The Grace Series: "Romans 5:3 - Rejoiceful Tribulations." Part III

[This is the third part of The Grace Series in Romans 5. The first part of this series can be found here. The second part can be found here.]

In Romans 5:3 Paul writes, "And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance." This almost sounds irrational or fanatical when compared to the preceding verse Romans 5:2, "...we exult in the hope of the glory of God." If we are to exult in hope, how is it then that we also must somehow rejoice in the trials that cause so us much personal pain? This notion borders almost bizarre. It seems as though God is unsympathetic and coldhearted. And yet there appears to be an anticipation by Paul of a potential argument against what he has set so far. If I am accepted in Christ, if I have been saved truly, if I am at peace with God and I have His peace, why the trials? Some would argue that if you look at their lives it seems as though God is angry at them. And yet by trusting God (faith) we recognize many ways of dispensing His grace.

One of the profound ways God dispenses His grace is difficulty, struggle, and in trials. Trials become an occasion for rejoicing as God graciously takes us through them to the other side. Trials are not inconsistent with the love of God; they are evidence of the love of God. In fact, I would argue, the opposite of love is not hate or anger. It is indifference. If God was doing nothing, that is evidence that perhaps He hates us or is displeased with us. Yet, all through the New Testament we find a variety of blessed glorious reasons why God permits and causes struggle for the Christian.

First: we live in a fallen world.
We are on two sides of a battle that is raging. We are citizens of heaven. We are in the midst of those who are citizens of this earth. We are followers of Christ in the midst of people who are followers of the devil. There is a war raging. They hated Christ; they will hate us. We should not be surprised. "Blessed are those who are persecuted," Jesus said in His sermon on the mount. "Blessed are you when men cast insults at you and persecute you and say all kinds of evil against you on the count of me." Gods grace is on display as He takes us through and enables us to endure these false accusations, insults, and distresses that are results of living in this fallen

Second: God desires to display His glory in our life.
Perhaps, there is not greater way for God to display His glory than by His divine enablement in the midst of enormous, profound, painful trial and struggle. 1 Peter 4:12 says, "Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you." God's glory is manifest. His grace is illumined as He divinely enables us to live through difficult trials, struggles and tribulations. A great work He does in our lives
as we patiently endure.

Third: God permits trials to strengthen us and show where our true strength lies.
By appealing, depending upon, and crying out for His grace is how we recognize our futile strength and ability to cope during tribulations. Remember the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 12, he had this thorn in the flesh. It was so painful that he sought the Lord three times that it might be freed a and removed from him. Yet, God said, "I'm not gonna do it." 2 Corinthians 12:9 God replies to Paul saying, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." Paul writes in reply, "Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecution, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong." We find out where our true source of strength comes from as we depend upon God's gracious faithful assistance and divine enablement. Glory to God.

Fourth: God uses trials to get our attention and redirect our paths.
Many of us persue selfish goals and ambitions whereby we try to create our own happiness and fulfill the Great American Commission, "Live life by what pleases you most." I recollect on my own past where I cried out to God, "why would you give this all to me and then just pull it away?" Yet at the same time I began getting heavily involved with church and getting deep into the scriptures. And by surprise God got hold of my life and those past efforts to make my way into the business world on my own was halted and I've now been strongly going after a Christian education. If you think of your own situations either currently or in the past I'm sure most of you can relate quite similarly. Looking back I would never want to endure the painful hardship I had to endure transferring from one lifestyle to the next, however I certainly delight and exult in what God did through it in redirecting my path. To be honest, I probably would have ended up some lousy businessman swamped with so much work it would interfere with my future wife and kids if I would have continued in that direction.

Whatever the trail (you can fill in the blank) we all have been there or we will yet be there. The difficulties of life will come knocking someday. Whatever the trial, the grace of God is abundantly displayed in the midst of trials. Therefore, Paul continues in verse 3, "we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance." Will we hang in there or will we flee and reject God? Will we stay and trust God?

In the next installment of The Grace Series I will be covering Romans 5:4 and discussing the formula Paul writes pertaining to perseverance, character, and hope.


Cross-blogged at Apologia Christi


Jason Pratt said…
One of the better entries so far. {s}

To the four reasons mentioned above, I can add another two, for why I should rejoice in my tribulation.

5.) I am a sinner, too. The strongest and most constant pain that I suffer in my own life, happens to come from my selfishness being destroyed. While this overlaps somewhat with your third and fourth reasons (especially the fourth), I did not find the basic principle here being expressed in either place: God punishes me in order that I may learn to be a better person.

6.) This is a more subtle point, though no less important I think; and it also follows from (and exemplifies) the love of God for even those who do evil (whether myself or others). When I myself am abused, I am challenged to rejoice in this, for it demonstrates the love God has for _everyone_--even for my enemies. God doesn't treat us as puppets, or as a computer program to which He can simply give the three-fingered reboot and a reload from a previous save. {s} If I am to be glad and grateful about this when _I_ am the one who is abusing the grace of God (i.e. that God is merciful and gracious to me, the sinner Whom He loves, treating me as a child and not as some expendable thing); then I had better learn to rejoice for similar reasons, that God so loves sinners other than myself--even when I am the one on the receiving end of their abuses of His grace (instead of vice versa.)

To say the least, this is a difficult challenge. {g} It is easy for me to be glad and grateful that God allows me to be a real boy instead of a puppet, even though (I admit in penitence) I continue holding to my sin. It is not so easy for me to be glad and grateful to God when other people are sinners, too; especially when I or the people I love are the victims.

(I can also extrapolate this principle to the behaviors of a neutral field of reality in which we operate--with the same difficulty on my part, yet also, I believe, the same necessity, at least for me to grow to do.)

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