The Results of Justification
(b) Tranquillity in Adversity
When dealing with the results of Justification Paul began by examining the believer’s security in the gospel, v1-2. This security not only grants us peace today but it also provides joy as we anticipate the glory that will be ours. The Christian, however, not only has joy when considering the future, he also joy when contemplating the present circumstances in which he finds himself. Often we link joy with pleasant and agreeable circumstances. Paul here does the opposite. He describes the Christian “glorying in tribulation”. Tribulation or suffering appear to be the antithesis of happiness yet Paul; is stating that adversity can serve to intensify our joy. Why is this? The 4th verse supplies the key because adversity actually strengthens the hope of the Christian. Therefore these verses are linked with the joy and hope already described in v2. Suffering actually increases our hope and in so doing enhances our joy, making the Christian experience the most enriching way of life available to man.
1: The Encounter with Adversity
Paul was a realist. He conducted his ministry and lived his life fully aware that pain and sorrow are experienced by Christians in the world. The word tribulation is the same word that describes the beating of the grain out of the corn or the pressing of the oil out of the olive. It denotes violent and severe extremity. In various places Paul catalogues definite examples of tribulation; Romans 8:35-39, 1 Corinthians 4:9-13, 2 Corinthians 1:4-10, 11:23-30, 12:7-10, Galatians 6:17, 2 Timothy 3:11,12.
2: The Function of Adversity
In dealing with the reasons why adversity comes Paul uses three terms to describe its function in our lives:
i. Patience; The word means perseverance. Our problems strengthen us and in so doing we are able to persevere in our Christian convictions. The Lord wants us to continue steadfastly in faith through the midst of our suffering. If progress can be made in tribulation we will continue in all circumstances. The persecuted church in China is a striking example as to how persecution has sharpened their effectiveness as they persevere. A young student went to Hong Kong to study the Chinese Church with a question, “If God loves the Chinese Christians why does he allow then to suffer?”. After witnessing their growth, their faith and their love first hand he returned with an answer, “If God loves American Christians why doesn’t he send persecution so that they will be become stronger?”
ii. Experience; The means to be approved. Perseverance in adversities proves the value of our faith. This is common New Testament teaching, James 1:12, 1 Peter 1:6-7. It is also consistent with our Lord’s teaching regarding the seed sown in the thorns and on the rock in the parable of the sower.
iii. Hope; When we face our problems with steadfastness and when we, in so doing, prove the substance of our faith, our hope grows and our joy becomes more complete. Therefore Paul did not glory in suffering for sufferings sake but in the greater vision that it gave him of heaven and the resurrection, 2nd Corinthians 4:17.
3: The Anchor through Adversity
The greater hope gained through adversity becomes in turn a help and a comfort, an anchor of the soul. This hope “maketh not ashamed” or, it will not disappoint. Christian hope will never serve to disappoint. This is because the Christian enjoys the love of God shed, or poured forth, liberally into our hearts by the Holy Spirit. The believer receives the Spirit when he is born again. The ministry of the 3rd person of the Trinity anchors us through all of our sorrows because of the love that he gushes constantly into our hearts. Suffering Christians are the greatest testimonies to this very fact. Henry Venn, a godly 18th Century Church of England minister wrote these words after losing his wife, the mother of his 5 young children:
” IHave lost…the partner of my cares and joys, and lost her when her industry and ingenuity and tender love and care of her children were all just beginning to be perceived by the two eldest girls, and to strike them with a sense of the excellency of such qualities. I have lost her when her soul was as a watered garden, when her mouth was opened to speak for God, and He was blessing the testimony that she bore to the free, full and everlasting pardon in the blood of Jesus. Nevertheless I can say, all is well; Hallelujah.! For the Lord God omnipotent reigneth. At all times and in everything pertaining to me, let Him do what seemeth Him good. Then, and yet more important: were there no Holy Ghost to strengthen me mightily, were there nothing more than a dependence upon the Word of Promise, without an Almighty power and agent to explain, impress and apply it, how would my hands hang down, and my knees be so feeble that I should faint under the pressure of my cross.“