It is one thing to praise God when you cruise in sunny skies with a fair breeze, but what about during life’s storms? The vital point is that God has not left us to muddle though trouble on our own.
Only God can bless his own in the midst of trouble. How does he do it?
(ESV) Romans 5:3-5
More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
If the previous section (5:1-2) boasted of our having God’s approval in the context of grace and peace, the present section (5:3-5) boasts about God’s loving purpose in the context of suffering. It is certainly paradoxical to boast “in our sufferings,” but Paul assures believers that even there we may expect to triumph because of the Holy Spirit who has been given to us (5:5).
The initial phrase “more than that” (5:3) adds the context of trouble to the previous context of blessing (5:1-2). Because of what Christ has done for us, we have a reason to boast — again, not “rejoice” — no matter what our circumstances may be. The Greek noun which ESV translates as “sufferings” is thlipsis, which here (5:3) means “trouble that inflicts distress, oppression, affliction, tribulation.” This can be just about anything that puts pressure on a person; indeed, the ANLEX lexicon says thlipsis means “literally pressure.”
For the unbeliever consider that trouble produces nothing but misery. The reason a believer may boast is that even suffering is used by God for good in that person’s life (5:3). So, we get the famous sequence: trouble to endurance to character to hope (5:4). It is plain that Paul is expressing a constructive, supernatural process that could not arise naturally from trouble. He next explains how this surprising uplift is possible.
The reason that a Christian may gain benefit even during trouble is because God is intervening in both the believer and the events. So, “hope does not put us to shame” (5:4) because biblical hope is an “expectation” backed by God. “Hope” is so iffy in English usage that it presents problems.
The NET Bible does a good job on Rom. 5:5 by saying “hope does not disappoint.” If you live by faith, the eventual outcome when you stand before God will reward you. That is extremely significant to a Christian’s motivation since the Christian life involves sacrifice and service (Luke 9:23-24; Mark 10:45), and such sacrifice and service often involve trouble.
Finally we get to the cause of the uplift-within-trouble: the Holy Spirit within us is the expression of God’s love (5:5). Love has not previously been mentioned in Romans. Grant Osborne eloquently speaks of its significance:
First, this love is poured out into our hearts, meaning we realize God’s love as an inner, spiritual experience at the deepest level of our being. Second, the means by which we experience this is the Holy Spirit whom he has given us. . . . The Holy Spirit is the supreme gift that makes it possible for us to know the gift of God’s love.
The verb “has been poured” is a Greek perfect tense, which Daniel Wallace says emphasizes the act of outpouring the Spirit into our hearts; the perfect also has that special idea of the present state emerging from that past action. God gave us a matchless gift, the Holy Spirit who gets us through our trouble.
God gives inner strength
Some of us live blissfully unaware of how common trouble is in human experience. The ubiquity of trouble makes it vital for Christians to know how God will use it in their lives.
1. What have you been through that you did not initially think you could handle? How did God use that pressure to produce endurance? 2. What has been your own experience of endurance producing character? It is said that trouble makes us or breaks us: how does God use each outcome?
Jesus was not given a pass on trouble. “During his earthly life Christ offered both requests and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death and he was heard because of his devotion. Although he was a son, he learned obedience through the things he suffered.” (Heb. 5:7-8, NET). Jesus understands how to use the trouble we face to build us up!
Copyright 2012 Barry Applewhite, Plano, Texas. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from materials created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.
 BDAG-3, thlipsis, trouble, q.v.
 ANLEX, thlipsis, trouble, q.v.
 BDAG-3, elpis, expectation, q.v.
 Grant R. Osborne, Romans, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2004) 131-132.
 Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996) 577.