Romans 5 vs 3 - 5
3 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”
Just three months ago Dame Vera Lynn died aged 103. She was described by the BBC as “one of the country's most potent symbols of resilience and hope.” A reference to her wartime performances as she encouraged the military and civilian population with her songs of hope, among them “We’ll meet again” and “There’ll be Blue Birds over”; songs which focused on better and brighter days ahead when hostilities ended, right triumphed and life returned to normal. If you’re a certain age you’ll be humming those for the rest of the day!
In a sense Paul does much the same in the verses above. Confronting the fact that Christians like others suffer in this world and sometimes more due to their faith, he points these believers in Rome ahead to the final triumph even though now they may be suffering. Even that suffering though is not wasted in the providence of God as it produces perseverance and character; character which maintains a hope in Christ’s victory and the realisation of everything promised by God the Father.
At that point those suffering could well ask – how do we know this hope is secure? That question is never an easy one to answer, particularly when it comes from those enduring pain or injustice or loss. The answer though comes in verse 5. This hope of which Paul writes does not put us to shame, we will not be left red faced and ashamed on the final day for having believed in vain. The reality then of our justification before God will be clearly visible and Paul goes on to explain why in verses 6-11 yet even now we are not empty handed. God has given us the first instalment if we can put it like that, a foretaste of what is to come in two ways. First God has poured his love into our hearts and then has caused his Holy Spirit to dwell in us. The same Spirit who works faith, who strengthens us in temptation and trial and who enables our discipleship.
All we have known is life in a fallen and often troubled world and many times trouble engulfs us personally. It comes as we encounter the difficulty of daily discipleship and discover following Jesus means ridicule and worse at times. This though is not normal life, it’s certainly not life as God intended nor is the world good as God declared it at creation. We live now in a hiatus between the perfection of creation and the perfection of the new creation. The evidence that life as God intended will resume is experienced by Christians who know God’s love in the depths of their being, and whose wills are strengthened by God’s Spirit within.