"The Weight of Eternal Glory"
Dear friends of Vital Signs, May 2016
This is one of those particularly hectic weeks for us: two sessions of prayer and public witness in front of the Planned Parenthood abortion mill, writing and recording radio programs, attendance at the Franklin Graham rally in Lincoln, correspondence, updates on the blog and website, my regular Panera meetings plus two other home visits, the writing and mailing of this LifeSharer letter, and 5 “When Swing Was King” presentations. Whew!
Oh wait; that’s not quite all. There’s also the 1242 pages of Alexandre Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo that we’re working on for our book club, a few lawn and flower garden projects, Claire’s careful work on tax matters and getting me signed up for Medicare, and our ongoing exercise regimen. In that last category, there’s encouraging news to report. In my quest to walk the equivalent distance of the width of Nebraska and back this year, I’m already halfway. That’s right; walking my regular course of 7 to 7.2 miles several days a week, I’ve just gone over 430 miles! Lord, please keep giving strength to these old legs.
And one more item on this week’s “to do” list is to prepare the next lesson for the adult Sunday school class I’m teaching at Community Bible Church. The topic of that class, as I’ve mentioned in a previous letter, is heaven. And, oh my; in this wicked and increasingly wacky world, what a refreshing, exhilarating, and comforting subject heaven is. Indeed, what I’d like to write about in this month’s LifeSharer relates very much to that subject. It is a brief Bible passage I’ve not only used in the class but one that I’ve memorized and am using in my prayer walks. It is 2 Corinthians 4:16-17: “Therefore, we do not lose heart but though the outer man is decaying, the inner man is being renewed day by day; for temporary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory, far beyond all comparison.” (NASB)
What a magnificent promise this is for the Christian. And what a startling perspective this gives us on the earthly trials we must endure, trials that can so easily steal our strength and confidence and joy. Please remember that the apostle Paul who, by divine inspiration penned this exhortation, was no stranger to testing of the most extreme kinds. For instance, he had been the victim of horrible violence, including being beaten with rods and pelted with heavy stones. He had also suffered imprisonment, shipwreck, hounding persecution, fatigue, worry, desertion by friends, opposition from conniving false teachers, exposure, want, keen disappointment, ingratitude, and the physical pressures produced by “the thorn of the flesh” that he had prayed so earnestly to be delivered from. Yet, despite all of this, Paul says that he hasn’t lost heart! In fact, he goes so far as to describe this whole host of severe trials as “temporary and light.” That’s truly phenomenal.
Yet Paul quickly emphasized just how he could see his sufferings in this way and that’s in comparison to the inheritance awaiting him in heaven. Only when stacked up alongside the “eternal weight of glory” that is the Christian’s heavenly inheritance can such trials as imprisonment or nearly lethal beatings be seen as temporary or light. That’s truly an unearthly perspective. Yet, once we do grasp this marvelous truth, we can hang on. And, with great and glad expectation, we can be regularly refreshed and renewed in our spirit.
But what exactly is involved in this renewal? Well, among other things, as we focus on the priorities of spiritual growth, we are weaned from dependence on earthly matters. Worldliness loses its attractiveness and we are better equipped to invest in heavenly things. As the old hymn puts it, “the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.” Furthermore, this renewal is what produces that eternal weight of glory. In other words, our sanctification today adds to our blessings in the long tomorrow. Our obedience to Christ, our abiding faith in His character and power, even our patient endurance of the trials brought on by age and illness – all of this adds to our heavenly account. Yes, we are saved from the penalty of sin by our faith in the finished work of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. We cannot in any way earn or even add to what He won by Himself on our behalf. But the Bible clearly teaches that the quality of our heavenly blessedness can be enriched by our faithfulness as His disciples now.
These verses seem to present the apostle Paul daring us – go ahead and get your scales! Let’s add these things up and you’ll see. On one side of the scale go all of your afflictions, as ponderous and demoralizing and long lasting as they seem. But, on the other side of that scale, put down the eternal weight of glory. What happens? Whoosh! The glory waiting for the faithful disciple in the New Jerusalem throws the scales downward with such force that all the other items, all those ponderous sufferings, are catapulted into the great beyond!
Note too that this eternal weight is, as the Scripture says, “far beyond all comparison.” This is so important a concept that it is repeated elsewhere in Scripture, most notably in Romans 8:18. There Paul writes, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed in us.” It’s the same main idea but with a couple of additional points I find fascinating. For instance, notice that the apostle doesn’t try and avoid the harsh reality of suffering. He uses that very word. He fully understands there will be suffering in this fallen world, very real trouble and pain and heartache. However, he also knows that, in comparison to the glory of our heavenly inheritance, those sufferings lose their force. Yes, life is hard here, sometimes excruciating and seemingly forever. But God is just and full of mercy; He will make it up to us in ways that are beyond our imagination. Our consolation will be complete…and forever.
Note also that the glory isn’t just something we will see. It’s not heaven. Nor is it even Jesus Himself. Both of those sights will be glorious certainly. But in Romans 8:18, we’re told of a heavenly glory that will be “in us”! Our physical bodies and minds are now stained by sin, limited by the curse. But not then. No, in that triumphant day when all things are purified, renewed, and reconciled to God, our resurrected bodies will themselves be full of glory. The outer man will no longer experience decay. That’s fantastic news. But that’s not the half of it. For our inner man will then be forever clean and liberated. We will enjoy the physical perfection God originally intended. Wow. Grab onto that, why don’t you. This heavenly perspective will not only provide you with new joy and endurance, it will also produce in your life today incomparable investments in your heavenly future.
The specific applications of these verses abound. Are you suffering from the rigors of old age or illness? Do you face loneliness, a lack of mobility, disappointments, unfulfilled dreams? Is the world treating you with contempt? Do you hunger for righteousness to win over the sordid and silly post-Christian culture that envelops us now? To successfully endure such trials, we must confidently anticipate heaven. We desperately need this perspective, this hope, and this encouragement of what’s to come in order to deal victoriously with what we’re up against right now.
I’ll share one last Scripture passage before I close this month’s letter for it too is one I’ve been using in my prayer walking from this last week. It was shared in church last week by the youth pastor. The passage is Titus 2:11-14 and I think you’ll easily see how it complements the verses I’ve already mentioned as it also speaks of the heavenly perspective which determines the quality of our sanctification. It reads, “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.” Amen.
Okay, that’s it for this month. Please know that Claire joins me in thanking every one of you who help Vital Signs with a financial donation, every one who writes a letter or card of encouragement, every one who prays for us. We are also very appreciative of those of you who have spoken to church leaders, right to life groups, and others in hopes of securing invitations for us regarding speaking engagements, letter-writing parties, “When Swing Was King” presentations, or any other service we can provide. We are forever grateful for you all.