Article of the Month

January 2014

 

STRANGE EXULTING!

 

In Romans 5:2-5 there is a beautiful thought for sincere Christians which can easily escape our notice. In these verses, the Apostle uses the word “EXULT” twice, but with very different objectives. In the New American Standard translation, the passage reads:

“…we exult in hope of the glory of God.
And not only this, but we also exult in our
tribulations, knowing that

  tribulation brings about perseverance;

  and perseverance, proven character;

  and proven character, hope; 

   And hope does not disappoint…

 If we analyze this passage in some detail, we find practical blessings for our Christian growth that give us a stability in our relationship with God.

1.    First, notice that two exultings are mentioned — exulting in HOPE, and exulting in TRIBULATION.  It is easy to see how our hope would cause exultation; but Paul wants us to see how tribulation can do the same thing. 

2.    Next, we notice that Paul shows a THREE-STEP process which will CONNECT tribulation and hope.  We will consider this in a moment.

3.    Some definitions are needed before our understanding can increase.


HOPE
is something we are awaiting.  In this context, Paul says it is “hope of the glory of God.”  What does he mean? He is referring to the Christian’s hope of attaining the same nature as God — the Divine nature (immortality). Jesus has already attained this, and the Apostle John promises that we will also if our hopes are fulfilled.  (See I John 3:2, 3)

TRIBULATION refers to the difficult experiences which a Christian must have in order to eliminate his fleshly thinking and to perfect his spiritual thinking.

PERSEVERANCE is not just putting up with something over a long period of time, but it is (more importantly) a demonstration that we don’t give up BECAUSE WE PERPETUALLY AND TOTALLY TRUST God to work out our experiences for our good. (See Romans 8:28.)

PROVEN CHARACTER is just that!  It is a character which has proven itself over time regardless of the nature of the experiences it has had to endure. With these definitions made, we can now analyze Paul’s message with confidence.


4.    Paul is saying this:

     We are very excited and uplifted; we are exulting in the prospects of the Divine nature and the blessings it will afford to us for future service to our God.  But this excitement is still ONLY A HOPE.

     While we await that hope, we can find another very current and ongoing excitement or exultation.  We can, unlike everyone else in the world, look at all of our negative experiences (tribulations) as PROGRESS — as stepping stones to being worthy of attaining our hope.  We can actually learn to have an appreciation and thankfulness for our troubles. How can this be? It is the case because of a three-step process:

a)  The longer we have negative experiences, the more we need, request, and rely on God’s help and direction. This continual looking to Him and trusting Him is called perseverance.  It is not just “putting up with” our lives, it is RELYING ON GOD to weigh our experiences for our good.  Perseverance demonstrates TRUST.  We persevere BECAUSE we trust, not because we are strong or stubborn or because we can’t find another way out!

b) Because long-term trust is the very proof and the requirement of our character maturity, perseverance brings about character.  It molds it, and it seals it. Thus Paul is saying that our perseverance in tribulation is in fact the brick-laying of our character. 

c)  Finally, if we have the character which God approves, our “hope” has its security. It no longer is a shaky hope; it is an established hope.  Thus Paul concludes that “proven character (brings about secure) hope.” That Paul means SECURE or CERTAIN hope is proven by his final statement:  “And hope does not disappoint.” In other words, some hopes are not realized; but this hope, having developed the required character, IS secure — it won’t be disappointed.
 

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The lesson is so faith-strengthening. It comes down to the simple truth that the real objective of our consecrated lives is to bring our every thought into willing and joyful acceptance of God’s over-rulings. Once God is assured of this total acceptance on our part of all He does, He puts His stamp of approval on our character and says, “Well done!  Your hope is reached.” 

Once we have seen this concept which Paul presents, we begin to find it in many places in Scripture. Just one such place is in James 1:2-4.  James uses different words from Paul’s, but his conclusion is the same:  Enjoy your trials because this produces an enduring trust in God. That enduring trust makes you complete in your Christian character, lacking nothing. James’ exact words are:

“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect (mature) and complete, lacking in nothing.”
 

James has the same three-step explanation as Paul: 
(1) Value your trials; they will give you perfect trust. 
(2) Your perfect trust will be your maturity. 
(3) Your maturity is your objective.


The world of mankind has no reason to exult in tribulation. What an honor it is for us to have this special perspective! 

                         

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