Suffering For Growth, Maturing For Rapture. God’s Intention And Purpose.

Until we all arrive at the oneness of the faith and of the full knowledge of the Son of God, at a full-grown man, at the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ

Eph. 4:13

Growth In Life

In this message we shall see that the heirs are conformed for glorification.

To what are the heirs conformed?

To the image of Christ, God’s firstborn Son (Heb. 1:5-6).

Christ is God’s firstborn Son, and the believers are the many sons of God (Heb. 2:10).

Glorification Depends On Our Growth In Life

As God’s firstborn Son, Christ is the model, example, pattern, and prototype for all His brothers, the many sons of God, who will be conformed to His image.

This conformation is for the coming glorification.

We should not expect to be glorified without firstly growing in life and being conformed to the image of God’s Son.

If we expect to be glorified without being conformed, we will be disappointed.

The glorification to come depends on our conformation to the image of the Son of God.

Thus, glorification depends upon our growth in life.

The Illustration Of A Carnation Seed

Once again I use the illustration of a carnation seed.

  • The seed is sown into the ground and sprouts: this is regeneration.
  • Then the carnation grows: this is the growth in life, the stage of transformation.
  • Eventually the carnation plant grows to the point of blossoming: this is transfiguration and glorification.

The stage of the blossoming of the carnation plant is the stage of its glorification.

If while the carnation plant is in the sprout stage it expects without growing to blossom and to be glorified, the time of blossoming will never come.

Nevertheless, this is exactly the situation among many Christians today.

If you do not grow in life, yet await the time of blossoming, the time of glorification, you are a dreamer. Click To Tweet
Glorification With Transfiguration Is Possible Only After We Have Reached Maturity.

Recently, I had dinner with some Christian friends who are very familiar with the outward world situation.

They told us that a great many Christians are interested in two main aspects of prophecy: the rapture and the signs relating to the Lord’s coming.

However, if we expect to be raptured without growing in life, we are dreamers, for rapture is actually our transfiguration and glorification.

No carnation seed can grow from a sprout to a blossom overnight. Imagine that a carnation sprout dreamed that overnight it grew from the sprout stage to the blossom stage.

This may occur in a dream, but not in real life, for such an unusual development is absolutely against the law of life.

According to the law of life, a carnation plant must grow gradually until it reaches maturity. Then and only then will a blossom appear.

Likewise, we must grow gradually until we arrive at a full grown man (Eph. 4:13, Gk.). Once we reach the stage of blossoming, we are ready to be transfigured and glorified.

Thus, glorification with transfiguration is possible only after we have reached maturity.

The Illustration Of Graduating From College

We may also use the illustration of graduating from college.

Suppose a college freshman dreams that he completes his education in one night and that he will graduate the next morning.

That is merely a dream.

In reality, he should not expect to graduate until he has completed four years of study.

After he has finished all of his courses and passed all of his examinations, he will be approved for graduation. Graduation never comes suddenly.

Many Peculiar Predictions Regarding The Coming Of The Lord Failed To Materialize

Many Christians live in a dream.

Although many Christians have expected to be taken to the air, eventually they all passed into the earth.

During the last century and a half there have been many peculiar predictions regarding the coming of the Lord.

Many so-called teachers of prophecy even dared to fix the date when the Lord would descend to the air. However, the years passed and nothing happened. Every prediction failed to materialize.

The Rapture Is The Issue Of Maturity

I was saved as a teen-ager a few years after the end of World War I. I loved to read the Bible and to know its truths. Therefore, although I was a student with little money, I tried to buy spiritual books.

Many of those who taught and wrote about prophecy offered a number of predictions, most of which were shattered by the start of World War II; none were fulfilled.

D. M. Panton, a great teacher of the Bible, published a paper entitled Dawn. 

In the mid-1930’s he printed an article which included two photographs, one of Caesar Nero and the other of Mussolini. D. M. Panton said, “Look at these pictures. See how much they resemble one another. Mussolini must be the antichrist.”

After we came to know about this article, I said in one of the church meetings, “Dear saints, Mr. Panton has published an article telling us that Mussolini is the antichrist.

If this is the case, certainly the Lord is coming soon, and we will be raptured. Brothers, deep in my spirit I do know one principle—that the rapture is the issue of maturity.

If The Crop Is Not Ripe, How Can The Harvest Come?

In the New Testament the rapture is likened to a harvest, and a harvest is possible only after the crop has matured and ripened.

If the crop is not ripe, but is still tender and green, how can the harvest come?

It is impossible.

