Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. ~Romans 5:1-5
Grace, peace, justification, faith, hope…wow… God has surely placed before us the riches of the soul. It is easy to see how the Christian life gets off to such great momentum, propelled through life by such awesome realities!
But verse 3 seems to take some of the wind out of our sails. 3Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings. I’m willing to listen but this does not seem natural. God has given us all of these momentum building gifts, and then blows our self confidence out of the water with the concept of rejoicing in suffering. How can we do that? Peter had a similar message for the saints under persecution:
Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. ~ 1 Peter 4:12-14
By experience all Christians know that the promises of peace and grace and hope do not mean we are protected from intense struggles of faith in our lives. Our enemy is constantly at work to disrupt our momentum and drag us down into inactivity, disbelief, and doubt. He even wants us to believe that when hard times come that is when we should shut down our faith and wait it out. That’s not what the Scriptures teach us. In an astounding truth that goes against our natural grain, God is telling us that when suffering comes our faith goes into hyper-drive! It starts producing!
Suffering produces perseverance…momentum. When the enemy turns on suffering, the Spirit turns on perseverance. When we suffer the wheels begin turning that generate incredible blessings into our lives.
*Perseverance – the power to see it through is activated. If you do not believe that, take a look around your church. If you haven’t noticed before, take note of those who suffered through great pain just to assemble with the saints. That’s not self-righteous legalism on display, friend … that is love for God and His people. See those cancer survivors? Do you notice the widows sitting there without their husbands? Do you see the ones who have struggled through recovery and now walk the straight path? And those are just the ones we know. But that’s enough. Perseverance is activated, momentum is created when suffering afflicts the Christian.
*Character is created – integrity grows. Though it can be painful, sometimes seem meaningless, the commitment to Jesus is in tact. When you’re suffering, you do not pretend all is well. You acknowledge the difficulty and struggle within the context of faith. This is the wrong time to give up. Why?
*Hope. Hope is maintained because all attention is focused on the One who rose from the grave. When engaged in pain, focus on eternity becomes clearer. The brevity of life is apparent. Most of the things that had our attention before, are now worthless trinkets. Hope surges above all and becomes our life preserver. How does this happen? Don’t worry about that. God’s Holy Spirit is working in your heart to bring about the hope needed to sustain you through your trial.
Most of the great Bible heroes found their stories flowing in this same way … suffering … perseverance … character building … hope. Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Elijah, Gideon, Jeremiah, Daniel, the list could be much longer. Hebrews 11:32-40 reminds us of many stories of faith and struggle that created momentum because of hope.
I know I’ve faced the moment where I had to toss it all, or hang on tightly. I’ll never regret hanging on tightly to my Lord Jesus Christ. I didn’t have all the answers, but God was already at work. My suffering wasn’t a momentum stopper … something new was being created. I believe that’s true in your life as well.
More in my next post.
Thank you for reading.