May 7, 2023


God’s Invitation to Grace ❧ Part 25

Romans 5:3-5 ❧ Pastor, Dr. John Denney

Have you ever watched a baby chick being hatched? The process is slow and painful.  For a time they struggle and strain pecking at the hard shell holding them hostage.  Then they briefly pause to regain their strength only to begin again until they are finally free.  As a child growing up on a farm I was mesmerized by the whole process.  Watching them seemed almost as painful as it is for them.  But if you try to help them, you may well be doing more harm than good.  Their struggle is necessary to their survival.  It forces them to utilize their untried strength in order to grow and mature.  As much as we may not like to watch them struggle, it is all part of God’s plan that is necessary to their development.  The same thing is true for us as well. God talks a lot about suffering, trials, difficulties, and pain in the Bible.  He tells us that He never allows them but that He has a purpose for our good. In fact, God makes this solemn promise to us: And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son (Romans 8:28-29, NAS).  God tells us we will have struggles, difficulties, trials, but they are for our good to bring out the family likeness of Christ in us.  The question is not whether or not we will face difficulties.  We will. The greater question is how will you respond to them?  

This morning we’re going to look at a difficult but needed passage.  Turn with me to Romans 5:3-5.  The point that Paul is making here is that the same assuring power of God that saves us, that gives us His peace with Him and access to Him, is the same assuring power that enters into every other part of our lives – even our suffering.  The subject of suffering is as necessary to talk about as it is certain all of us will experience it.  This morning we’re going to look two additional benefits of the great salvation God has given us in Christ.  Both are related to suffering. 1) We have a new perspective on our problems and 2) We will never be alone. 

  1. We have a new perspective on our problems. And not only this, but we also exult in our

tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope (Romans 5:3-4).  When Paul says, And not only this, he is connecting this thought with the last where he said, we exult in the hope of the glory of God (v.2).  We exult or rejoice in the hope of our salvation AND we exult in our tribulations (θλῖψις – trouble and suffering).  It’s one thing to rejoice in our salvation, but it is another altogether to rejoice in our troubles and sufferings! Paul is talking about spiritual maturity here.  As we grow in a deeper understanding of our great salvation, we grow in our spiritual maturity.  As we do, we have a new perspective on our problems.    

The most important word in this verse is the preposition “in”.  We rejoice in our suffering.  It does not say we rejoice because of our suffering. It does not say we rejoice for our suffering.  It does not say we rejoice that we are suffering.  We rejoice in our suffering. 

   What does this mean?  Rejoicing IN our suffering? It is because we know something about our suffering that others don’t. We have a supernatural strength that comes from God to rejoice despite our suffering.  Because we do, we look at our suffering from a different perspective on life – our tribulations bring about (κατεργάζομαι) Our suffering accomplishes, works in us something of value, meaning, significance, opportunity.  

The Chinese use the word “Crisis” in a similar way.  The word “Crisis” involves two letter characters: One means danger.  A crisis is a danger because it threatens to suddenly disrupt the equilibrium of our lives.  Grief, anger, guilt, discouragement, depression threaten to consume and ravage our lives in the wake of a threatening danger.  The other letter character for “Crisis” means opportunity – the prospect to change, grow, to become, to develop.  

Paul’s telling us, I know there is pain in life.  Suffering, trials, problems, distress. Trust me, I’ve had more than my share. But for the Christian suffering produces something; God has a plan in it.  So we can rejoice in it.  We know that it’s not just meaningless.  There is a purpose behind the pain.  It will all be worthwhile. For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!  So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever(2 Corinthians 4:17-18, NLT). What we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later (Romans 8:18). 

What does God want to accomplish in us through suffering? Paul lists three qualities God wants to produce in us: perseverance, proven character, and hope.   

Perseverance. The word here literally means the ability to handle pressure, to continue working in the face of opposition or difficulty.   Our first response to pressure is to get out, run. We want to get on top of it, not under it.  Perseverance is the ability to stay under pressure. You could use the word patience, endurance, stability.  God uses suffering to teach you how to handle pressure, how to hang in there, never give up, keep on keeping on, being consistent.  

