Rom. 5:3 “And not only that” Part 2
“I remember when my parents gathered our family together and my father said, ‘Children, all over this district the communist authorities are slowly starving to death believers who refuse to deny their faith. If our family has to starve for Jesus, then let us do so with joy.'” – “The Insanity of God”This may sound strange to those of us in the West, but thi…s is a common occurrence around the globe where communist oppression exists and where areas are hostile to Christianity. According to reports, some fourteen thousand Christians are martyred annually who, “did not love their lives to the death” (Rev. 12:11). The road to heaven is paved with joyful suffering!
We have been looking at Romans 5:1-5, one of the greatest sections in the Bible. Paul begins with the benefits of being justified by faith – peace, access to the throne of grace, security in Christ, and joyful hope. And then he said, “And not only that, but we also glory in tribulation” (Rom. 5:3). Once someone is reconciled to God through faith alone in the merits of Christ alone, the narrow way that leads to life is met with suffering and shame to some degree. “We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22). While not all will experience persecution like the story above, every follower of Jesus has a cross to bear nonetheless.
Then, what did Paul mean by, “And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations?” If we are to rightly understand his words, it is vitally important that we accept that suffering is a gift. “For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake” (Phil. 1:29). Contrary to popular belief, salvation and suffering are granted (given as a gift of grace) to His people. So, joyful suffering is a benefit just like the other benefits that flow from justification by faith. Normally, this might be a good place for a, “Praise God, Hallelujah,” but how is joyful suffering a benefit?
When God predestined a people for His good pleasure, His goal, if you will, is to conform them to the image of His Son” (Rom. 8:29). Therefore, God has a purpose in suffering; to progressively make us Christlike. (We will address sanctification tomorrow) Now we can read the entirety of Paul’s words clearer. “And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope” (Rom. 5:3-4). Our joyful suffering produces endurance (to continue in the faith under the weight of tribulation, distress, and persecution), character (the duration and severity of the afflictions molds and shapes our approved character), and hope (no matter how bad things look and feel, hope is strengthened because love has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit). Hence, “We also glory in tribulations” because our suffering is not meaningless; but purposeful, knowing Jesus more intimately while being conformed to His glorious image.
In closing, let me encourage you with this: Whether you are facing hostility from family and friends, financial difficulties, sickness or disease, calamities or imprisonment, it is NOT by accident. The Scriptures reveal a loving Father who is involved in the step-by-step progress of His children. You can rejoice in your sufferings because God has purposed them for His glory and your good (Rom. 8:28). The road to heaven is paved with joyful suffering! Amen!Chuck Hayes