WE NEED NOT LOSE HEART BECAUSE…
We have noted the apostle Paul using two words ‘HOPE’ and ‘GLORY’ to explain why we do not lose heart even in the midst of tribulations. Let us look at these words in the verses Paul wrote.
“Therefore having such a hope, we use great boldness in our speech.”
2 Corinthians 3: 12
“…how will the ministry of the Spirit fail to be even more with glory?”
2 Corinthians 3: 8
“But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.”
2 Corinthians 3: 18
“For momentary light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison.”
2 Corinthians 4: 17
Appreciating deeply the ‘HOPE’ and ‘GLORY’ we have in Christ Jesus our Lord would enable us to always be of good courage and to triumph in the face of adversity. Let us now consider the ‘HOPE’ and ‘GLORY’ we have in the Lord.
HOPE AND GLORY OF RESURRECTION AND ETERNAL LIFE
Many men, including great leaders and kings of the past, sought the “elixir of life” and hoped to be immortal and to live forever. Yet, all succumbed and death comes to all, great and small.
Only one man, the God-man, Jesus Christ, died, was buried, rose again and ascended to the right hand of God the Father, never to die again. This man was given the power to grant eternal life and the resurrection to all those who would believe in Him.
Jesus said to Martha in John 11: 25-26:
“I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?”
Those who believe in Jesus will live even if they die and those who live and believe in Him will never die. It is interesting that Jesus asked the question “Do you believe this?” Although it was directed at Martha, it is a question directed to all of us as well. Do we truly believe this in our lives? For if we do, we need not fear death because we will live even if we die. If we believe this, we know we have eternal life in Christ, for we will never die.
It is no wonder that Christian martyrs were not afraid of death and believers who have this hope have courage and boldness to face all adversity and tribulations in life because they know they will never die.
However, in many believers’ lives, there is so much fear of death and despondency in sickness that we behave as if we are a people without any God and without any hope of resurrection. We live as if all that we have to hope for is in this world and life on earth. There is little consciousness of the spiritual and eternal.
The apostle Paul knew the implications if this hope proclaimed by the Lord Jesus were not true. If there was no resurrection of the dead in Christ, Paul wrote, “If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.” (See 1 Corinthians 15:19) In the very next verse 20, Paul asserted: “But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep”. Because Christ was the first fruit, those who believe in Him would follow Him in being resurrected from the dead. This hope Paul referred to is not vague or nebulous – it is so certain that he could declare that “for to me to live is Christ and to die is gain”.
Together with the hope of resurrection and eternal life is the assurance that there will come a time when there will be no more sorrow, no more pain, no more tears, no more illness and no more death. With such a tremendous hope, in comparison, we need not be discouraged by temporary illness, temporary pain and sorrow. Hence Paul could declare confidently that “though the outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day”. The resurrected body would be a glorious body, not affected by diseases or decay; a body not limited by current earthly restraints. It would be an imperishable body, raised in power, a spiritual body, an immortal body. bearing the image of the heavenly.
HOPE AND GLORY OF TRANSFORMATION
Paul revealed in 2 Corinthians 3 that the ministry of the Holy Spirit is filled with more glory than the ministry of the Law, and the Spirit’s principal ministry is the ministry of transformation. Believers are being transformed into the image of God, from glory to glory by the work of the Holy Spirit. God can make use of momentary light affliction to produce for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison. When we marvel at the wondrous privilege of being transformed into the image of God and sharing in His glory, what is earthly suffering and pain in comparison? It cannot even be compared at all!
We who were wretched and in sin, destined for hell and destruction, are now not only transferred from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light; but adopted as sons and daughters into God’s family with Christ as our elder brother and God intends to transform us into His very image – what a glorious calling and what a great privilege we have in Christ! If all the affliction and tribulation we encounter as faithful believers here on earth are producing for us an eternal weight of glory in our transformation into the image of God, surely we need not lose heart and we know that it is all worthwhile in God’s plan for us. Having such a glorious hope, we can be bold and we can rejoice. It is no wonder that Paul, in writing to the Philippian believers, with the prospect of an unjust trial awaiting him and the probability of impending death, could encourage them to rejoice always and he repeated this call in his epistle.
