“Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” (Rm 5:3-5)
4) Glory in Suffering
Today I want to discuss the fourth consequence of justification by faith.
“Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings” (Rm 5:3a)
In this verse, Paul talks about suffering. While we live in the world, we face many kinds of hardships. Nobody wants to suffer, but it’s very closely related to our lives. Whether big or small, our lives are always exposed to all sorts of suffering. Life is complex, and there is as much pain as there is pleasure.
What’s important for us is not to try to avoid suffering but to be ready to accept it and learn to handle it well. At this point, Paul said that the mindset of Christians toward suffering is different from that of non-Christians. True Christians not only endure suffering well, but can also rejoice in suffering. That’s a huge difference.
It doesn’t mean that there’s joy in trouble because that’s not it at all. So, how can Christians rejoice in suffering? What causes the huge difference between Christians and non-Christians?
This fourth consequence is closely related to the third one. The reason Christians can rejoice in hardships is that they put their hope not in this world, but in the eternal kingdom of God. They know that the hardships they face are not eternal, but temporary compared to eternity.
When we’re filled with the hope of the glory of God, God gives us true joy in our lives. And, this joy continues to remain in our lives and helps us find joy even in our suffering and sorrow.
However, we should also know that the suffering Paul was talking about here doesn’t refer to general troubles we face in the world. It means specific suffering or the persecution Christians undergo because of their faith in Jesus.
The original meaning of the Greek word for suffering basically meant pressures that were put on Christians. In fact, the Bible tells us that being a Christian can’t be separated from suffering in the world. For us to be Christians means that we belong to Jesus and join Him not only in His glory, resurrection, and eternal life, but also in His suffering, rejection by others, and even His death.
The reason Christians are hated in the world is that they have God’s Word and follow God’s will which are in opposition to the ways of the world. So, Jesus prayed for His disciples,
“I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world.” (Jn 17:14)
Paul also said, “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” (2 Tm 3:12)
The New Testament is full of stories of Christians being persecuted, beaten, imprisoned, and even martyred. All Christians who faithfully followed God’s word and proclaimed the gospel of Jesus Christ underwent severe hardships without exception.
They sacrificed their possessions, their time, and even their lives in delivering the good news of Jesus to others and expanding the kingdom of God here on earth. Even now, there are still many Christians all around the world who are persecuted, imprisoned, and even killed because of their faith in Jesus. Many missionaries give up their comfortable lives, leave safety behind, and go into dangerous countries to proclaim the gospel. It’s not hard to find news about their martyrdom even now.
This fact actually confuses me because we believe in the same God as these missionaries. We believe in the same Jesus. We received the same gospel. The same Holy Spirit dwells in us. Then, what makes them so different? I’m not saying that all Christians must go overseas and be persecuted there. I know that there are many variables and cultural differences that make a huge difference in the lives of believers.
But, still, what I want to say is that Christians are those who willingly choose to join in Jesus’ suffering by sacrificing what we have for the kingdom of God and His righteousness and proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ to those who don’t know Him yet.
Joy in Suffering
Then, what kind of mindset should Christians have toward this suffering? What Paul said is quite challenging. He said that we can rejoice in suffering.
How can we rejoice in suffering which is so difficult? The reason we can rejoice in suffering is because we know that God knows about it and has a special plan for us behind it, that this suffering is temporary, and in the end, it will bring us glory in the eternal kingdom of God. We know that even though we may feel miserable in the world now, the end will be glorious.
We can find many verses telling us this truth in the Bible.
Paul said in Romans 8:17-18,
“…If indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” (Rm 8:17-18)
“Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.” (1Pt 4:12)
“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven…” (Mt 5:11-12)
Christians’ view of suffering is different from that of those who belong to the world because we have hope in God’s glory. We should focus not on the difficulty of our current hardships but on what we truly put our hope in—eternity in God’s kingdom.
“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2Co 4:17-18)
If you read the book of Acts and the 13 letters from Paul in the New Testament, you will know that the difficulties he underwent were not really light or momentary.
Because he proclaimed the gospel of Jesus Christ, Paul was beaten, imprisoned, and almost stoned to death. He said that he had been exposed to death again and again. Not only that, but he also couldn’t get enough sleep and was hungry, thirsty, cold, and even naked much of the time. No one would call these troubles ‘light’. His suffering wasn’t momentary either because he suffered for the rest of his life from the time he met Jesus until he was killed.
Yet, Paul called his suffering ‘light’ and ‘momentary.’ That’s because he fixed his eyes on eternity. Even though his suffering wasn’t light or momentary from a worldly point of view, Paul didn’t think it was a big deal compared to the ‘eternal glory’ that far outweighed it.
Instead, Paul rejoiced even in the midst of severe persecution and suffering because he knew that it was for the eternal glory he would have in the kingdom of God when he stood before the Lord. Paul fixed his eyes not on what’s seen and temporary, but on what’s unseen and eternal.
That’s the mindset we should have as Christians. We must fix our eyes on things above, not below, and continue to put our hope in the kingdom of God, not in this world. Then, we can sincerely follow God’s will in the world even though it may bring us hardship, and we can rejoice in the Lord in every situation.