The Purpose of Suffering

Josh Buice

Yesterday I preached from Romans 5:3-5 on the subject of suffering as we continue to work our way through Romans. As Paul develops his thought, he points out the fact that we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God—and we likewise rejoice in our sufferings for following Christ. Paul uses the word “καυχάομαι” which means to boast, brag, or pride oneself in. How many people do you know who are boasting in their suffering for following Jesus? What is the purpose of such suffering?

Suffering Produces Endurance

First of all, we have a promise that suffering will occur at some level for following Jesus. It could be oppression on the workplace, marginalization at school, loss of friendships, division among families, and even physical suffering and death. In each situation—God is absolutely sovereign over how it plays out. In the same way that God was sovereign over the way the cross played out, in the same way, every detail of the suffering of his people is used for his glory and to bring about the endurance of his people.

The word endurance “ὑπομονή” has in mind “the capacity to hold out or bear up in the face of difficulty. It also can mean patience, endurance, fortitude, steadfastness, perseverance.” In other words, suffering produces endurance that allows the believer to stand firm in the midst of the pain. Rather than giving up, the true believer endures to the end and goes through the suffering.

Hebrews 12:1 – Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.

Endurance Produces Character

In the ESV the word “δοκιμή” is translated “character” but if you look at the NASB, you will see it rendered, “proven character.” The word here is one that indicates or reveals the results of being tested. This is proof that a person has passed the test in life. The Christian life is filled with testing. This testing produces proven character. It’s through the fire that we are proven.

Romans 8:29 – For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.

James 1:2–4 – Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, [3] for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. [4] And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

Perfect = “τέλειος” – to meeting the highest standard, mature.

With that in mind – that goal – consider why it is that God provides you with pastors who labor for your soul.

Character Produces Hope

Hope “ἐλπίς” has in mind the idea of  “looking forward to something with some reason for confidence in the sure fulfillment.” Here we find that Paul goes full circle in his teaching of the Christian life. In verse 2, he mentions the “hope of the glory of God.” Here, he returns to the idea of hope and we must understand what he means. He is not suggesting that we hope that the promises rooted in Christ will come to pass. Instead, he is making the point that all of the promises rooted in Christ will come to pass. This is our absolute hope!

Romans 8:24–25 – For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

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. Our salvation is both already accomplished (remember Jesus cried out in his dying hour, “It is finished) and our hope has been secured and we have obtained our inheritance and our justification has already been granted by faith. However, there is so much yet to come. We long for that day when our Lord will return and will make all things new. He will judge the living and the dead – separate the sheep and the goats.

Until then, we have this hope that is brought to us through the ministry of the Holy Spirit who has poured out the love of God in our hearts. In all of the pain of this life and the suffering we endure—we have absolute confidence that our God is sovereign, he has a plan, and it will be accomplished for his glory.

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Author The Purpose of Suffering

Josh Buice

Pastor Pray's Mill Baptist Church

Josh Buice is the founder and president of G3 Ministries and serves as the pastor of Pray's Mill Baptist Church on the westside of Atlanta. He is married to Kari and they have four children, Karis, John Mark, Kalli, and Judson. Additionally, he serves as Assistant Professor of Preaching at Grace Bible Theological Seminary. He enjoys theology, preaching, church history, and has a firm commitment to the local church. He also enjoys many sports and the outdoors, including long distance running and high country hunting. He has been writing on Delivered by Grace since he was in seminary and it has expanded with a large readership through the years.