Romans 5:3-5 ESV
“Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
A Life of Suffering
As followers of Jesus, we are called to a life of suffering. Jesus said that if we would come after him, we must deny self, take up our cross daily and follow (obey) him. For, if we hold on to our lives, we will lose them for eternity, but if we lose our lives for his sake, we have eternal life with God (Lu 9:23-26).
For, you see, the Christian life is not a life of fun and games. It is serious business. It doesn’t mean we go around with a frown on our faces all the time or with a “woe is me” attitude, but that we are sober-minded and that we take God and his word to heart, and we choose to obey them.
We don’t confess one thing with our mouths while we live the opposite. We don’t put on a show of righteousness while we secretly sin when we think no one else can see what we are doing. We don’t act like we love Jesus all the while we are living in opposition to his love for him and for others.
The Christian life is a life of dying daily to sin and to self and of following Jesus Christ in obedience to his commands. And, this goes against our flesh, so we must daily, by the Spirit, be putting that flesh to death, and sometimes that is painful, truth be told.
For, sometimes this requires us to “speak the truth in love” to people who don’t want to hear the truth, and who may reject us in return, or who may speak evil against us or do evil to us in retaliation for us telling them the truth about sin, and about what God’s word teaches us about sin.
But this is exactly the suffering that Jesus went through. And, we are to share in the fellowship of his sufferings, becoming like him in his death. So, we should not avoid this kind of suffering, especially if we do so by refusing to speak the truth to people out of fear of their rejection of us.
For, when we do speak the truth as Jesus spoke it, and as John the Baptist and the New Testament apostles spoke it, we are going to have people hating us, accusing us falsely, rejecting and mistreating us, and turning other people against us, too. But we rejoice!
Suffering for Our Good
Suffering is painful. In our human nature, we tend to avoid suffering at all costs. This can lead us into sin and to refusing to obey God because we are afraid to suffer. Escaping suffering, though, can lead to greater suffering in addition to guilt and to shame. Do I get an “Amen!”?
So, what is the purpose of suffering? It is to make us more like Jesus, it is to humble us, to bring us to obedience to Christ, to prune and to purify us, to mature us in our walks of faith, and to teach us compassion for others, too. And it is to teach us to flee from sin.
When we endure suffering for righteousness’ sake, it produces endurance in us. We grow stronger in our walks of faith with the Lord, and we are able to endure even greater suffering and persecutions because of what we have already had to endure and did endure by the grace of God.
Through suffering God is producing in us godly character when we submit to him in our suffering, and when we allow him to teach us what he wants us to learn through the suffering, for it does serve his purposes in our lives. For, it works in our lives to put our flesh to death.
All this produces hope in our lives. So, how does that work exactly? The more that we suffer for the sake of the name of Jesus, the greater our faith becomes, and the more we learn to rely on the Lord in all things. Our trust in the Lord grows, and we mature in our walks of faith with Christ.
Also, the greater our understanding of who God is and of his great love for us will be developed in our hearts and in our minds through our suffering, when we respond to that suffering rightly. Thus, we don’t see God’s love for us with a “me-me” mindset, but we see it through the mind of Christ.
We understand that God is not like a permissive parent who gives us everything we want so that we will like him back. He is not a Genie in a bottle in the sky there to grant us our every hearts’ desire. And, he is not a doting grandfather. He is a loving parent who disciplines his children that they might share with him in his holiness (Hebrews 12).
God loves us so much that he will tell us the truth, even if the truth hurts us, and even if we get angry with him for telling us the truth. He loves us so much that he will allow us to suffer, too, so that we can learn how to walk with him in holiness, and so we will learn how to stand strong in our faith.
He knows what we are up against better than any of us realize, so when he allows or when he brings suffering into our lives, it is for our good, to work his good in our lives for his glory and praise. We may not understand it while it is happening, but we have to believe that God knows what we need.
So, through it all, we must keep trusting the Lord, believing that he has a purpose, and that he is going to work it all out for the good of those who love (obey) him, who have been called according to his purpose (Ro 8:28).
Be with Me, Lord
By Thomas O Chisholm
Be with me, Lord – I cannot live without THEE,
I dare not try to take one step alone.
I cannot bear the loads of life, unaided,
I need THY strength to lean myself upon.
Be with me Lord, and then if dangers threaten,
If storms of trial burst above my head,
If lashing seas leap ev’rywhere about me,
They cannot harm, or make my heart afraid.
Be with me Lord! No other gift or blessing
THOU COULDST bestow could with this one compare –
A constant sense of THY abiding presence,
Where’er I am, to feel that THOU ART near.
Be with me, Lord, when loneliness o’ertakes me,
When I must weep amid the fires of pain,
And when shall come the hour of “my departure”
For “worlds unknown,” O Lord, be with me then.
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