Each and every person from time to time asks themselves the question, “Is it worth it?” Is “what” worth it? The answer to that question is as varied as the people asking the question. Some young athletes ask themselves if it is worth it to give up hours and hours each week just to play a sport. Some of us older folks ask ourselves if it is worth it to starve ourselves and run like a hamster on a Habitrail just to get in shape? Just recently, the news program 20/20 asked the question, “Is the price of a college education worth it?” I’ve even heard folks ask out loud, “Is it really worth it to be ‘good?’ To try and be faithful to God?” Richard Dawkins doesn’t think so. Dr. Dawkins is a professor at Oxford University and has written a book called, “The God Delusion,” that is an attempt to shoot down belief in God. In his book he writes,
Do you really mean to tell me that the only reason you try to be good is to gain God’s approval and reward, or to avoid his disapproval and punishment? That’s not morality, that’s just sucking up, apple polishing, looking over your shoulder at the great surveillance camera in the sky, or the still small wiretap in your head, monitoring your every mood, even your every base thought. As Einstein said, ‘If people are good only because they fear punishment, and hope for reward, then we are a sorry lot indeed. (Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2006. pg. 226)
Well, I can assure you that if you are trying to “be good,” to do the right thing just to “suck up” as Dr. Dawkins puts it, then you sure won’t get very far. I bet there are many of us here this morning that have pulled themselves out of bed in the morning to get ready for work and asked ourselves, “Is it worth it?” Fatigue, poor relationships with co-workers, being underpaid, not feeling valued for what we do—all of these things can contribute to our pondering the thought, “Is what I’m doing worth it?” That question is even asked by those in ministry believe it or not. I read an excerpt from Jeffrey Davis’ book, Committed to the Call, this past week. In the book he writes,
Is the ministry worth all of the heartaches and headaches associated with it? You are always under someone’s magnifying glass. People will constantly complain to you about something. Pressure, stress and strain, can bombard from different directions. Problems will hit when least expected and perhaps least deserved. You carry a heavy burden for the sheep entrusted to you and sometimes by their actions they seem they could care less about your well being. That is heart wrenching! Is it worth the strain it places on your family? Money can be tight, the calendar can be full, and ‘time off’ limited. Some have entertained this question, ‘Wouldn’t it be easier to quit the ministry and sell insurance?’ (Jeffrey Davis, Committed to the Call, Xulon Press, 2006, pg. 176.)
In our Scripture for today Paul answers the question, “Is it worth it,” but he is not referring to our jobs, the cost of a college education, or anything else that we might think of. Paul is weighing in the balance our sufferings and the glory that God has reserved for His people. Let’s take a look at our Scripture for today found in Romans 8:17-27.
17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs–heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. 18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. 22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. (Romans 8:17-23 NIV)
Our first verse this week was the last verse of our study last week. I intentionally didn’t get to it so that we could spend some time with it this morning. Suffering is real. Suffering, no matter what kind of suffering we are talking about, drains us. Suffering comes to young and old alike. Suffering is known by rich and poor. Suffering is no respecter of any racial or ethnic group. Smart people suffer. Good looking people suffer. Foolish people suffer. The highly respected and hardly noticed—they both suffer. Suffering is a common experience of all people in every age.
There has been a lot of discussion about what kind of suffering Paul is referring to here in verses 17-18—suffering for the Kingdom of God, like persecution, or suffering in general? I don’t think that is a choice we have to make. Paul can be referring to both. First, let’s talk about persecution for the sake of the Kingdom of God. Paul wrote to a young preacher named Timothy and said,
12 In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13 while evil men and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. (2 Timothy 3:12-13 NIV)
In almost every book of the New Testament you will find references to suffering for the faith. The early followers of Jesus suffered tremendously for the cause of Christ. Peter, John, and Paul were put in jail. Stephen was killed because of his relationship to Jesus. Paul was finally beheaded for the cause of Christ. Over and over again throughout the New Testament you will read about those who suffered because of their faith in Jesus.
Now, it is difficult for most of us to relate to this kind of suffering. We may have had people mock our faith, but few of us have suffered like Peter or the folks in Smyrna from Revelation 2. There are those in other parts of the world who find great comfort and inspiration in the suffering of the early followers of Jesus because they have lost family members, property, and even their freedom because of their faith.
