GO THE DISTANCE
“Through Him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 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.”
// Romans 5:2-5
Throughout the narrative of Scripture, we see that it is common for followers of Jesus to experience tribulation. In examining the language of the New Testament, we find that suffering is frequently included in the vocabulary of Paul, Peter, and James. It was not something they shied away from. In fact, in Romans 8:17 Paul states that there is a direct correlation between suffering and our inheritance as children of God. He says, “Together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share His glory, we must also share His suffering.” While it is true that we have received a great inheritance in Christ, it is equally true that we must suffer in order to receive it. To follow Jesus is to accept that pain is expected.
So what must we do in the midst of our pain? How should we respond? Paul tells us in Romans 5 that the proper response in suffering is to rejoice. Now this does not suggest that we ought to be glad when tragedy occurs, that would be foolish advice. We rejoice not because we enjoy the pain, but because what we can become through experiencing it is far greater. Paul understood this. He was shipwrecked, beaten, betrayed by friends, and imprisoned. But he knew something that every believer should know. He knew that “suffering produces endurance” – the endurance of faith. Just like the marathon runner needs endurance to complete a race, we need the endurance of faith to fulfill the call on our lives.
Therefore, suffering is actually healthy for our faith. Every trial is an opportunity for us push deeper into the Lord, to learn that our security is in Him alone and not the stability of our circumstances. Trials are not meant to break us but to build us, and to equip us with the endurance necessary to fulfil the ministry that Jesus has set before us. Then, like Paul, we can say, “I have finished the race. I have kept the faith” [2 Timothy 4:7].
// Filmore Bouldes