“If so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Romans 8:17–18).The apostle Paul is saying that in light of the glory that awaits him, what is his trial in comparison?
Likewise, he wants us to turn our eyes from our present sufferings and focus on what is coming, which will change everything. One minute into our new home in eternity, Paul says, we won’t remember what came before. His point is to start praising now, rejoicing over the joy that awaits us. “By him [Jesus] therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name” (Hebrews 13:15).
God has chosen those “refined . . . not with silver; I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction” (Isaiah 48:10). The people to whom Isaiah offered this vision of a new world had just endured the fury of a raging enemy. Now they were reeling from their tribulation, bound by fear and weariness. They felt that God had forsaken them, and they were afraid of what the future held.
So what word did God send them? It’s the same word he gives his people today: “Wake up! You are not undone, as you think. The Lord, your strength, is still with you. So, get up out of the dust of discouragement, and sit down in the heavenly place I have promised you. You have not lost your righteousness, so put on your robe. Shake yourself, talk to yourself, give yourself a lecture. And tell the flesh and the devil, ‘I am more than a conqueror through him who saved me’” (Isaiah 52:1–3, paraphrased).
“And I will . . . refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried: they shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is my people: and they shall say, The Lord is my God” (Zechariah 13:9).
How did God get the children of Israel out of Egypt? He had to put them in a furnace of suffering to bring them to the point that they cried, “Enough of this! I don’t want to be here anymore.” Then, when the time came for God to say, “Go,” they were ready to uproot and move into His Promised Land.
God help us to get disengaged from the materialistic spirit of this age, and to transfer our every affection to the New Jerusalem.
Isaiah prophesied that the world God was creating is a place of praise, where the inhabitants rejoice. “Be ye glad and rejoice for ever in that which I create: for, behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy” (Isaiah 65:18). The Hebrew word for create in this verse means “to bring into being.” Do you see what Isaiah is saying? God is creating not only a new world, but also a special people. He’s bringing into existence a bride who hasn’t just been weaned from this world, but has learned to praise her way through trials.
The fact is, our present sufferings comprise a school of worship. And all the ways we’re learning to praise Jesus, especially in our trials, are training for that glorious day. What does this mean for Christians who live with constant fret and worry? How can those who live as if God were dead suddenly know how to praise their way through a trial?
How we react in our present trial is very important. When Israel was in their hour of great suffering, they gave up hope. They decided they couldn’t take any more, so they simply sat down in the dust. Here were God’s people, with rock-solid promises, yet they sat there with a chain around their necks.
Likewise today, some Christians give up at this point. They don’t abandon their faith, but they stop pursuing Jesus with their whole hearts, thinking, “I can’t live under this kind of intensity. It seems the closer I get to Christ, the more I suffer.” They wonder how Paul could say, “I . . . rejoice in my sufferings” (Colossians 1:23–24).
Here is exactly how Paul could make such a claim: he had been taken up into heaven, and he saw the glory that awaits us. Because of what he saw, Paul was able to embrace his trials and afflictions in this life, learning to praise God through every ordeal. He was determined to learn gladness of heart no matter what his situation, and he began practicing praise in preparation for the world to come.
Abraham passed a great test of faith when, in obedience to God, he offered his son as a sacrifice. Yet, even more than his tested faith, Abraham was weaned from this earth—a fact proven when he offered up Isaac. He had faith that there was a purpose greater than the one he could see. Here was a man truly in the world but not of it, seeing his citizenship in another world.
Now consider what Hebrews says of Christ: “[He] suffered without the gate” (13:12). Jesus suffered as an outsider—always on the outside of formal religion, outside of accepted society. Yet Christ was also “outside” in the sense of having no place here on earth to even lay His head. In everything Jesus did, He always looked to heaven.
Like our Savior and our forefather Abraham, “Here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come” (13:14). We live and work on this earth, but we are aliens here; our true homeland is in the New Jerusalem. Thus, Hebrews urges, “Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach” (13:13). Until we also are “outside” the camp—outside this world’s lusts and materialism—we won’t be where our Bridegroom is.
