[The following interview took place in an undisclosed location.]
ME: Okay, let’s see here. I called the records department and had them send your file down. It says here that you were nearly stoned to death, left for dead, flogged, unjustly thrown in prison, shipwrecked, bitten by venomous snakes, reviled, and generally persecuted wherever you went. Paul, how would you classify these many trials you experienced?
PAUL: I consider them to be light and momentary.
ME: I’m sorry? It sounded like you said they are light and momentary.
PAUL: I did. I consider all the brutal trials I experienced, including the intense physical persecution, as nothing more than a light and momentary affliction.
ME: How can you possibly say that? When I experience trials they do NOT seem light and momentary. They seem intense. They seem heavy, powerful, and oppressive. It feels as though my trials are in my face, screaming at me, spitting at me, harassing me, cussing me out. The trials haunt me, hanging over my shoulder like a demonic spectre.
PAUL: Yeah that sounds about right. My trials felt like that at times. Do you think I was all smiles and cupcakes when I was lying in the dirt, my head split open by rocks, fading in and out of consciousness? Hardly.
ME: So how can you call your trials “light and momentary”? You endured intense trials for most of your Christian life. The file here says you were even given a thorn in the flesh. How can you possibly say your trials were light and momentary? If anything, they were intense and brutal. Come on, Paul; be real here. Quit trying to put a good face on everything.
PAUL: I am being real! The key is being able to see past the trials to what is actually taking place in eternity. Eternity is the most real thing that exists! If you can look above the fog of trials and catch a glimpse of the mountains of eternity, everything falls into place.
ME: Well that sounds very spiritual and poetic, but what exactly do you mean?
PAUL: There is a direct connection and correlation between the trials you experience here on earth and the glory you will experience in heaven. Each trial you endure in this life prepares you to experience more glory in heaven. The deep sorrows you taste here prepare you to taste deeper joys in heaven. The pain that plagues you here prepares you to experience the deeper strength of your resurrection body. The death of a fellow believer prepares you for the overwhelming joy of everlasting life.
ME: So are you saying that it is necessary for us to experience trials in this life? Because many “preachers” today say that the Christian life should always be health, wealth, and prosperity.
PAUL: Those preachers are wrong. Don’t forget, there is a direct connection between our earthly trials and our heavenly glory. One leads to the other. If we don’t experience the trials on earth, we won’t experience the glory in heaven. It’s as simple as that. Our trials go on ahead of us. A life free from earthly pain produces an eternity free from heavenly glory.
ME: As you look back over your life, is there anything you would change?
PAUL: No. Absolutely not. When I put my earthly suffering on one side of the scales and my heavenly glory on the other side, there simply is no comparison. The glory that I am enjoying and experiencing now truly does make my earthly trials seem light and momentary.
For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:17-18)
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Stephen Altrogge serves as a pastor at Sovereign Grace Church of Indiana, PA, where his main duties include leading worship, preaching, and working with youth. He also has written a number of worship songs that have been included on Sovereign Grace Music albums. Stephen is the author of the book Game Day For the Glory of God: A Guide For Athletes, Fans, and Wannabes, published by Crossway Books in September 2008, and The Greener Grass Conspiracy: Finding Contentment on Your Side of the Fence, published by Crossway Books in April 2011. When not shining his dad’s shoes, you can find Stephen drinking coffee or playing video games.
Find out more when you visit his blog, The Blazing Center.