Monday, July 16, 2018
Romans 5:3 – 5 3Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.
Rejoicing when outcomes of our circumstances are positive is fairly easy for most of us. What hinders such rejoicing is the suffering we must endure until the outcome is realized. It gets hard some days to rejoice in the hope of glory when we are surrounded by hopeless gloom. The political situations of the world seem hopeless. Wars and terrorism abound, and there is no peace. The economic crunch we are experiencing seems hopeless. Rising prices and diminished supplies hurt our budgets, while 852 million people around the world go to bed hungry every night and one child dies of starvation every five seconds. The spiritual void that is growing in our society seems hopeless. Mankind continues to hope in their own ability fix everything. We are surrounded with hopeless gloom when we should be living in the hope of glory.
If hope seems to be waning in your life, and you long for it to be restored, there is a process for you. You may not like it, but it is how God has chosen to do it. When you ask for more hope, you may think you are asking for more help to resolve your current circumstances. But God knows that to produce more hope you must become more aware of the hopelessness of this life and the awesomeness of His grace to sustain you.
The process God has chosen for the restoration of hope begins with the realization that your focus has shifted from the eternal to the immediate. We expend too much time and energy on solutions to current situations, rather than in the development of character which comes by enduring them. Paul tells us that the production of hope begins with suffering, and that we should rejoice in the promise of God to bring about that outcome.
When we suffer we have two choices: seek to remove the cause of the suffering to bring immediate relief, or use the suffering to our advantage and become stronger. We must choose to trust that the long-range outcome God has designed will be more beneficial to us than the immediate relief. (Romans 8:18 says, I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.)
If we say we understand the sovereignty of God in all things, but seek to remove the cause of our suffering, we are really seeking to remove God. Those who demand solutions and seek the removal of all hurts and hardships are demonstrating a humanistic view of God and a weak faith in His nature and character. (A proper study of the book of Job would be beneficial to such people.) But those who submit to suffering with their hearts focused on the final outcome of glory, will be filled with hope that does not disappoint them, because God has poured out His love into them.
When we learn to accept suffering as the beginning point of hope, then we will learn perseverance, which will in turn produce character, which results in greater hope. Let me illustrate. In a few weeks school will begin, and students of all ages will be entering a new grade. I remember when I went from first grade to second grade and was scared silly because I had heard the fact that in second grade we had to start taking tests. We would be moving from the first-grade worksheets that we did together in class to the written testing of our personal knowledge of facts. I wanted out of there. This was suffering.
One day, the teacher, Miss Brown, gave us the scariest news I had ever heard: we were going to have a test on science – specifically the basics of atomic theory. Yes, I know this was second grade, but we were really advanced. I’m kidding! We just had to know some basic terms, like atom and molecule and electron and neutron. I listened hard in class as she explained all the terms to us. Then she handed out the test. I quickly filled in all the answers, thinking that if I took my time I might forget something. The next day she handed back the graded tests, and at the top was a big red “A”, with a note that said, “Great job, John!” Wow! I did it. And I had earned the approval of the teacher. My fear of passing was replaced with a hope of not only passing but of passing with honors.
When Paul says that perseverance produces character, this is exactly what he is describing. The word character is a translation of a Greek word that means to have been tested and approved. The suffering that we are enduring is designed by God to test us. To continue with the analogy of school, when we can show that we have learned what God intended for us to learn about His love, grace, faithfulness, power, provision, or other expression of his nature and glory, He stamps us with a grade and passes us on to the next subject. That stamp of passing is the substance of the word character.
When we seek to avoid the suffering and not take the tests, we are held back and don’t advance to the next grade. Life gets more hopeless because we have not endured the tests, and we begin to believe we will never be able to pass a test again. But when we endure the test and prove that we have learned what God is teaching us, we are stamped with His approval and filled with the hope of passing all tests with honor. That production of hope will not disappoint us, because it ends with our participation in the glory of God.
So, don’t skip class today because you’re afraid of failing the test. God’s tests are not designed to produce failure, but to prove you are a success. To make sure He does that, He poured out His love into your heart through the Holy Spirit, whom He has given you, to teach you all things and bring everything you have learned about God to your remembrance. (John 14:26) God guarantees that you will pass the test! You just have to decide to take it.