“By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience;” (Romans 5:2-3)
Joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer (Galatians 5:22) and is the very strength of the child of God (Nehemiah 8:10). But the “rejoicing” referred to here in Romans 5:2 is a little different than having joy in our hearts. The root word translated as “rejoicing” actually appears three times in the passage we are looking at (Romans 5:1-11). In Verse three it is rendered glory (“we glory in tribulations…”) and in Verse 11 it is translated as joy (“we also joy in God…”).
The word really means to boast, to take pride in, to glory in. It is that thing to which a person points as the source of their pride and joy. It is interesting to notice what people say when they first meet someone because this often reveals what it is that person takes pride in. “What do you do for a living?” or, “Where do you work?” are questions that seem to top the list. For a lot of people, their occupation is what they take pride in and their work is what they feel identifies them. “Where are you from?” is another common question asked upon being introduced to someone new. We want to know what kind of background this person has, what type of experiences have shaped who they are. People are proud of where they come from and of their heritage, identifying themselves as a part of something bigger than themselves. For others, the kind of car they drive or how much money they have in their bank account are the things in which they boast and take pride.
But what are the things connected to this term, this boasting, in Romans 5? What are the things that the Christian should take pride in and boast of? Well, Verse 2 says that “we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.” Verse 11 says that we “joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” And Verse 3 states that we “glory in tribulations.” First and foremost, our boasting and glorying ought to be in God and what He has done in our lives. The Lord is the ultimate Source of pride and joy in the life of the Christian, or at least He should be. It is worth noting that the Apostle Paul never opened any of his epistles with the words: “Paul from Tarsus, tent maker and former esteemed member of the Pharisees…” I doubt that he handed out business cards with words to this effect on them! How did he identify himself? Apostle, servant of Jesus Christ, servant of God, prisoner of Jesus Christ. It was who he was in Christ that mattered, and this is how he identified and introduced himself.
The third source mentioned of the Christian’s boasting in Romans 5 may be a little more difficult for us to embrace. Verse 3 tells us that we “glory in tribulations…” Now, I don’t know about you, but I cannot remember the last time that I boasted about the hardships I was going through! I know that I have complained and whined about my hardships quite a few times, but boasted of them? I don’t think the idea here is that we should go around bragging about how hard we have it (some folks do this, but it is a boasting of their own abilities to withstand a greater pressure than someone else), but I do think that the intention is for us to see the big picture and acknowledge that God is doing something through our sufferings and has allowed them for a definite purpose.
All too often our focus is on simply getting out from under our burdens as quickly as possible and to put an end to the pain as soon as we can. But when we realize that even our trials and tribulations are part of the work of God in our lives, to mature us into the people He wants us to be, when we see His hand in everything, then our hardships become much more tolerable and even take on a deeper meaning beyond the trial we are going through. Patience, experience, hope, are all results of the tribulations that God allows to come into our lives. It is worth noting that none of these characteristics can really come any other way. How can we be patient unless we know what it is to wait? How do we gain experience unless we know what it is to suffer? And what purpose has hope if there be nothing to hope for?
“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
All things work together for our good, even the most devastating of tragedies. God does not cruelly orchestrate opportunities for suffering in the life of the Christian just so that He might mature us and cause us to grow. But He does allow certain misfortunes to occur and then uses those experiences to shape our character. If we will seek Him even in our darkest hours, He can take the broken pieces and make something new from them. He can take even the ash heaps of devastation and bring something beautiful from them. He can, and He will, cause all things to work together for our good. We need not fear the trouble that comes our way for God can use the trying times for His purposes. What greater source of boasting could we ask for than that?
To God goes all glory. In service to Him,