The Groaning and the Glory – Romans 8:18

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us (Romans 8:18).


Romans 6-8 is a theology of the Christian life. It is the largest, most expansive portion of Scripture that gives a framework for the Christian life. It is not intended to give specifics of how to live the Christian life—that will be in chapters 12-15. This is the theological foundation. The first 18 verses of chapter 8 have been about the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the life of a believer to enable us to live the Christian life. No one can live the Christian life by their own strength or wisdom. Jesus said, “Apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). It is the Holy Spirit at work within us that conforms us into the image of Christ.


As we come to verse 18, the focus is upon suffering. It would be easy for a suffering believer to question what has gone wrong in their faith. Some might not realize that suffering is an expected part of the Christian life. Some may even think that the Christian life means the removal of all problems. However, the opposite is true. When you become a Christian, you inherit a new set of problems. You are now swimming against the current of the world in which you live. You are still in the world, but you are no longer a part of the world system.


Believers face resistance in their Christian life every day. We have stepped up to the front lines of spiritual warfare, which is full of temptations, persecution, and tribulation. We also are not immune to the daily realities of living in a fallen world. We still deal with sickness, the death of loved ones, children who go astray, business troubles, and more. We are not immune from trials in the Christian life. Therefore, Paul must address the certainty and the reality of suffering in the Christian life.


A Higher Purpose

God has a higher purpose for us in our suffering. We suffer so that we may be identified with Christ. He was a man of sorrows and acquainted with much grief. How can we experientially be identified with Christ, who was beaten, crucified, and the subject of much opposition, if we have nothing but ease as we live our days? In order to truly know Christ, we must experience suffering.


Suffering also weans us off of this world and causes us to focus on the world to come. It is important that we set our minds on things above and not on things of this earth. Suffering has the ability to uproot us from becoming too attached to the things of this world. Suffering is also a part of God’s sanctification of the believer. God uses suffering to purge us of certain wrong attitudes and priorities. Suffering drops us to our knees in prayer and dependence upon God. It is also used to help us bring encouragement to others. When we go through difficult times, it becomes easier for us to identify with and minister to others who are also suffering. God has great purposes in our Christian life for suffering. No one goes through their Christian life escaping trials, disappointments, difficulties, and the pains of life.


Further, suffering is an extraordinary witnessing opportunity. Most people are not converted while everything in their life is prospering. Rather, it is when they are knocked to their knees and come to the end of themselves that they look up for help. Suffering points us to the reality of our human limitation. We can point others to God as the source of comfort, healing, and salvation in the midst of suffering.


As God weaves together the threads on the tapestry of providence, in His infinite genius, He has chosen to weave the threads of suffering into our Christian experience. There is much false teaching today that says if you are walking by faith, then you can “name it and claim it” and your troubles will go away. That is a heretical, false gospel. Job was the most righteous man on earth. He was upright and feared God. Yet he was singled out to suffer because God had a higher purpose for his life. It was Jesus who sent the disciples into the storm when He went up to the mountain to pray. He providentially, purposefully sent them into the storm on the Sea of Galilee to test their faith. James says, “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” (James 1:2-4). Learning to persevere through suffering is like going into God’s weight room and building up your spiritual muscles through the resistance that comes against your faith.


Paul has a very realistic view of the Christian life. He does not give false expectations. He explains that suffering is a certainty. It is intended by God to be used for positive purposes in our life. The Christian life is not about the subtraction of suffering, but rather the addition of grace to go through suffering. It is one thing to go through suffering on your own without the Lord. But it is a completely different experience to endure suffering with the Lord. He gives us the supernatural grace that enables us to live triumphantly in our Christian life.


I. The Comparison (8:18)


Paul will now compare our present suffering with future glory in order to keep both in the right perspective. He begins, “For I consider” (verse 18). The word “for” means that Paul is providing an explanation of the previous verse. In verse 17, the subject of suffering and glory are introduced. Verse 18 becomes a follow up commentary on suffering and glory. The Christian will not have one without the other.


