Book of Romans Bible Studies
Romans 5:3-4 - Hope in the midst of trial
by F Gordon
Last time we looked at Romans 5:1 'Therefore having been justified by
faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ'.
looked at how God is no longer angry toward mankind because of sin. The sin
issue has been dealt with and we now have access to God. There is peace
with God through our Lord Jesus Christ making atonement and paying the full
price of the penalty of sin which was an offense to the righteousness,
justice and character of God. The full price has been paid by the Lord
Jesus Christ, we have peace with God.
It goes on to say that not only do 'we have peace with God through our Lord
Jesus Christ', but 'through whom also we have access by faith into this
grace in which we stand...' Romans 5.2.
We looked at the wonderful position which the believer through faith has
come into, a standing in grace. We are accepted in the beloved, we are
placed into a risen Christ and therefore from God's perspective we are in
His beloved Son, righteous, holy, accepted. Everything is done by a
standard that Jesus has attained, which He also maintains.
Not only that, but we 'rejoice in hope of the glory of God' Romans 5.2b. We
looked at what the glory of God was. Romans 3:23 states 'all men have
fallen short of the glory of God', this means every single man or woman
born into this world falls short of a standard, or the character of God.
Paul is saying that the character which was seen in God and in the Lord
Jesus Christ is the hope for the Christian. The character and the life of
God would now be made manifest in the earth through our relationship toward
them. So these are all wonderful things, peace with God, a standing in
grace, and the hope that Jesus would be manifest in our life here on earth.
And there is also glory to come.
But wait there's more!
Paul goes on to say in Romans 5.3 'And not only that, but we also glory in
tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance;'
So not only these wonderful truths that we've read in verses 1 and 2, but
'we also glory in tribulations'. Who glories in trials? Who glories in
persecutions and troubles? Other versions say I exalt or rejoice in
tribulations. Now what is it about Paul that he could say that? Could you
say that whatever is in your life you're glorying or exulting in it? It's a
big call. What did Paul know that we don't? Every one of us could talk
about the things we're facing, it may be sickness, relationships, or work
issues. There could be troubles and trials in different ways for each one
of us, we all have something that is going on. Maybe persecution - the
western church on the whole hasn't a clue about true persecution. We face
many trials and troubles but when it comes down to it we don't know what
true persecution is. If you look at how the eastern church are persecuted
for their faith, to be honest, we don't know anything. We pray for the
eastern church, we pray they are upheld in what they are facing. Do you
know they actually pray for us?! They pray that persecution would come to
the West because of what it produces. That is not to say that one day we
might face persecution, but believe me it's a possibility. Things are
changing radically. Things that were
once held as bedrock truths are now pushed to the side, and a belief in God
is being criticized and looked at as pathetic and mocked. True persecution
is happening in the East where families are ripped apart and people put in
prison. Daughters are taken away from families and married off or people
are beheaded or killed for their faith. We don't face that and we don't
know what it's like, but we still have trials, troubles and tribulations
that come to us.
Paul could say in Romans 5.3 'and not only that, but we also glory', or we
exult 'in tribulations'. I've come across people that have this perception
that because you're a Christian no trouble should come to you. Some of my
workmates believe trouble shouldn't happen because, 'you're under the Big
Guy, He's looking after your life so isn't He supposed to take care of you?
You're supposed to have a life that is pain-free and trouble-free, isn't He
a God of love, does he love you?' Or, 'have you done something bad that God
is punishing you for?' I remember when Wendy and I had Ella, all sorts of
trouble came our way. Ella was getting platelet transfusions at Waikato
hospital every few days. I came home to Tauranga to bury my dog in the
midst of it all and then got a call from the surgeon saying that Wendy had
a perforated bowel as a complication of the caesarean. The surgeon was
afraid of septicemia and needed to operate as soon as possible. I had Ella
on one side of the hospital and Wendy on the other, so I rushed back.
There was a nurse with the gift of encouragement and she said to me, 'we
don't get many families like you, have you done something wrong?' Then she
said, 'are you cursed?' When it came out of her mouth I could hear the
intent behind it, 'doesn't God love you? If God loves you why are these
things happening to you, have you done something wrong, are you being
punished?' I could hear the voice behind it. She had no idea what she was
saying but behind was the intent that I was being punished or that God
didn't love me anymore because of what was going on. Some people think
because you are a Christian bad things shouldn't happen. Paul knew
something else, if anyone knew what it was like to have tribulations it was
Paul. Shipwrecked, stoned, lost at sea, imprisoned, beaten, persecuted,
hated by his own people, hated by the Jewish establishment, deception;
people coming after him and teaching heresy in the churches he established.
