"Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but 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" Romans 5:1-5.
Is it possible to rejoice in suffering and be satisfied in Christ? The Bible tells us that we are made right "justified," through faith in Christ and this brings us peace with God; not to be confused with a tranquil state of being. Rather, those who have peace with God are no longer counted among his enemies. As the Scripture says, "For if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life" Romans 5:10.
God's grace, his undeserved favor, gives us access to God, we are able to stand in his holy presence and not be destroyed. But how do we rejoice in suffering? How do we make sense of it? God doesn't ask us to understand his will, even though that's what we may want (as if understanding will lighten the pain). No, God wants us to trust him, even when we don't understand. He will use the circumstances in our lives, even our suffering, to accomplish his will and plan. In fact, suffering might be a gift granted to us by God!
For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him . . . Philippians 1:29 (NIV)
What form is your suffering? (Is it physical, spiritual, or emotional pain? What agony, distress, misery, loss, affliction are you enduring?)
The Scripture tells us that our suffering will produce perseverance (resolve, insistence, urgency, determination, doggedness, steadfastness). Where does your dogged determination lie? Where are you expending your energy?
Perseverance produces character (a good moral fiber, a sure foundation, an admirable nature). Is your foundation firm? Are you building your life on Christ and God's Word?
Character brings hope (not a hope so, wish for, chance-kind-of-hope, but a hope that expects, anticipates, looks forward to, believing and trusting in the One who promises to order our lives and determine our steps). Where does your hope lie? Are you anticipating that God will work his plan in your life?
"For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future" Jeremiah 29:11. "In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps" Proverbs 16:9.
Do you look to God to determine your steps? Are you seeking his plan?
. . . And hope does not disappoint us . . . We can be satisfied, because having peace with God means we can rest in him, he promises to never leave us or forsake us (see Hebrews 13:5).
". . . Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps" 1 Peter 2:21.
"A student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher" Luke 6:40.
"And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast" 1 Peter 5:10.
God doesn't promise his children pain-free lives. Rather he uses the circumstances of our lives—our suffering, losses, agony and afflictions, to produce perseverance—determined doggedness, to develop our character—establishing a sure foundation and strong moral fiber, which God desires, so that we become like Jesus, fully trained and satisfied in him, this is cause for rejoicing. Amen!
Copyright 2011 - Sarah A. Keith
P.S. I've read the book of Philippians many, many times--even studying it for a semester at university. Yet this verse stood out in a way I've never noticed; proving that God's Word truly is living and active, and meets us in the circumstances of our lives. I know so many people who are suffering, and as I've tried to make sense of our years of suffering, this verse spoke to me: "For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him . . ." Philippians 1:29 (NIV). Granted? a GIFT of suffering? Maybe this verse and devotional will help you, or maybe you know someone who needs to read it. I wrote it in 2011, before my husband's injury. I've now updated it to include the "gift of suffering" passage. This "gift" isn't something I would have requested, but I believe God is using it for his glory, and it may even benefit others; in this I can rejoice!
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