“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.”
Romans 5:3-5 NLT

In the UK at present, in the natural, there seems little to rejoice about. The cost of living has gone up dramatically, impacting a new generation of adults who have never known anything other than very low inflation and interest rates. Energy costs have more than doubled over the space of a year or so and there seems no sign of them returning to the level enjoyed before the Covid pandemic. Eventually, wages will catch up, but “problems and trials” will abound for the foreseeable future. So why did Paul make the statement that the difficulties we are facing into will “help us develop endurance”?  

Paul wasn’t the only early first century Apostle who made such a statement. We read in James 1:2-3, “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow”. 

So what is this “endurance”? It is that ability to persevere through “problems and trials” without going under, without giving up, without jumping ship and joining another with less hassles. The Christian life was and is never going to be an easy option. Not only do we have to clean up our own lives under God’s gracious and loving guidance, but we will be largely shunned by those in society around us. In some parts of the world, even the state authorities will be against us. We have many brothers and sisters persecuted for their faith in other countries like North Korea and Afghanistan.

Jesus told His disciples, “But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when you will be scattered, each one going his own way, leaving me alone. Yet I am not alone because the Father is with me. I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world”  (John 16:32-33). Jesus was facing into an incredibly difficult situation. He knew He was heading to the Cross and a horrible and painful death. And He knew His disciples would abandon Him to His fate. And here He was, encouraging His disciples with words of comfort. He told them that their future natural lives were going to be full of “problems and trials” and yet, through it all, they would have Jesus with them because, as they would find out later, His Spirit, the Holy Spirit, would be with them, enabling them to “overcome the world”

There are many Christians who start well, but then become shipwrecked on the trials of life. Perhaps they are in a church that goes through a difficult time with splits and changes of leadership, and they get hurt in the process. Or perhaps a Christian friend is treated badly by another Christian and they decide that they want no more of this faith. So they stop going to church. They stop reading their Bibles. And before long they have failed to endure. 

What do we pilgrims do, when circumstances seem to conspire against us? Go down the tubes? Or rise up above the difficulties? A Psalmist, Asaph, was facing into an inexplicable situation that severely challenged his faith in God. We read in Psalm 73:2, “But as for me, I almost lost my footing. My feet were slipping, and I was almost gone”. As we read on, we see the gyrations that went on in his mind as he considered how the wicked seemed to get away with their behaviour. Bitterly, he said, “Did I keep my heart pure for nothing? Did I keep myself innocent for no reason?” And then we read, “Then I went into your sanctuary, O God, and I finally understood the destiny of the wicked. Whom have I in heaven but you? I desire you more than anything on earth. My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; he is mine forever. But as for me, how good it is to be near God! I have made the Sovereign Lord my shelter, and I will tell everyone about the wonderful things you do” (Psalm 73:17, 25-26, 28). Asaph regained his perspective. There are many other examples in the Bible, of people who faced into trials and problems. We read about a few in Hebrews 11.

But through it all, we have a wonderful loving Heavenly Father who is always there for us. He will always help us through our times of trial. Somehow in His presence, the trials don’t seem half as bad. There is an old saying, “When the going gets tough the tough get going”. Much truth in that when it comes to endurance.

Father God. Your Son Jesus knew all about trials and problems. We thank You for Your encouragement and guidance when the going gets tough. Through You the world has been overcome. Thank You Jesus. Amen.

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