The Coming Glory
The last three years have been some of the most emotionally difficult years we have ever seen. Everyone I encounter seems to be stressed to the max. From a global pandemic, to severe supply shortages, a Russian invasion of Ukraine, sexual abuse scandals, mass shootings, and high inflation, this has been a season like no other. All these events have brought us to tears. Over the last three years, many people have told me that they simply can not watch the news anymore because it is traumatizing them to hear one sad story after another. And, you know, I am inclined to agree with them. I used to be a news junky, but in the last three years I haven’t wanted to watch the news as much. How has this present suffering effected you? Have you found yourself struggling with an increase in anger, feelings of helplessness or frustration? If you have you are not alone.
For me personally, the emotional heaviness started nine months before Covid hit our big world. In November of 2018, my beloved husband Gary, retired from our Tucson church where he had pastored for forty years. To celebrate his retirement, our sweet congregation sent us on a trip to Israel. Going to the Holy Lands was always on our bucket list. Little did we know that this retirement gift was also going to be Gary’s graduation gift. While touring the sights of Israel, from the Golan Heights to the Dead Sea, my husband began to experience seizures which would later prove to be an unknown brain tumor. And, this diagnoses was going to make the endurance of Covid even harder.
For the next seventeen months we struggled through surgeries, chemo therapy and Covid isolation. Often times Gary and I had to communicate though ground floor windows of a care facility or a hospital. As his brain tumor continued to grow, one time I coached Gary for twenty minutes on how to find his cell phone, it was in his pocket. After he found it he told me he
needed a nap and could not talk to me. This was the last real conversation I had with my husband. I walked backed to the car in tears knowing the end would be soon.
Finally, they put him on hospice and they let me bring him home. My children and grandchildren rallied one more time to see their beloved father, and we cocooned as a family until he passed. I found the entire experience of trying to be an advocate for my husband, while he was dying of brain cancer, during a global pandemic to be emotionally exhausting. On October 2, 2020, my husband went to be with Jesus.
My days of grief have been a mixture of both good and bad times. Yes, I lost my husband, the love of my life and until I see him again in heaven I will deeply miss everything about him. But, in his illness and death, friends supported us, brought us food, sent money and genuinely wanted us to to know how much they loved Gary. I have to say I am deeply grateful for the extended
time God gave us to say our full goodbyes.
In Romans 8:18 Paul wrote,
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. ESV
Was Paul being genuine when he wrote these words? Did he know what real suffering was? How could he say with confidence that our present sufferings are not worth comparing to the glory that is coming in Jesus?
Paul’s present sufferings were very different than the trials we have been facing. But, suffering is not a competition where we struggle to see who has endured the most. Your sorrow is real and so is mine. Once when I was trying to explain the universality of suffering to a sweet friend deep in grief she said, “Well if it was I would be winning!” Haven’t we all felt that way at times?
Yes, Paul and his fellow Christians never faced a global pandemic. But, they did face many life threatening trials. For the first 400 years of Christianity, it was a crime to be a Christian across the entire Roman empire. There was literally no place to hide for the young and persecuted church. The book of Acts records in great detail how Christians were taken outside the city gates and stoned by their accusers. Some went on to their death in coliseums where they would face gladiators and lions, to entertain the blood thirsty citizens of Rome. Long after Jesus’ resurrection, crucifixion remained Rome’s favorite form of intimidation. These numerous acts of torture were a constant reminder of how much it would cost to disobey Rome. In spite of this high level of physical pain and suffering Paul said that the glory that was coming was not worth comparing.
Can we imagine a glory like that? A glory that makes all our trials pale in comparison and gives us hope? This glory is what I want us to consider.
Look at Romans 8:18-26.
18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing 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 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is
not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. ESV
Paul emphasizes three truths about the glory that is coming.
