Christians suffer because it is simply stated in the scriptures; due to the disobedience of Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden. So God stated in His word we would suffer and have pain in our lives. He went as far as to say that during child birth women would endure pain as well (Genesis 3:16 I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labor you will give birth to children.) God hates wickedness, but created man to live on earth living in righteousness. It was never intended for us to grow sickly and die. God wanted us to live forever on this earth.
Surely God wants us to have lives full of his peace, and joy and power. It is a fact that Christians who are suffering – anxiety, ill-health, unemployment, bad relationships, and in other ways, only have themselves to blame, and just need more faith and to claim the victory? In this article I am looking at the first five verses of Romans chapter five to see what God’s word teaches on this subject.
· PEACE WITH GOD
Christian suffering is a big subject, but here in Romans there is some very clear teaching. Here, we see how ‘all have sinned’ and have broken God’s standard, and but may get right with God, by being ‘justified by faith’ – 5:1. This truth is the heart of the great gospel blessing of salvation. The Lord Jesus offered himself and died carrying the full judgment we deserved. Now, all who trust in him go free, they are ‘justified’, declared by the Judge to be righteous! God is the God of grace, who showers this rich, undeserved blessing of a right standing with himself upon all who turn to him and trust in his Son. The result is; ‘we have peace with God’ (Rom 5:1). We need this first, before we understand suffering.
Romans 5:2 then tells us, ‘Through him we have obtained access into this grace in which we stand’. To ‘obtain access’ is like a door being opened for you. Before you trusted in the Lord Jesus that door was shut tight – you could never get in. Now through what Jesus has done, you may enter ‘by faith’ into this new position, ‘this grace’ in which ‘we stand’; the secure position of favour and right-standing with God. What a great blessing – make sure it’s yours!
In this new position, standing in God’s grace, ‘we rejoice’. True joy is a great blessing from God. These rich truths are given to help us grow strong as Christians. As we face difficulties of many different kinds, God permits and uses the ungodly world to put his children under pressure, for a purpose.
God’s works his truths out in practice – in sickness, in persecution, in science, in medicine, in mathematics, in the home, in school, in marriage, in poverty, in wealth, in life and in death.
· FAILURE OF HUMAN WISDOM
But Man-made beliefs, humanism, secular psychology, political theories, evolutionary science, don’t stack up, they don’t deal with sin, and don’t give bring fellowship with God. They reject God’s revealed truth and will fail you; don’t trust them.
So, with such a full and free salvation, having obtained this new position of acceptance with God, we have great joy as we look with certain hope to being with Christ in glory. Is that enough, what about understanding suffering?
· SUFFERING PRODUCES ENDURANCE
From Romans 5:3-5 we begin see the connection with suffering and how Paul first gives a strong foundation for the Christian life. Only then does he go on to deal with ‘suffering’. That way, we learn to deal with it, so it doesn’t crush you. You have a firm foundation, ‘peace with God’ and you ‘rejoice in hope of the glory of God’.
So, even more than that wonderful rejoicing, now ‘we rejoice in our sufferings’. Who wants to be joyful in suffering? The word Paul uses for ‘suffering’ can be translated ‘trouble, persecution, pressure – being pressed hard or distressed’.
Then do you see this connection? We rejoice, we have peace and triumph ‘knowing’ this difficulty is not going to defeat us, but rather we will gain something from it. Now we know that ‘suffering produces endurance’ (Rom 5:3). With God-given peace and joy, we learn to endure.
· CHARACTER – FORMED BY ENDURING WITH JOY!
So the suffering was not a mistake at all! God is using it to build endurance enabling us to hold on in the difficulty – without collapsing into self-pity – and build my character! You see the Christian life is for real – it has been tested under extreme conditions, and been proved to work in practice! The word for ‘character’ here means ‘tested and approved’ – as when something is tested and found to be the genuine.
Do you now see how all this fits together in the life of knowing the Lord Jesus as your Saviour? And how these verses show how tested ‘character’ leads to a stronger hope that will never be smashed, because ‘God’s love has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit’! So, I am encouraged by the strong Holy Spirit, ‘who has been given to us’; what a great gift!
ENCOURAGE YOURSELF: What great help God gives as he works in our lives, even through suffering, so that we endure with joy, praise, and glorify him through it all!