He knew what it was like to suffer and he knew what it was like to go
We all have hard days and some are worse than others. I read this the other
day; it's called Tough Days.
'There was a hard hat employee who reported on his accident form. When I
got to the building I found that the hurricane had knocked off some bricks
around the top so I rigged up a beam with a pulley at the top and I hoisted
up a couple of barrels of bricks. When I fixed the damaged area there were
a lot of bricks left over. Then I went to the bottom and began releasing
the line, unfortunately the barrel of bricks was much heavier than I was
and before I knew what was happening the barrel started coming down while I
was jerking up. I decided to hang on since I was too far off the ground by
then to jump. Halfway up I met the barrel of bricks coming down and
received a hard blow to my shoulder. Continuing to the top I banged my head
against the beam and got my fingers jammed in the pulley. When the barrel
hit the ground it burst open spilling the bricks, now I was much heavier
than the barrel so I started down at high speed. I met the barrel coming
back up and received severe injuries to my shins. I landed on top of the
spilled bricks getting severe cuts and bruises and at this point I must
have lost my presence of mind because I let go of the rope, the barrel came
down fast putting me in hospital. I respectfully request sick leave.'
What is scriptures view on tribulation or hardship? James 1.2 says, 'count
it all joy knowing that the testing of your faith produces...' John 16:33
'In this world you will have trouble but be of good cheer for I have
overcome the world', and Hebrews 2.17-18 'Therefore, in all things He had
to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High
Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of
the people. For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able
to aid those who are tempted'. Jesus suffered and had to work through all
the same things as us, as a man, even though he was God. He laid aside his
right to act as God that's why he's able as a high priest to sympathize
with whatever it is we are going through. 1st Peter 4:12 'Beloved, do not
think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though
some strange thing happened to you'. You could almost say that because you
are a Christian there's a high probability that you may face more things
than a non-believer. I think there is possibly in Scripture enough to
support that view. As we go through this you'll see it from God's
perspective and what He is trying to bring out and why He would allow these
Thankful for Job
When you're a new Christian and you haven't been in the faith long you come
across your first real dry patch or first trial or suffering. Your instant
thought is what on earth is wrong? You've gone through this honeymoon
period where everything's great and you have all the feelings, you feel the
presence of God and every car park that you pray for you get. At some point
that wanes and you may go through some really dry patches. What is going
on? Or you may get persecuted. It's exactly the same with the seed in
Matthew 13, there are seed sown among the stones which grow up quickly.
Sometimes there are people you think are in the church but the first sign
of persecution, trial or hardship; as fast as they come in they go out. I
had a friend like that, I was sure he was saved. He lasted about three
months and the first lot of trouble, he was gone. Jesus said it's the seed
which hasn't found fertile ground to root in. It falls among the stones and
when persecution, heat, and trouble comes, it withers. There isn't enough
depth to carry on and persevere. When Israel came through the Red Sea they
celebrated with tambourines, there were songs about great deliverance.
Three days later they had their first trial. They didn't have any water and
when they did find water it was bitter. It was in front of them but they
couldn't drink it. They moaned and grumbled continually.
What are ways we react? Have you heard of stoic or stoicism? It's a Greek
philosophy from about the 3rd century and it meant that you subdue all
emotions for pain. When trouble comes there is no, 'oh this hurts' or 'I'm
going through it' or 'I'm anxious', all is pushed to one side and instead
it's, 'I've got a stiff upper lip', just bear it, take a concrete pill,
which would be a New Zealand saying, 'just harden up'. All these things are
stoic ways of dealing with trials but it's not the Christian way. All your
emotions aren't bypassed when trouble comes.
The other thing that's influenced many Christians in the West is the
prosperity gospel which has invaded the thoughts of many people. God is
there for your benefit, you will be healthy, wealthy and without any pain
or frustration. Your life is one of continual victory. Its core is a
humanistic gospel. You shouldn't have any pain, you shouldn't have any
trouble, and if you do, it's a lack of faith. All of it is nonsense.
