The year 2020 will probably be looked back on as the year the world we knew changed. Much like 9/11 did in 2001, it has ushered us into a new age. An age of social distancing, masks and quarantine, with economies shattered, unemployment rates skyrocketing and families devastated by loss. Mankind has lived through epidemics, natural disasters and other tragic events in the past, but none of it could’ve prepared us for the unimaginable fallout that has occurred as a result of this tiny virus.
The present world has lulled man into a false sense of security. Having gone through two world wars, multiple conflicts, and epidemics that made life difficult in the last century, the last few decades have been relatively peaceful and prosperous. Most of us (myself included) took our jobs, families and churches for granted and have been guilty of exhibiting a carefree attitude towards our responsibilities. We built idols of our own preferences with regards to all the things we were given responsibility for (1 Timothy 6:17-19). If there’s one thing I can say that’s been somewhat positive about this current pandemic, it’s that we have found our idols smashed and our idolatry exposed.
If there’s one thing about this current pandemic, it’s that we have found our idols smashed and our idolatry exposed
Reports of depression and suicides on the rise during the lockdown have only shown people how fragile they were and how much they depended on prosperity, social cohesion and community to keep them going without any dependency on the One who made them and to whom worship was due. Is this the same for us as Christians? Have we also fallen into the same trap as those who do not have such a firm foundation?
I live in Melbourne where we have endured some of the toughest lockdown measures in the whole of Australia. It’s easy to get frustrated and depressed, but the one thing that should keep us going as Christians is the fact that we are saved by God for a future glory (Romans 8:28-30). Paul lays this truth out as part of his long argument with regards to the Christian suffering in Romans 8.
Christians are promised suffering in this life (2 Timothy 3:12). Not just in this pandemic phase — but in every season of our lives. We endure suffering from medical ailments, our own shortcomings, our own culture, traditions and tribes. We suffer the imbalance in justice and equity that we find in history and even in this present world. Because of man’s original sin, we suffer in a broken world that is filled with sin. And the effects of sin are everywhere around us. Healthy people get cancer, evil men prosper while the humble fall (Psalm 73), and crime goes unpunished.
But why do we suffer these things? If our future is eternity with God, why should we endure through suffering in this life? Does that not seem like a bit of mixed messaging?
What should keep us going as Christians is the fact that we are saved by God for a future glory
Paul gives us the answer in Romans 8:17 by reminding us that it is through our participation in suffering that we can truly identify with the suffering Messiah. Jesus, though the God-man, submitted to suffering for our sakes before He tasted glory in His resurrection (John 12:23-24).
Paul’s logic takes us right back to the start when the original man fell and because of whom the whole earth was subjected to corruption and, particularly, this concept of ‘futility’. The world was created for peace and prosperity in its purest form — in communion with God. But, everyday, we see the inability of this world to achieve this.
It is this wrong that Christ came to right first, by reconciling broken men with a holy God on the cross and then bringing about renewal and new life through the work of the Spirit. (Romans 8:20-24). And it is this indestructible hope that we have that when Christ returns, He will make all things new and glorify His suffering people as who they truly are — not beaten down and defeated disciples, but the very sons of God, clothed in glory.
That day is coming.
And that’s why we struggle and suffer against the sin we once loved, but we do it because we have been recreated by God who gave us a new heart and a new hope that this night will soon be over and that the glorious day is coming when we will be with the triune God.
It is through our participation in suffering that we can truly identify with the suffering Messiah
So, Christian, remember this when you are going through suffering of any kinds and find yourself troubled or dismayed: this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison (2 Corinthians 4:17).
Since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through Him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 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 5:1–5
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