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Andy Bustanoby
(C) 2007

                         Called To Suffering
                            (Romans 5:1-5)

We saw in James 1 that being a Christian is no guarantee of a pain free
life.  Just as we are called to trial, we are called to another kind of
pain--the pain of suffering.

Yes, there is a difference between the pain of trial and the pain of
suffering.  The pain of trial can be as painful as suffering.  But the
source of the pain is quite different.

James uses the Greek word _peiro, which means, "trial."  That can mean
any kind of weight, pressure or adversity that you may experience,
physically or emotionally.

Paul, on the other hand, uses the word _thlipsis which is translated in
the NIV "suffering."  The King James Version translates it "tribulation." 
This word almost always is used by Paul for suffering in the service of
Christ.  Colossians 1 gives us the most dynamic example.

Paul says, "Now I rejoice in what was suffered for you, and I fill up in
my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ's afflictions, for
the sake of his body, which is the church" (Col. 1:24 NIV).

The word "affliction," Christ's affliction, is the word "suffering"
which Paul uses in Romans 5.  Christ suffered on the cross a ransom for
our sin.  Everything necessary to pay the penalty for sin was finished
on the cross.

However, the message of the cross, The Gospel, must be spread by the
church.  But getting the church to do it is going to result in
resistance by the church and suffering on the part of those who
attempt to lead the church in spreading the Gospel.  Churches, even
evangelical churches, are becoming more and more religious social clubs.

This is why Christ said, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny
himself and take up his cross daily and follow me" (Luke 9:33).  Note
that He says, "take up your cross daily and follow me."  Carrying the
cross every day will eventually cause pain!

If you are thinking of going into the ministry because you will become
well-known and admired for your spiritual leadership, forget about it. 
The job is dangerous and full of suffering.  A lot of it will come from
Christians walking in sin or unbelief--some of them in influential

I personally know several men who left the pastorate not because they
couldn't take the suffering but because their children were being
alienated from God by so-called Christian leaders in their churches.  As
believers, we are being called to fill up or complete the sufferings of
Jesus Christ.  Our part in the suffering is in spreading The Gospel, and
believe me when I say some of the worst of the suffering will come from

For this reason Paul opens Romans 5 with our call to suffering.  In
chapters 1-4 Paul has taught the doctrine of justification by faith in
the saving work of Jesus Christ.

But Paul pauses here at the beginning of Romans 5 to interject an
important truth.  Does justification by faith mean that the Christian
life is going to be pain free?  No it doesn't.

What we have here in Romans 5:1-5 is an important truth--our call to
suffering.  Paul tells us three things about our call to suffering:

	     I.  Our Security In Suffering
	    II.  Our Attitude In Suffering
	   III.  Our Blessing In Suffering

                         Our Security In Suffering

Paul begins with our security in suffering.  He says:

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace
with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained
access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in
the hope of the glory of God (Rom. 5:1-2)

Chapters 1-4 teach that we are justified or given a righteous standing
with God, by faith in the work of Jesus Christ on the cross.  We are not
justified by keeping the Mosaic Law.

Some have explained justification as meaning, Just as if I never sinned.
That's okay, but I would add, Just as if I've always been perfect like
Jesus Christ.

It's as though I were standing before God in His courtroom of justice,
standing beside my Defense Attorney, my Advocate Jesus Christ, and God
says, The condemned, Andre Stevens Bustanoby, now stands free of all
condemnation which has been borne by his Advocate, Jesus Christ.

This is what justification by faith is.  It is a righteous standing with
a holy God on the basis of faith in Christ's work on the cross where He
bore the penalty of our sin.  The subject of suffering is opened with
this statement because Paul wants us to know that our suffering doesn't
mean that there's something wrong with our relationship with God.  Our
relationship is perfect because of justification by faith, but we are
still called to suffer!

But there is more.  God, the Judge, says, Furthermore, you are being
released into the custody of your Advocate, Jesus Christ.

Perhaps you wonder where I get that from the word "justification."  I
get it from the second part of Paul's statement.  "We have peace with
God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by
faith into this grace in which we now stand."

