And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations; knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint . . . Romans 5:3-5 NASB
Tribulations – Can you think upside-down? Putting on the “new man” requires more than a change of clothes. It requires a renewal of the mind. That means seeing what is happening in the world with different eyes, recognizing the fingerprints of God in places most people attempt to avoid and hearing His voice when the rest of the world is shouting blasphemy. And it all begins with afflictions.
Paul chooses the Greek word thlipsis. What a wonderful word! Here is just a taste of the imagery.
To be pressed – Did you think of discomforting pressure? In one Greek play, the word means “to kiss.” But of course it does. Kissing is pressing the lips together, isn’t it? Can you imagine that afflictions are God’s kisses?
To squeeze – The sense is making a space smaller and smaller. Is your world being compressed? But don’t forget the other picture. The narrow gate is the only way into the Kingdom. Have you thought of afflictions as signposts on the way to the narrow gate?
To oppress – Greek philosophy taught that the last great oppression is death, and that the goal of Mankind is to assert freedom through stoic endurance, to die as we choose. But the Hebrew word for oppression, anaw, is a powerful sign of those whom God loves beyond measure. It is at the heart of the third Beatitude (Matthew 5:5 quoting Psalm 37:11). The ones who experience forced oppression have a guarantee from God. Did you realize that your affliction as one of the saints is God’s seal of your worthiness in the olam ha’ba?
To be treated hostilely, as an enemy – Are your tribulations separating you from others? Are one-time friends estranged because you follow the King? Are you the outsider these days? Those painful experiences connect us with another double meaning. The mark of agape is the love of an enemy, and how will we learn such love if we are always among friends? Do you experience your afflictions as God’s training camp in agape?
How you understand and deal with afflictions probably says more about who you are in Christ than any other living statement you could make. Are your afflictions the highlights of your witness to the world?
Just a few thoughts about “the fellowship of His suffering.”
Topical Index: thlipsis, afflictions, honor, oppression, anaw, Romans 5:3