Brothers and sisters, look at the situation among the Lord’s people today.

Look at the crop. Is it ripe?

Do you believe that according to the present stage of the growth of the crop the harvest is imminent?

It is impossible.

Look at the field—nowhere is there any real growth.

Still Very Little Growth

Although there are thousands of genuine Christians everywhere on the earth as a result of two centuries of evangelization, of missionaries going out to the uttermost parts of the earth with the gospel, there is still very little growth.

Where is the real growth in life?

There is hardly any growth and no maturity. How then can we expect to have the harvest?

I dare to say that the harvest will not come until the crop is ripe.”

I spoke this word nearly forty years ago; however, the rapture has not yet happened. Mussolini was killed and buried, and no Christian has seen the antichrist.

If We Want To Be Glorified, We Must Grow

We should not approach prophecy in the peculiar way of prediction.

Many writers have done this and every one of them has been put to shame.

We must realize that glorification with transfiguration depends upon our growing in life until we reach maturity.

If we want to be glorified, we must grow, for glorification comes as the issue of maturity.

Maturity Will Issue In Glorification

When we enter into maturity, that maturity will issue in glorification.

Glorification will not come as an accident, as an overnight occurrence; it is the result of growth in life.

Brothers and sisters, we need to grow.

As God’s crop we need to ripen until the time of harvest, the time of our transfiguration and glorification.

Sufferings Help Us To Grow And Mature

From here on we need to read more verses from Romans 8 and comment on them… We may begin with verse 17.

“And if children, heirs also; heirs of God and joint-heirs of Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him that we may also be glorified with Him.”

Children cannot be legal heirs.

In order to become legal heirs the children must grow into sons, and the sons must grow into heirs.

When we have reached this stage of growth, we shall be glorified.

Genuine Growth Of Any Kind Of Life Depends Upon Hardship And Suffering

… We need to understand that the genuine growth of any kind of life depends upon hardship and suffering.

Without hardship or suffering it is difficult for any life to grow.

In verse 17 we find the matter of suffering.

The more suffering, the greater our degree of glory

I have already pointed out that the more suffering we undergo, the greater will be our degree of glory.

However, the suffering mentioned in verse 17 does not only concern outward glorification; suffering is also for growth in life.

The more we suffer, the more we grow and the faster we are matured.

If a crop in the field could speak, it might say that it grows not only by the soil, water, fertilizer, air, and sunshine, but that it also grows by suffering.

Even the sunshine itself is a source of suffering, for the scorching heat of the sun burns the crop into ripeness.

Therefore, if you expect to grow, you need to tell the Lord, “Lord, I don’t reject any kind of suffering. Suffering helps my growth.”

We should not expect a life that is free of suffering.

The Illustration Of Marriage

Many times I have used the illustration of marriage.

As a young brother, you undoubtedly expect to have as your wife a sister who fits your situation exactly.

Eventually, however, you discover that your wife is altogether the opposite of your expectations.

Do not think that your marriage is designed to cut you into pieces.

No, you must say, “Lord, I thank You for such a good wife. My wife does not cut me into pieces, she helps me to grow.”

No husband likes to hear the word “no” out of his wife’s mouth. We all like our wives to say “yes.” How sweet it is!

However, it seems that most wives are accustomed to saying “no.”

These “nos” render much growth to us husbands. Young brothers, you should therefore be comforted when your dear wife says “no” to you.

Do not be troubled or offended, but say, “Lord, I thank You for all of these ‘nos.’” Such suffering helps us to grow and mature.

Nevertheless, as Paul says in verse 18, “the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the coming glory to be revealed to us.”

Put into Him that we may be molded into the image of His firstborn Son

God’s firstborn Son is the prototype, and we are the mass production.

Christ is the model, mold, and pattern.

God has put us all into Him that we may be molded into the image of His firstborn Son.

Eventually we all shall be conformed to the mold.

We Are Pieces Of Dough

Sometimes when the sisters make cakes they put dough into a mold.

By being put into the mold the dough assumes the pattern and image of the mold.

Furthermore, the dough must also be baked that the cake may bear the pattern of the mold without any change.

If the dough could speak, it probably would cry out, “Sister, have mercy on me. Don’t apply so much pressure. I can’t bear it. Please keep your hands off.”

However, the sister would reply, “If I keep my hands off, how will you fit into the pattern of the mold? Dear dough, after my molding you must be put into the oven.

You may think that pressure is enough suffering for you, but you also need burning. After you have experienced pressure and intense heat you will bear the pattern of the mold permanently.”

