By Jerelyn Wright Pearson


When I started this teaching, my topic was suffering. By the time it was completed, the topic was rejoicing. If you wonder how I got from point A to point B, come along for the ride.

Expect Suffering

The first step from point A to point B is to expect suffering.

Just before Jesus prayed his famous intercessory prayer in John chapter 17, he told his disciples that they would have tribulation in the world.

John 16:33:
These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.

As Jesus encouraged his disciples, he also encourages us and intercedes for us in our worldly tribulation, “Be of good cheer: I have overcome the world.”

Experience Suffering

Step two in our journey is to experience suffering.

Later the apostle Paul tells the Philippians that they will experience suffering.

Philippians 1:29
For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake;

Suffering and Rejoicing

Here we take a leap from suffering to rejoicing, opposite ends of the spectrum. Or so it seems. In Romans chapter 5 Paul embraces the theme of rejoicing. And guess what pops up right in the middle of it? Watch for it…

Romans 5:1-3. 11
1 Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:
2 By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
3 And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also…
11 And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.

Here Paul discusses three stages of rejoicing:

1. We rejoice in hope of the glory of God

2. We glory in tribulations also (glory: to rejoice)

3. We also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ (joy: to rejoice or be glad)

In this passage Paul uses three verbs or actions: rejoice, glory, and joy. We rejoice; We glory; We joy. Glory used as a verb means to rejoice. Joy used as a verb also means rejoice. Remember that Joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. The reason we can RE-joice, or joy again, is because God gives us joy  in the first place.

Higher Standard: Rejoicing in Suffering

Learning to expect suffering and to experience suffering and tribulation in this life is one thing. But as he always does, our Lord raises the bar of expectation. He didn’t just fulfill the letter of the law. He fulfilled the Spirit of the law. He walked the second mile, and he expects and enables us to also.

Just as a baby begins his nourishment with milk and grows into receiving meat, new Christians, whatever their age, begin with the milk of the word and grow into receiving meat.

Hebrews 5:13-14
13 For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe.
14 But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.

Our first step this journey was to sip the milk of Expecting Suffering. Then we were fed some fruits and vegetables of Experiencing Suffering. But now we take a giant leap to the meat of rejoicing IN suffering. This is a heavy course indeed. But do not despair, there will be much more rejoicing for dessert!

Reasons to Rejoice in Suffering

Paul is not the only one who urges us to rejoice in suffering. Peter not only encourages us to rejoice in our trials, but also gives us a reason to rejoice.

1 Peter 4:12-13
12 Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you:
13 But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.

James also teaches us to joy in tribulation so that we can learn patience and be made perfect.

James 1:2-4
2 My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations;
3 Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.
4 But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.

Our perfecting is the work of the Holy Spirit in us, Christ in us, making us more and more like him. Thankfully we don’t have to pretend or act like we are rejoicing in suffering. We don’t have to paste on a smile like nothing is bothering us. Or say, “It’s all good,” when it isn’t. We can be thankful that God is working in us that we “may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” We can be thankful that when Christ’s glory is revealed, we “may be glad with exceeding joy.”

And once again Jesus himself tells us:

Matthew 5:11-12
11 Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.
12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.

Products of Suffering that Lead to Rejoicing

The next step on our path to rejoicing in suffering is that when we experience tribulation, we grow spiritually in several attributes. Again, we don’t have to pretend that we have these attributes. We receive them as the Holy Spirit works in us to make us more Christlike.Let’s go back to Romans 5:1-5:

1 Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:
2 By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
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.

Tribulations produce patience. Another word for patience is perseverance, the ability to remain firm under pressure. Through each time of suffering, we become less likely to panic and more likely to endure.

Patience produces experience which builds character. Experience teaches us to grow in our faith and trust in God. He has brought us through in the past, so we trust him more this time.

I always wanted to be a mother. I became a teacher long before I became a mother. I loved my students and tried my best to be a good teacher. The experience of becoming a mother caused something to change in me that made me a better teacher. It wasn’t a conscious change I didn’t change my methods or practices. I just knew what it was like to be a parent. And without consciously thinking about it I began to see each student as not just my student, but as someone’s child. Then I thought of how I would like for my child to be nurtured and encouraged. Without the experience of motherhood, I would not have had that extra layer of compassion. Experience builds in us something that we wouldn’t have without it.

Experience produces hope which doesn’t make us ashamed, but builds us up. By the indwelling Holy Spirit, we have the sure hope that God is making us more Christlike now.

This Hope of Glory causes us to be enabled to share Christlike love. The ultimate product of suffering is LOVE.

These attributes are the products of suffering.  We grow in Patience, Experience, Hope, and Love.

Benefit of suffering.

When we experience suffering we are able to comfort others.

2 Corinthians 1:3-4
3 Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort;
4 Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.

How Will I Respond to Suffering?

It is the Lord through the Holy Spirit that works in us to be able to rejoice in suffering. So what is our part?

As Christians, whether we grow through suffering, or are defeated by suffering, is largely determined by how we view God and his love.

If we see suffering as evidence of God’s love as he works in us to build patience, experience, hope, and love in us, we can rejoice in suffering. If we view suffering as evidence of God’s wrath, which is not how he treats his children, we will become angry and bitter.

Remember that Joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. We can RE-JOICE, is because he gives us JOY in the first place. 

The greatest suffering that God allowed was the suffering of his Son Jesus Christ, whom he sent to give his life for our sins so that we could be reconciled with his Father. The greatest example of rejoicing in suffering is also provided by Jesus.

We too can rejoice in suffering when we are found "Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God" (Hebrews 12:2).


Presented November 10, 2019