Fear is real. It started with Adam being afraid of God in the Garden and every human being has had to deal with it since that time. You and I are afraid of something. It might be the dark or tight spaces. It might be taking a test or speaking in front of a group. We might be afraid of going to the hospital or dealing with violence. Everybody’s afraid of something.
The Apostle Paul was a realist. He was also an idealist. The two can be joined together in rational and reasonable thinking, even though many philosophers would say the two are contrasts and opposed to each other. Paul looked at life and saw the suffering and troubles of the human condition. He also looked at life and saw the great glory and victory that await God’s people. Understanding both the reality of life and the ideal of hope in Christ brings us to an understanding of how to live the GraceLife. Here’s how Paul explained it.
“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. For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. Not only that,but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body. For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance. Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.” Romans 8:18-30
Think about that for a few minutes. The sufferings that you and I are dealing with in our lifetime “are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” How do you compare “sufferings” of less than 120 years to the “glory” we will experience with God through eternity? It’s impossible to compare the finite to the infinite because we cannot measure the infinite. Eternity is forever – everlasting. We have no way to understand that other than to imagine time continuing without end, but even that does not help us understand the true nature of “eternity.” Eternity is not just time without end. Eternity is a place and experience beyond our comprehension.
Paul also wrote to the Corinthians about the suffering of this life compared to the eternal glory before us.
“Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:16-18
King Solomon wrote that God “has put eternity in their hearts,” speaking about the sons of men. Then, Solomon looked at eternity from the outside to give us a brief glimpse of what will be and how it should lead men to fear God.
“I know that whatever God does, It shall be forever. Nothing can be added to it, And nothing taken from it. God does it, that men should fear before Him. That which is has already been, And what is to be has already been; And God requires an account of what is past.” Ecclesiastes 3:14-15
Jesus taught often about eternal life and what it means for those who believe in Him.
“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand.” John 10:27-29
Paul wrote the Ephesians about how the purpose of the mystery God had given him to preach to the Gentiles was part of an “eternal purpose.”
“For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you Gentiles— if indeed you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which was given to me for you, how that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already, by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ), which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets: that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel, of which I became a minister according to the gift of the grace of God given to me by the effective working of His power. To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ; to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places, according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him. Therefore I ask that you do not lose heart at my tribulations for you, which is your glory.” Ephesians 3:1-13.
“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: ‘For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.’ Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:31-39
What we say is, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” What we do is FEAR the Lord and trust Him – in everything.
King Solomon summarized this truth beautifully at the end of Ecclesiastes –
“Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, For this is man’s all. For God will bring every work into judgment, Including every secret thing, Whether good or evil.” Ecclesiastes 12:13-14
In Christ’s Love and Grace,
“Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”