Even though there is no doubt that Paul is talking about this special kind of suffering here in Romans 8:17-18, I believe he would also include other forms of suffering as well. We have to remember that Jesus made it very clear that in this life we will have trouble. Jesus said,
33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 NIV)
I don’t think that Jesus and Paul are at odds about the broad range of suffering experienced by people. Neither would they have been at odds that Christians are called to experience trying times in a way that sets us apart from unbelievers. Paul wrote to the people of Corinth and reassured them that God comforts us in all our troubles. Listen to these powerful words.
3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. 5 For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. (2 Corinthians 1:3-5 NIV)
Suffering is common to all people. The wonderful Bible teacher, Dr. James Montgomery Boice, the late pastor of Tenth Street Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania found out in 2000 that he had liver cancer. On the Sunday he revealed the news to his congregation he acknowledged that many were already praying for him. In the midst of his suffering, Dr. Boice took time to help direct the prayers of those who loved him so much. He said,
Above all, I would say pray for the glory of God. If you think of God glorifying himself in history and you say, where in all of history has God most glorified himself? He did it at the cross of Jesus Christ, and it wasn’t by delivering Jesus from the cross, though he could have. Jesus said, “Don’t you think I could call down from my Father ten legions of angels for my defense?” But he didn’t do that. And yet that’s where God is most glorified.
Dr. Boice wasn’t nearly as concerned about his healing as he was the glory of God. This should be our attitude as well. Suffering causes us to stop and think. We wonder “Why?” We wonder, “How long?” We wonder “What if?” Suffering causes us to think; and it must have caused Paul to think as well because he writes,
18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. (Romans 8:18 NIV)
I know that Paul thought about his suffering, but he didn’t consider his suffering in isolation of everything else. Paul considered his suffering in context of the future glory that would be revealed in him. Now, you may wonder why I am so sure of the thought Paul put into thinking about his suffering. Let me show you why I am so sure. In verse 18, Paul says, “I consider…” The Greek word for “consider” is “?????????” (logizomai) and it means, “to reckon, count, to deliberate, mediate on, or give thought to.” Paul used the word in other writings of his. In Philippians 4:8, he wrote,
8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things. (Philippians 4:8 NIV)
When Paul wrote to the people of Galatia, he used Abraham as an example and he encouraged them to “consider,” “to think about” Abraham’s way of life in relation to God. Paul wrote,
6 Consider Abraham: “He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” 7 Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham. (Galatians 3:6-7 NIV)
Paul had thought long and hard about his struggles, his suffering, but he did so in context. He never lost sight of the future glory that God would bestow upon him some day. “Glory” is not a commonly used word today, not as it is understood in the Bible anyway. We talk about the glory that comes to those who win the championship or the glory bestowed upon the famous in society, but I want to understand the biblical meaning of this “weighty” word. The Greek word for “glory” is “????” (doxa) and it means, “opinion, judgment, splendor, brightness, magnificence, excellence, preeminence, or dignity.” These are words that define “glory,” but the essence of glory far exceeds any one word definition.
Many years ago C.S. Lewis wrote a sermon called, “The Weight of Glory.” In that sermon he began by referring to a longing all human beings have for something that can hardly be expressed. He called it “a desire which no natural happiness will satisfy.” For C.S. Lewis this inexpressible desire is a desire to be approved by God. This is what “glory” meant to Lewis.
Along with approval, the “opinion, judgment, or estimate” side of the definition, remember there is also the “splendor, brightness, and magnificence” side of the definition. We long for these things as well. Most people have a deep appreciation for the magnificent, for the beautiful. Some of my most memorable times have been spent overlooking the Grand Canyon, walking through the Grand Teton Mountains, and scuba diving in the Caribbean. Oh, the sights! The beauty can’t be captured with a camera even though I have a 1,000 pictures that prove my attempt to do so.
Paul says that glory will be bestowed upon all of God’s people one day. An approval, a beauty, a magnificence that is beyond our wildest imagination. This thought had captured Paul’s heart. Romans wasn’t the only place that he wrote about the glory he would share in one day. In 2 Corinthians 4:16-18, Paul wrote,
16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:16-18 NIV)
We are awaiting the future glory that God has prepared for His people. What a glorious source of hope for you and me as we go through trials and tribulations during our lives. Let me let you in on a little secret—we are not the only ones that are waiting. Read along with me from Romans 8:20-23.
