“...we glory in tribulations also, knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope; and hope maketh not ashamed, because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who is given unto us. For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth His love toward us in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”-- Romans 5:3-8
“And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also.” While we stand here, looking for that glory as our coming portion, not only have we joy at the thought of the glory of God, but, the apostle says, we make our boast in tribulations. How can this be? How can we walk so triumphantly as to count tribulation ours, part of our wealth?
If a victor is to glory over his adversary, he must have him under his feet. To triumph over tribulations, we must take them from God’s hand as positive occasions of blessing; for we cannot boast in what is not of worth to us. It is because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit that we are able thus to go through tribulations, to God’s glory, and to our own blessing. The trial must be taken from God’s hand, and I must know that it comes from One who loves me. I must be in the bright confidence that God, who has accepted me, and given me peace, loves me individually, just as if I monopolized all His love, before I can make my boast in tribulations. Through grace I am set, as it were, in His heart; and the love of God is an infinite love; a love which embraces His Son, and then turns round to those whom He has taken into union with Him; so that Christ could say, in speaking of His own which were in the world to His Father, “Thou hast loved them as Thou hast loved Me.”
As we draw this wondrous love of God as a warm mantle around us, “keeping ourselves in” it (Jude 21), it so acts upon us that we can boast in all sur-rounding circumstances, knowing that they are bringing to us a tide of blessing from our God. Our poor human hearts are thus brought into contact with the great heart of God, by the Spirit which He has given us.
“Knowing that tribulation worketh patience.” Part of God’s way with us is to teach us that tribulation worketh endurance. But what if we go into the trial without God? It can only work hardening. It is true that God will bring us to the point where we shall get the blessing which He intends for us, but that point is only reached when He has taught us to completely surrender our wills to Him. These wills of ours are ever ready to assert themselves, but as long as we go on trying to bear any trial by ourselves, apart from God, the result must be disastrous.
We can never go through tribulation with endurance unless we take it straight from God; and when there is complete surrender of our will to His, deliverance comes.
If God had delivered the three Hebrew children before they went into the burning fiery furnace, what would they have missed? “One like unto the Son of God” walked with them there, and enabled them to walk with Him; and how the glory of God shone before the startled heathen king! Did they not then, do they not now, boast in that fiery trial? We too shall praise Him through His eternal day for all that we have passed through with Him.
Paul was so assured of the power of Christ that he was willing to be weak, to be but the vessel through which that power should be displayed. We shrink from trial, with the sense of our own incompetence to bear it; thinking of ourselves, and forgetting that we are not competent for the very smallest thing. God would not have us go through trial with stoical endurance, but rather with the sense that He has measured out the cup, and He will give us power to drink it.
He would teach us too, if we seek grace to bear it with Him, that power to bear the burden is as real a deliverance as if the burden were taken away; for we can carry a hundred-pound weight as easily as a one-pound weight, if our power is increased a hundredfold.
We need that strength should be supplied to enable us to endure in quietness--while the lips pour out praise to our God--day after day, in such a manner that the world may see it is no sham, but that we have a power about which it knows nothing. Then, as soon as the lesson is learned, He who afflicts, not willingly, delivers. But the chastening may often be long continued, for love cannot but do its best for us, and the heart which loves us as no heart down here can love, is just measuring it out to us as the expression of that love.
“Endurance worketh experience.” Having passed through the tribulation with God, I have learnt something of His way with me; and there is a preciousness in this experimental knowledge, this having felt His hand and known that it is a reality. Surely it is worthwhile to know this, at the cost of the furnace.
“Experience, hope.” As with all God’s dealings, so with tribulations; they rarely repeat themselves, and as we go on with God, and call to remembrance His dealings with us, we have a new ground of hope, a hope which He has authorized us to form; a hope which, unlike any hope which rests upon the creature, “maketh not ashamed;” for it rests upon His character and upon His Word.
“For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
This is the grand evidence, to which God points, of a love which goes far beyond every other love.
It was just when we could no more move towards God than a corpse could, that Christ died for those who were thus utterly away from God. The very highest point to which human love could rise is here placed in mighty contrast with this love of God toward us. As God points us to the cross of His Son, of what does it tell us? That dying of the Son of God to save us, what does it mean? We could never tell if the Holy Spirit did not reveal it to us. But He does reveal it; for this love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit given unto us.
Learning the heart of God toward us thus, shall we not have courage to go forward? Surely, whatsoever else may be in the future, God is there, and the coming of the Lord draws near. What more could we wish or have?