Suffering, then Glory

“Well done, my good servant!” —Luke 19:17, New International Version

THE words of our text come from the parable of the pounds. The Greek word translated pound is mnah, and represents about what a laborer would earn in three months. Since the King James Bible was the work of English translators, they supplied an English monetary unit—the pound—a name still used for English money today.

The master in the parable returned home to see what his servants had done with what he had given to them. His words to those who had done well are an inspiration to all who seek the approval of their heavenly Master. But such approval was not forthcoming as a result of inactivity, pictured by the one who kept his money in a napkin, nor from words alone. It will only come through a conscious effort to be active in the Master’s service, and that means suffering.

Jesus knew that during his earthly ministry he would have to suffer, and he accepted his lot uncomplainingly. So, because of this, after his death, the Heavenly Father raised him to a status far above every name that is named. (Eph. 1:20,21) What has been true of our Lord will also be true of us, if we are also found faithful. Consider the words of the Apostle Paul: “The Spirit itself testifies together with our spirit, that we are children of God. And if children, also heirs; heirs, indeed, of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if we suffer together, so that we may be also glorified together. For I consider that the sufferings of the present time are unworthy of comparison with the future glory to be revealed in us.”—Rom. 8:16-18, Wilson’s Emphatic Diaglott

Paul speaks about sufferings. Many of the Lord’s people have experienced physical abuse and suffering caused by those who do not approve of a Christian life. However, the word suffering also contains the thought of endurance. Paul links both thoughts in his letter to Timothy, saying, “Therefore I endure all things for the elect’s sakes, that they may also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. It is a faithful saying: For if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him: if we suffer, we shall also reign with him.”—II Tim. 2:10-12

Paul used exactly the same Greek word where the translators supplied the two English words endure, and suffer. Strong’s Concordance defines that Greek word as ‘to undergo, i.e., bear (trials), have fortitude, persevere.’ If we endure with him, we shall reign with him. That was the promise given to true Christians then, and even to this day.

God’s Heavenly Family

Because we share joint experiences, we and our Lord constitute God’s heavenly family. This is the thought of Paul’s words to the Hebrews: “In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the Pioneer of their salvation perfect through suffering. Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers.”—Heb. 2:10,11, NIV

We are the ones being described in this text if we have named the name of Christ. Jesus is not ashamed of us since we are his brothers and share the same Heavenly Father. What a wonderful privilege to walk in the footsteps of Jesus, to experience first the suffering, then the glory that follows.

Some hardships we may call suffering are given to develop us. Even in earthly families, discipline and correction are needed to help children develop along the proper lines. This is the point of another text in Hebrews: “Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! … God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”—Heb. 12:7,9-11, NIV

The disciplines and trials that come to us are part of our training. They are for our good that we might eventually share his holiness, and receive at death a glorious change reserved for the faithful. These trials and testings prove whether or not we are worthy to live and reign with Christ.

Of course, some of our sufferings may be the result of our own mistakes. We must differentiate between suffering for righteousness’ sake, and suffering for our own foolishness. Peter makes such a distinction: “It is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God. But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.”—I Pet. 2:19,20, NIV

Christ is our example. He was the reality of the typical bullock sacrificed on Israel’s annual Day of Atonement. The best parts of that animal were, consumed on the altar of sacrifice in the Court of the Tabernacle; its blood was carried into the Most Holy, and sprinkled on the Mercy Seat; the hide, hooves, and dung were burned outside the Tabernacle structure, and were a stench in the nostrils of the people. What was done to the bullock was also done to the goat that was for the Lord. That goat represents true Christians, those who are following the example of their Lord and Master.

“The bodies of those beasts whose blood is brought into the Sanctuary by the High Priest for sin, are burned without the camp. Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate. Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach.”—Heb. 13:11-13

Brother Charles Russell had this to say about the sufferings we should be experiencing, that are to develop us as New Creatures: “Our sufferings are not the ordinary sufferings of pain, such as the ‘groaning creation’ shares, and which we share to some extent, as members of the world. The sufferings which count in the development of the ‘New Creature’ are those voluntary and willing endurances on account of the Lord and the Lord’s Word, and the Lord’s people—the hardness which we endure, as good soldiers of the Lord Jesus Christ, while seeking to do not our own wills, but to have perfected in us the will of our Captain, the will of our Heavenly Father.—Studies in the Scriptures, Volume 5, page 121. (Emphasis supplied.)

If we think we are being asked to suffer more than we can bear, let us remember the words of the Apostle Paul: “No trial has assailed you except what belongs to man; and God is faithful, who will not permit you to be tried beyond your ability; but with the trial, will also direct the issue, that you may be able to bear it.”—I Cor. 10:13, Wilson’s Emphatic Diaglott

Paul says we are already sitting in heavenly places. He undoubtedly was thinking of Israel’s Tabernacle. Only the high priest and the under-priests, who were the sons of the high priest, could enter into the Tabernacle’s first compartment called the Holy. The walls and all the furniture were gold, and gleamed in the light of the lampstand. A golden table offered bread—symbolic of the Word of God. Incense was offered morning and evening on the golden incense altar, much as our prayers ascend to the Father both morning and evening. It is in the Holy condition that we see some of God’s glory through the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit, represented by the oil in the lampstand.

Only the ‘sons of God’ appreciate the concept of the kingdom, the time when all mankind will be blessed. And even they have only a glimpse of what will be. As Isaiah said, “Since the beginning of the world men have not heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither hath the eye seen, O God, beside thee, what he hath prepared for him that waiteth for him.”—Isa. 64:4

Paul quoted this verse in I Corinthians 15:9. But he updated the thought that no one knows what is to happen, by continuing in verse 10, “but God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.” It is through God’s Holy Spirit that we have received some insight into his great plan of salvation in the coming kingdom. The Christlike character we are developing will be used to bless all mankind. In the kingdom a highway of holiness will be made available. It will lead to “joy and gladness; sorrow and sighing shall flee away.”—Isa. 35:8,10

The night before he was crucified, at the time of the last supper, Jesus addressed his Father and said, “I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory which thou hast given me.” (John 17:24) The magnificence of this will be to see and appreciate God’s wonderful attributes of wisdom, justice, love, and power in action. Sharing Jesus’ glory is a goal we seek, not for personal aggrandizement, but for the opportunity to participate in the blessing of all the families of the earth.—Gen. 22:18

What will the heavenly kingdom really be like? We do not know the details. We do seek for glory, honor, and immortality. (Rom. 2:7) Yet we can grasp so little of what awaits us. Let us keep the prospect of this marvelous inheritance uppermost in our minds whenever we feel buffeted by our present-day experiences. The Apostle Paul put these things into their proper perspective: “Our light affliction; which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.”—II Cor. 2:17,18

Let us be faithful so that at the end of our course we, like the faithful ones in the parable of the pounds, might hear the Master say, “Well done, my good servant!” Our lives are short. Eternity is long. Let us hold fast our faith until the end. The glory of eternal life will be ours if we endure our present experiences. It is James who said it so well: “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord bath promised to them that love him.”—James 1:12

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