Three Ways God Uses Suffering in Our Lives

perseverance

We also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. (Romans 5:3-5)

The sufferings we endure are not meaningless within the hands of God. This is true regardless of whether we have brought the suffering upon ourselves or whether it has come upon us through the hands of others or our environment. When we put ourselves in the hands of God by faith, our sufferings are invested with another purpose. As the Apostle Paul outlines here in Romans 5, God takes us in the midst of our sufferings and shapes something valuable into our lives.

First, Paul writes, God shapes perseverance into our lives. This is the capacity to keep going, even in the midst of adverse circumstances. Perseverance does not just magically appear in our lives. It is something that we must develop, like a runner suffering through training until she can run a full marathon. While none of us desire suffering, when we submit our suffering to God we free Him to develop perseverance into our lives. Without perseverance, nothing else will come because we will continually push against our circumstances and against God. But as we grow in perseverance, God can have His way in developing us for His glorious purposes.

Along with perseverance, Paul tells us, God uses our sufferings to shape character into our lives. Character is not an abstract gift from God—just an idea about virtue—but is something tangibly confirmed in our lives through the furnace of our trials. If you want character without suffering, you are looking for something else; perhaps a good reputation. If you want character without perseverance, you really want something else; perhaps informational knowledge of what character is. But if we really want character, there is no other way than through the furnace of suffering. Character is developed through trying and testing, like a precious metal refined in the fire as the dross is burned away to reveal its highest quality. Our character is developed and revealed through the fires of suffering combined with our willingness to persevere.

Third, Paul tells us that hope follows character and perseverance when our suffering is given into the hands of God. Hope arises as we persevere amidst the fires of suffering in which character is shaped. Without hope we give up in life, as we know from those who lose a will to live in dire health circumstances or imprisonment. But with hope, we can find meaning in life and keep going. It is by clinging to God by faith amidst suffering that we begin to see that God is indeed doing something else as we bear up in the challenges of life. Contrary to what we perceive with our eyes, God is at work, and this revelation that God is at work brings hope into our lives. We walk by faith and not by sight, as Paul writes elsewhere (2 Corinthians 5:7), but it is hope that keeps us walking. When we yield our sufferings to God, letting Him shape Christlike character in us, hope simultaneously springs up as we realize God has not left us alone and is working in our lives.

All of this meaningful work of God amidst suffering is sustained not by sheer human willpower (although the will is significant), but by the Holy Spirit who is the bond of love tying us into the presence of God through Christ. God is at work, completing what He begins in us (Philippians 1:6). God is working within us with the same power that raised Christ Jesus from the dead (Ephesians 1:19-20). And so, even as Christ’s suffering was powerful significant, so, too, when we yield our sufferings to God they bring forth a harvest of righteousness for His glory.

I Am Loved Beyond Measure

“What’s love got to do with it?”

“All you need is love!”

“I wanna know what love is.”

“I will always love you.”

Any number of songs within our culture talk about the power of love in our lives. When we are loved we find a deeper meaning in our lives. Often, being loved and loving others helps us find out what is most important in life, and even to discover who we are.

In our current series at Eastbrook Church, “Who Am I?“, we are exploring biblical answers to questions about our identity as human beings. This past weekend I explored how knowing and experiencing the love of God shapes our sense of personal identity. I referenced a wide variety of Scripture passages, as well as a few nods of the head to Kevin Durant, Mother Teresa, and the movie Arrival.

You can view the message video and an expanded sermon outline below. You can follow the entire series at our web-site, through the Eastbrook app, or through our audio podcast.

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I Am Not Stuck

With our current series at Eastbrook Church, “Who Am I?”, we are exploring biblical answers to questions about our identity as human beings.

This weekend I  addressed the ways in which we feel stuck in life, and how a deeper level of being stuck – or existential dissonance – is the underlying cause of that. I talked about two great truths that pin us in their grip, and how the work of Christ opens a doorway into a new way of living out of an unstuck identity.

You can view the message video and sermon outline below. You can follow the entire series at our web-site, through the Eastbrook app, or through our audio podcast.

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Christ in Us

This past weekend, Ken Katayama concluded “Dwell:MissionsFest 2016” with a focused and challenging message, “Christ in Us.” Here are a few statements that I wrote down while Ken was preaching:

We must feel with Christ’s heart…we must see with Christ’s eyes…we must go with Christ’s power.

Spiritual needs are everywhere, but access to the Gospel is not.

God calls some of us for full-time ministry but he called all of us to minister full-time.

Please watch his entire message below. You can also follow the entire series at our web-site, through the Eastbrook app, or through our audio podcast.

You may also be interested in watching the message by Pastor Paul Bland, who began the MissionsFest experience the previous.