Politics and fear of the unknown aside, I’m so very thankful that Canada has chosen to help Syrian refugees. As a Canadian, very aware that I live in one of the most beautiful and well resourced countries in the world, I can’t find adequate words to describe my reaction to the conditions people have found themselves in. More specifically, I am deeply troubled by the intense persecution Christians. We are seeing a new level of suffering on a scale I don’t think we’ve seen before (at least, not in my lifetime). How are Christians enduring such suffering and even facing martyrdom without wavering in their faith?
In Canada (God willing) we may never see that level of suffering (namely, the persecution). However, we do still face suffering. Today’s text gives us some insight into how Believers can find the courage to navigate suffering.
Romans 5:1-5 shows us How To Turn Suffering Into Opportunity
Here are some thoughts about suffering that are true for all Believers…
I. Suffering has less power over Believers
Romans 5:1, “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,” NIV
If you are a Believer, then you have peace with God because you are no longer someone awaiting judgment while you continue living to displease God. Because of your faith in Jesus You are no longer guilty of sin. You’ve been forgiven and have entered a peaceful relationship with God.
This means that you are different now. Before you came to believe in Jesus suffering was a really big deal because suffering took away from you all the good that you could possibly ever have. Now that you have a friendship with God suffering has lost part of its power over you. You know that suffering doesn’t take away what truly matters to your present and your eternity.
Suffering has less power over you because it can’t diminish your connection with Jesus and eternity.
II. Suffering can never take away what’s most important to Believers
Romans 5:2, “We have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God” NIV
Because of Jesus’ grace you have a new normal. You now have a glorious future to look forward to (hint: when Paul uses the word “hope” he is always referring to the second coming and our resurrection). Actually, you can even boast about it; it’s a dramatic change from the despair over a lost eternity.
This means that you are guaranteed something that suffering can never take away from you. Your future is secure because of God’s grace and your faith in Jesus. No matter what kind of suffering comes your way your eternity will never change.
Suffering effects you less as a Believer because it can’t take anything away from you that’s truly most important to you.
III. Suffering can be useful for Believers
Romans 5:3, “Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces…” NIV
When you became a Believer you adopted a new normal. Suffering can actually be useful in your new normal. Suffering helps you to take your eyes off of this world and its charms, and helps focus your mindset on eternity and the glory waiting for you. Suffering produces character in you, particularly because you no longer feel like you need to run away from it to save your life (your life is already saved), but most importantly it produces a vision of eternity in you.
This means that suffering no loner diminishes, but it actually “produces.” Suffering has become useful.
Suffering is useful for you as a Believer because it focuses your attention onto what really matters while taking your attention off of the temporary charms of this world that will tempt you to lose ground with Jesus.
IV. Suffering isn’t the goal, it’s an opportunity
Because of your new normal, suffering is beneficial. That being said, there’s no mention of it being sought after. I’m suggesting a response to suffering (we don’t have to fear it), not an action plan to seek it out.
In the moment of suffering we have an opportunity. If we stop fearing it (as though it will diminish us and take away what’s most important to us), we have an opportunity to gain perspective and focus.
V. Suffering makes us more aware of the Holy Spirit and God’s great love
Romans 5:5, “God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us” NIV
The presence of the Holy Spirit allows you to capture your moments of suffering and turn them into opportunities. The presence of the Holy Spirit guarantees your participation in eternity. Because of the Holy Spirit’s presence, you know that you won’t be shamed because of your hope (hint: remember, “hope” is a reference to the second coming and the resurrection). You know that enduring suffering rather than running from it (i.e. spending your energy chasing comfort and self glorification) is actually more beneficial. As you suffer, as you endure, your mindset shifts to your place in eternity. The more you suffer, the more your mindset settles on eternity.
So, Paul can say that the Holy Spirit is the pouring of God’s love into our hearts. You have the Holy Spirit because God wants you to be included in His glory when Jesus comes back.
Suffering reminds Believers of the hope we all have – we will spend eternity, together, with Jesus when God finally chooses to close this chapter of human history and create a new heaven and new earth. Looking how the world is these days (is it just me, or does the world look like it’s been turned upside down?!) it’s getting really easy to say that He’s coming soon.
I really don’t want you to suffer. I’m very grateful for any opportunity I have to ease someone’s suffering. But, if you must suffer and there is no escaping it, perhaps you will find encouragement from this passage. The next time you find yourself enduring a moment of suffering, here are two tips to help you turn it into an opportunity…
1. Use the moment to stop being afraid
Take the moment to become more confident during your challenging time. Suffering (challenges, problems, and any title you want to attribute to the negativity that you face) will produce positive gains to develop your character, and redirect your mindset onto eternity.
2. Use the moment to set your mind onto eternity
There is nothing this world has to offer you because it will all be taken away. You’re not going to live here forever and your reward isn’t found here. Your reward is found within God’s glory in the eternity you’ll be brought into after Jesus comes back.
God willing you won’t need to suffer another moment. God willing, I will be an agent of bringing peace and easing suffering. Until we no longer have to suffer lets use our moments of suffering to connect ourselves with Jesus more deeply.
Join the Conversation
Did you receive some insight from today’s post? If so, please join the conversation by leaving a comment below. Please consider sharing what you heard, what it means to you, and what you’ll do about it.