Suffering; September 8, 2018

Romans 5:2-5 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.

Verse divisions are arbitrary, and didn’t appear until the Geneva Bible around 1560. They make passages much easier to find, but they can also interrupt the flow of thought. Here, verse three makes it clear it is a continuation from what comes before. Rejoicing in the hope of the glory of God seems like a no-brainer. Who wouldn’t rejoice in that? However, Paul immediately ties in rejoicing in our sufferings, and that is where Christian thought differs from “natural” thinking. The Japanese translation is careful to use the same term for sufferings here as is used in Jesus’ famous statement in John 16:33. “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Paul wasn’t present in the upper room that night, but the Holy Spirit had said the same thing to him that Jesus had spoken before His crucifixion. The Japanese term is slightly unusual, not coming up with those characters when entered phonetically, because the first of the two characters is specifically the one for a patient, as in a sick person. Living in a fallen world, we aren’t guaranteed freedom from disease. Paul himself was acutely aware of that. (2 Corinthians 12:7-10) Here, he explains why God allows such things, even though they will be taken away when God makes all things new. (Revelation 21:4) As has been said, God is far more interested in our character than our comfort! Paul elsewhere points out, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-17) In other words, whatever is going on, we can rejoice!

This isn’t hard to teach on, and indeed it is a joy to do so, but it isn’t always easy to follow through in doing it. As often as I tell others about this truth, I still need to be reminded of it myself. That’s all part of doing God’s Word and not just listening to it. (James 1:22) I have occasional physical challenges, but my wife has a list of them, all the way up to Parkinson’s Disease. Often I’d rather I were the one in pain! However, all she has been through has given her a truly magnetic character, and people are drawn to her rather remarkably. The challenge is in seeking to point people to Jesus, instead of just to Cathy. The challenge for me is in encouraging her to rejoice, without making light of her suffering in any way. I’m not smart enough to do that but God is, and I’m to trust Him.

Father, thank You for this reminder. Thank You for all that is going on in and around us. Sometimes it feels like a whirlwind! I ask for guidance and protection as we go to Kumamoto today, particularly with the forecast rain. Help us indeed rest, relax, and rejoice in You whatever is going on around us, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!

About jgarrott

Born and raised in Japan of missionary parents. Have been here as an adult missionary since 1981.
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