In the first part of this series, we explored this idea of Biblical hope and Biblical faith. We learned an extremely important lesson that hope is not wishful thinking (more on hope vs. wishful thinking here). Now it’s time to dive deeper into the Apostle Paul’s statement that we are to “exult in tribulation.” (Romans 5:1-2) This statement is extremely hard for a modern-day American Christian to hear. Why?
We don’t really Believe
We don’t believe the promises of God are absolute. We don’t truly believe that we were intended to reflect God’s glory into the world. We don’t live as though we believe we are supposed to look more and more like Jesus every day. We don’t believe that the hope of the Gospel is for the whole world, and that we should go and preach it to all nations.
Guess what happens when we don’t really believe? We don’t walk it out. That’s a dangerous way to live, isn’t it? We’re supposed to be a people of action and discipline but because we don’t believe that tribulation brings good, we definitely don’t want to endure. But, Paul tells us to exult in our tribulations.
We need to know—and truly believe—that tribulation will bring about (not magically create or produce) perseverance. The natural outflow of exulting in tribulation is perseverance. And the natural outflow of perseverance is character. The only way we can exult in tribulation is to BELIEVE the promise that God is making us into something. Church, why can’t we grasp this?The natural outflow of exulting in tribulation is perseverance. And the natural outflow of perseverance is character. #christianliving Click To Tweet
Our View of Hope is not Absolute
There’s no other way around it, we’ve been conditioned to view hope as wishful thinking. We don’t view hope as an absolute. Remember our chair analogy? Faith is trust that the chair will hold us. The chair is an absolute. The chair here can represent proven character. The promise we are sitting in and resting in is that God will build in us a perseverance of our faith as he molds us into proper image bearers, capable of reflecting his glory.
This is such an important truth. Paul moves on to explain that the outflow of our proven character is hope. But wait. Didn’t I just tell you that hope itself was an absolute? How can hope be brought about in this context? This is an important understanding of how we read the word of God.
We See through a Glass Darkly
Scripture tells us that we see through a glass darkly. How many of you know that? This means that we can’t even see the fullness of the chair yet. We don’t understand the depth and beauty of all God has invited us partake in within this hope. What happens if we will trust God, if we will trust in his Gospel message? An amazing thing happens. We begin to endure. We endure tribulation because we know that God wants us to be a perseverant people. He wants us to be a patient people. He wants us to push through. And when we do persevere patiently, we have hope that our faithfulness is bringing about something.
Our perseverance brings proven character. Our proven character (as we sit firmly in the chair) brings more and more clarity to the glass we are looking through. We begin to understand that our chair is the only chair WORTH sitting in. It’s the only thing worth trusting in.
We see the work of God unfold in our lives and we understand more and more the absolute sureness of God’s promises. As a Christian, the more we trust our Lord, the more we are able to wiggle back in his chair and find true rest. This is where God wants us. He wants us abiding in his shadow. He wants us trusting in him. And that is the natural outflow of enduring. Of trusting.We don't understand the depth and beauty of all God has invited us partake in within this hope. Click To Tweet
God Works all Things Together
Let’s hit these ideas of perseverance and proven character a little more. Scripture says that God is working all things together for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose, but there are two common misconceptions about this passage. 1. God works all good things together for the good of those who love him. The second is like it. 2. God works all things together for the good (subjectively defined) for those who love him and are called according to his purpose.
These misconceptions arise from a fundamental misunderstanding of the sovereignty, holiness, and just nature of God. Does God want good for his people? Absolutely. But he also wants such good for his people that he is willing to correct, discipline, shape, and mold us.
And who defines ‘good.’ Do we use our faulty, darkly illuminated definition or do we submit to God’s definition? Correction and discipline are painful. Scripture affirms this when it says that no discipline is welcomed in the beginning. We flinch. We squirm. We grieve. But the hurt is bringing about a perfect work. It’s bringing about something beautiful. It is sanctifying us.Does God want good for his people? Absolutely. But he also wants such good for his people that he is willing to correct, discipline, shape, and mold us. Click To Tweet
We might be tempted to believe these misconceptions, but the truth is that God will work out pain, hardship, and rough seas for our good.
God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28 NASB)
Will God let a pandemic come near our homes? Yes. It’s here. The reality of the Christian life is that we will experience the same tragedies and horrors that the rest of the world experiences, BUT God’s promise is that he will use them to make us more like our King. With a clear understanding of ‘good’ in Romans 8:28, we can see that ‘good’ allows for tribulation.
All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness. (Hebrews 12:11 NASB)
One of the reasons the Christian Church looks a lot like the rest of the world is because we don’t want to God’s promise of perseverance. We don’t want the lesson. Instead, we insulate ourselves from every tragedy and every hard time in our life, then we claim that God promised these tragedies and hard times would never come. That’s simply not what the Bible says.Christian reality is that we will experience the same tragedies and horrors as everyone else, BUT God’s promise is that he will use these things to make us more like our King. Click To Tweet
In the next post, we will look at God’s promises, and what they truly mean. Until then, let’s talk. I’d love to hear your thoughts on faith, hope, and tribulation. Comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.