Romans 5:1-5. Therefore, since we have been justified by faith… we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 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.
So far we have explored three amazing and empowering results of our justification: we have peace with God, we stand in grace, and we have the hope of the glory of God. The gospel covers us past, present, and future. Life is good.
And life is hard. Very hard.
Since we have been justified by faith we rejoice in our sufferings.
Union with the life of Christ is union with the suffering of Christ. There is no way around this. Receiving grace in suffering is the path to the glory that we will experience one day. It is the proof of our righteousness in Christ. Receiving grace in suffering proves our faith is true, that Christ’s righteousness is real, and that God has spoken his good word (his doxa or glory) over us.
The word for suffering here is the Greek word thlipsis, which means “pressures” – the pressure that specifically comes from being a Christian. Paul says that we rejoice or boast in these pressures. Jesus warned that in this world we would have thlipsis. In Acts Paul said that we enter the Kingdom through many thlipsis. In 2 Corinthians he encouraged us that this light and momentary thlipsis prepares for us an eternal weight of glory.
These sufferings test our faith and make us wonder if God even still loves us. They burn us out in ministry, or challenge what we believe down to our very core. These sufferings or pressures seem to be dangerous for God to allow. What if we don’t persevere? What if we don’t hold on to our faith? Or, the better question, HOW do we hold on to our faith in the middle of all these pressures?
God knows what he’s doing. He knows that only through these sufferings, the thlipsis of life, can we maintain the perseverance of faith.
OK time out. Here are two equally important truths about our salvation. A) It is all of grace. And B) It requires your perseverance in the faith. God’s grace causes our perseverance, and our perseverance requires that we constantly receive God’s grace. Yes these are both true at the same time. They co-exist. They seem like opposite truths but they are actually synergistic truths.
OK time in. Making it through the sufferings of life, or better yet rejoicing in the sufferings of life requires us to constantly receive the grace of God. This alone is what both proves and strengthens our faith.
We receive grace as we trust in our justification, our peace with God, our access into a standing of grace, our hope of glory. We have all these things by the grace of our union with Christ. It is our union with Christ’s justification, his peace, his grace, his glory that produces the endurance, character, and hope I need in order to look that thlipsis square in the eye and boast in Christ! Not today sin! Not today Satan! Not today evil Brady!
Suffering calls us to receive grace. And the greatest grace of God is the love of God. Today we may feel the pressure of the life of Christ in us, but we can also feel the love of God through the life of Christ in us. God’s love has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. This is the greatest benefit of our justification. Yes, we are legally declared not guilty. But to be declared LOVED is hope. Endurance, character, and hopefulness are all great, but they are nothing without love. In fact our hope would result in shame if not for the love of God in us by the Spirit.
Take God’s unconditional, never ending, one-way, covenant love out of the equation and what do we have? Meaningless suffering. Endurance towards no eternal destiny. Character or approval rooted in self promotion, and a hope that hinges on how God might be feeling towards me today.
“To live is Christ” is to have the love of God poured into the depths of our being. The same love that raised Christ from the dead is coursing through us. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Christ, and his ministry is to make the love of God IN us so real and so true TO us through our suffering, just as he did for Christ himself through his suffering.
Can you connect rejoicing in suffering to the assurance of the love of God? How does union with Christ assure you of God’s love for you? Have you seen suffering produce endurance, character, and hopefulness in your life, hope rooted in love?