For my fellow nerds, today’s passage has to be one of the best in the bible. It is a formula. A straight forward input/output model.
If you are feeling hopeless and want to gain hope, the formula is straight forward. To gain hope, you need to add character. To develop additional character you need perseverance. To grow in perseverance, you need suffering.
Let’s look at how this makes sense. As we discussed yesterday, hope is not wishing, hope is anticipation of a time of completeness and unity in God’s Kingdom with fellow believers. But if we despair or are pulled down by the challenges of this world, how do we grow our hope. The key input is to gain confidence in God’s promises. The way to do that is to grow in confidence of our own word and promises. In other words, to develop our own character. Character is what we stand for, how we see ourselves and the world and what we choose to do when no one is looking. As we grow in our own character, we gain an appreciation for the character of God and how He keeps His promises.
To grow character we need to exercise. Not physical exercise, but discipline all the same. How to stay the course. How to stand. How to be strong. How to be reliable and resilient. This doesn’t come from head knowledge, it comes from practice. From doing and failing and doing again, each time better and stronger. We persevere.
To persevere, we need challenges, resistance, struggles. Without struggle, it would be like exercising without weight or movement. While no one likes or wants struggle it is the only way to practice our ability to persevere.
Do we then pray for struggle? Do we request God bring hardship into our lives? In a way, yes, but it is actually far easier than that. Anytime a Christian steps out in faith to spread the good news and grown the kingdom, we face struggle. The evil one will through anything and everything in our path, every barrier, every hurdle.
So, the root of the formula is found in Christ’s words, “take up your cross and follow me.”
It is like exercise. I do not enjoy every moment of exercise, but I do it because it builds my body which is a gift from God. In the same way sufferings glorify God because they are exercises that build our perseverance. This in turn build discipline and character. Stronger discipline and character give hope (see 5) because they make me more dependable and God is far more dependable than I
Charles Spurgeon called it the dark night of the soul. When things seem dark, there is always a great God story on the other end. For me it has been mostly health related, but there have been financial struggles, relationships and other training grounds.
Hope in something that will not come would be foolish or shameful. But the Holy Spirit’s presence in our life is a bond securing us to God’s family and a covenant (promised by Jesus) that gives us assuredness of our future.