Elevate Our Hope for Heaven
What hardships are you facing? Undesired singleness? Marital conflicts? Diseases or disabilities? Job tensions? Church frustrations? Rebellious children? Aging parents? House foreclosure? The list is endless. Life in a fallen world is riddled with sin and suffering. God’s people are not immune to these hardships.
As we saw in our first article, the good news from Romans 8:28-29 is that God uses our trials to make us more like Jesus. Our adversities are not in vain; no hardship is wasted. He redeems us not only in our initial conversion but also in ongoing, daily ways.
How, specifically, does God use our hardships to make us like Jesus? We don’t want to just utter pious abstractions. In previous articles we have seen six concrete ways. The Lord uses hardships to enhance our relationship with him, to help us experience a measure of Christ’s sufferings, to expose our remaining sin, to exhibit to others Christ’s work in us, to engage us more actively in the body of Christ, and to equip us for wiser, more compassionate ministry.
Today we conclude our series with the last of our Seven E’s: God uses our hardships to elevate our hope for heaven. Earthly hardships create within us a proper dissatisfaction with this fallen world and a longing for “a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness” (2 Peter 3:13).
The Apostles Peter and James
Consider the apostle Peter’s richly-expectant perspective:
In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed (1 Peter 1:6-7).
By seeing our current problems in light of eternity, Peter raises our eyes to look for Jesus’ return. “Therefore,” verse 13 concludes, “prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed.” Amid afflictions, fix your hope on God’s future grace.
Could it be that one reason God allows us to suffer in this life is to elevate our eyes and excite our desires for Jesus’ return and the eternal state?
The apostle James concurs with Peter. In James 1:12, he brings comfort to his suffering readers, “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.” Persevering now yields a future crown.
Exposing the Lie about This Life
One benefit that suffering brings is exposing the lie that the best things in life are found in this life, or that the temporal, earthly goods we now lack would somehow deeply and finally satisfy our souls if we gained them. When these lies control our minds, disaster ensues. When our health declines, our possessions dwindle, our marriages hit some rocks, our jobs don’t satisfy, our bodies deteriorate, and our earthly cities show their corruption, these gospel promises from Peter and James arise to overshadow our losses and guarantee us greater gains.
The Bible makes this point from cover to cover. I would argue that virtually every New Testament text that promises Christ’s return is written to or about suffering Christians. Whether it is Jesus’ description of his return for his suffering sheep, Paul’s stress on the second coming in 1 and 2 Thessalonians, or John’s glorious pictures in the book of Revelation, the Bible brings future-oriented hope right now to afflicted Christians.
It is, of course, not easy to develop this faith when things are going well. But our task remains clear even when our lives experience bliss: to cultivate our taste for what God treasures. The desire for heaven, as the saying goes, is an acquired taste. The Spirit seeks to alter our taste buds—our affections and values—from earthly to heavenly delights.
Could it be, dear friend, that God is using your trial to make you like Jesus by making you long for his return and the new heaven and earth he will bring?
Join the Conversation
How has God used the hope of Jesus’ return to encourage you in your current hardships? How has the Bible’s eternal perspective helped you look differently at your present problems?