Summary: The positive production of suffering in life.
March 3, 2011 Romans 5:3-5
We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.
The writer to the Hebrews chastised the people he was writing to for being spiritual babies, only wanting the basics of faith and never wanting to grow and build on their foundations of faith. They liked doing all of the sucking and none of the feeding. So they remained weak in their faith when they should have been strong. That’s the way we usually think of weakness, in terms of doctrine and understanding of the Word. Today I want to talk to you about a different kind of weakness. It is weakness in opposition to toughness. God not only wants you to be strong in terms of your knowledge, but also in terms of your toughness. This will enable you to
Rejoice in Your Sufferings
I. They are to be expected
I don’t know of too many men and women who rejoice when their spouses and children drive them to the limits. I don’t see too many happy little Christian children who say, “Oh thank you father!” when their daddy makes them clean up after the dog or the cat. We don’t rejoice when we get a phone call from someone who is going to make us work or complain to us. We usually either grit our teeth and answer it don’t answer the phone at all.
This is a sign of weakness. A sign of a weakness is found in a Christian who is always trying to avoid suffering; someone who never wants to face any painful experiences. It’s found in the spouse who does everything possible to avoid time at home because he or she can’t get along with his or her wife. It’s found in the young adult who never can hold down a job or do well at school because it’s either boring or hard work. It’s found in the elderly who never want to ask for help because they don’t want their own pride to suffer.
Suffering, in this sense, is not just a bad back or an upset stomach. Suffering can be when you are being called to put up with somebody that drives you nuts. It can be enduring a hard day at work under tough conditions when you’re tired. It can be listening to your child cry all night because she is suffering from the flu. It can be saying something that needs to be said, even when you know you’re going to get crucified for it. Whenever you’re called on to do something that is uncomfortable; that could be defined as suffering. That’s the kind of suffering that we most often try to avoid.
That’s why the popular “Christian” advice on TV sounds so attractive. The basic motto is, “Stay away from people that drag you down. Don’t be around negative people.” Negative people are usually going through a hard time and sometimes due to their own foolish behavior; and they want someone to commiserate with and to help them through it. But the popular motto is, “Don’t let those kinds of people ruin your spirit and drag you down with them. Stay away from them. Find different friends. Find positive people that have their lives going in the right direction.” So we say, “Yeah! That sounds great to me! I like his advice. Slap a Bible verse or two on that baby and I’ll be good to go with it! If I can call that a sign of strength, then sign me up! I’m all for it.”
This is, in reality, Christianity gone soft. It is a pretty type of Christianity that looks good and sounds good and feels good; it’s good for you; but it doesn’t do anybody else a bit of good. It isn’t ready and willing to do the tough things that take work and patience. It isn’t willing to give a type of love that wears you out and makes you get dirty. It isn’t willing to do the boring and mundane things that drag you down for the good of the family or the other guy. It’s an easier type of Christianity that is only willing to do things that make us happy and comfortable.
Ironically, it’s because of this attitude that many Christians are seemingly unhappier than they’ve ever been. They have expectations and goals in life that are basically contrary to the very nature of the world they live in. They want to live pain-free and successful lives and they do all they can to make it that way. But the problem is that they’re living in a world of sin and decay; in a world of sinners that God’s Word says are under the control of the evil one! They forget that this world is under a curse! God never said it would be easy. In fact, He said the exact opposite. So when the devil does come calling; when sin does strike; when work is miserable or the marriage isn’t quite ticking the way it should; they easily give up. They get angry and sour with life; accusing God of giving them the short end of the stick because they expect things He never promised them.