The Two Sides

 “Consider” (logizomai) speaks of a mathematical calculation. It is an objective study of facts by which you derive a bottom-line conclusion. This is not about subjective feelings, but a cognitive, intellectual, theological statement of fact. Picture Paul holding a set of scales with one pan on each side. On one side of the scales, Paul puts suffering, and on the other side he places glory. Paul is weighing out human suffering and future glory.


The “sufferings” Paul refers to include things like tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, and being put to death because of one’s faith (verses 35-36). That is merely the tip of the iceberg of the suffering that is involved in the Christian life. Please note also that “sufferings” is in the plural, which is an indication of the multiplicity of sufferings. It is not an isolated, one-time trial. These sufferings are part of “this present time,” which refers not only to the entirety of your life, but also the entirety of this present age until the second coming of Christ.


Then on the other side of the scales, Paul places glory. He says the sufferings “are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (verse 18). “Glory” refers to the future glory that awaits us in heaven. In fact, heaven is so synonymous with glory, that in many Bible verses, heaven is simply identified as “glory.” A popular saying when someone dies is that they ‘went on to glory.’ It is synonymous with heaven because heaven is filled with the glory of God.


The sufferings that we experience in this life are real and painful. They are not lighthearted. But Paul tells us that we must keep them in perspective, because they are inconsequential when compared to the glory that awaits us. As we live our Christian life, we cannot become someone who is drowning in suffering. We cannot become obsessed, myopic, or preoccupied with our suffering to the point that we are depressed, defeated, and deflated. We must keep the scales in front of us so that we do not forget the glory that is to be revealed. We must continually make this comparison to keep our suffering in perspective.


Note the glory is “to be revealed to us” (verse 18). This tells us that right now it is hidden. The only thing we know about this glory is from passages of Scripture where we are momentarily allowed to peer into it. Heaven is veiled to us at the moment, but we have a few glimpses in Scripture that allow the glory to shine through to us so that we get an idea of what it will be like on the other side.


Future Greater than Present

We must keep our suffering in perspective. This future glory is so weighty and heavy that the scales of present suffering and future glory fall heavily on the side of glory. The weight of the suffering is like a feather in comparison. Our present sufferings are but temporal. The glory that awaits us is eternal. There will be no end to the glory. Our present sufferings are but a grain of sand on the beach of eternity. Our current trials are a passing moment, but what awaits us on the other side will never come to an end. We can hang in there for this small amount of time.


We tend to focus upon our sufferings, but only glance upon the future glory. We must reverse this. We must only glance upon our sufferings, and stay gazing upon the future glory, if we are to be strong in the Lord and stable in our Christian life rather than collapsing every time a trial comes. It is easy to be caught up and consumed with the suffering that is in front of us. But we cannot let our emotions take us away. The fact is that these sufferings are short and temporary. The glory that awaits us is forever. Sufferings feel like the weight of the world, but in reality, they are not. On the nights when we wake up crying, we must remind ourselves of the future glory. It pulls us up and strengthens us to keep pressing forward toward the prize that lies ahead.


The Sacrificial Life

Paul does not give a false view of the Christian life. In 2 Corinthians 4, he goes into great detail about the sufferings Christians endure and the far greater glory that is to come. He tells us that Christians are “afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body” (2 Corinthians 4:8-10). “Perplexed” means you are so disoriented in the midst of the storms and difficulties of your life that you have lost a sense of balance and direction. “Carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus” is metaphorical for all of the sufferings of Jesus. Then Paul gives the purpose, it is “so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.” We share in Christ’s sufferings so that we can share in His life. Our suffering is not random or without reason and a higher purpose. The more we are crushed, the sweeter smelling the aroma of Christ that emerges from us.


Paul continues, “For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body” (verse 11). In other words, the weaker I am, the stronger I become. When I am strong in myself, in reality, I am incredibly weak. But when I recognize my weakness, it causes me to depend upon the Lord, and that strengthens me. It is good for us to be brought low, because it causes us to look up.


Then Paul reasons, “So death works in us, but life in you” (verse 12). Paul is willing to take the blows that come to him because they are a means of blessing to the reader. The more he suffers in his Christian life, the more it is a means of blessing to them. Death to me, life to you. That is the way it is for a father or mother, a pastor or missionary. The more we sacrifice and pay the price, the more it brings blessing to others. If we want others to be blessed, we cannot sit on a sofa watching television all day. We have to live for Christ.


