Just as Abrahams faith brought him righteousness and great blessings, those who have faith in Jesus Christ also receive righteousness and great blessings. Yet as Paul reminds us in this passage our faith doesnt always protect us from suffering. In fact, some times we suffer because we have faith. We still live on a rebellious planet, in rebellious bodies, and during a season of time in which Satan is active. So, along with blessings Paul says we can also expect tribulations, and by that term he certainly means the things we suffer because of our faith in Christ (religious persecution, spiritual oppression, temptation, the pain of loving and serving
), but his words here are true for all the suffering this world brings upon us. In the midst of any type of trials Paul wants us to remember that God is able to use those trials to make our faith stronger and to draw us closer to Him. This is why he says we can rejoice in or boast about our tribulation. Instead of destroying our faith tribulation will only prove that our faith in God is genuine. Of course it pleases Him to see our faith endure a test and He rewards us accordingly (Heb 11:1, 2, 6), but He already knew our faith was genuine. The person who actually discovers how real our faith is in the middle of a trial is
us. In difficult times we discover we really meant it when we surrendered to Jesus and took up our cross to follow Him
that there is within us a true faith that nothing can shake.
What does Paul say? (Ro 5:1-5)
(v1) Paul says believers in our Lord Jesus Christ enter into a state of peace with God. His point, of course, is that God is at peace with us, not that we are at peace with Him, though ending our rebellion was an essential part of our repentance. Now we who were rebels and walked away from Him need no longer fear the judgment we would have faced on the judgment day; nor are we any longer kept at a distance from Him because of our sins; nor do we need to be ashamed to come to Him in prayer and worship; nor is He angry at us for our weakness and failings. Instead He loves and blesses us and treats us as a parent with a child, which does include parental discipline (Heb 12:5-11).
(v2) Because we are spiritually joined to Jesus we now have perpetual access to Gods grace. We may always turn to Him for forgiveness and help, and we can confidently declare that in the future we will dwell in heaven in the glory of God.
(v3) Yet we still live on a rebellious planet and during a season of time in which Satan is active, so along with these blessings we can also expect to experience tribulation. Yet God is able to make everything that happens to us work for good in our lives (Ro 8:28). Even hardship and persecution will refine our character helping us to become more and more like Jesus. Knowing this changes our attitude toward such troubles. As unpleasant as some may be they teach us to persevere, they force us to walk more deeply in faith and find spiritual disciplines that really work for us.
(v4) So trials end up not destroying us but proving (dokime: to test something in a crucible and prove its genuine) that our faith in God is genuine.
(v4) There is also something else that takes place when we go through trials. Our grip on this world grows weaker and weaker while our longing for eternal life and seeing Jesus face to face grows stronger and stronger.
(v5) Paul calls this our hope, and he says we can be absolutely confident that this hope will be fulfilled because of the power of the Holy Spirit, which is a foretaste of eternity (Eph 1:13, 14; Heb 6:5), has already been given to us. Through the Spirit dwelling in us we feel Gods uncompromised love for us. We have already begun to experience what it means to have our sins totally forgiven and to live in His grace.
How God uses tribulation
Paul has outlined a process that takes place inside a believers heart when going through prolonged hardship. He says tribulation makes us learn how to endure through difficult times when our faith comes under attack. By enduring hardship our faith is proven to be genuine and grows stronger. And when our faith grows stronger we find ourselves longing to be with Jesus face to face, and the Holy Spirit who lives inside us reassures us that God loves us and will surely take us to Himself when we die.
In the midst of hardship God teaches us to:
See the situation from His perspective (He adjusts our thinking, our attitudes, our goals
Discover spiritual disciplines that work
Refuse to deny Him, refuse to quit, refuse to give in, refuse to curse God and die (Job 2:9)
Discover that the faith inside me is real and cant be shaken
Transfer the focus of my desires from His blessings here on this earth to just wanting to be close to Him
to be in His glory
Stop fearing death
Let my fear of being judged melt in the warmth of His love
knowing He is at peace with me
Now I know why James says: Consider it all joy my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be (mature) and complete, lacking in nothing (Jas 1:2-4).
The questions we are not addressing today: Why does God allow suffering?
Why doesnt God stop evil acts?
Why are children born with genetic defects?
Why does disease kill and injure the best and kindest people?
Why does God allow His own people to be viciously martyred?
If God exists and Hes powerful and good, how can He sit back and watch all this and not do anything to stop it?
Today we wont be diverted into this philosophical discussion. Today it is enough to recognize that Paul simply says tribulation will come, but it wont win.
Lets suppose Im in some sort of affliction right now. What does this passage say to me?
1) Regardless of whats happening, God didnt send it. Hes at peace with me. (v1)
We know He chastens us (Heb 12:5-11) but He doesnt have to invent trouble, our own disobedience and the devil supply more than is needed.
In the midst of trouble its vital to know He is my help, not my problem.
2) I wont go through this alone. He is with me, He will not leave for a moment because I stand in His grace. (v2)
In some of the darkest moments of my life He speaks the loudest
I am not merely a forgiven enemy or a pardoned sinner, but His child who has received the spirit of adoption so that from my heart I cry, Abba Father. (Charles Endman, Romans, Westminster Press, 1925, p 62).
3) This suffering will not last. At its worst it can only kill me and send me into eternal glory (v2).
Romans 8:17 ...if indeed we suffer with Him
Philippians 3:10, 11 ...that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.
4) This suffering wont destroy me, it can only strengthen me (v3)
God has a plan for my life. He guides, sets boundaries, overrules so that tribulations are forced to serve His plan for me.
Genesis 50:20 (Joseph) As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result to preserve many people alive.
God is greater than any man or circumstance. You cant take my blessing or my destiny. God will overrule you.
Lets listen to Paul boast (exult) in his tribulation:
1 Corinthians 4:9-13
2 Corinthians 11:23-33
He doesnt wonder why God allowed it.
He doesnt wonder what he did wrong.
He doesnt blame others for not praying hard enough.
He accepts it as part of a believers life. In fact he seems to wear them as a badge of honor.
We know he prayed for healing and protection and saw incredible miracles. But suffering was still part of his life and because he went through it with these truths in mind they only made him stronger, just as they do for you and me.
1) Describe a time you suffered because you were a Christian. How did God help you? What did you learn?
2) What is the most freeing truth you learned from this passage?