How Suffering in This World Can Prepare Us for Eternity

By Michael Brown Published on July 22, 2022

It is sometimes easy to think that, unless we are winning people to Jesus and playing a direct, active role in world evangelism, we are not bearing fruit for eternity. After all, what is more important than snatching people from the jaws of hell and turning them into citizens of heaven? In the words of missionary C. T. Studd, “Only one life, ‘twill soon be past. Only what’s done for Christ will last.”

To be sure, the Great Commission is always near and dear to the heart of God. And one way or another, through our praying or our giving or our witnessing or our teaching or our training or our worship or something else, we should be involved in the process of winning the lost and making disciples, even if tangentially.

But we make a grave error if we think that it is only through sharing the gospel with the lost or making disciples that we can bear fruit for eternity. God is looking at far more than that.

To be Like Jesus

Consider first that God’s great goal for each of us as His children is to “be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters” (Romans 8:29). God wants to make you and me like Jesus!

This is only fitting, since He has called us to be members of His eternal, heavenly family. This means that we need to behave like His sons and daughters and look like His sons and daughters. Jesus, our elder Brother, sets the pattern.

You are being tried in the fire for a short time today so that you will shine brightly forever.

That’s also why Paul wrote:

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. (Romans 5:1–5)

Even through the hard times — or, in many cases, especially through the hard times — God is developing our character and deepening our faith. This happens in a unique way only in this world, since in the world to come we will see the Lord face to face and faith will no longer be needed.

Here, on earth, our faith is tried and our character is tested. Honoring Him through the fiery trials helps prepare us for eternity.

Bill Johnson Loses His Wife

Pastor Bill Johnson has helped to articulate this with tremendous power and depth after losing his wife Beni to cancer after years of prayer for her healing. (For those unfamiliar with Pastor Johnson, he is well-known for praying for the sick and for teaching that God delights in healing His children.)

Just three days after losing his wife (she was only 67), Pastor Johnson said from his pulpit, “The level of revelation God gives you will always be equal to the level of mystery you’re willing to live with. And the inability to live with mystery is your resistance to child-likeness. It’s child-likeness that gives us access to dimensions and realms of the kingdom that you can’t get in any other way.”

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And these lessons can only be learned in the midst of terrible pain and inexplicable loss. This is when we really trust. This is where our character shines.

He continued, “What I found is there are measures of His presence that you can only find in the valley of the shadow of death. He’s not a vending machine. I don’t get to put in a quarter and get out of it what I want. It’s a relational journey. I’ve experienced His kindness, His miracles at a level I could never earn or deserve.”

We Will Not Have This Opportunity in Eternity: To Love God Through Pain

He added, “I just don’t have the right to reevaluate what He is like because I’ve experienced loss. It doesn’t work that way.”

And he noted that, throughout eternity, enjoying the presence of God, he will not have this opportunity to glorify the Lord while experiencing such deep pain.

He said:

May I never be found critiquing God when things don’t go my way. May I always be found having a heart ready to be critiqued by Him. Is God my friend? He is. But He is my Lord first, and I’ll never have the pain I’m feeling right now in eternity, so in this moment it is a privilege to respond rightly to the Lord of my life with deeper trust and devotion. I will bow before the Lamb on the Throne in awe, and worship Him forever, but never will I have the face to face chance to do that while I’m in pain, so in this moment I choose to do that. When I said yes to Jesus, I gave up my right to fully understand or be in charge of my life.

These are the words of a man whose character has been refined and whose faith has been challenged. They set an example for each of us.

So be encouraged if you find yourself in a deep, dark valley now. As you honor the Lord and worship, not only are you bringing Him glory in the present. But you are preparing yourself to be with Him forever.

You are being tried in the fire for a short time today so that you will shine brightly forever.

It is a good exchange.

 

Dr. Michael Brown (www.askdrbrown.org) is the host of the nationally syndicated Line of Fire radio program. His latest book is Revival Or We Die: A Great Awakening Is Our Only Hope. Connect with him on Facebook, Twitter or YouTube.

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