I live in a nice home and drive a nice car. But I continually guard against such material things ever taking hold of my heart. The fact is, you can have a mighty faith and still not long for Christ. “Though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not [love], I am nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:2).
Sadly, as I look around today, I see multitudes of believing Christians who have great faith, but have no longing to be with Jesus. Instead, they’ve set their eyes on the things of this world and how to obtain them. I find that such people don’t want to hear about focusing on heaven or being weaned from this world. To them, such a message means an interruption from the “good life” they enjoy here.
Thank God, He has a wonderful way of pushing us outside the gate. He tells us, in essence, “If I’m going to give My Son to you in marriage, there can be no other attraction in your life. I want to be sure you’re not lusting for something or someone other than Christ. Your most exciting dream, the deepest pull on your heart, has to be a desire to be with Christ.”
We all have a calling from the Lord. And at various stages of our lives, He has set before us a preordained plan we are to fulfill. Moreover, God promises that if we act in faith, trusting Him, He will bring that plan to fruition.
Yet, this isn’t always easy. As everyone who has walked with Jesus for any length of time knows, following His high calling means we’re going to encounter obstacles, the most common of which is the skeptic’s voice. As we seek to cross the Jordan into the Promised Land, we’ll hear every kind of voice telling us not to go. They murmur to us in very reasonable tones, “It’s just not going to happen. Let me explain why.”
Three types of skeptical voices appear in the life of every Christian:
First, there is an outward skeptic. This is a friend, acquaintance or family member who challenges what we believe we are to do to obey God.
There is also a demonic skeptic. This is the voice of the evil one, who seeks to derail us from our trust in the Lord.
Finally, there is an inner skeptic. This is the voice inside our own minds that raises every kind of argument against obeying what God has asked of us.
Joshua heard all three of these voices as God stirred him to lead Israel to cross over the Jordan River. The crossing held all the promise of God’s future glory for His people on earth. You can be sure there was no way they would make that crossing while hearing the shrill voices of skeptics trying to dissuade them.
Our God wants to obliterate every skeptical voice that would keep us from obeying His direction for His greater glory. Whenever He asks us to take a step of faith, He is leading us to “cross over” to a measure of trust in Him we’ve never had before.
“No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you” (Joshua 1:5, ESV).
The Bible describes Satan as the accuser of the brethren. In Revelation 12:10 we read that Satan “accused [believers] before our God day and night.” Whenever Satan is present in Scripture, someone is being accused. He is there in the form of a tempting snake in Genesis and we see Adam and Eve mutually accusing each other cruelly. The people murmured in the Old Testament, plagues devoured them, and the apostle warns: “These things happened for our teaching, our understanding. Do not murmur as they murmured and were destroyed by the destroyer” (see 1 Corinthians 10:10-11).
“We are not ignorant of his devices” (2 Corinthians 2.11). Peter “accused” the Lord, and Jesus answered him, “Get thee behind me, Satan, you don’t realize by what spirit you are speaking” (see Mark 8:33).This spirit of the accuser is real and terribly active in our world today. Husbands accuse wives, teenagers accuse their parents, nations and entire regions of the world are torn apart by one group, nationality, color or clan endlessly accusing and attacking the other. Believers and leaders blame pastors, and ministers complain one to another, “Today’s believers are not like they used to be.” That is the spirit of the accuser. However, you can choose a different life. You can cry out, “Father, fill me with faith with a revelation and the Spirit of the Advocate.”
The Bible teaches that “we have an advocate (a defender, and intercessor) with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous and . . . He ever lives to make intercession in our favor” (see 1 John 2:1 and Hebrews 7:25).
We can also be filled with and live in and by a Spirit that prays, intercedes, stands with, loves and forgives. Each day we truly have a choice to make: division or destiny; resentment or restoration; breaking or building; to hurt or to heal; to be bitter or to bless; to release or to be reduced; pettiness or power; my agenda of advancement or His authority; the accuser or the Advocate!
Claude Houde is the lead pastor of Eglise Nouvelle Vie (New Life Church) in Montreal, Canada. Under his leadership New Life Church has grown from a handful of people to more than 3500 in a part of Canada with few successful Protestant churches.