by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 5 Paragraph # 1 Study # 5 Lincolnton, NC February 21, 2006
3 And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience;
4 And patience, experience; and experience, hope:
5 And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.
1901 ASV Translation:
3 And not only so, but we also rejoice in our tribulations: knowing that tribulation worketh stedfastness;
4 and stedfastness, approvedness; and approvedness, hope:
5 and hope putteth not to shame; because the love of God hath been shed abroad in our hearts through the Holy Spirit which was given unto us.
I. The Production of "Patience".
A. Paul roots our ability to "exult in our tribulations" in "knowledge".
1. He does not say that we have to "know" for the process to work.
a. The divine processes "work".
b. There is a human element in the processes, but it is the result of what God has built into the entire scheme of character building.
1) Human beings only have a few "options" when faced with "pressure".
a) One option is to simply withdraw to the nearest effective passivity so that the "pressure" is allowed to run with as little response as possible.
b) One option is suicide: the final refusal to "deal with" the pressure.
c) One option is to marshall one's resources and "fight" in an attempt to push the "pressures" away far enough to not "feel" them so acutely.
d) One option is to "refuse to yield to the pressure"...living with the pressure, but not allowing it to "conform" oneself to its "forms".
2) These "options" are built into the system by God.
2. He does say that for us to "exult", we have to know that the process works.
B. Paul declares that the divine process is a matter of conforming us to a pattern (Romans 8:29).
1. All pressure is designed to "conform" the object to the "pattern" that is generating the pressure, whether godly pressure (8:29), or that which is of the world (Romans 12:2).
2. All pressure ends up being essentially a struggle between two different "systems" of pressure. It is not "pressure" to be comfortably conformed to a pattern that is desired and unresisted. "Pressure" only exists when desire in running in one direction and the external circumstances are running against it.
C. Paul declares that the first consequence of "pressure" is "steadfastness/patience".
1. The major significance of the word seems to be "the ability to continue in a course in spite of being subjected to forces designed to push one off course".
2. When the first two of the above list of human options are incorporated into one's methods for dealing with what comes into one's experience, the results are that the one under pressure "conforms"...one is pushed off course.
3. When the third option is exercised, the one being pressured resists, strongly, being changed, but the struggle to escape the pressures by forcing them "away" is a struggle to maintain what one is while also attempting to make one's context conform to that one's standards...he is attempting to stay on course and eliminate all opposition. This is not a godly option. Eliminating opposition is not our calling.
4. Only the fourth option has a biblical foundation: we understand both that we are supposed to be on a given course and that we are not always effective in being there.
a. "Pressures" come from two directions.
1) There is a pressure that comes from the kingdom of darkness.
2) There is a pressure that comes from the King of Light.
b. The nature of the "pressure" depends entirely upon whether one is participating in the kingdom of darkness and is being opposed by the King of Light, or whether one is following the King of Light and is being opposed by the kingdom of darkness.
c. In any case, the "resistance" to the "pressure" is what builds "endurance". One can "harden" himself against the pressure of God and be further confirmed in evil, and one can "harden" himself against the pressure of this world and be further confirmed in godliness. The "principle" works -- tribulation produces patient endurance.
d. But, "exulting" under pressure assumes that we have a clear-eyed view of which side of the issue we are to be on: we seek conformity to Christ and not to this world. And, we allow the world's opposition to our course to continue (we do not attempt to remove it) so that we are empowered more and more to pursue the godly course. In reference to the need of our souls for "security", we pursue our course with confidence that we are at peace with God; and, in respect to the need of our spirits for "status", we trust in the love of God and do not seek to build ourselves up by our ability to "conquer" the darkness. It is not our task to "conquer"; it is our task to "invite others to take the path we are taking". This last issue -- not seeking to gain our sense of worth from our abilities to conquer -- is the critical issue. It was the adversary's original "sin" to attempt to "take over", to "conquer". We are called to be absolutely different from that. We are called to be "unconquered by the darkness", but not to "conquer the darkness". We are to be as wise as serpents, but as harmless as doves.