Our Turbulent Journey to Heaven

Sam Petitfils

Growing up, my family owned an automobile that gave us fits.  It would often fail to start, constantly broke down, and generally drove us nuts.  Once my brother was about town in the thing and the transmission broke, making it drivable only in reverse.  He drove that hunk of metal home in reverse, several miles.  When I first got my driver’s license, guess which car I got to drive?  It got to the point where I expected things to go wrong, which they often did.  We still joke about that car all these years later.

In our text above, the writer remarks that our journey to heaven will be accompanied by many tribulations—we can expect it.  One writer wrote, “It is almost taken for granted in the NT that tribulation is the normal lot of Christians; it is those who suffer with Christ who are to share His royal glory.”  Note the Apostle Peter’s words:

"Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.  But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed."  1 Peter 4:12-13

Should we be surprised by trials and tribulations?  Certainly not, these are milestones on the way to heaven.

In recent years, certain teachers, often on TV, have advanced a different view than what we find in the Bible. They teach if our faith was intact, we would experience less trouble in our lives.  But that does not square with Scripture. Notice these verses:

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart! I have overcome the world.”  John 16:33

"Now if we are children, then we are 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.  "Rom. 8:17

"Therefore, among God’s churches we boast about your perseverance and faith  in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring."  2 Thess. 1:4

Since the fall of man in the Garden of Eden, we earn our bread by the sweat of our brow, and face manifold difficulties along the way.  Few things will come easy and at times we will be at wits end.  Nevertheless, God has some very special blessings for those who faithfully endure.

How does God use these tribulations in our life?

1) To enhance spiritual growth.
Paul writes, “suffering produces perseverance, perseverance, character, and character, hope” (Romans 5:3-4). God uses these unpleasant times to sharpen our spiritual tools, and wean us from this disappointing world.

2) To sharpen our hope.
By “sharpen” we mean “make clear.”  Hope does not disappoint, because in the end we shall see Christ face to face (Romans 5:5).  God uses trials to turn our eyes heavenward, to a land that cannot disappoint.  With eyes focused, the problems and failures of this life begin to shrink in overall importance.

3) To cheer our hearts.
Jesus says in John 16:33, “Take heart.” Yes, in the midst of turbulent days we can take heart and even rejoice, because our God is near.

At the end of his first letter, Peter reminds his readers, most of who were suffering, that soon God will provide relief:

"And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast."  1 Peter 5:10

Let’s not allow this old world to dampen our spirits.  We have every reason to rejoice as we anticipate the coming of Jesus Christ, in all His glory!

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