Summary: When life seems to give us a raw deal, as Christians we can stand tall knowing our suffering can make us strong and develop in us new depths of integrity and maturity which give us our confidence about the future.
Romans 5: 1 – 5 From Suffering to Hope
Intro: You have one of those days or weeks that absolutely wear you out. All you want to do is relax and forget about everything. You sit down in front of the TV and want to escape --- There appears before you a commercial for BOWFLEX – you know the one where the guy says, “I’m 42 and I’m in better shape now that when I was 22.” --- “So are you going to get that body in shape or let it slide?” --- LET IT SLIDE!!!!! Who in their right mind doesn’t have enough stress so they go out and buy an expensive machine that is going to stress their body and their mind because you don’t use it and you feel guilty because you’ve spent all that money. I say, “I’m in shape! It just happens that my shape is round!”
I. Let’s face it. We all suffer; just in different ways. Paul says in says something in Vs. 3 “Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings”
A. What is wrong with this man. Is he crazy? How many people here want to learn how to rejoice in suffering. I don’t want to learn how to rejoice in my sufferings; I want to know how to avoid them all together.
B. The Greek word for “suffering” is “thlipsis” – it literally means pressure --- To have different things pressing down on you. A modern translation might say, “Not only so, but we also rejoice in our pressures.” Yeah. Right! Our pressures tend to make us depressed or despondent. Soon we are overcome with a sense of hopelessness or futility.
C. Billy Crystal’s monologue as Mitch in the movie City Slickers: “Value this time in your life, because this is the time in your life when you still have your choices, and it goes by so quickly. When you’re a teenager, you think you can do anything, and you do. Your twenties are a blur. Your thirties, you raise your family, you make a little money and you think to yourself, “What happened to my twenties?” Your forties, you grow a little potbelly, you grow another chin. The music starts to get too loud and one of your old girlfriends from high school becomes a grandmother. You fifties you have a minor surgery. You’ll call it a procedure, but it’s a surgery. Your sixties you have a major surgery, the must is still loud but it doesn’t matter because you can’t hear it anyway. Seventies, you and the wife retire to Ft. Lauderdale; you start eating dinner at two, lunch around ten, breakfast the night before. And you spend most of your time wandering around malls looking for the ultimate in soft yogurt and muttering, “how come the kids don’t call?” By your eighties, you’ve had a major stroke, and you end up babbling to some Jamaican nurse who your wife can’t stand but who you call mama.” Depressing isn’t it? Yet, that is how many people view life.
II. Continuing in Vs. 3, Paul says, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character;
A. We must face life and all its 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 and others.
B. When you focus on the things that cause you stress, you can become like Mitch. You become a constant complainer who drags other people down. Sufferings produce perseverance which produces character.
C. If a piece of coal could talk, it might say, “I don’t like it when the dirt around me is pressing me down and rocks are piled on tope of me. It’s hot and I feel uncomfortable. I don’t like it at all. --- But that’s how a piece of coal become a diamond. --- All that pressure and heat over a period of time makes a diamond out of a piece of coal.
III. Paul’s message is like saying we are that piece of coal under pressure, problems and difficulties. Some days you really feel the heat. But God is changing you, working on you, transforming you from a worthless piece of coal into a beautiful diamond that shines in God’s kingdom.
A. We have a choice to make when tough times come; we can get bitter or we can allow God to make us better. Suffering is inevitable, but misery is optional. Bitter or better! The choice is ours.
B. Paul is saying that God is more concerned with us being holy than He is with our being happy. He is more committed to our character development than He is to our comfort.
C. Suffering makes those who feel invincible become vulnerable; those who pride themselves on being independent, dependent, the insensitive suddenly seem more sensitive; the arrogant exhibit humility and the touch are transformed into tenderized people.