Summary: God promised that if we learn to endure our sufferings, we will end up at hope and we won’t be disappointed.
A Promise You Can Stand On
Have you ever read the Peanut’s cartoon where Charlie Brown is telling his problems to Schroeder? To comfort Charlie Brown Schroeder says, "Don’t be discouraged, Charlie Brown. These early defeats help to build character for later on in life." Charlie Brown asks, "For what later on in life?" Schroeder answers, "For more defeats!" Here in the fifth chapter of Romans the apostle Paul declares, “we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope."
God, throughout the Bible, made many promises. God made a covenant (promise) with Noah that He would never destroy the world by flood again. God promised Abraham & Sarah that they would have children, even at nearly 100 years old. God promised to establish David’s throne forever. God promised that, if we believe in Jesus, we would have eternal life. God has made these, and many, many other promises. And we can see throughout the Bible that God has been faithful in keeping His promises. I take this phrase by Paul as a promise, as well. I think God promises that, if we follow this pattern, this sequence of events, we will end up at hope, and we won’t be disappointed, either.
But many people might read this passage and think, is this guy nuts? How many here want to learn to endure their sufferings? I don’t want to learn how to endure them; I want to know how to avoid them all together.
Perspective makes a world of difference. When Goliath came against the Israelites, the soldiers all thought, "He’s so big we can never kill him." David looked at the same giant and thought, "Man, he’s so big I can’t miss."
Paul’s perspective had changed. After all Paul had endured, after all he had suffered for the sake of Jesus, he’d learned to say, “suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.” We must learn, as Paul did, that hope does not come first. Hope must be developed along our journey. If you want hope, you have to have character. Character is developed in the sufferings we face in this life and along our journey. And to endure our sufferings we must remember this truth, “Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand.”
What does justified mean? Justification has to do with our standing with God. It’s when God looks at us and says, “Not guilty, by the blood of Jesus”. A simpler meaning that I like is “Justified” – “Just if I’d never sinned.”
If we take that perspective-that we are “justified by faith”, then we can endure our sufferings, which produce character.
An example of this is a parable of a farmer who owned an old mule. The mule fell into the farmer’s well. The farmer heard the mule ’braying’, or whatever mules do when they fall into wells. After thinking about the situation, the farmer sympathized with the mule, but decided that neither the mule nor the well was worth the trouble of saving. So he called his neighbors together, told them what happened and they helped haul dirt to bury the old mule in the well and put him out of his misery. Initially, the old mule was hysterical! But as the farmer and his neighbors continued shoveling and the dirt hit his back, a thought struck him. Every time a shovel load of dirt landed on his back -- he should shake it off and step up! He kept doing this. "Shake it off and step up . . . shake it off and step up!" No matter how painful the blows, the old mule endured his suffering and just kept right on shaking it off and stepping up! It wasn’t long before the old mule, battered and exhausted, stepped right out of that well! What seemed like it would bury him had actually blessed him -- all because of the manner in which he handled his adversity.
That’s character. We must face our problems and respond to them positively because the adversities that come along to bury us usually have within them the potential to benefit and bless us!
At the beginning of his journey up the well, that mule probably had no hope. But I’m sure that as the mule got closer to the top of the well, his hope grew.
As Christians, hope is central to our faith. Hope rests in the understanding that we are not alone in our sufferings. Because of God’s grace we can learn how to endure our sufferings, which produce character, which springs into hope. This is a promise we can stand on. Jesus, who endured all things for us, offers to us His strength by which we can endure. As Paul said, “I can do all things in Christ, who strengthens me.”