Heirs…and Sufferers


Romans 8:16-17 “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs–heirs of God and coheirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.”

As God’s sons, we are heirs. As good as it is to be God’s children now, there are better gifts waiting in our future. But like most heirs, we don’t know all the details about what is to come.

Are you an heir in someone’s last will on and testament? As far as I know, I am included in the will of my earthly father. I assume that about one fourth of what’s left when my parents die will be mine. I have some vague ideas about what that will include, but time can change things, and I don’t know the specifics of much of what they have or plan.

There is no doubt that you and I are included in the will of our heavenly Father. He has been very specific in promising us a piece of heaven, a resurrected and perfected body, and life that never ends. This inheritance isn’t an exclusive gift for a few special saints who have lived distinguished lives. As believers in our Lord Jesus we are all God’s children, and we all share that sacred status that makes us heirs of God and coheirs with Christ.

Paul also reminds us of a sobering truth now that we are God’s children. While God loves us deeply, in this life we also share our Savior’s suffering. Paul slipped that in when he said, “Now if we are children, then we are heirs–heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.”

If we are God’s children and heirs of heaven, why should we have to suffer? If my dad owned the grocery store, I wouldn’t expect to go hungry. If my dad owned the factory, I wouldn’t think it would be hard to find a job. If my dad ran the universe, wouldn’t you think my life would be easier?

But it’s not easy. We suffer. Whether we like to think about that or not, at least Paul is being real. He spoke from personal experience. He himself had been imprisoned, flogged, pelted with stones, and beaten by the enemies of the gospel. He knew what it was like to suffer, and he knew that he wasn’t alone.

Our own suffering as God’s children may take different forms, but it hasn’t ceased. I can name a half dozen men who worked for major corporations, who weren’t allowed to rise as high as their skills could have taken them because they refused to compromise their personal morals. They lived as God’s children and they suffered for it. I could walk you through the membership list of my congregation, and for each active family I could mention at least one serious tragedy they have endured. They are God’s children, but they suffer, and that’s hard for us to understand.

Individually, why any of us suffer this particular way, or this much compared to everyone else, is information our Father hasn’t shared. But this much he has revealed: Our suffering helps us to realize how helpless our sin has made us. Over and over again it rehearses us in our utter dependence on our heavenly Father for all things. It leads us to repent of the pride that thinks, “I can do this all by myself.”

In the twelfth chapter of his second letter to the Corinthians Paul says that God uses suffering to make us weak so that we won’t become conceited. But then something wonderful happens. We discover God’s sufficient grace. We find the love that justifies us and forgives our sins sustaining our faith. We experience his steady, quiet power resting on us and supplying our needs. We are God’s children, who share our Savior’s suffering. Since the Spirit convinces us we are God’s children, we can be certain our suffering will bless us in the end.

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