And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope (Romans 5:3-4).
One of the key aspects of the Christian life is that it is full of tribulations and sufferings. So many in the world of Big Evangelical have adopted the best-life-now philosophy, that you will not hear about suffering in the Christian life from the plastic pulpits or invisible pulpits in most mega churches. This is because suffering and tribulation do not sell well. And let’s be honest, who wants to hear “trust in Jesus for salvation and plan on suffering for the rest of your life?”
But the reality is that if Jesus suffered, One who lived the perfect life, then why do we think we will get a pass, as Hensworth Jonas pointed out above? The New Testament is filled with the reality of our suffering in Christ. John the Baptist was beheaded, all the apostles, except John, were given quick exits from this life via the persecutors of the church. The first several centuries of the church were filled with those who were martyred for the faith.
So we should not be surprised when we find our lives full of tribulations. I’m not saying will be facing the lions every day. But our days are filled with tribulations both from inside the church and outside the church, both from inside our families, and outside our families, on the job and off the job. There is always some kind of tribulation in our lives.
Romans 5:3-4, And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope.
God has a purpose in our lives in ordaining tribulations. Tribulations produce perseverance in us, along with character and hope. Charles Hodge writes the following:
“The words we rejoice in our sufferings do not mean that we rejoice in the midst of sufferings, but because of them. They are themselves a reason for rejoicing. So the Jews are said to rejoice in the law, others rejoice in men, while the believer constantly rejoices in the LORD.”
These are words that we need to remember in the midst of tribulation. God IS doing something in us, when we suffer.
Hodge goes on to write:
This is not irrational or fanatical. Christians do not glory in suffering as such, or for its own sake, but because of what the Bible teaches.
He then points out three things the Bible teaches about suffering.
- Christians considered it an honor to suffer for Christ. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
- Christians rejoice in being given the opportunity of showing his power in their support and deliverance. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
- Suffering is the means of sanctification and preparation for usefulness here and for heaven hereafter.
Only the true Christian can have hope in the midst of suffering because God has a greater purpose in those sufferings. The non-believer is left alone in his sufferings, just to suffer. There is no benefit, though some make make silly claims like, “what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.”
No need for silly claims as a believer. We know that He is using the tribulations we face to help us persevere, to build our character, to give us true hope, and in doing so, to make us more like our Savior.