Jesus has not only gained our release from condemnation through
justification.  There is more.  We, because of our custodial
relationship with Him, have a standing in grace.

What is this "standing in grace?"  Sometimes it's called "our position
in Christ" or "being in Christ."  Actually, we have more than a
custodial relationship.  We have union with Christ.  When we talk about
our position in Christ I like to call it our union with Christ.  Union
has to do with our unchanging standing in grace.  This is experienced in
our daily walk through communion with Christ by faith.

We have all the riches of divine grace in Christ.  It's like being the
first-born into an extremely wealthy family.  As the first-born you are
an heir to this immense wealth.  Chafer, in his Systematic Theology,
lists what he calls "the thirty-three riches of divine grace."

Now let me make something very clear.  This wealth is not something
we'll get if we work hard and behave ourselves.  It does not come by
works any more than our salvation comes by works.  This wealth is ours
by birth into the family of God.  It's already there, waiting for you if
by faith you draw on the riches of that union.

My wife and I recently moved from Virginia to Maryland.  We had our
savings account in a Virginia bank that paid the best annual interest
rate that we could find.  Though we now live in Maryland, we still have
this bank account in Virginia.  In order to have access to it, we also
have a checking account there and the bank's phone number.  Whenever we
want to make a withdrawal, we call the bank and tell them to transfer
"X" number of dollars into our checking account so we can write a check
on it.

Do you get my point?  Our access to heaven is by faith into the grace in
which we stand.  It's already there.  We don't work for it.  Through
Christ we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand.

Not only do we have this standing in grace in the here-and-now, Paul
says there's more.  "And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God"
(Rom. 5:2b NIV).   Paul is talking about God's glory in the heavens.  We
have a standing in grace now, but one of these days we will be there in
the heavenlies sharing with God the glories that surround Him.

Paul's point is this.  If you are suffering for the cause of Christ in
your faithful service to Him,  it's not because there's something wrong
with your relationship with God.  You can feel secure about that, and it
should keep you at peace as you consider your call to suffering.

                    Our Attitude In Suffering

Now the question is, what do we do when we begin to feel the pain of
suffering?  Paul tells us that we need a proper attitude toward
suffering.  He says:

Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings ..." (Rom. 5:3a NIV).

Paul does not use the same word James uses for attitude.  Speaking of
trial, James says, "Count it all joy."  The word Paul uses here is
different.  And it doesn't mean rejoice.  It means boast.  It's the
Greek word _kaukaomai, the same word used in verse 2 translated
"rejoice." We don't "rejoice" in hope of the glory of God.  We boast in
the hope.  We boast in the hope of the glory of God, and we boast in

This probably sounds strange--boasting Christians.  Let me explain.

Paul is throwing a rebuke and a paradox in the face of those Christians
in the church who are boasting out of self-confidence how great they are
in leading the church.  This was the problem in the Corinthian church
with factionalism.

Paul is saying, well let me boast a bit too.  But I'll not boast in
self-confidence and my wonderful work.  Let me boast in my suffering in
the cause of Christ; let me boast in the glory of God which one day I
shall share.

Now this boasting involves two steps in suffering.

First, Paul says that suffering produces perseverance.  The word
"produce" means "to accomplish, achieve, to do that which gets results."
As we endure suffering for Christ, our faith is pressured by a great
deal of emotional weight.  The test is designed to show whether or not
the faith is genuine.  A true faith is demonstrated by what the NIV
calls "character."  It is the same thing that James talks
about--spiritual muscle.  As we endure or persevere under the weight of
suffering, it builds our character, our spiritual muscle. You see, when
we endure or persevere under suffering it builds the ability to endure
more suffering.

Anyone who has been through military combat training knows what I'm
talking about.  Combat training goes on for months in which you are
denied food, water, sleep, warm dry clothes and are frequently put under
the kind of training dangers that make you wonder if you're going to be
killed even before you go to battle the enemy.

Suffering that produces perseverance produces the stamina to stand up
under the suffering you are going to experience in serving Christ.