The opposite of perseverance is panic.  The hardest thing to do when we are under pressure is keep calm, not to panic.  Once when Jesus was with the disciples in the boat a dangerous storm threatened to capsize their boat.  These seasoned fishermen panicked while Jesus slept.  We often feel the same way.  Lord, don’t you care, don’t you know what is going on?  Our lives are at stake here and You’re sleeping!  The two things we often ask God.  Jesus does one of two things in our lives: He either calms the storm or He calms us and allows the storm to rage.  

Proven character. Perseverance means the ability to stand up under pressure.  Character looks at the end of the trial.  After the storm is finished what is left; an uprooted tree or a tree still fastened securely to the ground now tested and proven reliable.  Suffering does not make character, suffering reveals character.  

The word for proven character is used of a metalsmith purifying precious metals such as gold or silver by intense heat.  If metal is heated impurities float to the top and are skimmed off.  Someone once asked a silversmith, “How do you know when the silver is pure?” He said, “When you can see your reflection in it.”  God’s plan in allowing us to go through the furnace of testing is make you in the family image of His Son. 

In 1962, Victor and Mildred Goertzel published a revealing study of 413 “famous and exceptionally gifted people” called Cradles of Eminence. They spent years attempting to understand what produced such greatness, what common thread might run through all of these outstanding people’s lives. Surprisingly, the most outstanding fact was that virtually all of them, 392, had to overcome very difficult obstacles in order to become who they were. 

Hope. Perseverance (the trial) produces proven character (the product), and character produces hope.  Hope confidently assures us that we are not suffering in vain.  But it does more than that.  The more the trials, the more confident our hope becomes. 

Dr. Donald Grey Barnhouse is helpful here putting what Paul is saying in perspective.  Paul is not saying we are to have such an otherworldly attitude that we’re uninterested in or disconnected from the present.  Barnhouse notes we are otherworldly in the sense in which the electric lights that fill this room may be called other-roomly. When the flow of electricity stops from the distant power plant, these lights are dark and useless.  But when they are connected to the current, they glow with a brilliance that fills the room.  So the Christian life is empowered by Heaven in order to shine in the world (Barnhouse, p. 71).  When people see a power working in us that is not our own, but God’s, they will give God the glory (Matthew 5:16).  Paul reminds us of this Heavenly power in the next verse.   

  1. We will never be alone. and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been

poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us (Romans 5:5).  Paul qualifies this hope describing it God’s love being poured out into our hearts.  And this love is not a mere trickle, but a lavish outpouring!  Jesus said, He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water (John 7:38). The moment we humbly turn to Christ asking Him to forgive us of our sins, God pours out His love into our hearts through His own Holy Spirit (Eph. 1:13-14).  From that moment forward into all eternity God’s love will abide in us. Again, Jesus says, I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever (John 14:16).  

There are times in our lives when we’re going through hardship that we will be tempted to feel the most alone, if not abandoned by God.  But God is faithful (1 Thess. 5:24). He has promised He will never leave us nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5).  If we are faithless, He remains faithful; for He cannot deny Himself (2 Timothy 2:13).  The security of your relationship with God does not rest in your ability to live a godly life, but the keeping power of the Holy Spirit who indwells you.  He not only keeps you but is committed to growing you into maturity (Phil. 2:13). Only God can make you godly and the Spirit’s work in your life will make that evident as develops your character and deepens your hope.  It is not how much of the Spirit we have, but how much the Spirit has of us. 

On a wall in his bedroom Charles Spurgeon had a plaque with Isaiah 48:10 on it: “I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction.”“It is no mean thing to be chosen of God,”he wrote. “God’s choice makes chosen men choice men…We are chosen, not in the palace, but in the furnace. In the furnace, beauty is marred, fashion is destroyed, strength is melted, glory is consumed; yet here eternal love reveals its secrets and declares its choice.”    

Feel like you’re in God’s furnace? God’s goal is to grow you, mature you into the family likeness of His Son.  Suffering, difficulties, hardship are a part of that plan.  The question is do you recognize it? Paul did and he also recognized just as God’s power flows in us to forgive and save us, it also strengthens us when we are suffering.  Therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me (2 Corinthians 12:9). We rejoice in our suffering not because we enjoy the suffering, but because we know it is the power that God often chooses to build spiritual maturity in us and the path to glory.

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