Every Crisis is a Call for a Fresh Commitment, Pt. 2
Study Guide, February 27, 2022
Pastor Clay Olsen
In our Men’s Life Group we were talking about a Jonah-like experience that recently happened to a couple of women who were with a group of Kayakers that went out ‘Whale watching’. And while they were watching these gigantic 50 feet long Humpback whales from afar…one of these whales was not afar off at all. In fact, this Whale had come up to the surface right under their double kayak. And when it surfaced it knocked the two of them right into its massive mouth! After they fell into its mouth, they then sensed the Whale diving down with them…but fortunately when they slammed against its throat the Whale ejected them from its mouth.1 You talk about trials and tribulations!
But really, we are talking about trials and tribulations, not exactly like that one, but the general trials and tribulations of life. And in our last study we pointed out that the Apostle Paul revealed that there is an actual process for dealing with trials and tribulations…even those of being swallowed by a whale. But let’s explore.
We return to Rom 5:3-5- “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; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” NASU
Now, right away we might be thinking… “We do what with our tribulations? We exult…we rejoice…we glory in our tribulations?” Are you sure about that Paul? But notice, the Apostle didn’t say we exult ‘over’ our tribulations, but ‘in’ them. It’s like with what he wrote in Philippians 4:6 – “Be anxious for nothing, but ‘in everything’ by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” NASB He didn’t say ‘for everything’, but ‘in everything’. The ‘everything’ is not the ‘end’, but we can make it a means to an end…a means to a greater good. And so it is with ‘tribulations’. The trouble is not the end, but rather, we can make it a means to an end…a means to a greater good. God has so worked it out for His children that since His children have to live in a world of tribulations, He is going to make these tribulations produce a greater good in their lives…again, either in this old world, or the new world, or both, but for sure!
Now, this is a fascinating progression for producing these various strengths and virtues and experiences in the life of a follower of Christ who commits to practicing this progression. Let’s examine it. Paul says that tribulation brings about perseverance, or troubles develop this strength of perseverance. How so? Perhaps an analogy can help.
In weightlifting and weight training for strength purposes you have plates of weights and a barbell. And these plates come in different sizes. You work up from lighter to heavier. And for what purpose? For the purpose of gains in strength, gains in overall health, and gains in being better prepared for assisting others in their health, safety, and security. And while the weights themselves pull you down with their weight, your working-out with those weights lifts you up. Working out results in working up…again up in strength, up in fitness, up in readiness to deal with the other ‘weights’ of this world. You are then better prepared to deal with the other plates of weights or plates of problems in this world.
Again, tribulations are like metal plates on a weightlifting bar. Or – problems are like iron plates. So, in this sense, just like you would think about ‘pumping iron’, you can think about handling your problems as ‘pumping problems’. And either the weight of these plates of problems will simply ‘weigh you down’ or you can make them ‘build you up’ by re-purposing them to help make you stronger in dealing with other issues or other needs, and even assisting others in your life. When you make the troubles that usually just ‘work you over’ now become things that you use to ‘work out’ with, it will not only strengthen you to better deal with those problems, but God will then be able to better use you to help others with whatever weights of problems that are weighing them down as well.
So when tribulations or troubles or problems present themselves, don’t just get worked over by them, rather make them work out with you and for you. Put them on your barbell and pump some problems and make them produce greater strength in your body and soul. Make them develop greater perseverance in your commitment to serving God by serving others. Meet the resistance of your problems with your persistence in working out with them to increase your gains in persevering for the sake of your God, your family, your country, and your reward from your God. When you ‘pump your problems’ instead of just letting them pull you down, they will ‘pump you up’!
Now, whenever there are key words in a passage to describe key developments in your discipleship it’s very helpful to do some ‘word studies’ of them. So let’s do that. In various translations this Greek word for ‘perseverance’ is ‘hupomone’. And it includes such concepts as ‘perseverance’ and ‘endurance’ and ‘patience’. But they all point to what Paul later referred to as ‘pressing on’, as in Phil 3:13-14 – “…but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” NASU
Now, Paul went through many more hard times than most Christians will ever have to endure, but he re-purposed his hard times to simply harden his resolve even more in fighting the good fight of faith. He used his ‘work-outs’ with troubles to make him even more determined and able to finish his race of faith strong. We may start out our Christian journey weak or even have weak moments along the way, but like Paul, we can each commit to finishing strong! In athletics, the competition is about how you finish…you try your best to finish strong…to finish well…to finish by giving it your best shot…giving it your all…not leaving anything on the field, as they say.
As Christians, you might finish worn down or worked over or worked hard in your mind, and emotions, and body, but you can finish strong in your spirit…strong in your perseverance…strong in your endurance for the sake of honoring your King and your Savior and your loved ones around you.
