For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 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. Romans 8:14-17
I was going to talk about being joint heirs with Christ. I was going to talk about how Jesus elevates us to an equal place with Him. I might have even talked about how the Lord sees men and women equally, and calls us all “sons” with the same privileges that entitles us to. But I changed my mind.
I changed my mind when I got to verse 17 in Romans Chapter 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. Romans 8:17
Did you catch that last bit? The part about suffering? Ya, the hard part. How did Christ suffer? How do we suffer with Him? Why do we have to suffer?
Admittedly, this is a subject I’m well acquainted with. I’ve suffered a lot. I’ve suffered with severe depression. I have PTSD from past trauma I have endured. I’ve had one physical ailment after another: cancer, Guillain-Barré syndrome, chronic blockages of my intestines, sepsis (more than once!), pneumonia, hospitalizations, severe arthritis. The list endures as Christ endures. Because of Christ I endure.
Suffering is not fun. But there is peace in the suffering when we suffer with Christ. Because I’ve suffered a lot, I know this peace well. Retrospectively, I consider it a gift well earned. I’ve seen things. Felt things. Learned things. All from suffering.
2 Count it all joy, my brothers,[b] when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:2-4
Who ever wanted to count suffering and trials as joyful? Joy is for celebrations, for victories, for fun times. It certainly isn’t a go to feeling for suffering. And yet, there it is. Right there in the Bible. In the Holy book of Jesus. In the inerrant Word of God.
But here’s what it doesn’t say: We won’t have pain, we won’t struggle, we won’t anguish over it, or feel afraid. Think back to the Garden of Gethsemane. That’s that time before the cross where Jesus sweat drops of blood. I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty sure I’ve never sweat drops of blood.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2
For the joy set before Him, Christ endured the suffering. He looked beyond His current circumstances, beyond the pain, beyond the fear, beyond the shame. He focused on the outcome.
Suffering is a tool for perfecting our faith. It refines us and tempers us. In the suffering we see the endurance and peace only Christ can give us. But we also receive the greatest gift in suffering, the gift of hope.
3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Romans 5:3-5
Hope is a powerful thing! The hope of what will come from our suffering creates such a faithful witness to the world! When we hope in Christ’s enduring love, we can accept the enduring suffering that comes from this evil world.
We can endure, because we have hope!
Lord, help us to endure the suffering that the world brings us. Thank you for being the perfect example of what suffering looks like, and also the ultimate example of victory that You are. We have been promised Your victory, Jesus. We are your joint heirs. We will endure for the joy set before us, because we have your Holy Spirit. We have Your love and your freedom to endure whatever suffering this broken world pours on us. Let us drink from your cup of suffering and receive the supernatural peace that only You can provide. We love you, Jesus. Help us rejoice in our suffering for what it will teach us and train us for. Amen.