October 21, 2022, 2:54 PM


The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

“Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings” (Romans 5:3a).

Are you kidding? Who is the one who rejoices in sufferings? I know I don’t find much joy in suffering! But the Apostle Paul writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit said that he rejoiced in his sufferings! Why would he say such a thing? Perhaps Paul was a super Christian, not like us. We know that’s not true. He said he was the worst of sinners; he found himself doing the very things that he didn’t want to do (1 Timothy 1:15; Romans 7:15ff). Notice the verse above begins with “Not only that”. Paul propositionally declared that anyone who has been justified by faith alone in Christ alone is at peace with God. Those justified are destined for glory. He followed this certain hope of glory with his view of suffering. He saw the suffering of this life as a means by which God prepares His people for glory. Suffering produces strength, confidence, character, and a deepened faith. All that suffering produces in a believer’s life is a deep and abiding confidence in our hope of glory!

Some attempt to explain Romans 5:1-5 as specifically referring to suffering for the gospel. However, there is nothing in the context requiring Paul’s use of the word “suffering” to gospel-related tribulation. I believe that the more natural interpretation that includes all pain and suffering is the Apostle’s point. Clearly, there will be suffering and persecution for Christ’s sake and the sake of the gospel. Jesus said don’t be surprised if the world hates us because it hated Him first. Those who follow Christ will be persecuted. However, a part of living in this fallen world is the certainty of experiencing suffering, sickness, and death.

One option given by the purveyors of the health-wealth gospel is that God doesn’t want anyone to suffer. If that were so, no one would suffer. They want us to believe that if we only had enough faith or prayed the right prayer, we’d all be healed. Their teaching is more than nonsense, it is damaging.

First, to believe that God wants everyone to be healed, God’s sovereignty must be limited. Think about it; if God is unable to accomplish what He wants, then is He really God? God has revealed that He will lift His curse upon creation (Revelation 21). There will come a time when there is no more pain, no more crying, and no death. But now we live in a world that was broken by the fall of Adam and Eve. All creation was cursed because of original sin (Genesis 3:17).

Second, to believe the purveyors of the health-wealth teaching, reality must be denied. Suffering is real. No matter what we think or do not think about sickness, suffering, and death, they are undeniable facts of this life. A friend of mine used to say denial is not only a river in Egypt! We can’t simply “name it claim it and frame it”!

No one escapes the pain of losing a loved one, seeing someone we love suffer with an illness or experiencing pain, and sickness ourselves.

I would suggest to you that amid suffering there is only one thing that will cause us to persevere through it. That one thing is not a thing but a person. Only knowing the one true God in Jesus Christ gives us the hope of which Paul wrote in Romans 5. Those in Christ have been given the Holy Spirit. He testifies to our spirits that we belong to God. We will suffer now, but we are not those who suffer without hope. Our hope is a certain hope. We can say with James “count it all joy” because on the other side of suffering is glory!

Those who study culture have written that our Western culture is predominantly individualistic. Even in the church we seem to focus everything on the individual. The truth of Christianity is grounded in the word “covenant.” We who profess Christ are in a covenantal relationship with Our Father in Heaven. He saves individuals and adopts them into His family. The visible family of God is the church. This may seem disconnected to persevering through suffering. But the church is God’s blessing of a community of believers who will stand alongside us during our suffering. “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15).