Our Purposeful God In This Prolonged Covid Crisis
By Pastor Rene Ely
“3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 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.” Romans 5:3-5
God is purposeful in ordaining all the things that happen in our lives, and I believe that it is in this prolonged crisis that He tests our resolve in believing this truth by exposing what are in our hearts concerning what we
deeply believe about who He is and His purposes. If we have started to become bitter, angry, and resentful, or have started to question whether something good can come out of this crisis, then we have stopped aligning our minds with God’s purposes. It is my prayer that we will not allow our unbiblical view of trials that may be starting to creep into our minds to distort our view of God and His divine purposes. Our biblical understanding of God’s purposes in sufferings (trials) and how we respond to them are crucial in these times.
In Paul’s letter to the Romans (5:1-5), he enumerated the blessings of being justified by faith by stressing that the Roman believers have peace with God and stand in His grace. For this reason, they should rejoice in the hope of the glory of God as they rejoice in their suffering. Paul showed the reason why God brings trials into the lives of His saints to help them maintain a biblical perspective and prepare them for their blessed hope in Christ.
Here Paul is giving God’s purpose in sufferings which is consistent in the entire New Testament teachings of our Savior (Matthew 5:11-12), James (James 1:2-3), Peter (1 Peter 4:13-14), Paul and Silas (Acts 16:25), and the author of Hebrews (Hebrews 10:34).
Likewise, Paul is reminding all believers in Christ to rejoice in our afflictions because of the specific character that God is molding through His Spirit in the believers’ lives. Focusing on God’s purpose has a threefold result: (1) Suffering produces endurance, (2) Endurance produces character, and (3) Character produces hope.
OUR SUFFERING PRODUCES ENDURANCE (v. 3)
Endurance in the Bible means remaining under difficult circumstances without giving up. It also means steadfast obedience to a course of action in spite of difficulties and testing. As God allows us to go through various trials, He is developing in us greater endurance to deal with increased challenges.
Paul is saying that we don’t develop endurance unless we go through trials. Usually, we don’t have to endure when everything is going our way. It’s not difficult to trust the Lord when we are experiencing blessings but we often endure by faith when life is difficult. Will we trust God and submit to His mighty hand when we lose our job, when our business closes, when we are going through a hard time in our marriage or when we are diagnosed positive with the coronavirus or with a serious disease? It is as we go through increased suffering and we call to God that He gives grace for us to endure.
Let us consider James’s encouragement: “Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing. Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to all generously and without criticizing, and it will be given to him.” (James 1:2-5)
OUR ENDURANCE PRODUCES CHARACTER (v. 4)
As God produces in us greater endurance and capacity to deal with more hardship, He brings out character. In the original text, character means something that has passed the test. It comes out approved. The idea is the quality of proven or recognized character where God is the approver. This is a tested character, character that deepens through trial. A beautiful illustration of this is when a goldsmith uses heat under a smelting pot to bring the impurities to the top, which are scraped off, leaving only the pure gold behind. In the same way, God uses our suffering to bring out the impurities in our lives and remove them.
This shows a picture of how God brings out our character through suffering. Let us pray that as we experience hardship, every test of our living God will continue to transform us into a pure gold-like character that will glorify Him. When we go through trials trusting in God and joyfully submitting to Him, our character becomes proven or makes us more like Christ.
Let us consider Peter’s encouragement: “You rejoice in this, though now for a short time you have had to struggle in various trials so that the genuineness of your faith – more valuable than gold, which perishes though refined by fire – may result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 1:6-7)
OUR CHARACTER PRODUCES HOPE (v. 4)
A character tested by God reveals a person’s hope or confidence in God. This is confidence or the joyful expectation that God will be true to His promises in all circumstances and that He will sustain the believer through it all. Paul reminds us that as Christians we can rejoice in the midst of any circumstance because we know where our hope is placed.
A hope that is resting firmly in Jesus rejoices in the midst of whatever circumstance or implications brought about by our present situation. It is this hope that is lovingly produced by the Holy Spirit in the believer that will keep us moving and rejoicing through whatever circumstances may come upon us. Praise God that our hope in God generates confidence because of His promises that will not put us to shame but are rather reinforced because of the certainty that He fulfills His promises.
Let us consider Paul’s encouragements: “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe in Him so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit?” (Romans 15:13) “Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and rock of offense, and whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.” (Romans 9:33)
Brethren, it is my sincere prayer that we resolve to come out each day of this prolonged crisis with the Christlike character of enduring joy and hope. We can do this as we daily agree with our God that His divine intentions every day of this crisis are for our good. May we see and embrace God’s purposes so that we will not waste each precious day of learning as He molds our character and conduct. This will result in deepened faith through the sanctifying work of God’s Word and the Holy Spirit. May we greatly glorify our triune God as we choose to come out of this crisis as a Christlike Church. God bless you all!