning of being able to glory in even whatever suffering comes our way is Jesus’ resurrection over all death, sin, darkness and evil for us. He suffered. He suffered as a human being. He suffered fully, but also freely in love for you and me.

Or as Paul says here …

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly …8 … God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

When you and I are out of time, in the wrong time or thing, deluding ourselves of our own power to overcome trouble, standing still being overwhelmed by suffering or taking matters into our own hands and trying to run through suffering, God’s timing is perfect as he simply calls us to walk through it with him.

Someone in Wednesday evening Connect Group shared that in suffering and questions and worries, it feels like you are wading your way through seaweed trying to find the light. I know what that is. I suspect you do too. For all the seaweed waders searching for light, here’s the light….

In whatever you face these things are always true, according to the Word today.

You are right with and at peace with God because he has made this so out of love for you and all by his will, his decision and his power. In the hard stuff you have God’s real stuff – grace.

Like a secret agent in a dangerous situation, you have an earpiece to tell of what is happening and hear a voice of a friend giving you information and direction others could never know…. You have access to something wonderful and powerful in your suffering.

You have

….”the hope of the glory of God”.

What is that?

Sure hope, not a wishful longing for something that good that could happen if the stars line up or I get it right.

No, a hope that is based on what has already happened and will surely happen. Hope made sure by Someone else for you – God’s glorious love, presence and promised future is yours now and at the last and into the everlasting, despite your suffering or your dear friends suffering.

Like we see in that ‘glory cloud’ among God’s people in the Scriptures…

The shekinah –

  • the glory cloud that descended on the Tabernacle in those harsh desert wandering years,
  • that filled the Temple in the city to signal God’s abiding presence with his people providing as place where they could come and speak with God and receive blessing from God for their life,
  • the cloud that surrounded peter, James and John that wonderfully strange day on the mountain where they witnessed a glorified Jesus and Elijah and Moses having a chat,
  • the cloud that enveloped the risen Jesus departing in never-ending blessing over us all for all time in all places, who’s ‘glory fills the skies’ in which we live …  All there at the ready for you.

In Jesus, you can be the one still standing in anything – standing and strong enough to walk – not freeze, not run. Walk.

When you are being knocked from pillar to post you still remain standing to keep walking, not on your own two feet by your own smarts, resilience, toughness or glory, but by Jesus’ wounded feet, by the Father’s gracious embrace in your Saviour, whose arms are wide open to you as he suffers on that cross, which is also his throne of glory, according to John.

With that glory, that grace, that access 24/7, you can speak high words of high praise about this God with us, this ‘Immanuel’ God, this Suffering Servant God who washes your dirty feet and sticks tough in the tough stuff with you.

Friends is the seaweed parting yet? Is light shining again for you?

And here it is. You can even ‘glory in your sufferings in Jesus. Wy so?

Because your suffering has value, has a greater purpose, has meaning. It is not wasted or futile or just dark with no light.

The Scriptures tell you that your suffering is real. It is not illusion or meaningless thing that you just wait out until it goes away.

Suffering is not highly ordered and equally proportioned either. It is not equally measured out according to your previous life or the next life. Suffering comes and it is often very unfair and overwhelming – like this terrible tragedy of the tourist bus roll over affecting so many so harshly. We pray for them all.

Paul, who suffered enormously and usually unjustly can say the unthinkable. Along with the wins and the wonderful things of life, suffering is also God’s place for shaping you, loving you, helping you, teaching you and making you his hands and feet of good news to those around you.

In other words, your suffering counts for plenty to God and to the world and to the church.

Friend, hear today the Saviour say, as he weeps at his dead friend’s tomb, as he cries out those words of total abandonment, ‘My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?’, with bloodied body and wounded heart, as he looks over the city and weeps for it because of its obstinance and hard-hearted blocked ears to God’s grace for it….

  • Your suffering is real, not something to must escape from by any means at any costs as if it is meaningless or futile.
  • Your suffering is not something you dismiss and downplay to stay untouched and unaffected by it.
  • Your suffering is not something that your reason can master, and your intelligence has to figure out so you can cope – to endlessly ask the why of it all when you do not and sometimes cannot know.
  • Your suffering is not something you suffer to experience to pay the Father back for your many sins – as if the Father who sent his Son in love is punishing you for your sins and secretly wanting you to fail so he can condemn you. He says he did not come to you to condemn you but to save you safe and sound in his grace no matter your suffering.

Friends, today this God of ours is doing what he always has done – while we were sinners, he gives his life for you and so you have new life again.

OK Paul. I might after all, be able to begin to also glory in my suffering today because the Lord Jesus is suffering with me and walking with me in that too. He may be even at work in it leading me on toward love and kindness and character.

I believe he is.  Amen.





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