Paul begins looking at the question of Our Suffering which sometimes is referred to, Why do bad things happen to good people? And look at suffering in terms of God’s plan for Creation itself.
He begins with verse 18:
Romans 8:18-22 (NKJV)
From Suffering to Glory
18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. 19 For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; 21 because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption (decay) into the glorious liberty of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now
Obviously, Paul’s moved on to a topic of suffering, but actually, his topic here starts a verse earlier than what you just read. He begins to introduce you to where he is going back in verses 16-17 that you read in a previous post. But if you notice at the end of 16 and 17 Paul introduces this idea of suffering as part of the Christian experience.
Romans 8:16-17 (NKJV)
16 The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.
He says just as we will share in Christ’s glory in the age to come, we will also, share in Christ’s experiences while He was on earth. And that is principally the experience of Christ’s suffering. God’s children will know about suffering on Earth for the same reason
Christ knew about suffering on Earth. Because the enemy seeks to persecute those who belong to God. And the sin of the world serves as the enemy’s toolbox, which he then uses to stand in the way of God’s purpose.
Paul then moves directly into this discussion. Having introduced it by comparing us to Christ, he now begins to examine it. He says the first thing we should do is put suffering in perspective. Now when we say suffering, by the way, don’t think too concretely just about persecution or someone being martyred. Think about it when you are having marital problems, think about it when you are having kid problems, or having health problems, or having neighbor, work or financial problems. Think about all the things we all talk about that we wish we can get away from and the general collective effect that has on your life. That is suffering. And some days you have days better than others, seasons better than others. and there are those moments in life that are, crises. And we wonder where is God in those moments? That’s the thing Paul is addressing here. The thing that might cause you to have doubt at some level about who you are in Christ and if you are in Christ and if God is still on your side. Why does he let these things happen to me and all of the misery we put into our mind around these things? That’s the topic here.
Paul says to start with an eternal perspective. He says the sufferings of our present time (our life on Earth) are not comparable to the glory that is going to be revealed. That’s where you start anytime someone brings up this topic. Anytime someone asks you that question, why do bad things happen to good people, you start with this basic perspective on eternity. You cannot evaluate outcomes until all is said and done. You cannot judge anything until the end. Until we see how God deals with each person, in the end, can we say for sure who has received good things and who has received bad things? Remember the story Jesus tells of Lazarus and the Rich Man in Luke 16?
Luke 16:19-25 (NKJV)
The Rich Man and Lazarus
19 “There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared (lived in luxury) sumptuously every day. 20 But there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, full of sores, who was laid at his gate, 21 desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 So it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.
24 “Then he cried and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.’ 25 But Abraham said, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented.
In just that section you see already the point that Jesus is making and certainly the one that Paul is making. If you try to assess God’s goodness for each of these two men if you try to make that assessment prior to their deaths, you would have been working with only part of the data. You would be looking at only a moment rather than the whole story. But after they died, then the full story became known, according to what Jesus taught, the rich man (who in this story is an unbeliever), he received good things in life. That in itself is a stunning revelation. An unbeliever can be blessed by God’s choice in having good things in life. Conversely, you have this man who is the opposite (the poor man), who is by God’s choice, appointed bad things. That’s the implication of what Abraham says when he is speaking of what each man received. It was by God’s choice that he ( the poor man) would be in a place of suffering for at least a period of time. That was God’s choice for each man and yet in both cases, it did not reflect each man’s true relationship with God. Why do bad things happen to good people The mere fact that God granted the man earthly riches said nothing about God’s ultimate pleasure with the man. Instead, it was a limited benefit that disappeared in eternity. Following death, that man began to experience his eternal existence, which was far less desirable. Conversely, the man who suffered most of his life on earth – again, by the Lord’s sovereign will – saw great comfort. Now we understand that the Lord’s love truly rested on the poor man, despite his poor circumstances on earth. So this story teaches two fundamental truths:
- First, God lets His children suffer for His own purposes
- Secondly, our relationship with God cannot be measured by the quality of our earthly life
You have no right to feel self-pity. You have no right to claim to be the martyr. Neither can you rest on the fact that you have a big home, three cars, two and a half kids, and a large 401K. Those things have no reflection on whether God truly is pleased with you or not. On what basis is He pleased with anyone? Only on the basis of His Son’s work for their sake. And that person’s acceptance of that work. Obviously, Christ’s own life is the ultimate example of this principle. Think about what Christ experienced. Christ suffered in ways none of us ever will since He experienced eternal separation from the Father. That is something we will never know. To say nothing of his pain and suffering on the cross. And yet we also know that Christ is the only beloved Son of the Father, There is no one more, God, the Father loves more than His own Son. So we clearly cannot measure the Father’s pleasure in Christ by looking at what happened to Him during His life on Earth, can we? As Isaiah said:
Isaiah 53:10 (NKJV)
10 Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise (crush) Him;
He has put Him to grief.
When You make His soul an offering for sin,
He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days,
And the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand.
Did you notice the before-and-after quality to that one verse in Isaiah? It starts with the Father was pleased to bruise (crush) His Son, but in doing so it ends by saying the Father
would prolong His days and the good pleasure of the Father would be on His Son. He’s referring at the end there to the glory Christ will enjoy when He rules from the seat of David over the world that God gives Him as an inheritance. So He starts in suffering and He ends in glory. Why do bad things happen to good people
“The author’s biblical interpretations and conclusions presented in this document rely on original teaching used by permission of Verse By Verse Ministry International (VBVMI). The author’s views may not represent the views of VBVMI, it’s Directors or staff. Original VBVMI teaching may be found at http://www.vbvmi.org.”
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