Romans 5:3-5 “We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. 4 And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. 5 And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.”
Here in Roman’s Paul doesn’t down play the probability of problems, or shy away from suffering. Unfortunately many people today are living in the lie that God won’t give them more than they can handle. This false idea seems to originate from 1 Corinthians 10:13 where God does promise that He will provide a way out when we’re tempted but He never says that He’ll shield us from struggles. This scripture is specifically dealing with God not allowing temptation to overwhelm without Him providing a way of escape so that we can endure the temptation and not fall into sin. He didn’t promise a problem free life but His presence forever in life. Paul often faced adversity 2 Corinthians 1:8-9: “We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.” In 2 Corinthians 11:24-28 Paul doesn’t preach the prosperity gospel, rather he seems to advocated an adversity gospel: “Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked; I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.” Paul understood that in this life he would have problems and pain and today that may be where you are, pounded by the problems. Some are dealing with a difficult diagnosis, or flooded with financial distress, struggling with singleness, or a messy marriage, overwhelmed by the addictions of alcohol or adultery, deep in drugs or depression, worn out by wayward kids. The list could go on but at some point in life we all discover the disillusionment that occurs when life doesn’t live up to our expectations. Some of us have graduated more than once from the University of Unmet Expectations. Paul doesn’t shy away from sharing the real message on suffering, it’s guaranteed for anyone who takes on the task of living. That’s the difficult part but here is the delight, God can use what isn’t good to graciously transforming us through our trials. We don’t like the thought of trials but there are some things we can’t learn in a lecture or a sermon but only through the school of suffering. One of the core classes for the Christian involves the challenging study of suffering. We will all go through seasons of suffering, we don’t have a choice in the curriculum but we do have a choice in our response to Christ. How we do in our course of study through suffering is largely determined by our response to His curriculum. Often we just want God to give us a pass so we can skip the pain, but problems are a prerequisite in this life and we can’t be excused from the syllabus of suffering. No matter what side of the pond you find yourself on you can find joy in the junk and rejoicing in the rubbish. Some of life’s greatest lessons are learned in the school of suffering, but it’s not just about the results but our response. Verse three reminds us of our response; rejoicing, it is the power of praise that allows us to triumph over our troubles. The English word tribulation comes from the Latin word tribulum, a heavy timber or board set with flint or metal teeth used for threshing grain. It was the teeth that separated the good grain from the chaff, just as suffering separates the superficial chaff from the seed. Today suffering often comes as a shock because we don’t expect to suffer, we are astonished at affliction but 1 Peter 4:12 reminds us: “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you.” Suffering is not strange but common place for the Christian. We may pray for a problem free life or even demand a pass on persecution but problems have a purpose. Philippians 1:29 says: “For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him.” Yet how many of us shy away from serving the Savior through suffering? Today I fear we are more interested in being rewarded as Christians than recognized as them. Am I rejoicing in the rubbish James 1:2 says: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds.” 1 Peter 4:13: “But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ.” Do I have jubilation in the tribulation? In Acts 5:41 we are told that “the apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.” Instead of whining they worshipped, instead just surviving suffering they were singing through it. Paul reminds us that we rejoice in our sufferings because we know, not we guess or feel, but we are sure in our suffering that He will sanctify. Pain has a purpose, trials teach, tough times work for us not against. Paul says suffering produces perseverance which means to bear up under, so when you pray for patience don’t be surprised if you end up enrolled in the school of suffering. Some of God’s greatest blessings are poured out in bitter cups. Ask Joseph and he’ll point to prison, John can point to Patmos, or Daniel who learned his lesson in lion’s den. But perseverance is not the end product for it enrolls us in the class of Christian character. God is more concerned with us being holy than He is with us being happy. He is more committed to our character development than our comfort. We may want to make it about comfort and convenience yet His primary concern is conforming us to the image of His Son. Character development occurs in the currents of challenging circumstances not the protective paddling pool of a problem free life. Character then serves to strengthen our confident hope; even in our hurt we are not without hope. This is a hope that does not disappoint, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us. Many today are disappointed and disillusioned because life has not lived up to their expectations, but Holy Spirit hope never disappoints. Our greatest longing is love and God has lavishly poured out His love into our lives. Biblical hope is built on the confident expectation that you will not be disappointed. Disappointment is often the result of a failure in focus, things may not have gone your way but they have gone His. Suffering is the secret reminder that God loves us. We may long to study the pages of pleasure but it’s in the school of suffering that causes us to shine. Today are you shunning the school of suffering or surrendering to what He wants to teach you?