The Divine Exchange: Affliction for Glory
Eternal Weight of Glory…Keeping it All in Perspective
The PURPOSE of TPM focuses on the refining of our faith, which results in the renewing of our minds and the transformation of both our beliefs and lives. God is committed and highly invested in our liberation and transformation. For “… God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13). Not only is the work that He is doing for our benefit; but our transformation brings Him much pleasure.
However, there is a sticking point in this work that many believers have difficulty embracing. It appears that the primary means that our Heavenly Father uses to bring this work about is suffering. It is a strange mystery that God chooses to accomplish this work in such a manner. My human perspective recoils at the idea of suffering and believes that surely there must be a better way.
But then the Lord Himself struggled while praying earnestly that His “cup” of suffering would “pass” from Him as well (Matt. 26:42). The Apostle Paul too prayed three times that his thorn of suffering would be removed, and yet the Lord refused, stating that “… power is perfected in weakness” (Rom. 12:7). In the midst of their pain, they each came to the same position with God: “Thy will be done.” However, they both came to this place only as they were given the heavenly perspective.
Jesus’ willingness to suffer was motivated by an eternal perspective, “for the joy set before Him endured the cross…” (Heb. 12:2). And it was only after the Apostle Paul received the Lord’s perspective concerning the thorn that he declared, “I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor 12:9-10). Paul looked beyond his current suffering into the heavenly realm to God’s perspective which gave him the inner resolve to walk through his suffering.
James the Apostle described it this way, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (Jam. 1:2-4). It is this “KNOWING” that makes it possible to endure our suffering with Joy.
Suffering was the crux of the redemption story
Suffering was the very crux of the redemption narrative. It is a unifying theme that runs throughout the Bible. Suffering is the ink that flows through the pen of God as He has written and continues to write His story and our history. God continually walks His people through the refining fires of suffering which brings about His perfect will and purpose in each of our lives. (Heb.11:32-40) Jesus is described as the “suffering servant” of Isaiah 53 who suffered and died for the world’s benefit.
It is apparent that God is willing to allow us to suffer in ways that we may think are beyond what we can bear. Job is a good example of how God is willing for one of His own to suffer, seemingly unjustly, to bring about a greater eternal good. Too often we view suffering as a bad thing or as something that is to be merely endured or avoided (if at all possible). But in doing so, we fail to see God’s purposes that are being accomplished within it. The mature man sees God’s hand in it and submits to his handiwork (1 Pet. 5:6) as those “…who suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right.” (1 Pet. 4:19)
Not all agree that suffering is good. There are some who evaluate their right standing with God—either blessed or cursed—based upon how well life is going (from their perspective). They reason, “If I am successful, financially stable, healthy, and respected, then God must be blessing me. However, if I am deemed a failure, poor, destitute, sick, and disregarded, then something must surely be wrong.” Jesus turned this perspective on its head when He declared:
“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger now, for you shall be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh. Blessed are you when men hate you, and ostracize you, and insult you, and scorn your name as evil, for the sake of the Son of Man. Be glad in that day and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven. For in the same way their fathers used to treat the prophets” (Luke 6:20-22).
Nevertheless, suffering is clearly the means of choice that God uses to bring about the good in the lives of His people. Unless we come to understand suffering as paramount for all that pertains to the Christian life, we will be caught off guard and baffled by it when it comes and likely find ourselves frustrated and confused. The Apostle Peter warns of this where he says, “… do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you” (1 Pet. 4:12-14).
Jesus said it clearly when He said, “In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). James the Apostle said, “Consider it all joy WHEN you encounter various trials…” not “IF” you encounter them (Jam. 1:2). Suffering cannot be avoided, and when understood from the heavenly perspective, it can be embraced as beneficial and good. Peter’s encouragement for those who suffer is to know that it is God’s will that they are in the flames. So then, “… those also who suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right” (1 Pet. 4:19).
The Heavenly Perspective
Paul described our suffering in this life as a “… momentary, light affliction [that] is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison…” (2 Cor. 4:17). Did you hear what the apostle said here? Here is where we must have the “eyes of our hearts” opened so we can grasp the knowledge of this truth. If we can hear this profound truth with our hearts, it will completely change our perspective of suffering. Instead of moaning, groaning, and complaining about our difficulties, we will spontaneously “…exult in our tribulations…” (Rom. 5:3), and when we encounter trials, we will “consider it all joy…” (James 1:2). Here is the divine tradeoff: “temporary light affliction” for an “eternal weight of glory.”
No matter how much or in what way we are suffering, it is a “momentary, light affliction.” It is momentary since has time limits placed upon it. And compared to the “glory” that is said to be ours to come, it is considered “light.” Even if all the suffering we had to endure was beyond anything that anyone could imagine, when it is compared to the “eternal weight of glory” that God has promised to those who suffer, there is no comparison. That which is temporal cannot be compared to that which is eternal. What is eighty years of suffering compared to eons of glory?
What is this glory?
Someone may say, “This all sounds great, but what is this ‘eternal weight of glory?’” The Scriptures do not say. I believe that the reason that we are not given more information is that more information would not bring about any additional understanding. It might be compared to my explaining something to someone who does not speak or understand English. I could tell him more, use more descriptive terms, or even use the simplest of phrases, but he would still not understand what I am saying. The book of Revelations is a good example of explaining a heavenly vision using earthly terms. It cannot be done. What we do know is that the suffering we endure pales in comparison to this glory. We also know that it is good since it is a gift from God and that it is long lasting—eternal.
