Christians face trouble and conflict.
Christianity can’t solve all your problems in this life. In fact, some conflicts may even be intensified if you are a believer. There are certain circles and places in life where faithfulness and integrity are not appreciated. You may come under pressure because you have chosen to be honest or pure. Christian people can and do experience these kinds of difficulties.
It’s also true that we still live in a fallen world. Reconciliation with our creator doesn’t solve every manifestation of alienation we may have in this life. Even after you come to know God through Jesus Christ, you will still experience troubles, pains and alienation.
We have peace and hope.
In Romans 5:1-11, Paul explains that, while we are already at peace with God, tribulations will come—and we are to rejoice in them. Hope and peace are major themes in this text:
Therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. (Romans 5:1-2)
When Paul says “We have peace with God,” I think he’s referring first to the objective reality of our new relationship with God. We were formerly enemies—Paul says in verses 1-11 that we were godless, separated, and helpless. That objective, real alienation may, however, and often does, have a psychological expression, and people often feel it. Thus, where there is estrangement from God and the need for reconciliation, there can be psychological pain and a deep sense that we are separated.
We Christians were separated, but our lives are still impacted by that separation because we live in a fallen world. Now, however, God has brought us back to himself through Jesus Christ.
Now we rejoice in tribulations.
Not only are we happy about our secured future, but we also rejoice in our troubles and tribulations:
And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope. (Romans 5:3-4)
Tribulation is a general term in Pauline vocabulary. It can mean specific acts of persecution, but it’s broader than that. It can also mean things that come about generally through the evil of human beings, war, poverty, and danger in the cities—all of the troubles of this present evil age. Paul says that, for the Christian, there is a link between these sufferings and God’s good purposes in shaping our character, and therefore we can worship and celebrate even when we suffer because we “know” God personally through Christ and know that our resurrection future is secure through Him. Thus, the Christian will persevere in the midst of troubles. Where there is perseverance, there is a testing of character. As the person is tested, he grows, develops, and matures. And where character is tested, hope and trust cycle back and are deepened.
Romans 5:1-11 is all about hope. I’ll explain more in my next blog post, when I’ll write further about what it means to have hope and peace in times of trouble.
The previous was adapted from a convocation address Dr. Robert B. Sloan gave at Houston Baptist University.