First this coming glory puts our present sufferings in perspective. Romans 8:18
In this world everyone will suffer, but this is not the end of the story. Eternity is coming when we will see the glory of Jesus and that will be, so spectacular that these present trials will pale in comparison. We do not get to choose our earthly trials, but we have the freedom to choose where we will spend eternity. At the end of time no one is going to say, “Jesus, you asked me to do too
much.” No, instead we are going to wish we had done more to advance God’s kingdom on earth. This is how fabulous seeing Jesus’ face will be. Can we imagine that? If we could it would strengthen us.
Second this coming glory is anticipated by all of creation. Romans 8:19-22
As I studied this passage I found myself remembering a recent trip to Sedona, Arizona that I took with my children and grandchildren. Every time I think of about this trip it makes me deliriously
happy. As a native Arizonan I have always loved the rugged beauty of Sedona. And, I loved considering that this red cliff, hiker’s paradise is groaning in expectation for the glory that is going to be revealed in Jesus. This is a marvelous concept to consider.
In Romans 8 Paul is teaching that creation was subjected to decay when Adam and Eve rebelled against God in the garden. Before the Fall of Man, roses didn’t wilt and plants did not decay. What Paul is emphasizing in this passage, is that creation has been waiting in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. When nature sees the revelation of who the true children of God are, she knows it won’t be long before she too, will be liberated from her bondage to decay. Creation is groaning for this revelation as in the pains of childbirth. How many of you women can remember the pains of childbirth? Me too! Paul’s illustration of childbirth explains just how painful creations’ wait time for Jesus’ return has been.
All of creation is groaning in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. The next time you look at the iridescent feathers of a hummingbird hovering in flight, a brilliant Arizona sunset after a monsoon storm, or the red cliffs and canyons of Sedona I want you to remember that nature has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth to see who the adopted children of God are.
Third this coming glory fills us with hope. Romans 8:23-25
We learn from this passage that the children of God, just like all of creation, are also groaning in expectation for God to set the world right. We long for the day when God will broadcast who he has adopted as his children. God uses everything that happens to us, good and bad, to draw us to himself and to reveal his great love for us. God delights in knowing his children and being known by them. His spiritual adoption sets our hearts at rest when we know that just like a precious child who is adopted on earth, our acceptance is based on his word and not our behavior. Employees or servants must strive to please their employers, but a child is favored because of who their daddy is. God gifts us with his unconditional and sacrificial love, to redeem us and make us his own. No one can earn God’s favor and become his child, but those who are adopted spiritually will live lives marked by spiritual fruit.
Paul talk’s about the fruit of God’s Holy Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23,
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. ESV
Spiritual fruit is the evidence of Gods indwelling power. Galatians teaches us, that we can not be loving unless God fills us with his indwelling presence. We can’t be joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle or a person who exercises self-control, without the Holy Spirit within us bearing his fruit.
When fruit is sold at the grocery store that is out of season its’ price usually reflects its’ scarcity. For example: Rainier Cherries are $7.95 a pound when they appear at the market early and are out of season, but they are only $2.95 a pound when they are in season. Rainier Cherries are still an expensive fruit, even in season, but the fruits that arrive first at the market don’t taste any sweeter than the fruits that arrive later after the larger harvest. This is also true of those of us who bear spiritual fruit today. We maybe scarce, but we are not sweeter than the believers who will follow us. All the true children of God will bear the fruit of God’s Holy Spirit.
Those of us who have this privilege to bear first fruits, just like all of creation, are groaning for the revelation of those who are God’s children. We are eagerly waiting for the redemption of our bodies. This is the very hope that saves us. Because of the power of Jesus’ blood sacrifice we have been adopted into the family of God. This is the hope that is coming. But, hope that is seen is not hope. But, if we wait in patience for Jesus’ return, Jesus our hope will not disappoint us.
This coming glory puts our present sufferings in perspective, is anticipated by all of creation, and fills us with hope.
Death is real and death is final. Many of us have not always enjoyed the life we wanted here on earth. Let’s be truthful, many of us have experienced extreme betrayal and heavy heart aches, but we need to realize we have complete control over how we are going to spend eternity. Someday soon all of us are going to meet Jesus face to face. This truth should sober us. Are we looking to our hope or has our suffering been in vain? This is the question I want us to consider.