Alternatively, some say everything is of the devil, or the enemy. Now there
are some things that come from the enemy there's no doubt, but not
everything. I'm really thankful for the book of Job, I'm thankful that God
allowed this righteous man to go through what he went through. When it
comes to suffering Job is high on the list. He was righteous and holy and
there was nothing in his character that displeased God, but God allowed
suffering to happen to him. Satan had to come before God to ask permission
and he could only go so far. Satan is on a leash. We all have hedges around
us and God allows things to happen to a degree but Satan doesn't have free
rein over our life. We shouldn't give him as much credit as he gets. Yes he
is the prince of the power of the air, yes there is deception and yes he is
the accuser continually. But not all things, not all sickness, trouble, or
pain is from his hand.
So how does all this work? When these things come to us we have normal
reactions. It's not to be stoic and harden up. We have normal emotions of
pain, anguish, hurt and confusion but we don't stay there. Like the
psalmist said in Psalm 23 'though I walk through the valley of the shadow
of death,''. We don't camp in the middle. Many times when we go through
things we pitch a little tent right in the middle of the valley and we camp
down there and wallow in self-pity. But we should walk through - its a
journey, yes we have all our normal emotions, we're on a journey with God
through them and our emotions are not bypassed. It's a walk.
What did Paul know?
Paul goes on to say in Romans 5.3 'we glory in tribulations knowing that tribulation produces perseverance;'
Paul knew something that made a difference. He could exalt in the things
that were happening to him. He knew something which the non-christian
doesn't know; that tribulation produces perseverance. He knew that God is
always active and has a chief role in using all things to conform us into
the image of his Son.
2 Corinthians 4: 7-11 'But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that
the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. We are hard
pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in
despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed--
always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the
life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are
always delivered to death for Jesus' sake, that the life of Jesus also may
be manifested in our mortal flesh.' Verse 16-18 'Therefore we do not lose
heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is
being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a
moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory,
while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which
are not seen.'
Can you consider whatever you're facing today as a light affliction? Paul
is talking in terms of eternity. What you are facing today is working for
you a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. In other words what
we go through now and the way it's played out in our lives is for eternity.
Just like the verse that was read out this morning in James 1.2 'Count it
all joy when you fall into various trials knowing that the testing of your
faith produces patience' or perseverance. These verses tell us that
whatever we're going through is working for our benefit. Paul knew these
things were working with God for our good, not for our harm. It changes the
way we look at what comes our way. If we can see it from God's perspective,
even though it's terrible, even though it hurts and we don't understand,
even though we want to get out as fast as we can (which we try to do as
soon as we get in trouble). It is all working for our benefit and we need
to see it from God's perspective.
Hardship, trouble and trials
Romans 5.3 'tribulation produces perseverance', or in some versions
patience, or steadfastness.
Perseverance means to abide under or stay under pressure. Think about how
women persevere with childbirth, the pain they go through to bring life,
they do it again and again, and it's worth it. I had to go to the animal
kingdom to find a male that persevered in the same light. I watched a
documentary on Emperor penguins a while back. The Antarctic can get as low
as minus 60 degrees celsius, you'd get an understanding for how cold that
is, and you'd need more than your thermal socks and scarf! Around April
it's breeding time and the female gives birth to an egg. As soon as she's
given birth she passes it to the male - this is all sounding a bit
backwards isn't it! She gives it to the male and straight away she's off
shopping. A bit of R and R, she's done her work. She does a bit of swimming
and goes fishing. You have a complete role reversal - he has to look after
the egg and balance it on his feet because the temperatures are minus 60.
He has a little pouch that comes over the top of it. She goes fishing,
looking for food and can be gone for months and he has to stay with the
egg. All the females go hunting and gathering, I thought the male always
did that but not Emperor Penguins. He has to wait with all the other males
and they huddle in close because it's so cold. The penguins keep rotating
from the middle to the outside as one body with full unity otherwise the
ones on the outside freeze. They shuffle constantly to keep their bodies
moving in the sub zero temperatures. There could be a little picture in
that, when you're really going through things. You won't see a lone penguin
standing on a pinnacle of ice because of the temperatures, he wouldn't
last. They need to come in close as a group and conserve heat. If the egg
is unattended for two minutes it dies so they balance it on their feet for
a couple of months waiting for the female to come back. That's a lot of
waiting, persevering, I don't know how they do it. When the female comes
back she regurgitates food at his feet. I'm glad Wendy doesn't do that! The
male penguin has to wait and persevere under these incredible temperatures
just to keep the chick alive and then it hatches and grows and does the
same thing. I thought that was quite amazing! They don't know what storms
or temperatures are coming tomorrow, but they persevere. Spurgeon said 'by
perseverance the snail reached the ark'.
Some people have a human ability to persevere. Every athlete that wants to
succeed puts their body through pain and stress to endure, there's no way
around it, if you want to be at the top of your game you've got to do that.
