Here is one of the most timely passages in Romans.
It is so relevant to our present needs and to the needs of our world.
It is important for us today, in the light of the world's confusion and convulsion, to know that God rules,
and that what is happening is the fulfillment of God's purpose in history.
It is an exciting glimpse into Paul's God-given philosophy of history.
Paul never loses sight of the ultimate destiny of those who are "in Christ Jesus" throughout this long chapter.
The whole trend of his thought has now moved in that direction.
Paul is always a prophet, in the sense that he speaks for God to men;
however, he prophesies in the more popular sense of predicting future events.
This he does without detailing events.
But he prophesies with such dignity and reserve that he makes us completely aware of divine guidance and authority.
Paul's purpose is never to satisfy idle curiosity or to indulge in fruitless dreams.
Twice in this eighth chapter, Paul has mentioned the future glory of believers,
but only in references which were logically related to his argument.
So, Paul undertakes to console Christians who are in the midst of great trials and tribulations.
Paul speaks as one who has suffered and is confident of what he has to say.
He is not overlooking or toning-down human suffering.
All such attempts are deceitful, short- circuits, and we cannot escape from them.
So, we cry out for consolation and for an answer.
If we are ever to find consolation or to ever find an answer, we must first recognize
that there is no consolation or answer apart from Christ and His comforting Spirit.
To overlook suffering is to overlook Christ.
The child of God does not, cannot, overlook suffering; for it is in suffering that he hears the Voice of the Truth.
As someone has said:
"He (the Christian) rests not until he finds hopelessness everywhere, until he finds hope in this hopelessness."
And when we are made aware that we are blind, and dumb, and dead, then we will see and ask and find.
When children of God suffer, they know and love their Father triumphantly.
Now, from our suffering together with Christ, (the suffering we endure for Christ's sake)
Paul turns to our suffering in general, much of which is due to our own sins
and to our own faults which bring upon us the necessary chastisement.
And some of this is due to evil people, and some which corresponds to our earthly existence.
The only kind of suffering in which we glory, and can glory, is that which is endured for Christ's sake.
"For I reckon..."
There was sublime insight into the choice of this word of cool, prosaic reckoning.
This word touches chords in the heart which defy ordinary calculation.
Paul does this with preciseness as he states his strong personal conviction on a subject,
which goes beyond all human calculation.
If he had said, "I think, " it would have seemed too weak to use here in view of the trials, which he had already encountered.
If he had said, "I hope, " it would have been tame in view of the tribulations which already were painfully present.
But "I reckon" united the past and the future and would be more moving in this context
than the warmest language of poetry or emotion.
"I reckon" denotes, not doubt, but a confident assurance.
"If that the suffering of this present time" --now -- this age...
The suffering of the present may be very severe.
Every person has many pains, troubles, and anxieties to bear.
Some have more than others.
But every Christian has his own special suffering to bear.
We tend to exaggerate the importance of what is close at hand and to diminish the value
of that which lies in what we think is the far-off future.
But we can be assured that there is a limit to our suffering here because of the shortness of the present life.
And we can be assured because suffering for the Christian is limited to this present life.
God's Word compares our life to a shadow or to a vapor which you see only for a moment and then it quickly vanishes.
"The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared..."
All the sufferings of this present time fade into nothingness when compared with the glory to be revealed in us.
Paul would compress all the suffering of the world into a tiny spark,
while he expands its glory as the blaze of a burning forest or as a drop of water into a mighty ocean.
So, Paul encourages us to endure afflictions because there is no comparison
between this present suffering and our future glory.
"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."
When we are in the midst of sufferings, we often give them too much consideration and fail to balance them with the coming glory.
We tend to lose our balance and our sense of proportion.
So, here is Paul's corrective measure: we must counter-balance temporal things with eternal things.
Then we can clear away our misgivings and delusions of the flesh.
Paul does that in this chapter in verse 17 and in 2 Corinthians 4: 17,18.
Compare the temporal bad things with the eternal bad things, and see that all the sufferings of the world
are but a scratch of a pin to that tribulation that abideth forever and ever for every soul outside of Christ.
Here, both the good and evil are partial, but there, both are thoroughly complete.
Here, we have through the Spirit, the earnest; there all eternity is ours; here a taste, there the full feast.
We might compare our own sufferings:
To be like Christ; to be with Christ; to be equal heirs with Christ -- that is glory.
When We See Christ!
"Oft-times the day seems long, our trials hard to bear
We're tempted to complain, to murmur and despair;
But then Christ will soon appear to catch His Bride away,
All tears forever over in God's eternal day.
Sometimes the sky looks dark with not a ray of light,
We're tossed and driven on, no human help in sight;
But there is One in heaven who knows our deepest care,
Let Jesus solve your problem -- just go to Him in prayer.
Life's day will soon be o'er, all storms forever past
We'll cross the great divide to glory, safe at last;
We'll share the joys of heaven -- a harp, a home, a crown,
The tempter will be banished, we'll lay our burden down.
It will be worth it all
When we see Jesus;
Life's trials will seem so small
When we see Christ;
One glimpse of his dear face,
All sorrow will erase,
So bravely run the race
Till we see Christ."
Sermon by Dr. Harold L. White.
Email Dr. White at email@example.com