A very difficult time is coming upon the earth. Jesus said there will be great tribulation.
For many of our brothers and sisters around the world, suffering for the name of Jesus is an every day and very real condition. I suppose great tribulation for them is a much less frightening term than it is for those of us who live in relative comfort. We can become so familiar with comfort that we believe there’s no reason to experience suffering. One simple example of this is something I run into often when speaking to people about visiting missions in an impoverished area. The most common thing I hear people say is, ‘I would be so sad to see those starving kids. I just couldn’t take it.’
Somehow, we believe it’s ok to avoid discomfort to such a thorough level of our being that we believe it’s acceptable to avoid even looking at someone else’s suffering.
I am not surprised to hear that sort of thinking from people who don’t know Jesus. What else do they have but to seek comfort in this world? But, I am dumbfounded to hear it from someone professing faith in Christ Jesus. I am sickened when I see it in my own heart.
There are too many moments when I think, I’m too tired, too weary, too old, suffered enough, too weak…may the Lord grant repentance!
As the Lord continues to send warning of coming calamity, along with sending urgency in the warning, I hear from people who are afraid or some are angry and others refuse to even consider any tribulation coming their way. A promise of prosperity tickles the ear and is much easier to swallow. The problem is, God isn’t promising prosperity in this world.
Scripture is clear that just as Jesus suffered, so too we must suffer. In fact, the Lord makes it clear that He uses suffering to produce something wonderful. We find this promise tucked inside the promise of peace with God.
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 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 (Romans 5:1-5)
This morning the Lord had me look at this passage regarding the end times. Most of us are familiar with end time passages such as Matthew 24, Daniel 9, anywhere in Revelation, but this passage in Roman’s is very revealing for the days approaching the return of Jesus.
The passage in Romans begins with the basics of our faith. We were dead in our trespasses, but God being rich in mercy because of the great love with which He loved us, made us alive together with Christ. We are saved by grace through faith and this is not our own doing, but is a gift from God. Peace with God through the blood of Jesus shed for us.
Through Christ we have access by faith into His grace in which we stand. What is this grace in which we stand? Is grace receiving something we don’t deserve? Or is it something much more?
We don’t deserve God’s gift of salvation, but His grace isn’t an obscure event where we are given something we don’t deserve. His grace is a power of God. That’s why God told Paul His grace was sufficient for sustaining Paul through the torment of a messenger from satan. Paul wasn’t sustained by thinking that he wasn’t deserving of salvation. Paul was sustained by the power of God at work in him.
Grace, this power of God that is at work in us through the Holy Spirit is able not only to sustain us in times of suffering but also to bring us to rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.
What is our hope of the glory of God? While it surely has a moment to moment reality of desiring to see God revealed in each situation, Scripture is clear that our hope of the glory of God is woven with Jesus’ return. Titus 2:11-14 makes this very clear.
11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.
Our blessed hope is the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus! That is why, empowered by God’s grace we rejoice in sufferings, because Jesus is coming! These sufferings are necessary and temporary. They aren’t the last word. God is at work to produce something through these sufferings and ultimately, He is coming back for us. So, we don’t just grit our teeth and try to get through suffering. Instead we see the work of God and the coming of Jesus and we rejoice.
The passage in Romans 5 declares this at the start. Then the Holy Spirit goes back and explains the process God uses to get us to see the reality that Jesus is our hope.
The process the Holy Spirit describes is laid out in 5 steps.
1. Suffering produces endurance
2. Endurance produces character
3. Character produces hope
4. Hope doesn’t put us to shame
5. We are assured of God’s love for us by the presence of His Holy Spirit
Please notice the passage states that we know these things are true. We know that suffering produces endurance. That’s an observable fact. Someone suffering an illness is enduring, whether they like it or not. Someone taken to prison for speaking the name of Jesus is enduring prison whether they like it or not.
Endurance is another link to the end time. In the midst of describing last day events, Jesus says in Revelation 14, ‘ Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus.’
In Matthew 24, Jesus describes the condition of the end time and again He calls for endurance.
“Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. 10 And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. 11 And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. 12 And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. 13 But the one who endures to the end will be saved.
Endurance produces character is also an observable fact. When people endure suffering we see character come out. It may be traits of godliness or it may be traits of anger and bitterness. Endurance is a character production. Good or bad, we all know this to be true.
Character being produced is also a link to the end time. Jesus says He will separate the sheep from the goats. He will separate the wheat from the chaff. Everyone’s work will be revealed. Jesus is going to reveal the product of what we worship. Ourselves and this world? Then the character produces will be quite tragic indeed. But, if we submit to the reality of standing in the grace of God-His spirit at work in us, we will see Godly character produced. The fruit of the spirit will appear. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control will be produced. We see this again in 2 Peter 1.
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
Godly character is completely woven with hope and that hope is in the truth of Jesus Christ; both His work of salvation and eternal life in His first coming and redemption at His second coming.
All of this is surrounded by the assurance of God’s love for us. His Spirit reminds and guarantees us of God’s great love with which He loves us.
When we go through times of suffering, let us remember this truth! Let us remember that God is with us.
When the Jews plotted to kill Paul and he was arrested, it says in Acts 23, The following night the Lord stood by him and said, “Take courage, for as you have testified to the facts about me in Jerusalem, so you must testify also in Rome.”
God was with Paul and strengthened and encouraged him on to the finish line.
In 2 Timothy 4, Paul reports God’s very real presence and the sustaining hope of Jesus’ return during suffering.
At my first defense no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me. May it not be charged against them! 17 But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. 18 The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.
Dear friends, the Lord is mercifully preparing us for very difficult times that are coming upon the earth. Rather than sinking into despair, He calls us to something much more noble. He calls us to Himself, His faithfulness, His love, His promise.
23 Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.
Look to Jesus!