Welcome to Part Two of the big idea of Romans 5.1-11: Justification makes a difference in your life. Look at verse 3: “More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings….” Justification makes a difference in our lives by giving us a new way to look at and live through suffering. We can now rejoice in our suffering.
Notice the text is not saying rejoice for your suffering. Why do we not rejoice for our suffering? Because that would be stupid! There is no rejoicing for the pain of death: there is mourning and sadness for the loss - death is an enemy. There is no rejoicing for the pain of evil done to others: there is anger, crying out to God for justice, and deep compassion. There is no rejoicing for divorce or depression: there is deep pain, confusion, and the need for help. The Bible never tells us to rejoice for our suffering; however sometimes we still do.
We rejoice for our suffering when we need to feel punished to try to deal with our feelings of guilt and shame. We rejoice for our suffering when we boast in our hard lives to feel superior to others. We look down on others we perceive to be living an “easier life” as superficial and shallow. We rejoice for our suffering when we use a hard life to control God. God now owes us his favor and blessings because we have had such hard lives - we deserve them.
Whenever we rejoice for our suffering instead of in our suffering, we try to justify ourselves by our suffering. Justification makes a difference in our lives by ending our suffering-by-works and beginning our suffering-by-grace.
Suffering-by-grace is heroic change. We might not ever know all God’s reasons for our suffering and pain; in fact, we might not even know two reasons, but there is one reason God wants us to know about: “More than that, 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 5.1-5).
God over-rides our suffering to change our lives. We can “know” as verse 3 says and thus say to ourselves in pain: “God is taking me places I’ve never been before with Him. I’m going to new lands with God. God is at work in me.” We all have un-evangelized or unreached areas in our lives…places still needing to be reached by the gospel, places needing justification to make a difference.
Endurance is the capacity to continue. Sometimes all we can do in pain is continue, and that is heroic to God. Character in this case is not the character you currently possess; it is new character or tested character that comes about through suffering. As we go to new places with God in pain and he becomes more real to us, we gain hope. Hope is experiencing the meaning of life - the love of God flooding our hearts. If shame is the diminishment of our very self to the point of non-being, justification is the gaining of a self to the point of infinite worth and meaning – it is gaining the righteousness of Jesus Christ. Receive the justifying love of God.