“Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.”
– Romans 5:3-5
Jesus told us, “In this world you will have trouble”. That being said, within the same breath He also told us that we can “take heart” because He has “overcome the world” (John 16:33). Thus, we can take two clear points away from this impartation. One, despite our Christian faith, we are not excluded from experiential trouble. Two, despite this fact, we need not be dismayed. For Jesus as overcome this world in power, and in Him we gain an eternal perspective that renders trouble a temporary nuisance. The Apostle Paul expresses this in Romans 8:18 when he says, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” “Will be,” Paul says. He points to our glorious forthcoming eternal reality.
Back to the first point, however; earthly trouble is still an experience we will endure. Certainly, we can “take heart” in Paul’s forecasted eternal victory, but this doesn’t change our here-and-now circumstances. Our troubles are still present, and they are difficult to deal with. So, what must we do when they come? We must rejoicingly press on, push through, and persevere.
In Romans 5, the Apostle Paul describes the reality of troubles troublesome ways. He never denies its existence or limits its authenticity. What he does do, however, is quite profound. As Jesus told us to “take heart,” Paul tells us to “rejoice in our sufferings.” Now why would we want to go and do something like that? Well, it is because in doing so Jesus leads us through our pain so as to grain His likeness. When we press through the difficulties of life, leaning upon Jesus, and the eternal reality that our future glory is truly ahead, we develop a character that is strikingly similar to the One who “has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he gave us.” And what does that character produce? Hope!
Hope found in Christ, through the process of persevering with a joyful heart, is not a hope that disappoints. The hope of Jesus is not a 50/50 or less proposition. It is not like hoping for a lottery ticket to win us millions. It is a 100% absolute guarantee that we will overcome our trouble and sufferings as only can happen for true sons and daughters of the Living God. For, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31).
I share this, not simply because trouble is interwoven into our daily lives. That is true enough. But, I share this because as leaders within the church, there are very specific challenges that we face. Leadership is not easy, and there are troubles, and sufferings, that come as a result of leading others to and in Jesus. Over the weeks and months to come, therefore, I want to encourage you, as leaders, to persevere with joy. For it is the in-between of sufferings and hope that we become like Jesus, and can then enter into that glorious hope eternal.
Will you put your faith on joyous display in the midst of your life and leadership troubles? Will you say, “I believe and trust in you Jesus. You are my hope and futures glory. Make me more like you.” If so, you and those you lead, will have the hope to Go Deeper and Grow Stronger.