Pastor’s Class Notes
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Romans 5:3b-4 “. . .knowing that tribulation worketh patience;
And patience, experience; and experience, hope:”
Introduction: Paul realized it would be difficult for us to rejoice in tribulations. Hence, he took time to elaborate on why we should do this. The consequences of tribulation can do us more good than the tribulations themselves can do us harm.
Our desire is to be like Jesus, and troubles can help that process. We can glory in tribulation because we know it can improve our character and conduct. Tribulation proves us, and by grace improves us. Paul explains:
I. TRIBULATION WORKETH PATIENCE
The pressures and afflictions of life often develop within us the virtue of patience. That word refers to the ability to carry on in pursuit of a deliberate purpose despite great trials and sufferings. There is an idea of bulldog determination in the word. It means remaining loyal to the task, staying to the work, doing one’s duty, whatever happens.
This is the ideal. Unfortunately, reality is often just the opposite. On its own, tribulation worketh impatience. For most people, pressures produce irritation, hostility, and flaming passions. The natural response is to whine, belly-ache, give up, and quit.
It must be a supernatural experience for tribulation to work patience. It can occur only when received in submission and faith. The miraculously working grace of God must be allowed to work in with the tribulation to produce patience.
It is difficult, but exactly what God expects us to do. The Christian must receive the pressures of life with a submissive spirit. It is imperative that we turn the stumbling blocks of hardship into stepping stones of progress.
God intends for us to do more in troubles than merely endure. Patience is not fatalism We do not just shrug our shoulders and say, “That is the way life goes.” Even lost people have to acquiesce in such a way.
Patience means the ability to face the hinderance, and with God’s help to carry on. We do not merely resign ourselves to the dilemma and face it as a Stoic. We carry on to the point of being an overcomer. There is a fortitude within us which actively overcomes and conquers the trials of life. Christians should not be tender plants that have to be sheltered from difficulties. We live in a world filled with trouble and should be able to face these things with confidence and stay loyal to the task.
Patience is more than just saying, “I can stand it.” It means saying, “I can carry on.” Brave persistence in a course is the true fiber of believers. Steadfast determination is the essence of character.
Without this, life is ruled by emotions and driven by circumstances. Such a person constantly seeks the easy road, the happy road, rather than the right road.
Folks, stay to the walk. Never get sidetracked. Often, we discourage our own selves by setting unrealistic goals. Remember that we are not sprinters, but rather mountain climbers. Learn to measure progress in inches, not in “hundred yard” stretches.
Any mountain climber that tries to run up the side of a hill will soon meet disaster. Believers must learn a similar philosophy. We must toil along, day by day, inch by inch, overcoming every obstacle before us. Tribulation worketh patience: may it do so in your life.
II. AND PATIENCE, EXPERIENCE
The word experience here means proof. In other words, steadfast endurance gives proof that one truly is justified by faith. Patience gives us proof of our own sincerity and genuineness. The furnace declares whether a man’s religion is gold or dross.
An acid test of our devotion to Christ is the way we react to the troubles of this life. When all is going smoothly it is difficult to ascertain whether we have much patience, faith, courage, willpower, etc. We can know ourselves accurately only to the extent which we are tested.
You may think you are well-grounded in the faith, and enjoy a sense of smug complacency; but is it real? Do you really have strength? The answer is best discovered in the experience of tribulation.
A parrot can be taught to say, “Thy will be done.” But only a yielded submissive Christian can continue to say it with sincerity when all earthly comforts are withdrawn. The real proof of commitment is the ability to quote and truly mean Romans 8:28 in the darkest days of our life: “For God worketh all things together for good to them that love Him. . . .”
You will recognize maturity in your life when you can be crushed as an olive, and yield nothing but the oil of thankfulness. You will be more like Jesus when you come to the place that you know you will lose only chaff in tribulations.
The believer acquiesces to the difficult providences of God. He says with Job, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him” (JB 13:15). When you are down, with everything collapsing about you, you may hear the devil whispering, “Where is your God now?” You will prove your commitment by telling Satan to tuck in his tail and run.”
A hypocrite is like a dog that follows a man only as long as the man is casting him food. But a true believer is like a man’s own dog, the true friend, that will follow even when the man gives him nothing. Once again, we learn from Job, “Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?” (JB 2:10).
That will be the testing of your faith. How do you handle pressures and troubles? Endurance proves that one’s character can pass the test. It proves one’s sincerity.
III. AND EXPERIENCE, HOPE
The believer looks back over a lifetime of pressures and sees how God has been at work in his life. The tribulations, coupled with our carrying on, provide proof after proof of the power of God in our weakness.
Our own personal progress serves as evidence to the reality of God within us. The results of all this should be hope, confidence for the future.
The Christian meets a tribulation with initial sadness. At first he is made unhappy. Tribulations are grievous, not fun. However, the believer proceeds from this initial reaction through various stages which finally lead to hope.
Once the believer begins to perceive the handiwork of God, a confidence begins to swell within. Eventually, the believer can look back upon the tribulation with a sense of joy and thankfulness. The darkness of a dilemma does not last forever, but eventually gives way to a bright dawn of hope.
The ladder that leads up to Christlikeness is made up of these rungs in ever-recurring repetition: tribulation, patience, experience, hope. We go through this cycle repeatedly, and may be at varying stages simultaneously due to multiple pressures in life. But notice the cycle always begins with tribulation.
I once asked my Grandpa Marshall if a person could intimately know God apart from trouble. He simply shook his head no. If it truly is the desire of our lives to be like Jesus, we can glory in tribulations. They become helps rather than hindrances.
Conclusion: Once a Christian was brought before an irate heathen monarch. The ruler commanded that the believer be put to death. A servant meekly told the king that would do no good. He would only be making the Christian happy, because he believed that would immediately usher him into Heaven.
The king responded by commanding that the Christian be tortured, but short of death. The servant told the king this would only cause the Christian to thank God he was privileged to suffer for Christ.
Exasperated, the King asked the servant what could be done to displease the Christian. The servant replied that the only way to offend the Christian would be to find a way to force him to commit sin.
I wish that an onlooker could look upon our lives and be convinced that we dread sin alone. O that we might have grace to come to the point where death and suffering do not alarm us.