Sustained by Love

Shouldn’t I understand things better than I do?  Things just don’t seem to go the way I think they should.  Why do we go through difficult times?  Often I look at events through the lens of my soulical wounds and experience.  The Holy Spirit is trying to take me to the place where I see life through a different lens.  Where I see God’s presence and working throughout the whole of life; in what seems good and what seems bad.

Romans 5:3–5 “Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”

This passage follows immediately after the beautiful declaration that we are justified by faith and have access to God.  Essentially, the story just keeps getting better.  But I’m not sure I get the whole rejoicing in sufferings part.  At least initially, I have a hard time seeing God in the sufferings of life.  Paul says that Christians respond to their trials by rejoicing in them, however strange, abnormal, or even irrational this may seem.  Those who thinkbecoming a Christian will remove them from suffering have been seriously misled.

God has a purpose in our suffering.  One of the less attractive promises the Scripture gives believers is that those who are faithful can be certain of being under pressure. “Thlipsis,” most often translated, “tribulations” has the underlying meaning of being under pressure.  Example:   olives being squeezed in a press to extract the oil and grapes being squeezed to extract the juice.  Paul isn’t telling us we should have any masochistic tendencies but points us to the result of how God uses tribulation in our lives when we yield to Him.  The Lord is the One who allows, and often leads us to the place of, affliction so that through the pressures and difficulties He can accomplish His great purposes in us.  Some sufferings are because we are aligned with a rejected King.  Others come because God knows we can only grow and experience transformation through pressure.

Acts 14:22 “strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.”

Am I the only one who wants to experience the powerful working of the Holy Spirit that was so obvious in the 1st century church without the tribulations?  We must come to the place where we see things from the Heavenly perspective that none of these sufferings or tribulations are wasted.  Our Abba is using them all to transform us into His image.  Rejoice in knowing God is working.  We don’t like to rejoice in the pain and anguish of suffering but should rejoice in it because of what it is producing in our lives.  The unbeliever is a victim of their circumstances but the believer has the inside track.  We may not always understand why God is allowing difficulties or what He is trying to accomplish in our lives but must trust that our trial(s) will work for our good.  God has a purpose in our suffering.  It isn’t some sick delight He has to watch us suffer.  He simply loves us too much to let us settle for less than the experience of His life in us and through us.

Endurance only comes from pressure.  Endurance or perseverance in some translations is “hupomone” often translated, “patience.”  The first part of the word is a prefix meaning “under” or “below.”  The second part is a word meaning an “abode” or “living place.”  So the word means to “live under something.”  If we are willing to live under the things God brings into our lives without trying to escape, flee the scene, or run away; we will see God’s fruit.  The difference between coal and a diamond is pressure!  Everyone wants to be a diamond until the pressure comes and we quickly begin to thinkbeing a chunk of coal isn’t so bad.  God loves us too much to leave us as coal.  You might think you’re a beautiful diamond but God still sees a lot of coal!

Endurance in turn produces proven character.  The Greek “dokime” is “tested” “proof” or “approved.”  The term was used in testing precious metals such as silver and gold to demonstrate their purity.  Just as a metal- smith uses intense heat to melt silver and gold in order to cleanse them of physical impurities, so does God use tribulations to cleanse His children of spiritual impurities.  God uses our troubles, trials, and tribulations to form Christian character.  The reality for most of us is we aren’t willing to face our character flaws.  We really don’t see them as serious enough to honestly deal  with.  God loves us too much to let us languish and so permits these tribulations in our lives to build our Christian character.  It’s up to us to yield so He can manifest His life through us.  Sadly, most of us are willing to settle for a religious facade.

And character, hope.  The result of character is a hope.  To have one’s faith proved by God in the fires of tribulation and sustained by Him so as to stand the test is to have one’s hope in Him and in the fulfillment of His promises.  We have the certainty that He is producing the image of Christ in us now.  We are being transformed, growing in grace and increasingly see His love and life flow through us.

Now hope does not disappoint, It is a hope that sustains and meets all of our needs.  It is a hope that doesn’t leave us ashamed.  There are a lot of people and things that make big promises but don’t quite measure up.  The confidence we place in Jesus will never leave us ashamed.

Because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.   We are never going to be ashamed because of God’s unending love for us.  When we receive salvation as a gift a spiritual love relationship begins with God that lasts throughout all eternity.  It is His love for us.  The overwhelming truth of the gospel is that God loved sinful, fallen, rebellious mankind so much “He gave His only begotten Son.”  He doesn’t give us a meager portion of His love but pours it out on us.  Poured out refers to a lavish outpouring to the point of overflowing.  He wants you to be conscious of His great love for you.  This incredible and unending love is how we rejoice in suffering.  It is His agape that sustains us when we are suffering.  The Holy Spirit in us confirms the great love God has for us.  He indwells those He loves.  God implants Himself, in our deepest being, so we love the One who first loved us.

I hope you have an incredible week!

Please continue to pray for Pastor Aaron who was in a bad car accident Saturday.  He’s home recovering but is quite bruised and will have to see an orthopedic specialist this week.

If you haven’t been in services the past few weeks I want to encourage you to get a CD or listen on-line.  I think there are some life transforming principles in the messages.

Our website has been redesigned!  Stop by to check out the newness!

You are loved!

Pastor Tim