EXPERIENCING JOY IN OUR TRIBULATION
NEED: JOY IN THE MIDST OF OUR TROUBLES.
PROPOSITION: WHAT THEY KNOW GIVES THE CHRISTIAN A REASON FOR JOY IN THEIR
TO EQUIP GOD'S PEOPLE TO FIND JOY IN TRIBULATION.
As you look back over your life, when have you been most aware of the Lord? When have you grown the most
in your faith? Could it have been during a time of extreme difficulty. It may have been a time of financial stress,
or a severe illness in the family, or a death to a loved one, or a time of special conflict with someone because of
a Christian conviction. One of the things that characterizes the walk of the children of God is the joy they
find during their times of trouble. After indicating that joy "in the hope of the glory of God” is one of the
fruits of being justified, the apostle immediately indicates that there is another source of joy. He writes, "Not only
so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings." The word translated "rejoice" means to exult, to boast, to
have gladness. It could almost be translated "celebrate." The word translated "sufferings" is the word commonly
translated in the older version "tribulations." The basic idea in the word is that of pressure. It was
used of that pressure that was brought to bear upon the grapes to squeeze out of them the juice which would
be made into wine. It was used of that pressure that would be applied to the olives to squeeze out of them the
oil that would be used for many different aspects of life. The word can refer to anything that burdens us, that
causes us pain, that applies pressure to us. I think it would be fair to say that our natural reaction to such
pressures is not celebration or joy. Rather, it may be resentment and a quick attempt to escape the pressures.
But those who have been justified can find a special reason for celebration in the midst of their tribulations
and troubles. The thing that makes the difference is what we know. The apostle indicates this when he says,
"Because we know!" It is the word for that deep, intuitive knowledge. It is just something that we know because
we know. It is the kind of knowledge that experience cannot destroy. We know so we rejoice. What is "we know?"
I. We experience joy in our tribulations through what we know about our tribulations. "Because we know that
suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character, and character, hope." It is what we know about our
tribulations that causes us to rejoice in the midst of them.
1. We know that tribulations are normal for the saved.
For some this may be a surprising aspect. Some modern interpreters of the Christian life fail to emphasize that
being a Christian does not give immunity to suffering. Indeed, being a Christian may provoke suffering.
Paul is probably not referring to the sufferings that are common to the human family in this text. However, those
common experiences of suffering can have a positive impact on the Christian life. Paul probably has in mind
what we would commonly call persecution. He is thinking about those pressures that come upon the believer
from the world about them because of their commitment to Jesus Christ. Most American Christians are not
prepared to recognize that such are the normal consequences of a wholehearted commitment to Jesus Christ.
Our Lord indicated that we could expect tribulations. He said, "I have told you these things, so that in me you
may have peace. In this world you will have trouble but take heart I I have overcome the world" (John 16:33).
The word translated trouble in this statement by Jesus is the same word used by Paul. It means pressures,
tribulations, troubles. The Apostle Paul made the same kind of statement to those first century Christians. He
wrote, "In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted." So, we should
understand when tribulations come that they are normal. Instead of calling in the question our faith in Jesus
Christ, they may indeed authenticate our faith. They can be a confirming sign that we truly are genuine
disciples of the Lord Jesus.
2. We know that tribulations are helpful to the saved.
This is the burden of the apostle's statement. He demonstrates in the passage how tribulations turn out to be
actually profitable. He says, "Because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance,
character; and character, hope." When you put these words together you have a process that is under God's
direction in the life of the believer. God works through the sufferings that come into our lives to develop in us
endurance. "Produces" actually translates a Greek word that means to work out, to do that which brings results,
to do something intensively. We are to understand that God works through the tribulations actively,
intentionally, intensely to develop in us that capacity to bear up under the stresses and the difficulties of life.
Endurance is one of those qualities on which God places a special premium. He is always concerned that we
have that quality of endurance in our lives.
The experiential side of this goes something like this. Tribulations confront us with our own weakness and
causes us to lean on the Lord in a special way. When we lean on the Lord in a special way, we discover in Him
a strength that is sufficient for the day. As we experience God's sufficiency in this crises, it prepares us to face
an even greater crises in the days to come. The faithfulness of God is seen that He never allows us to face
tribulations for which He has not already prepared us.