HOPE AND GLORY AT THE SECOND COMING OF JESUS CHRIST
Jesus Christ is coming again – this is what every faithful believer is looking forward to.
“For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air and so we shall always be with the Lord.”
1 Thessalonians 4: 16-17
These are truly comforting and encouraging words for those who endure persecution, those who have to contend with ill-health, misunderstanding and hurt from loved ones and even fellow believers and those who grieve over the injustice and unfairness in this world.
“For after all it is only just for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, when He comes to be glorified in His saints on that day, and to be marveled at, among all who have believed – for our testimony to you was believed.”
2 Thessalonians 1: 6-10
The Lord Jesus, when He comes again, will put right what is wrong and He will judge righteously. He would give relief to His suffering children and justice would be meted out accordingly.
The apostle John also wrote about the second coming.
“Beloved, we are children of God and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him because we will see Him just as He is. And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.”
1 John 3: 2-3
When the Lord Jesus comes again, He would complete the transformation process in our lives and we will be like Him. This is God’s assurance to us as we pursue sanctification in our lives. For those who sincerely seek to work out sanctification in their Christian walk and are discouraged by constant and repeated failures, they can be encouraged to know that the process is not over. Work is in progress and God would complete it when the Lord Jesus appears. In the meantime, let us not give up purifying ourselves and pursuing holiness as God enables. Our hope in this regard will not be disappointed. However, we need to know that the process of transformation, although dependent on grace and God’s enabling, requires our cooperation with Him. It involves hard work, vigilance, discipline and endurance. James the apostle reminds us that without endurance, there is no maturity (James 1:4).
Transformation into the image of God takes place in perseverance in daily living with God, in denying ourselves, even in the small and mundane issues of life. It is in seeking to give, forgive, serve and listen rather than to demand understanding, insist on our ways and be self-centered and critical of others. God moulds us and shapes us into His image as we surrender to Him and seek to please Him daily, even in the midst of pain, illness, suffering and perplexity. The truth is that God is more interested in our holiness and character than in our temporary comfort and illusory happiness. Consider the words of the Lord Jesus Himself: “In my Father’s house are many dwelling places, if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.” John 14:2-3
When Jesus comes again, He will receive all His children to Himself and will bring them to the dwelling places He has prepared for them in His Father’s house. On this earth, there is no permanent dwelling place. The Lord Jesus would bring us to our eternal glorious homes in His Father’s house. Those who have given up the comfort of homes, the presence of loved ones and the legitimate needs of daily living for the sake of the Lord can rest assured that Jesus is preparing a wonderful glorious eternal dwelling place for them. And not only that – those who are faithful and those who persevere and endure for the Lord’s sake would receive their reward from the Master when He comes again.
“Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
Matthew 5: 10-12
“For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. If any man’s work, which he has built on it, remains, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.”
1 Corinthians 3: 11-15
Reward for God’s faithful ones was mentioned both by the Lord Jesus and by Apostle Paul. According to the quality of the life and work of His servants, they will receive the reward from God accordingly. The Lord Jesus even stated that those who endure persecution, insult and false accusations for His sake can rejoice and be glad and this is primarily because their reward in heaven is great.
In the face of opposition and spiritual pressure, let us not lose heart. Instead, let us endure, persevere and rejoice withgladness, for God who sees all things would reward us an truly the approval and reward from God is surely joyous, glorious and fully satisfying, filled with blessedness.
When the Lord Jesus comes again, He will make right what is wrong; He would execute judgment, establish justice, reward His faithful ones and receive them to Himself and their eternal home. He would complete their glorious transformation and make them worthy and holy to enter the heavenly kingdom (the new heaven and earth). What a hope! What a glory! Truly, with all those who love His appearing, we can cry out together, “Come Lord Jesus.” (see Revelation 22: 20(b)).