20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. 22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. (Romans 8:20-23 NIV)
All of creation is groaning. Groaning in eager expectation for the frustration to cease; frustration due to the bondage to decay. You have to ask the question, “What brought about this bondage?” Well, we have to go all the way back to Genesis to learn the answer to that question.
In the creation account given to us in Genesis 1, we find that after God had created the Universe as well as the animate and inanimate things upon the earth, He created Adam and Eve. Read along with me from Genesis 1:26-27.
26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:26-27 NIV)
Adam and Eve walked with God in the Garden of Eden. They enjoyed perfect fellowship with God, that is before they sinned. In Genesis 3, everything changed. Adam and Eve began to lie and blame one another for the sin they had committed. Rather than seeking fellowship with God, they hid from God. Adam and Eve were banished from the Garden, but Adam and Eve were not the only ones affected by their sin. In Genesis 3:17-19, when God pronounced His judgment on Adam, He also cursed the “ground.” God said,
17 To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat of it,’ “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. 18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. 19 By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.” (Genesis 3:17-19 NIV)
Here is the truth taught for you and me to drink in—not only do we fall short of the purpose for which God created us, but all of creation is in an imperfect state as well and longing for the day of liberation. Paul is telling us that both we and all of creation are eagerly awaiting the day when our transformation will be complete. Take a look at Romans 8:23 with me and find the phrase, “wait eagerly.” The famous Bible translator, J.B. Phillips translates this phrase, “is on tiptoe to see…” Paul, and J.B. Phillips give us a picture of all creation standing on tiptoes waiting, eagerly waiting, for the completion of the transformation.
The Greek work that is translated as “wait eagerly,” is “???????????” (apekdechomai) and it means “earnestly expect and patiently waiting for.” The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament has this to say.
This expectation is focused on the transformation when the adoption enjoyed by faith will be manifested with the resurrection (8:14, 23) and creation will reach the goal for which it, too, is waiting (8:19). This consummation will come with Christ’s return, so that Christ himself is the content of expectation (Phil. 3:20). He is the hope of righteousness (Gal. 5:5). On the basis of the gospel that is already received “???????????” thus characterizes Christian life as one of expectation of the great climax which gives not only this life but also the whole of creation its meaning. (Theological Dictionary of the New Testament)
The groaning for a new creation, for the full redemption of that which has been held in bondage and subject to decay is not a new idea set forth by Paul. Long before Paul was ever born the prophet Isaiah wrote about the coming day of transformation in Isaiah 11. Read along with me beginning in verse 6.
6 The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. 7 The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. 8 The infant will play near the hole of the cobra, and the young child put his hand into the viper’s nest. 9 They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea. (Isaiah 11:6-9 NIV)
Now, won’t that be a sight! In actuality the wolf living in peace with the lamb and a little child playing near the hole of the cobra with no fear is nothing compared to what lies in store for those who trust Jesus as Lord and Savior of their life.
I have to go back to our initial question before we leave here today. The question was, “Is it worth it?” Are all of the troubles and trials, sorrow and suffering worth the future transformation, the future glory of those who trust in Jesus alone? Well, I can’t answer for you, but Paul says that they “are not worth comparing.” All of his suffering was as light as feathers compared to the weight of the glory that he expected. Paul wrote,
18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. (Romans 8:18 NIV)
For any of us who are feeling the sting of suffering those can be tough words to comprehend. Paul writes as though his suffering had little effect on him. Don’t kid yourself. Paul felt the sting of suffering as much, if not more, than any of us, but he kept his suffering in perspective. Paul, along with all of creation, was standing on his tiptoes anxiously waiting for the one he loved, the one he longed for—Jesus his Savior. We must do the same. We should live with the expectation that Jesus is coming back for us today and yet, if His coming is not today, we can’t lose heart because His return is guaranteed. If His coming does not take place before we draw our last breath then we are sure that at that moment we will be changed, transformed, and the glory of God will be our very own. What a glorious expectation for you and me! That gives me hope in the midst of my own suffering, the trials and troubles that I face in life.
How about you? Do you have that assurance? Are you able to see beyond your trials to your future glory? If not, then I want to invite you to invite Jesus into your heart this very morning.
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114
January 28, 2014