Phil Wickham When My Heart is Torn Asunder

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

From Suffering to Hope

Romans 5:3,4
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; (NASB)

We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, 
for we know that they help us develop endurance. 
And endurance develops strength of character, 
and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation (NLT)

These verses were the Verse of the Day that BibleGateway sends me. I think most of you know my history...but maybe not. Maybe you just landed on this post and have no idea why these verses are important to me.  I suffer from three AutoImmune diseases....two forms of severe arthritis that has twisted my hands and my spine.  I have had two hips replaced and one of my  shoulders--with the other one waiting in line.  That combined with Degenerative Disk Disease, make me something of an expert in pain. And these verses grant me a hope that belies my circumstances.

These verses are a pyramid of sorts.  The widest part: the base, is our suffering, or even our minor troubles and trials. And it is as we endure these problems or suffering than it is upon this foundation that the creation of our character rests.

Or you can say that the suffering is the speck of sand in a oyster that produces irritation.  And the oyster creates layer after layer of a secretion that makes the irritant endurable.  And in the very end of the process, a thing of beauty and value is created.  According to the verses above, our response to our suffering is what makes it either a thing of value or allows it to destroy us.  Endurance, The oyster endured the pain and irritation and this endurance is what produced a thing of value.

What is character?  The roots of the word mean "to cut or engrave." or an instrument for marking
And this is very very interesting.  In an old Webster's dictionary that I have, the first meaning is to affix a label onto something to indicate ownership, as in a brand stamp (or  as we would say, "a Logo"); Quality, position, rank of capacity; the aggregate of distinction;  belonging to an individual or a race (or a faith perhaps?); reputation or repute; moral vigor or firmness as acquired through self-discipline.

So it can be said that the first means or the first necessity is suffering.  The next step, endurance--not trying to escape the trial--not to avoid the pain of life through drugs, alcohol, sex or any other distraction or blunting of the sensation of suffering, but to accept and endure it, in fact to rejoice in it, knowing that it is creating a thing of value in us.

And this endurance; this response to suffering is what marks us as God's children.  Not everyone is God's child--only those who have received his call and responded...then he engraves his image on us.   As a coin, a thing of value, has the image of a great man in our history, so we too bear the image of the Lord Jesus... The engraving process can be painful...but it is our response that is so critical. If we desire to have the character of Christ, then suffering and endurance are a necessity, and we must submit to the discipline and the difficulty if we have any hope of looking and acting like our role model, Jesus.

There is a video (which I will post here) of Shane and Shane singing "Though you Slay me" and in the middle of the song, Rev. John Piper interjects and says in essence that NO suffering that we undergo is meaningless.  The loss of loved ones; their illness; our illness or loneliness or any other trial --ALL serve a purpose and that purpose is to have the character of Christ, his Image, engraved upon our own so that all who see us can see to whom we belong.

And ultimately the reward for all of this anguish is the "Hope of Glory"...eternal bliss...and the joy of being with and seeing the One who suffered primarily to give us this hope.
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