So next, the Apostle says when you grow stronger in your perseverance, in your endurance, then by that you also strengthen your character…you develop stronger character; “…knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character.” And since we’re doing some ‘word studies’ here, the Greek work for this one is ‘dokime’, and it has the meaning of ‘proven experience’ or ‘proven character’ or even ‘trustworthiness’. This particular component speaks of a sense of consistency where you know you can always count on it being a certain way. It’s like the way that a landmark serves as something a traveler can always count on being there to help them know when they are close to their destination. They can count on it to assure them that they are not lost.
It’s like one foggy night a Ship Captain saw another light right on a crash course with him. So he radioed out, “We are on a collision course. You need to turn 10 degrees to the south. The response was, “No, you need to turn 10 degrees to the north.” A little miffed at that, the Captain said, “But I am a Captain, and I say you need to turn 10 degrees to the south!” And the response came back, “I am seaman third class…you alter your course 10 degrees north.” Furious at that the captain sent a final message, “Alter your course 10 degrees south. I am a battleship.” The reply was, “Alter your course 10 degrees north. I am a Lighthouse!” A little lesson on ‘humility’ there as well. But you can always count on a good landmark to help you out.
Here’s a question: You can answer it to yourself…Have you come to a place in your perseverance for Christ, in your endurance for Christ, in your pressing on for Christ, and in your trustworthiness in your character that others can look to you like they would a landmark, knowing that they can count on you always be there for them…and knowing what you will always be like to them in your consistent character and service and compassion for them? Can God count on you to persevere in faith in the midst of tribulations and troubles?
When the world, the flesh, or the devil comes to test you, and be sure, everyone who desires to live godly will be tested by the world, the flesh, and the devil…but when they come to test you, can God count on you, can others count on you to press on through the test toward the goal of being found faithful to your Savior and your King? As we pointed out last time, we cannot choose the troubles and trials and tests that come our way, but we can choose to make each test become part of the testimony we offer to the glory of God and the blessing of others and even the gain for ourselves.
And then Paul adds another component to this process for dealing with troubles. Notice: “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; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” Now, this is a little surprising, because we normally think that when facing tribulations that one would start with ‘hope’. But here, ‘hope’ is after these other two components. What’s up with that? Well, that’s where another word study can help, because the Greek word for ‘hope here is ‘elpis’. And ‘elpis’ refers to a particular kind of ‘hope’. Often in our usual use of the word, or our culture’s idea about hope, people use ‘hope’ in a way that is more connected to ‘fate’ than it is to ‘faith’. They think of hope in a ‘hope so’ kind of way, without much connection, or being mostly disconnected to any ‘know so’ kind of attitude about it. But the Biblical kind of ‘hope’ is quite different from this cultural kind of hope because Biblical hope is always connected to Biblical faith. And Biblical faith is not about fate at all; it’s about facts…facts based upon the Person of Christ and the promises of Christ. We could say Biblical hope is a rope of faith that is tied to the Rock of our Salvation, Jesus Christ!
That’s why Paul added, “… and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” This is not a ‘hope so, but don’t know so, just trying to think so’ attitude about God helping us in our trials and tribulations. NO, this is a ‘hope that lets you know so’ that God is so willing and so wanting to help you in your trials and tribulations because God loves you so’. He loves you so much that He has eternally untied His very own Spirit with you and placed His very own Spirit within you. Thus, whatever you are going through, God is also going through it with you, and thus, of course He will help you…in His way and in His time. Which is another aspect of this ‘elpis’ kind of Biblical hope…it includes ‘trust’…trusting in the ways and works of the One who dwells with us and even within us. Remember, you are not a single dwelling home. No, when you received Jesus as your Savior, and He came into your life, and you became a dual dwelling home. You share your body now with God the Holy Spirit…so naturally, whatever you are going through in triumphs or in trials, God is going through them with you. But since God is with you and also within you, now you can justifiably have a confident hope that God will turn whatever trials you have to face into triumphs for His sake and for your sake as well. And that’s why we can trust Him to do so…in His time and in His ways, but for sure. You can tie your rope of hope onto that Rock and relax about it!
And, again, this ‘hope that Paul speaks about is the kind of hope that has walked with the Blessed Hope. This ‘hope is a trust that has grown even stronger from following our training of working out with the weights of troubles. It has become more consistent by our using even crises to make deeper commitments to becoming more like Christ in our character and conduct. This is a confident hope that has been a long obedience in the same direction. That’s why Paul didn’t start with ‘hope’ because it takes a while to develop this confident and settled hope by coming to know our Blessed Hope better and better.
And when you think about it – the only reason it’s still called ‘hope’ is because we are not yet ‘Home’. But one day our daily ‘hope’ will become our eternal ‘Home’. And it will be more than we ever hoped it would be or even imagined it would be. And one day even our walk of ‘faith’ will become a walk of ‘sight’. We will then see face to face the One we trusted in by faith. And as for God’s love for us and our love for Him and for all of our Brothers and Sisters in Christ…well, that love will only become more and more amazing love.
- Emily Landau, Readers Digest, I Survived Being Swallowed By A Whale, pp 60,61