Paul continues, “But having the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, ‘I believed, therefore I spoke,’ we also believe, therefore we also speak” (verse 13). It is through our sufferings that our convictions are deepened. In good times, it is easy to simply repeat a confession of faith. But when we are suffering for that same confession, that is when we find out if we really believe it. Then he writes, “Knowing that He who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and will present us with you” (verse 14). The resurrection power of God will strengthen and raise us in this life. At the end of this age, the resurrection power of Jesus will raise our mortal bodies and we will stand before the Lord. God will have the last word in everything.


“For all things are for your sakes so that the grace which is spreading to more and more people may cause the giving of thanks to abound to the glory of God” (verse 15). “All things” refers to all our present sufferings. I am beaten so that you will be blessed. I suffer so that you will succeed. The more I am being crushed, the more the message of Christ is spread further and further. Remember the book of Acts. It was persecution that drove the gospel to be spread throughout the known world. God is working through our sufferings.


“Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day” (verse 16). We, who are suffering and going through trials and tribulations, do not lose heart. We do not throw in the towel. You lose heart when you take your eye off of the glory and purpose that God is working out in your life in the midst of the suffering. We must keep our eye on the eternal perspective. Because of our suffering, we have physical ailments and our body wears down. Yet our inner man, which is who we are on the inside, is continually, day by day and moment by moment, being renewed, strengthened, edified, matured, and revived by God. This is the irony of the Christian life. The more you give away, they more you receive back. Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:3-4). The emptier you are, the more you are filled. The more you die to self, the more you are resurrected. This is the paradox of the Christian life. It is counterintuitive to the way the world thinks.


Paul Understands Suffering

“For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison” (verse 17). Look for a moment at what Paul means when he says “momentary, light affliction.” He describes his own sufferings for Christ in this way, “In far more labors, in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death. Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches. Who is weak without my being weak? Who is led into sin without my intense concern? If I have to boast, I will boast of what pertains to my weakness” (2 Corinthians 11:23-30). This is so antithetical and counterintuitive to the way that the natural man thinks, that Paul must say in the following verse, “The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, He who is blessed forever, knows that I am not lying” (verse 31). These are just some of the sufferings Paul had to endure in his Christian life.


Paul calls all of these sufferings and trials “momentary, light affliction.” They are difficulties far beyond anything that you or I will likely experience. But they are producing “an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison.” We get the English word ‘gravity’ from the Latin word gravitas, which means ‘weightiness.’ People who are spiritually immature are like tumbleweeds that are blown about. They are like the waves of the sea blown and tossed about. Their feet are never nailed to the floor. There is no weightiness to their life. They are subject to the latest opinion and whim. They are easily blown astray when trials enter their life.


But gravitas means there is a weightiness about your life. You are not wood, hay, and stubble. You are gold, silver, and precious jewels. When the winds of adversity blow into your life, you are not blown about from here to the ends of the earth. There is an anchor for your soul. Your feet are nailed to the floor. You remain strong in your faith. You are rooted and grounded deeply in the Lord. You are not collapsing, but remaining strong. This momentary, light affliction is producing in you the eternal weight of glory. It is maturing and growing you up.


Paul mentions all of this because it is a part of our sanctification. It is part of growing in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul writes, “For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18). We must remain focused upon the future glory that awaits us as we experience sufferings here on the earth.


The Bottom Line

This is where the rubber meets the road. We live in a fallen world surrounded by trials, death, sickness, failure, and disappointment. We are not immune to these things. We experience the same hardships as unbelievers. But on top of that, we also experience sufferings that only a believer will experience. Persecution, tribulation, suffering for Christ, being put to death all day long like sheep being led to a slaughter. On top of everything the world experiences, we have another layer. Suffering is part of the Christian life.


But let us not forget, we also have some problems removed. We are no longer living in darkness making poor decisions. We now have the mind of Christ and the wisdom and lamp of Scripture leading us through this world. So there has been the removal of some problems. But nevertheless, there remain sufferings that Christians endure. We must not forget that our sufferings do not compare to the glory that awaits us in Christ.