We have come to the end of our study of “Suffering” in Romans 5:1-11. The first installment was posted a couple of weeks ago and was on Endurance. The second was on Character and was sent out last week. If you missed those first two articles, click here to find the full “unpacking” of these themes as found in Romans 5.
Let’s enter back into our study from Romans.
To simplify this pathway to faith as presented by Paul in Romans 5:
- There is some hardship that enters your life (Suffering)
- You ask why and wonder what is the point of going through this (Endurance)
- Then the answer to those questions grounds you in truth (Character)
So, now we move unto Hope.
I think the easiest way to start with Hope is to describe what it is not. When Paul mentions hope in his letters, it is not like us saying, “Boy, I hope my team wins the World Series!” It is not hoping for something that might come true. It is not like placing a bet or buying stock. The kind of hope that Paul is describing is certain. It is the kind of hope that there is no chance that it will not happen or come true. So, when Paul mentions Hope, he is referring to belief and action in something that is 100%, absolutely true and real. It is always true under every circumstance or situation. Hope is directly connected to Faith and Belief.
Therefore, when something comes into your life that causes some level of suffering, whether it is disease or a business failure or losing a basketball game, the first thought we have is something along the lines of why am I doing this or what is the point. We start searching for meaning and wonder if we should just cut and run. In business, you analyze the money that it would cost you to shut the business down versus what it costs to keep going. In other words, is it more painful to continue or more painful to quit? So, relate that to any hardship. You are failing a school class–is it more prudent to finish and try to pull this grade up or should I drop it? You hate your job–Is it better to quit and find a new one or stick it out?
This process becomes endurance. Once you come to the other side of this stage (or for lack of a better term, evaluation) in the path, you feel like the ground under your feet has leveled. Then the perspective you have is that you are right where you are suppose to be. “This is right, and I am suppose to be here.” This results in strength because you put roots down. In other words, you gain character. Do you remember the image of the light house in the crashing surf in the last article? That is character.
Then character leads to hope. Hope is based on knowledge gained through experience. It is confidence and that is the rock that you have planted yourself in during hardship. You know that God will not abandon you because He didn’t abandon you during this time of suffering. Matter of fact, the suffering intensified the relationship and faith that you have in the Lord. That is hope, or better yet it is a certainty that you build your life and actions on. So, let’s rehearse the hope that we have as described in the Bible (feel free to add to my list):
- God is Good
- He loves us
- He delights in using His people
- He will finish His good work
- He is our Creator
- Nothing ever surprises Him
This is our Certainty…
Then Paul continues in Romans 5 and says that this hope will not put you to shame.
During the basketball season, the guys that I coached hated to lose. Their head usually fell after a loss, and there was shame. The guys usually felt like they did something wrong. Many of the guys would not even look up in the locker room after a loss. For them, the evaluation usually revolved around how did I cause this loss? What could I have done better? Well, I think that kind of shame after failure and disappointment is what Paul is referencing. He says that this suffering that you are experiencing is not based on your actions but on God’s purpose. God is building you for something greater in His purpose in the future. Paul is saying that after going though Endurance-Character-Hope, you will come out on the other side with no shame. There will be confidence because it is not based on something as faulty as our character but on God’s character and purpose.
Think of Job, after he went through the emotional and physical heartache of losing his children, loss of possessions, and even his reputation in town, he came out on the other side with more. Now I know that many of you reading this now have gone through great suffering yet you did not come out the other side with double your possessions. So, I can’t make any promises about what this might look like in your own life, but I think I can say that you come out with “More.” What I am trying to say is that suffering leads to real growth. Growth that is not easy to detect as you are going through the process, but when you are on the other side and look behind you, you can definitely see a hand guiding you.
This is why Paul says at the beginning of these verses,
“Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings,… (Rom. 5: 2-3)
The Scripture reference is Romans 5: 1-11. If you haven’t read the rest of this series, click here to access them all.
So, this is the week! Our first event of the year in Rogers, AR. It starts on Thursday, March 21st. I sure would love to see you there, and to share our stories of how God has worked. If you want to learn more about these events, click here.
P. S. If you are reading this and you have already registered, we encourage you to invite your friends. You will receive $5 to spend in the exhibit hall for each family that uses your referral link, and they will get $5 off their registration. Check out our referral program here!