The helpfulness continues in that endurance leads to character. The word translated character actually means
to be approved, to have been tried and to have been proved to be trustworthy. It is a word that is best
understood here in terms of well tested character. The character that God wants in the life of His children is
developed as they go through the experiences of suffering and testing in life. Any time you find a strong
Christian with strong character, you will find someone whose been through the fiery trials of tribulation and
suffering. God makes better men and women by allowing them to suffer and then in the midst of their sufferings
confirming Himself to them as the One upon whom they can depend. And then as character develops~the circle
is completed. Character leads to hope. Hope has in it the idea of confidence and expectation. The experiential
side of this again is that our experiences of suffering sharpens our focus, helps us to fasten our attention and
hope on the eternal. Our experiences of suffering confirms to us that this is not the Garden of Eden. We are not
in heaven yet. We need the Lord in every area of our lives. And we have a promise that will not fail. It is of
special interest that the most hopeful book in the Bible, the Book of Revelation, came out of a time of extreme
suffering. When John wrote the book, He was undergoing severe tribulation by being exiled to the Isle of
Patmos. It is always that way in the walk of the children of God. They find that their tribulations and sufferings
are helpful and not destructive.
3. We know that tribulations are temporary to the saved.
Paul does not refer to this in this text but he does in several other places. It is implied when He moves from
tribulation to hope. The Christian life does not end in the darkness of tribulation, but rather ends
in the manifestation of the glory of God. Paul assured us that these sufferings are temporary in the word that
he wrote to the Corinthian Church. "For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory
that far out weighs them all. So, we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is
temporary, but what is unseen is eternal" (II. Cor.4:17-18). Did you catch that note? They are "light" and
"momentary." There will be moments in which they seem to be heavy, but when you consider them in the light of
eternity, they become light. What a comfort it is to know that they are temporary. They will be here only a little
while. I like the comment of that Christian who was asked about his favorite passage in the Bible. He replied,
"My favorite passage is that statement of Jesus, "And it came to pass." When they asked him about why that
was his favorite he replied, "It just helps me to remember that it is all going to pass away. It truly came to pass."
It doesn't matter what kind of troublesome situation you are in, it came to pass. It is not permanent, it is
temporary. Knowing these things about our tribulations gives us reason to rejoice in the midst of our tribulations.
II. We experience joy in our tribulations through what we know about our Lord.
Paul follows up his statements about the helpfulness of the tribulations with the beautiful reference to the
ministry of the Holy Spirit. "And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our
hearts by the Holy Spirit whom He has given us." This calls our attention to a second great source of joy.
1. We know what we know through the Holy Spirit.
Paul remind us of this great gift that God has given us. The Holy Spirit is the one who brings to us our spiritual
knowledge of God and the things of God. So, when we talk about knowing something in the Lord, we are talking
about the ministry of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
2. We know that God loves us by the Holy Spirit.
This is the tremendous truth that Paul is stating. "Because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the
Holy Spirit, whom He has given us." The words Paul uses indicates that this is a lavish action of God. He has
poured out in our hearts lavishly His love. We are to understand that it is His love for us that is poured out into
our hearts by the Holy Spirit. Paul means by this that our inner awareness of being loved by God comes to us
from the Holy Spirit. This reference to God's love moved Paul to describe the qualities of this love. He reminds
us that it is an unconditional love. "You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for
the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly
dare to die." Since the death of Christ is the eternal revelation of that love, we are encouraged by knowing that
he died for us while we were still powerless and while we were still classified as the ungodly. His love is an
unconditional love. His love is also a sacrificial love. "But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: while we
were still sinners Christ died for us." The word "demonstrates" is a present tense verb. This means that God is
now demonstrating His love for us. However, the love which He is now demonstrating is the love that was
expressed in the death of Christ for us while we were still sinners. This present tense demonstration is the Holy
Spirit faithfully taking us back to Calvary and reminding us that this is how we know that God loves us. When
our circumstances around us are full of tribulations, we are reassured of God's love as the Holy Spirit makes
real the reality of His death at the cross for us.
3. What we know gives us a reason to endure.
It is this inner ministry of the Holy spirit making us aware that God loves us that gives us the impetus to keep on
keeping on when the sufferings come. It is this that gives us the reason to rejoice. Even though we may
be caught in terrible sufferings we can still rejoice because we are beloved. I ask you simply to do a check on
your own heart. Have you allowed tribulations to take away your joy in the Lord? They should not! Because of
what we know about those tribulations and what we know about the Lord, we should be able to rejoice in any