This quote from Romans is contrary to human thinking. Many parts of our world are full of suffering, some of it seems endless. The hearts of many are in anguish over the circumstances of their lives and the news each day brings fresh reports of anguish. For those who belong to Christ, their experiences of various sufferings because of their faith, require carefully thinking about to understand fully. Paul in his letter to the Romans says they must lift up their hearts and minds and see their lives from God’s and Christ’s perspective. Paul is the ultimate example of one who learnt to do this. He writes that “therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ … we rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (5:1,2).
Note especially what he next says, “More than this” – indicating the most important principle his own experiences have taught home – “we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us” (verses 3-5).
This is holiness of spirit; ‘holy’ means that which is ‘set apart’ – we have entered into a privileged position, as did those Levites who were called to serve in the tabernacle (see Numbers 8:14-16). Paul told them, “God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son” (1:9). “My spirit”, to Paul, meant his heart and mind; it is having a living faith and putting it into action – realizing, as Paul told them at the beginning of his letter, “you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ” (1:6), he is anxious that they sense the wonderful but challenging result of such belonging.
Back to chapter 5 we learn, “Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God” (verse 9). How wonderful! This awesome experience of God’s wrath with its final outpouring yet to come on our world will be the ultimate test for our faith. Let us, as we read in verse 2, “rejoice in hope of the glory of God” – and may this sustain us in our sufferings.
Finally we look ahead to Paul’s wonderful chapter 8, “the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (verse 18).