Endurance of Suffering

Notes below based on sermon preached at One Church Home on July 10, 2022

Anyone with children understands the saying, “The days pass slowly but the years fly by.”

Time can seem to gush past like water from a firehose when we want to slow down and savor life’s most precious moments, but slow drip like a ten-year-old Keurig that’s never been descaled when we’re waiting and praying for suffering to end. Whether it’s something hard and painful that we just want to be over or a dream so incredible we can’t wait to begin, time can seem like our greatest enemy.

Yet on the first day of creation, when God began to speak the physical world into existence, He started with the realm of time—day and night, and He said it was good. Time is God’s good creation for us.

God transcends time—He exists apart from and is not subject to the limitations of the universe He created, including time. He has always been; He will always be. God is eternal, everlasting.

Psalm 90:2
Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the whole world, from everlasting to everlasting, you are God.

As God is love and He is good, He is eternal, and it is another of God’s essential attributes.

Because God is eternal, and because He is omniscient (knowing all things—another essential attribute), His perspective on time is quite different from ours. What may seem “like an eternity” to us is only a moment to Him.

2 Peter 3:8
But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord, a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.

Isaiah 46:10
I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say, ‘My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.’

God knows what will happen tomorrow, next month, next year and a decade from now. He isn’t waiting to find out. And He knows how He will work in each circumstance to accomplish His purpose. God always acts with purpose. Time is a tool that He uses to help accomplish His purpose. And what is that purpose? Let’s go back to the anchor passage for this series:

2 Corinthians 4:16-18
Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.

He is renewing the inward man in each of us day by day, i.e., over time. Remember from last week’s blog—”God Himself in the person of the Holy Spirit comes to live inside of us—in our hearts and continues the process of transformation, making us more like Him.”

God is working in us to transform us into His image, and He uses even our suffering to achieve for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.

As we discussed in Week 1 of the series, He does not cause our suffering, but if we trust Him, He will use the very thing that caused our suffering to bring about good in us, to us, and through us.

God’s goal is not just His glory but our glory too.

Romans 8:29-30
For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

God determined our glorification before the foundation of the world. One day, when Christ returns, we will be perfectly conformed to His image, finally and forever free of sin and its consequences. But until then, we are being sanctified, made more like Him, reflecting more of His image and glory.

2 Corinthians 3:18
And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

It happens in part as we endure suffering over time.

Webster defines endurance as “the act of bearing or suffering; a continuing under pain or distress without resistance, or without being overcome; sufferance; patience.” The words in bold are key.

The Greek word hupomone, translated as endurance in the New Testament, is a patient endurance. The same Greek word is sometimes translated as patience or perseverance, which means to stand firm; to bear up under; to patiently wait in hope.

Romans 8:25
But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

Again, the words in bold are key. It isn’t enough to just hang on, refuse to give up on our dreams, or refuse to give in to our pain. It’s what we are holding onto that matters most. We are holding onto our hope, faith, and trust in the Truth of a loving and good God who will see us through and use this very thing for our good and His glory. We endure patiently with hope.

“Perseverance (or “endurance”) is produced when we face worldly suffering with unwavering trust in God and the Truth of His promises.

In turn, patiently enduring the suffering builds our godly character. We begin to live and, more importantly, love more like Jesus. And godly character produces hope.

Romans 5:3–4
Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.

We are capable of enduring unbelievable pain, loss, and hardship when we possess hope.

I Peter 1:3-9
3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, 5 who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9 for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Our hope—our eager, confident expectation—is in a heavenly inheritance that cannot be taken away. It is in a glory that God is working in us that He will one day perfect, make complete.

1 John 3:2
Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.

We will see Jesus face to face. We will be perfectly conformed to His image, and we will dwell with Him forever—literally.

It is the “weight” of that future and eternal reality that Paul was speaking to in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18.

The Hebrew word kabod translated as “glory” has the root meaning of “weight” or “heaviness.” In ancient times (and even today), things of value were often measured by their weight to determine their worth (i.e. gold, silver, and precious gemstones). God’s glory is infinitely “heavier”—more valuable, worth more than any created thing, worth more than anything we may endure.

Paul is not minimizing the pain of our suffering. He endured incredible suffering.

2 Corinthians 1:8–9
8 …We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. 9 Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death.

Instead, Paul is making a comparison (actually two) to help give us an eternal perspective of suffering.

The first comparison is measured in worth or value—remember “heaviness.” No matter how “heavy” our suffering on this earth, it is “light” when compared to the infinite value of the glory God is working in and through us in our suffering.

The second is a comparison of time or endurance. While suffering may seem to go on forever, it is but a “moment” when compared to the eternity that we will spend with God.

This eternal perspective—”the things which are not seen” (2 Cor 4:18)—allows us to suffer with hope and not lose heart.

Once again, there is more; God’s promises are so rich. Not only do we have the hope of a future and eternal heaven, but we also have the hope of heaven now. Right now, right here in the midst of our suffering. A hope that allows us not just to endure but to actually rejoice.

Romans 12:12
Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.

1 Peter 4:12-14
12 Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.

Yes, we await Christ’s return for our final and complete glorification, to be finally and forever freed from sin and its consequences, to be perfected, and to dwell in His presence forever. But we can rejoice that even now, He is with us. His Holy Spirit is in us. And He is working in all things and through all things, including and especially our suffering, for our good—to transform us, make us more like Jesus, to reflect more of His glory to a suffering world that has never needed it more.

Note: all scripture references are from the New International Version. (2011) BibleGateway.com

Questions for reflection or discussion: 

Think about (or share) an experience in your life when God’s timing didn’t match your expectations. Can you look back now and see how He worked in and through that situation to grow your perseverance, character, and especially your hope?

Did you know God is working “a far more exceeding and eternal weight of gloryfor you? How does that change your perspective on suffering?

Close your eyes and think about the most painful or difficult suffering you’ve experienced or that you can imagine going through. Now, without opening your eyes, think about seeing Jesus face to face, hearing Him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” about how you endured that very suffering. Can you feel the weight of His glory exceedingly above your suffering?

How will you use this imagery to encourage someone that may be facing suffering right now?

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