Right after I was born again in 1948 at the age of seventeen, I joined
the Air Force.  It was one of the best experiences I've had in my life
to strengthen my faith.  Many young men in those days joined up to have
the freedom to get away from home and live a morally free life away from
their parents.

I lived in a barracks with sixty men.  There was no privacy, so when I
wanted to read my Bible, I had to sit on my bunk in the open barracks.
This was an irritation to some of the men.  They wanted no reminders of
Bible reading and home life.

Our drill sergeant made it clear when we arrived at the barracks that if
any of us had a gripe with anyone else in the barracks, it would be
settled with boxing gloves.  The boxing ring would be outside of the
barracks with the men forming the ring.

Most of the men in the barracks put up with my Bible reading and refusal
to participate in their vulgarity.  But one of them named Campbell
really hated me.  In front of the other men he would ridicule me as the
Bible Boy.  He called me stupid for believing the Bible.

One day he really became vicious with his insults in front of the rest
of the men.  I prayed for wisdom, and the Lord gave it.  I finally broke
into his insults and said, "Campbell, I may be stupid, but God has given
me enough sense to know that when I curl up my fingers like this it
makes a fist."  And I held it up in his face.

Campbell and the rest of the men knew what I was doing.  I was
suggesting that maybe we ought to put on the gloves.  He knew I was
ready for physical confrontation.

You know what?  Campbell never bothered me again.  Suffering works
endurance-the ability to face more suffering.  I was ready to put on the

Enduring or persevering under suffering produces character.  And 
character is the muscle of faith that produces hope.  We start out the
Christian life with hope--child-like hope with all its weakness.  But as
the muscles of faith grow from enduring suffering, so does our hope.  We
become more and more convinced that the things God says, He will do!
This is our security in suffering!

                    The Blessing of Suffering

This brings us to our blessing from suffering.  Paul says:

Character [produces] hope.  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 (Rom. 5:5).

I mentioned earlier that James talks about dealing with trial as an
intellectual act--to consider it all joy.  Paul talks about our
suffering for the cause of Christ with emotional words.  He tells us
that character produces hope.  That's an emotion--an emotion that's not
disappointed.  How so?  God makes us feel His love by the Holy Spirit
who pours it into our hearts.  And when we feel that love it becomes
reciprocal.  We love Him in return.

Do you see now the connection between our boasting and suffering?
Suffering for the cause of Christ brings about a deeper relationship
with God where we feel His love and respond with our love for Him.

Paul is probably writing this letter to the Romans from Corinth where
the factions in the Corinthian church were boasting in their own
self-confidence and the great job they thought they were doing.  What is
more, they insulted and berated Paul for being unimpressive when he was
with them.

About three years earlier, Paul had written to the Corinthians about
their boasting.  So he writes a second letter and says in essence, You
like boasting?  Well, let me do a little bit of boasting.  I will boast
in my God who has called me to suffering.  He says in reference to the
boasting Corinthians:

Are they servants of Christ?  (I am out of my mind to talk like this.)
I am more.  I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently,
been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again.
Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one.  Three
times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was
shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been
constantly on the move.  I have been in danger from rivers, in danger
from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles;
in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and
in danger from false brothers.  I have labored and toiled and have often
gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone
without food; I have been cold and naked.  Besides everything else, I
face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches (2 Cor.

We see this theme of suffering in much of Paul's writing.  Robertson, in
his Word Pictures In the New Testament says that it was Paul's major
passion.  It was to get more knowledge of Christ by 
experience--suffering as Christ experienced it.  Paul considered
partnership in the sufferings of Christ "an honored prize ....  The
agony of Gethsemane, not less than the agony of Calvary, will be
reproduced however faintly in the faithful servant of Christ."

My dear friends, why do Christians hurt?  They hurt because they are
called to suffering.  Has carrying your cross every day exhausted and
pained you in body and spirit?  Do you hurt?  Then I say to you, boast
in your suffering because you have discovered your call to suffering.
But remember that the blessing of suffering shall be yours also--the
love of God poured out in your heart by the Holy Spirit.

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