“Glory” is a term sometimes used to describe the magnificence of God being manifested when He is not saying something. It is the non-verbal communication that God manifests about Himself when He walks into the room. It is His splendor, wonder, and magnitude. The Scriptures say that God’s people will share in this glory. The apostle Paul says, “…having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Rom. 5:1-5). Here we also see the hope of sharing in God’s glory, but also we see how we get there. Paul says, he exalted in his tribulations KNOWING that it was the suffering that brought it all about.
Trading the Temporal for the Eternal
If we could honestly comprehend what this passage means, would any of us choose to trade off eternal rewards to end temporary suffering, no matter how intense the suffering might be? Certainly not! Not if we truly believed this truth in our hearts. Yet when we try to sidestep our sufferings, suppress the painful emotions that we feel, and fail to take responsibility for the underlying lie-based beliefs that are being exposed, we forfeit the benefit (the eternal weight of glory) that God has prepared for us through such “temporary light afflictions.” Like Esau, we are trading a bowl of stew for our very birthright (Genesis 25:29-34).
If we truly believed that an eternal weight of glory awaits us, we would affirm that any amount of suffering, for any amount of time, would be well worth the eternal benefit that God has promised. Our suffering is for a limited time, while the eternal weight of glory is never-ending. The question is, do we really believe there truly is an “eternal weight of glory” waiting for us after our last breath? If we believe that God is at work in us in the midst of our difficulty, we will “consider it all joy” and look to Jesus, “…who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross…” (Heb. 12:2). In the same way that Jesus knew and believed the truth, and faced His suffering with joy, we too can “exalt in our tribulation” if we know the truth of it.
When this truth is confirmed in our hearts, suffering will take on a totally different meaning. If our view of suffering produces dread, reluctance, avoidance, then we hold a different belief (one that does not reflect the truth). The Apostle Paul knew this truth and declared, “we … exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” (Rom. 5:3-5)
In the Hebrew 12 passage concerning God disciplining His children (which makes up a portion of the suffering that God is using to transform us), the writer says, “All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness” (Heb. 1:11). For those who are trained by it there is great benefit, but those who resist His discipline, they forfeit what God had in store for them.
Application in TPM
What then is the application for those of us who seek to practice the process and principles of TPM? Everything that I just shared is a part of what makes up the very purpose of TPM. The purpose of TPM is the refinement of faith that brings about the renewing of our minds, that transforms us. The Refiner’s fire (suffering) makes this possible. The ministry session is where we submit to what God is doing to bring about the purifying of our faith. It is through suffering that we are exposed in our lie-based thinking. When the flame heats up, the impurities in our faith rise to the surface where they can be pulled off (revealing that which has been purified). “So that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ…” (1 Pet. 1:7)
No more making excuses for our stress, anxiety, fears, doubts, outburst of anger, resentment, and careless words that come spewing out when the fire heats up. The Lord has exposed what we truly believe and is calling us into His light so that we might come to know His truth. If we suppress what we feel, project it onto others or blame them for it, medicate it, or deny it, we are indeed the ones who lose. No more “bad day” excuses. It is only a “bad day” when we forfeit the opportunities we have been afforded by God for our good. (Rom.8:28)
Since God is always at work within us, He provides us opportunities many times everyday to deal with some aspect of our lie-based beliefs. It is in the midst of our suffering (even though most of it is typically very light and often tollerable) that our beliefs are exposed. Simple things such as feeling impatient at a prolonged traffic light, feeling the rejection at not being included in the office conversation, feeling anxious when we discover that our finances are insufficient to meet the bills that are due, or stressing over a deadline at work, are all opportunities to have our minds renewed. They expose the fact that we do not yet believe the truth in the way we need to believe it. We need Him to convince us of it. We need a purified faith.
If all we feel in these moments is the peace of Christ, then we are doing well, as the “peace of Christ rules in our hearts…” (Col. 3:15). However, if we feel even the slightest tinge of stress, fear, anxiety, worry, doubt, helplessness, etc., then lie-based thinking is evident, since we feel whatever we believe. If we choose to cooperate with what God is doing moment-by-moment in refining our faith and attend to what He has exposed in us, we add to our “eternal weight of glory” that He is keeping for us. Each lie that we exchange for the truth becomes a “treasure in heaven” what will be eternally ours to enjoy. (Matt. 6:20)
Don’t Waste the Present Opportunity
When we resist what God is doing to refine our faith, we lose an opportunity that can never be regained. The truth that we would have carried with us into eternity will have been forfeited. There are no replays or second chances; we only have the time that has been divinely allotted. Although it is true that God offers grace and opportunities to do what we should have done the first time, there is a cost involved. I cannot play my “second chance” card without using up the time that could have be used to find freedom from other lies yet to be exposed. Because of this limitation of time, we need to take advantage of each opportunity that God gives us to refine our faith so we do not lose out on what we could have acquired.
It is imperative that we not squander what has been given us. When we try to distract ourselves from our suffering through self-medication, blaming it on others, or suppressing it, we lose the opportunities for freedom that God has provided as well as any eternal glory that might have been apportioned. As good and tasty as Jacob’s “stew” may be, trading it for our birthright is unpardonable. Like Esau, once we choose to eat the “stew” we can never get back what we have forfeited. One time through life is all we have, and when opportunities for freedom are disregarded, they are forever lost. “For you know that even afterwards, when [Esau] desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought for it with tears” (Heb 12:17).