Groaning over sin. Groaning starts with a sense of problem. Then, I believe groaning grows into something deeper. This second type of groaning is one of longing. The groaning that longs for full redemption.
That’s why Paul links suffering and glory. We are saved, but we still struggle with our sinful nature. While others are enjoying life, we Christians groan and have a sense of problem. We are saved, but our inheritance has not been given in full. We are children of God, but we have yet to enjoy the full benefits of sonship. And in that gap, there is longing. Longing for full redemption and this is part of our preparation for glory.
So our present sufferings are not something we shun or avoid, we embrace our suffering because as Paul says in Rom 8:18 —
18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.
The glory that awaits is so great that Paul says it is not even worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.
Elsewhere in 2 Cor 4:16-18, Paul uses very similar language —
2 Cor 4
16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
Yes, we will suffer in this life because of our sins and because of the sins of this world, yes, we will waste away on the outside, but God calls these LIGHT and MOMENTARY troubles. Because he is not focused on the troubles but he is focusing on what these troubles are achieving — an eternal glory that FAR OUTWEIGHS them all. It’s not even worth compariing, the measurements are not even close. It’s not like our suffering in this life weighs 99 lbs and the glory that awaits weighs 100 lbs. No, the glory far outweighs the suffering. There’s no comparison. Elijah is big for his age. He is dense. But I far outweigh him. There is no contest. And that’s the comparison between our suffering in this life and the glory that awaits.
The Spirit has been given to every believer and it is the firstfruits of the Spirit, meaning the Spirit is a deposit, the first installment and full payment is coming when we will one day be glorified in heaven.
Our suffering as a believer is part of God’s preparation for glory.
Suffering prepares us for glory.
You don’t just stumble into glory. In the movie, Glory, those black soldiers suffered. They suffered racism. They were part of the army, but initially there was no intention to let them fight. They were supposed to be used for manual labor in the name of military service. While other white soldiers got to fight and enjoyed the full benefits of serving in the army, these black soldiers were not given shoes, they were given a reduced salary, they suffered the effects of frostbite and gangrene on their feet.
What if new soldiers were added to the 54th Regiment just prior to that final battle at Fort Wagner and they avoided all of this suffering? Then, we wouldn’t be as moved. That final scene is moving because each soldier suffered, and in their suffering, they were prepared for glory.
You can see how suffering prepared each of them for glory. Thomas was a black man who grew up in the North. He was educated and he grew up as friends with the white officers. But he was a coward. He was weak physically and mentally. He was the worst soldier in the Regiment. And in the final scene, Colonel Shaw points at the flag bearer, and asks, If this man should fall, who will lift the flag and carry on? And Thomas answers, I will. That’s glory.
You see the transformation of Trip, the rebellious soldier played by Denzel Washington. Trip is a runaway slave and so he enlisted in the army. He was free but he was still enslaved. He was a slave to his bitterness, to his anger, rage. He is just a killing machine. He wants vengeance, he wants blood. But he changed. Suffering with the other soldiers changed him.
When he was whipped for deserting the company to look for shoes, you saw the scars on his back from all the other whippings he suffered as a slave. But now he was suffering for a different reasons — for a cause greater than himself. And he had become a true soldier driven not by his anger but by glory. But he was the first one to carry the flag after the original flag bearer was killed. That’s glory.
You see the transformation of Colonel Shaw. He graduated from West Point. He was educated, but he was not a leader. At a battle in the beginning of the movie, Shaw gets grazed by a bullet and he pretends to be dead. That’s how much he was a coward. By the end, he volunteers the 54th Regiment to be the first to attack Fort Wagner, knowing that he chance of survival was close to none.
Just prior to the battle, you see him give his farewell letters to a reporter so that they could be passed on to his loved ones back at home. And as he is giving those letters and personal belongings, he says, “Remember what you see here.” He knows he’s going to die. And in the final scene, they were pinned down at the base of the fort, but he leads the charge and up the hill and is killed. That’s glory.
Don’t you want to live for glory? Examine your life. You’ve only got one life. Are you living for God with all that you have? Or do you find yourself holding back? What are you saving your life for? If you were to die today, would it be glorious? It’s not too late. Don’t wait until 5, 10 years from now and look back wondering, what have I done for Jesus?
These men started off as freed slaves. They were “free,” but for some, they were still enslaved to bitterness and anger at the injustice of their past. For others, they were enslaved to cowardice regarding the uncertain future. They suffered as slaves prior to enlisting, yet they continued to suffer as enlisted soldiers all the way to their death. But through this suffering, they were being prepared for glory. They longed for freedom. By the end, these men were transformed although their circumstances had changed very little. They did not see the fruit of their suffering, but they died with the hope of glory.