God spoke to me this week. Where? How? W h e n did G o d speak to me? Through his powerful Word—yet again. Right where we find ourselves in Romans 5. See, in his next breath, (after establishing that our eternal hope is through Christ, in that he alone makes us right with God), Paul passionately implores the Roman Christians to stand strong—no matter what they were facing. Check it out:
“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.” Romans 5.3-5, NLT
I used to have a pastor who regularly quipped, ‘As I teach you this lesson, there are 10 fingers pointing back at me with the same message…’ Today, that sentiment resonates with me--is it happenstance that I happened to be really ‘going through it’ at the time we got to this passage, or did God orchestrate the timing so that once again the soul of Hebrews 4.12--the ‘Word of God is living and active, and cuts right to our hearts, and penetrates our spirits’ would be evident? God uses his word to minister to the hearts of those who love him.
Paul wrote to an audience of young Christians in Rome, encouraging them to ‘bear up’ under the intense persecution of the Roman government, as Rome wanted no other allegiance but to Caesar, (whichever caesar was seated at the time). But Paul’s exhortation is equally as applicable to you and me—God can use everything that comes our way to draw us to himself; times of trial seem to pave the way for greater reliance, and greater hope in God.
Tough times grow us …
Trials teach us to endure, and to persevere
If we turn to God and reach out to him for help
It grows our faith.
And truly, if everything is smooth sailing, we do not really
Need to trust God for too much, do we?
It is in time of great difficulty,
We learn what it means to truly ‘abide’ in him.
Let’s also consider James’ words on the same subject, as he admonishes the Jewish Christians to be strong in the Lord, even as they endured unbelievable persecution. Paul and James did not corroborate in their writing, nor would they have had any way to compare notes, Friends; but look how in sync they were!
IF they could have communicated on this subject, though, it seems that James just continued Paul’s thinking—except that James was written first! Hmmm…..
“Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.” James 1.2-4
The truth is—we do not grow when times are easy, which is a ‘bummer’. Our character, our faith, our minds grow when we cannot:
–fix the situation
--control an outcome
--see an end in sight
--contrive our own solution . . .
We grow when we have to wait, trust, and rely upon the Lord to come and do what only he can do.
Later in this letter to the Roman church, Paul gives a little more insight into God’s heart: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8.28 I am fond of saying that ‘in God’s economy, nothing is wasted.’ Trials are meant to accomplish a refining of our character—not pleasant at the time—but necessary.
So, in a week where my beloved bodyguard, the Duke of Earl, renounced his faith, and said he never wishes to see me again, when the rigors and emotional toll of ministry have been great … I know whom I have believed, and I know that ‘his ways are higher than my ways’, and when the fibromyalgia pain in my body subsides again, I will be better for it.
‘May be tough, but we gotta hang in there, baby, because God is growing us as we trust in him, and we will come out the other side stronger. Yeah, hang in there, Baby.