In business some people fail and fail and fail but they keep going, and
then they succeed. They've got this ability to persevere even though
everything goes wrong. I don't know whether you've ever watched those
programmes about soldiers who want to become SAS. I'd hate to do it because
they break them down physically and mentally. It's not the big bravado guys
they're looking for, they look for the ones that have got this little bit
of grit. When your body is saying stop and your mind is saying I can't go
on anymore, that little bit of grit just keeps going. That's what they're
The bible is full of characters who learned to persevere. David was
anointed as a youth but it was between 10 to 15 years before God removed
Saul so David could be king. He ran, hid and waited for God to act on his
behalf. David's life is amazing because of the trials that came later. When
Absalom tried to take the throne David reacted in exactly the same way, he
allowed God to do what He was going to do even though it hurt. He waited
for God to act and bring about His plans and purposes for him. Caleb and
Joshua had enough faith to go into the land but had to wait 40 years until
a whole generation died. You see in the life of Caleb that he was as strong
on that day as he was in the beginning. He took the hard land, the hill of
Hebron where the Giants were residing. It's a long time, waiting for God to
bring about His purpose. Joseph is another example, he was falsely accused,
and put in prison. He thought he was going to get out when he revealed the
dream but he had to remain another two years in there. At the end he could
see God was active in it, working not only for him but also for the bigger
picture of the nation of Israel. He could see that God meant it for good
whereas his brothers meant it for evil. Joseph saw God's plans and purposes
in the things he faced. What about the women in the Bible who were barren.
Peninnah was having children and poor Hannah didn't have any, and she
mocked her. The Bible is full of this principle of perseverance and it
comes through hardship, trouble and trials. This quote by Franklin
Roosevelt sums it up, 'when you come to the end of your rope, tie a knot
and hang on!'
What Paul learned
So what does suffering or trials teach us. If we walked through life and
everything was rosy red what would we learn about God. If everything went
right you'd probably learn a certain amount but suffering gives us a need.
As soon as things go wrong, the first thing we do is look for God. That
produces a need for Him and for His life, it teaches us to rely on Christ,
it teaches us about ourselves, that we're not as strong as we think we are.
Father Christmas is how the world views God. On the whole they think He's a
sugar daddy, just there for our benefit, He is, but in a different sense.
Paul in Philippians 4.11-12 says '...I have learned in whatever state I am
to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound.
Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be
hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.' He said 'I've learned', I'm
really glad he said that. It's a process we go through, learning to trust
Christ in all the things we go through. In the past we've had a dealing and
God has been there with us and we rely upon that again, 'you were with me
last time, you're with me this time. I didn't understand what was going on
but you did'. It's that same attitude of learning from Him as we go. Paul
didn't have it all right, he said I've learned these things and I'm really
glad he did.
Can we hinder the process?
It was a question I had for myself. Better or bitter; a good example is
butter, if you put it in the sun it melts, you take cheese and put it in
the sun it becomes hard. Some situations melt people or turn people toward
the Lord and in other situations turn people hard or bitter. Take the
nation of Israel, 40 years wandering of continual unbelief, they moaned and
complained about everything for forty years. They tried to change the
leadership, we'll get rid of Moses maybe that'll help. Or give us back
Egypt, we want those things. For the whole 40 years they lived in unbelief
and faith wasn't evident in their lives. God was incredibly gracious to
them though, their provisions never ran out, their sandals never wore out,
they had water and food; they didn't like the food but they had enough to
Hebrews 12:11 'now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present but
painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of
righteousness to those who have been trained by it'.
If you're a parent you know at times you need to reign your kids in. You
give them rope but there's times when you need to rein them in and they
don't like it. As children of God there's times He must rein us in and we
may not like his methods but it's needed. Because we wander, we have other
attractions, other things that dominate us. This is the discipline of the
Lord, used as part of His love, not anger. We discipline our kids because
we love them. We rein them in when we see they're getting a little bit out
there or wild. It's part of our love for them. When you're going through it
you don't understand, but 'afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of
righteousness to those who have been trained by it'. You've got to allow
yourself to be trained by the discipline of the Lord.
Hebrews 12.12 'Therefore strengthen the hands which hang down and the
Here is a picture of a person whose hands are hanging down in defeat. The
victorious christian has hands lifted up but this guy's hands are hanging
down. He's all woe is me I don't like what's happening, his knees are
feeble, they're knocking and they're not secure on the ground.
