Fight for Joy! Blog
Where Jesus Changes Everything
“Then THE RIGHTEOUS WILL SHINE FORTH AS THE SUN in the kingdom of their Father” (Matthew 13:43). I’ve written a lot on the subject of suffering. Perhaps this is because suffering is one of the few things all of us have in common. I am certainly no stranger to it and I suspect you aren’t either. And, if you’re like me, I doubt you enjoy or look forward to another opportunity to suffer!
In the midst of suffering we’re told by Jesus and the biblical authors not to worry. When it comes to our daily needs Jesus reminds us not to worry about tomorrow. Why? Because, “Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof”—King James speak for, “Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matt. 6:34).
A dear friend who is now with Jesus—Jack Kinsella—wrote, “All that is well and good and we understand it on the spiritual level. But somehow, sometimes that doesn’t seem to be enough. Sometimes, the weight of this old world and where it is going is crushingly heavy. Sometimes you just want to throw your hands up in despair and cry out, ‘I’m losing faith in everything. What’s the point?’”
That’s a good question—“What’s the point?” I mean, really, what IS the point of suffering? Even if we try and write suffering off ultimately as a result of sin and the fall of man we still, if we are honest, have to admit we struggle over the question of why? Or, to stick with our aforementioned question: What’s the point?
Back to Jack: “As Christians, we live in a dual reality, with one foot in this existence and one in the next.” That sounds a lot like something the apostle Paul wrote, “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself” (Phil. 3:20-21).
That’s a powerful statement. But sometimes I wonder if there was no suffering, would we truly understand “our citizenship is in heaven”? If there was no suffering, would we “eagerly wait for [our] Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ”? I doubt it. So then, perhaps the point of suffering is to call us to a heavenly hope.
Jesus said, “Then THE RIGHTEOUS WILL SHINE FORTH AS THE SUN in the kingdom of their Father” (Matt. 13:43). Paul wrote, “For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God” (Rom. 8:19). Here’s where it gets exciting. When the sons (and daughters) of God are revealed in glory they will shine forth as the sun. There is something mysterious here. I’m not completely sure what this means but whatever it means I think the Bible is clear—we arrive there through suffering. “Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22).
I’m not completely sure what this means but whatever it means I think the Bible is clear—we arrive there through suffering. So, what’s the point? Remember, this is partly a mystery to us. We know this from the resurrection chapter: “Behold, I tell you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we will all be changed” (1 Cor. 15:51). A few verses earlier Paul writes, “There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory. So also is the resurrection of the dead” (1 Cor. 15:40-41a). This taken with other passages leads us to believe that in the resurrection some believers will shine more brightly than others. Perhaps this is why Jesus encourages us to “store up for yourselves treasures in heaven… for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matt. 6:20-21). And it is most definitely why Paul wrote, “For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison” (2 Cor. 4:17). Momentary here meaning the suffering will last no longer than a lifetime.
So, what’s the point? Suffering leads to glory. The greater the suffering the greater the glory--if, and there’s always an if—we respond faithfully. And sometimes, responding faithfully means crying out to God and asking the hard questions even when the answers don’t come this side of heaven. One of those hard and often unanswered questions is what’s the point? We may never know that answer until we get to heaven, other than to say, the point is to call us to a heavenly hope. As Jack shared in his last note to his friends: “We live on this earth, but our hope is for the world to come. We live on this earth, but we strive to be worthy of heaven. We live on this earth, but we seek to earn heavenly rewards at the Bema Seat.” In other words, even when we suffer and wonder we still trust Jesus!
Hope. What a thoroughly misunderstood word. The way our society throws that word around you’d think maybe it’ll happen, maybe it won’t. “I hope my team wins the World Series” or “I hope I get a raise,” or “I hope things work out in this or that situation.” But when the Bible uses the word hope it does so with a Greek word (ἐλπίς – elpis) that means a joyful and confident expectation of eternal salvation. In other words, it’s as good as done and for the believer this hope serves “as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast” (Heb. 6:19).
We suffer. We cry out to God and ask the hard questions. But the answers often don’t come. But that’s okay because we have our hope and our hope is in God and it is a firmly anchored and unchanging hope—it is “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27). Christ is our hope right now and in the future.
So what’s the point? I mean, really, what IS the point? To call us to a heavenly hope so that we might share in His glory and so that we will “SHINE FORTH AS THE SUN” (Matt. 13:43).
Friends, one of these days—perhaps sooner rather than later—we are going to see Jesus face to face. I can’t even begin to fathom what that day will be like. But this much we do know: “We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is” (1 John 3:2).
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