Suffering Unto Glory
Bible Reading: Romans 8
Romans 8:17, “and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.”
This verse introduces a new focus in chapter eight on the suffering of the believer. In the present, the believer in Christ endures suffering, yet he does so with the assurance of experiencing future glory.
The word “provided” in our verse can be misunderstood, as the Greek does not connote possibility, but reality, and would be better translated “because.” The present proof of the believer’s future glory comes through his present sufferings on the Lord’s behalf (Matthew 5:11-12). There is so much suffering in this world! Sometimes it comes our way simply because we live in a sin-cursed world. Other times, we experience suffering as a direct consequence of sin. This verse focuses instead on suffering brought about because we are identified with Jesus Christ (i.e. “suffer with him”). Contrary to the falsehoods promulgated by certain teachers, the believer in Christ is not to live demanding, or expecting, health, wealth and prosperity. Instead, we should not at all be surprised by suffering (1 Peter 4:12-13; Philippians 1:29; 2 Timothy 3:12).
The Spirit of God encourages us amidst our present sufferings by directing our focus to Jesus and all He has prepared for us. A mountain climber endures much hardship as he scales rocks and snow and crevices and thin air. He courageously ventures onward and upward to new heights, knowing a glorious panorama awaits when he reaches the summit. Likewise, the believer endures ridicule, or taunts, or alienation, or estrangement, or betrayal; or physical threats, or harm; or loss of job, or home, or family, or friends simply because he professes Jesus as Lord and Savior! Such suffering is the birthmark of a genuine child of God, the proof of a believer’s authenticity. All these hardships can therefore willingly embraced and courageously endured, looking forward to what lies ahead!
When Amy Carmichael was but a young woman, she moved from her home in Ireland to serve as a missionary in South India. Once there, she served for fifty-five straight years without a furlough. For the last twenty years of her life, she was bedridden with debilitating pain resulting from an accidental fall into an uncovered pit. During the long years of chronic pain associated with her injury, she continued to serve as a spiritual mother to the community she founded called the Dohnavur Fellowship, a haven for many, including children who had been rescued from temple prostitution.
Amy experienced the fellowship of Christ’s suffering not just in the physical pain, which she said, “gnawed like a wolf,” but mostly in her encounters with dark spiritual forces associated with oppressive Hindu practices. In the area where she worked, girls as young as five years old could be dedicated to the gods. Once given over to the temple, they became objects of sexual abuse and oppressive Hindu religious practices. Amy created a refuge for these girls, a dangerous undertaking which evoked the wrath of those who profited from the practice. Amy authored 35 books about her missionary work, and the following poem about sharing in the sufferings of Christ:
HAST THOU NO SCAR?
Hast thou no scar?
No hidden scar on foot, or side, or hand?
I hear thee sung as mighty in the land;
I hear them hail thy bright, ascendant star.
Hast thou no scar?
Hast thou no wound?
Yet I was wounded by the archers; spent,
Leaned Me against a tree to die; and rent
By ravening beasts that compassed Me, I swooned.
Hast thou no wound?
No wound? No scar?
Yet, as the Master shall the servant be,
And piercèd are the feet that follow Me.
But thine are whole; can he have followed far
Who hast no wound or scar?