Hebrews goes on to say in verse 13 'and make straight paths for your feet,
so that what is lame may not be dislocated but rather be healed'.
In other words understand what God is doing and set yourself on a course
that is in line with His will and purpose. So yes you can hinder the
process of trials, troubles and discipline if you fight against God. If
your life is dominated by moaning and complaining and you do not understand
that God is using all these things for your benefit. It's to bring you back
to Himself, for you to learn to rely on Him and live with Him in what
you're going through. This is the one thing that the non-christian doesn't
have - the presence of Christ in their heart to go through trouble. It's so
sad that people don't know the Lord, they're just left to their own self,
whether they become stoics or whatever, they don't have Christ to enable
them to go through what they're facing. The Christian does, but we can
hinder it and this is what Hebrews is saying. Pick your hands up, secure
your feet, and get on the right path.
Steady under fire
Romans 5.4 'and perseverance character and character hope'.
The word for character means someone that has been approved and tested,
it's a little bit like the steel they use on buildings it has to be tested
so it can withstand the storms, the weights and stresses that come upon it.
Aeroplane materials are the same they have to be able to handle all the
stress that comes, something that's approved and tested. It's the same with
us. God is making veterans and He's looking for people and creating a body
that has been through things, that is able to persevere and be steady
through whatever life throws our way. He's after vets.
On the golf course when you're playing a match, the most important part is
about the last four holes. That's when all the pressure comes on, that's
when you've got to remain as calm and steady as you can. It's the business
end of the game. At the golf course we've got old guys that have been
playing all their lives. Whenever they're playing a match and they come to
the end, they don't get all jittery, they've done it so much they've been
tested in this area, it's just another hole.
I remember I was once in a match and I was four up with four to play, it's
match play every hole. If I was four holes up and only four holes to play I
shouldn't lose! So, we're playing the fifteenth and the guy made a par and
I stuffed the hole, so I lost that hole. So I went from four up to three up
with three to play. We're playing the 16th, he makes a birdie and I only
made par so I'm now two up with two to play. Still shouldn't lose from
here. Get on the 17th we both hit the green, he misses his birdie but makes
his par putt. I had a putt about this long for par, it goes in the hole
around the hole and out, it did a full 360 and it was actually in the hole!
We're all looking at it, 'it can't do that', even he said 'what, it can't
do that', but it did, so I lost the hole. I'm now one up with one to play.
I stand on the 18th and I cannot believe what has just happened to me, I
was four up and all I have to do is halve a hole and I've won the match,
and we walk off. I couldn't get out of my head how things were unravelling
and the pressure was on. He was laughing and all happy because he should
have lost way back. So we're playing down the 18th and we're both on the
fairway. I've got so much fear, anxiety and adrenaline going through my
body. I'm thinking, I can't walk into the clubhouse after being four up
with four to play and have to explain this! I hit my 7-iron and, it must
have been because I was so pumped, as soon as I hit it I went oh no because
I could see the flight in the air. I was going, 'stop, stop, stop' and he's
going, 'go, go, go!' This ball flew over the green, over the car park up
into the horse paddock. I've never hit a seven iron like it, I was so
pumped with anxiety and adrenaline. I had hit this thing about 400 meters
further than you possibly can! So he wins the hole and we're all square.
Then we have a playoff hole, I should have shook his hand and said 'look
you've got me beat mentally, I'm not gonna play'. But we played the extra
hole. I teed off and put my ball right up against the trunk of a tree, that
was it, I lost the match. That's not how you do it!
I've learnt over time when it comes to the ends of these matches I've got
to remain calm, get rid of the angst, the anxiety and the things I'm
thinking about that I shouldn't. This is what Paul is saying, that
perseverance leads to character, character that has been tested and
approved so whatever comes your way, you're steady in yourself and you
trust in God's ability.
Now to hope
Then Paul, after character, goes straight back to hope. You have a
progression; trouble brings perseverance, perseverance brings character
which has been proven and tested, and character leads right back to hope.
Paul was only talking about hope a few verses ago, 'in hope of the glory of
God' Romans 5.2 In other words 'that the life of Jesus also may be
manifested in our body' 2 Corinthians 4.10, here on earth, and in you and
me. He's come right back to; if the life of Christ is to be manifested then
tribulations and trials are part of God's handiwork for his children, to
bring about His character and to bring about the life of the Lord Jesus.
Jesus suffered, Hebrews 5.8 'He learned obedience by the things which He
suffered', and in the same way God allowed Him to go through these things,
it shouldn't be any different for his body.