“Not only that, but 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 who has been given to us.” -Rom 5:3-5
“And this is what Paul teaches: ‘Tribulations produce patience; and patience, tried character’ (Rom. 5:3-4, cf. Vg). That God has promised to be with believers in tribulation (cf. II Cor. 1:4) they experience to be true, while, supported by his hand, they patiently endure-an endurance quite unattainable by their own effort. The saints [Christians], therefore, through forbearance experience the fact that God, when there is need, provides the assistance that he has promised. Thence, also, is their hope strengthened, inasmuch as it would be the height of ingratitude not to expect that in time to come God’s truthfulness will be as constant and firm as they have already experienced it to be. Now we see how many good things, interwoven, spring from the cross.”
Given the divine and heavenly nature of the subject matter and our finitude, Christianity confesses truth claims that appear to be incompatible. Some of those doctrines are God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility, the human and divine natures existing in the person of Christ, and the Trinity. In light of our passage today another apparent, but not real, possible incompatibility arises in regard to the Christian life. Namely, Christianity in action, as experienced in the everyday, involves patient endurance. Endurance is fueled by patience and patience is learned through endurance. There is a symbiotic relationship between the two. This patient endurance cannot be obtained or maintained by our own efforts-we need God. What’s more, our God has met this need for his empowerment and will meet any other that requires “the assistance that he has promised.” What effect does this have on us? It gives us hope, slowly and eventually. We could prove to be ingrate if we cast one eye on our past and see needs met, yet cast the other on the future and not expect God to meet oncoming needs.
Romans 5:3-5 was one of the first portions of Scripture that powerfully pierced my heart after God caused me to be born again (Ezekiel. 36:26; John 3:1-21; 1 Peter 1:3, 23) years ago. It provided a wellspring of help and hope. Without an ounce of doubt in my heart (I have doubts sometimes about other things) I can testify that God met my needs then and he continues to do so now. I know that it can be difficult in so many different senses to have hope and to expect good things from the Lord. If you feel that way today, please meditate on, and pray in light of, Romans 5:3-5. God is not quick to help ‘those who can help themselves.’ But He rushes to help the helpless and hopeless. God is sometimes closest when He feels the farthest away. Fight on. Endure with patience. Reach out and grab a morsel of hope by the Spirit. Morsels of God’s hope nourish more than mountains of the world’s empty promises. (Justin)