Oh, the frenzy on the Ellen show this time of year. I’ll bet tickets for her 12 Days of Giveaways 2015 are already sold out. You snag one of those and not only do you enjoy a very funny show, but you go home with thousands of dollars worth of gifts. Lots of screaming and hootin’ and hollerin’ and jumping up and down with joy in that studio every December.
I wonder how much folks would be willing to suffer through for those tickets. A long and uncomfortable car or bus ride? A few days missed pay? Driving in LA? Sure…all that and more. But not much. They wouldn’t be willing to suffer the loss of several children, a job, and anything even resembling moderately decent health. No, no, no…no gift is worth all that.
Do you know there are gifts worth all that? A friend of mine has suffered all of the above and is currently in a very debilitating physical condition, wracked with pain and unable to get much relief. But through all her many trials she has maintained her faith in Christ and given him thanks and praise. Why? Because she has a sure, confident hope that God is allowing her to suffer with a purpose in mind and that he is beside her through it all. She is willing to endure because knowing Christ, especially as she shares in his sufferings, is an eternally, immeasurably greater gift than any this world has to offer.
Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ. – Philippians 3:8
When we endure suffering for the sake of Christ, we have a present experience of intimacy with him. But we also have a future hope of heavenly rewards that far exceed even 12 years of giveaways. God will not be a debtor. If he allows his child to innocently endure great trials, he will compensate her over and above what would be simply fair.
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. – 2 Corinthians 4:16-18
We have only the faintest idea of the glory that awaits us in heaven…”we see in a mirror dimly,” as the apostle Paul says.1 But that glimpse is grand enough to hold us as we wait for it in often difficult circumstances. As followers of Christ we have that hope of glory, but it is a sure hope. Not…maybe it’ll happen, maybe it won’t, but I sure hope it will. But instead…I know this great reward awaits me and I will experience it someday. As Paul says in Romans 8: “Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.”2
For some of us, hope is just about the greatest gift of all because pain and suffering make it difficult to enjoy the other gifts of Christ. Without hope, it seems to me, such an existence would be unbearable. But, praise God, we have that confidence that suffering is temporary, but glorious bliss and rapturous joy that will be ours someday will be ours eternally.
And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. – Romans 5:2b-5
1 1 Corinthians 13:12 2 Romans 8:24-25