Likewise, Christ, the firstborn Son of God, is the prototype, pattern, and mold, and we are pieces of dough.

We all have been put into the mold, and are now being kneaded by the hand of God.

God’s Purpose And Intention

God’s Purpose Is To Produce Many Brothers Of His Firstborn Son

We have been predestinated to be conformed to the image of God’s Son that He may be the firstborn among many brothers.

This is God’s purpose.

God’s purpose is to produce many brothers of His firstborn Son.

When Christ was the only begotten Son, He was unique, but God desired to have many sons who will be the many brothers of His Son.

In this way the only begotten Son of God becomes the firstborn among many brothers.

He is the firstborn Son, and we are the many sons.

What is the purpose of this?

The purpose is that we express God in a corporate way.

God’s kingdom is built up with His many sons, and the Body of Christ is built up with His many brothers.

Without the many sons God could never have a kingdom, and without the many brothers Christ could never have a Body.

Thus, the many sons of God are for the kingdom of God, and the many brothers of Christ are for the Body of Christ.

The kingdom of God is simply the Body life, and this Body life in the church is God’s kingdom where He is expressed and where His dominion is exercised on the earth.

This is God’s purpose.

Therefore verse 30 says, “And whom He predestinated, these He also called; and whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.” In eternity we were predestinated and in time we were called.

God’s Intention Is To Bring Us Into Full Sonship

Why does God arrange our environment, surroundings, and situations in such a way that we experience suffering?

We should not explain this according to our natural concept saying, “The whole earth is filled with sufferings and everyone undergoes hardship. Why should we be an exception?”

This is a natural concept, and we should not accept it.

We must realize that God’s purpose is to make us full-grown sons, not little children.

We should not be content to remain children enjoying His cherishing and loving.

God intends to make us full sons, completely grown up to be legal heirs that we may inherit all that He is in this universe and that we may express Him and exercise His dominion over the earth.

Since God’s intention is to bring us into full sonship, we need to grow.

The Coordination Of The Outward Environment

Inner Nourishment Needs The Coordination Of The Outward Environment

There is no doubt that growth comes from inward nourishment, but this inner nourishment needs the coordination of the outward environment.

According to our feeling, most of the outward environment is unpleasant.

Thus, the outward environment becomes a suffering as far as we are concerned.

I do not say that the outward environment is not good; it is always good, but it may not appear good to your feeling.

The Illustration Of Parents

Sometimes parents do things to their children which, according to the feeling of the children, are not positive.

The children may cry and weep, imagining themselves to be suffering.

However, good parents are not deceived by their children’s tears.

Some young mothers have been cheated by the weeping of their children, changing their policy when they see the tears of their little ones.

It is not a gain for children to deceive their parents with their tears.

A mother must tell her child, “I don’t care about your crying. I know that I am putting you into a very good environment, the one that is best for you.

You may say that it is a suffering. But I know how good it is for you.”

God Knows In Which Environment We Can Grow Well

God deals with us in exactly the same way.

He knows in which situation and in which environment we can grow well.

He is our Father, and everything is under His arrangement. He can do nothing wrong.

Everything He does for us is excellent and wonderful, although to our feeling it may not be good.

However, we should not care for our feelings; we should take care of God’s arrangement.

Was it you who decided to be born in the twentieth century?

Was it you who planned into which family you would be born and which parents and brothers and sisters you would have? Was it you who designed your face?

You did none of these things.

It was God who chose the place of your birth and the design of your face.

God selected us, predestinated us, and caused us to be born at the right time and in the right place. He knows what is best for us, and everything is under His control.

According To Our Feelings, Our Environment May Be A Suffering, But Actually It Is A Blessing; It Is God’s Sovereign Provision

I say once again that, according to our feelings, our environment may be a suffering, but actually it is a blessing; it is God’s sovereign provision.

Everything we need for our growth in life has been sovereignly provided by God.

Everything is all right.

Therefore, when we are experiencing pain and suffering, we must deny them and say, “Satan, you are a liar. This is not a pain or a suffering to me; it is God’s arrangement. This is a blessing that I may grow into full sonship.”

We all need a proper environment to provide the elements which are required for our growth in life.

Nevertheless, when unpleasant things happen to us we may not understand that they come from the hand of our Father for our growth.


All citations in this post, unless otherwise identified, are taken from: Witness Lee, Life-Study Of Romans, message 49, Living Stream Ministry, Anaheim, CA, U.S.A. 1989. Source: ministrybooks.org

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