History of Redemption: Blog Post 40
So we exult in hope of the glory of God. And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. - Romans 5:2-5 NASB; 1 Peter 1:13 NASB
“Any person who only sticks with Christianity as long as things are going his or her way is a stranger to the cross” - Tim Keller.
Before I became a follower of Jesus Christ, suffering had no meaning for me. It seemed to me nothing more than "bad luck". It claimed innocent victims and consumed them, often leaving them helpless, hopeless, and broken. I resented it as something that did not belong in this world. Praise God, that now, He has revealed to us that suffering does not go wasted. He allows these tribulations, for the sanctification of His people, and ultimately for the glory of His name. We must hold tight to what we recently heard from our departed brother in Christ, that "God is God, and God is good". THERE is your hope when you are suffering tribulation. THERE is your hope when you are persecuted. THERE is your hope when it may seem as if your hope has left you. It has not. God is doing a good work in you, and here in Romans He has revealed what that work involves. It involves the strengthening of your perseverance. It involves the molding of your character, that it may be proven, that you may be "conformed to the image of His Son" (Romans 8:29). And ultimately, it strengthens our hope in the glory of God.
I have shared previously on this blog about the period of my life which I most clearly remember as "tribulation". It was the week my daughter Ella was diagnosed with a cancerous tumor on her kidney. That week drove my wife and I to a place we had not previously been. It drove us to complete dependence on God. We were helpless. We could not heal our daughter. We could not remove the suffering she would soon go through. We were at a crossroads. We could abandon our hope, or we could run to our Savior. We chose to run to Him, choosing to believe that "God is God, and God is good".
Looking back on that week (as I still frequently do), I see the good work which God was doing. God used that tribulation to drive us near to Him, to strengthen our perseverance, our character, and ultimately our hope. He painfully, and effectively reminded us of where our hope was invested. I look back on that week with a strange mix of emotions. I remember vividly the pain, and the fear. But I also remember the sweet communion I had with God that week. I remember the warmth of the Father's love, hearing Him speak in a way I had not heard Him speak before. Those times were also some of the sweetest memories I have of my time with my wife and with my daughter Ella, lying next to her in that hospital bed, being so very thankful for the gift from God that she is in my life, and knowing that she too is loved by Him.
Our early church fathers knew tribulation in a way that few of us know. Our brothers and sisters living in closed countries today know tribulation in a way that few of us know. So what are we to do? We to prepare our minds for action. We are to keep sober in spirit. And we are to fix our hope completely on the grace brought to us at the revelation of Jesus Christ. We are to fix our hope upon the cross of Jesus Christ, where tribulation brought forth glory. Our hope is in the finished work of Jesus Christ at Calvary.
Abba, let us never forget the cross. When our faith is tested through tribulation, let us run toward the cross and cling to it, with the knowledge that we are called to place our hope in the atoning work of Your Son, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).