Why There Are Afflictions in the Christian’s Life
Following are some insights gleaned from a recent study given in our Sunday School lesson from the first part of Romans chapter five.
Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: 2 By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; 4 And patience, experience; and experience, hope: 5 And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.
From 1:18 – 3:18 Paul had set forth that all mankind are unrighteous, sinful and under the wrath of God. He then shows from 3:19-4:25 that realizing our sinful condition that man can obtain God’s free pardon of sin by faith in the finished work of Christ on the cross, and he uses David and Abraham as examples of men before and under the Law that were justified by their faith in God’s promised Messiah. Then in 5:1 he declares the only means any one alive can have peace with God and that is through the justification found in our Lord Jesus Christ. Then, he shows how it is by our faith in Christ that we have gained access to the grace of God. That is our standing before God in a legal sense. We are now in Christ, and in Christ is peace with God, His wrath removed from us, never to appear upon us again. Consequently we rejoice in that certain expectation we have of one day not only seeing our great God and Savior Jesus Christ in His glorified state, but we ourselves being glorified as well, for we will be like Him when we see Him.
But that is not the only cause of our rejoicing. The word glory in vs 3 is the same Greek word translated rejoice in vs 2. Paul does not say that we “can” rejoice, but that we rejoice in tribulation. This word tribulation is sometimes rendered affliction, trouble … burden. He could have in mind here only suffering for the sake of Christ, but I think it also can be speaking of any of the troubles that come our way while living the christin life. I recall early after I was saved that I wondered why I had gotten diabetes at such a young age, and why once saved I couldn’t follow the instructions of the Word of Faith teachers and “believe away” the diabetes. I eventually came to realize their heresy and quit listening to them. But still I wondered why the diabetes would not go away.
I found the answer when reading through the twelfth chapter of 2 Corinthians. Paul had prayed three times for the thorn in his flesh to be removed. But God refused his pleas “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.” 2 Cor 12:9-10. That was the answer to my questions of why my prayers were answered “No.” There is something that can enable me to endure the diabetes. And in fact it can strengthen me. And that is God’s grace. But it only is available to me when I realize my total lack of self-sufficience and total dependance upon Christ. And 1 Peter 5:6-7 helps in this light as well.
“6 Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: 7 Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.” The word mighty is from the Greek word KRATAIOS and carries with it the idea of a strong grip, or grasp. It lets us know that the Lord has a strong grasp of our situations and that He is in total control of it. Knowing that that is so makes it much easier to humble ourselves and submit to His will for the troubles we face. But also Peter tells us that God does care for us, and that we are to cast all of our cares upon Him for that very reason. If we don’t then we leave ourselves open to the wiles and attacks of Satan as he speaks about in the following verses.
All this plays a part in the reason that we rejoice in God during our tribulations. There is a purpose for it and Paul presents the reason in Rom 5:3, it worketh patience into our Christian character. Patience simply means to “hang in there” or to be “under it alone” or to “endure.” We are not really alone, for the Lord is with us, (Psa 23:4), but it is oftentimes the case that it is a personal trouble or affliction that we all individually must go through. The Lord knows exactly what each and every one of His children need to become “conformed in the image of Christ” Rom 8:29. And that is what patience, going under it alone and hanging in there will produce in us, as vs 4 says patience, experience. The word experience carries with it the thought of a “proven character” that is, more Christ like. And then notice how this all comes full circle, experience worketh hope. It brings us back to that certain expectation, that anticipation of one day being glorified with and seeing our glorified Savior and Lord.
And this is a hope that is not a wish of a pony for Christmas as a youngster would have. But it is a certainty in our minds and hearts. Paul in 8:24-25 interchanges hope for faith. Going back to 4:21 we see that faith (and hope) are a “fully persuaded” mind like Abraham had concerning God’s promise. That is why this hope cannot cause any shame for the Christian. It is a certainty in our minds. We don’t yet see it, but in our mind’s eye we do. Every trial and trouble we encounter in life is another opportunity to become more like our Savior, the Son of God. For this reason also we can give thanks “in every thing” and “for all things” (Eph 5:20; 1 Thess 5:18).
Another reason that hope maketh not ashamed is because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost that is given unto us. Knowing the extent of God’s love for us and expressed to us by His Spirit that He has given us, that always points us to Christ, we realize that God loves us, in spite of the fact we do not deserve any good thing at all from God, other than His wrath, But Christ took our place, vss 6-11. While we were helpless, sinners, at enmity against God—He loved us and sent Christ to die in our place and suffer His Father’s wrath for us. And so we are no longer under wrath, but loved and “in Christ,” the risen Christ.