Virtue and Character Development
Romans Lesson #052
February 23, 2012
Hope is actually the end product as expressed in Romans 5:3–5 in this expression of the process of spiritual growth. This is not an absolute formula. We have a tendency to look at some things at times and say it is an absolute formula, yet there are several places in Scripture where this very similar process is described and they overlap. But I do not think these should be taken as rigid steps. We will see how the overlap fits together; you will understand what I mean by the time we are finished. We want to be sure we understand how the Scriptures present the spiritual life and the process of spiritual growth.
Romans 5:2 “through whom [Christ] also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope [confidence] of the glory of God.” This is an introduction and foreshadowing to the spiritual life, which he does not get into full bore until chapter 5 which sets up chapter 6 where he begins the main section dealing with spiritual life and spiritual growth.
Romans 5:3–5 “And not only that, but we also glory [rejoice, exalt] in tribulations [adversities], [because we know] knowing that tribulation [adversity] produces perseverance [endurance]; and perseverance, character; and character, hope [confidence]. Now hope [confidence in God] does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”
We began to look at hope because hope is the end of the product in terms of how Paul talks about hope in just the epistle to the Romans, pointing out that more than 1/3 of the uses of hope in the New Testament are in Romans. The believer’s hope is not mentioned as a fruit of the Spirit but is a mental attitude of confidence that is developed in the believer through the application of Scripture, so that we can endure through trials. We might say that hope is faith on steroids because there is a close relationship between these two concepts.
Hope is based on a past promise of a future reality. Just as faith grabs hold of a promise, so hope focuses on the future fulfillment of that promise. Faith precedes hope; hope builds on what faith originally grabs hold of and then looks at it with a greater degree of confidence. Hope provides the believer with confidence in a future reality that is so certain that it strengthens and toughens the believer’s mentality today to face, fight, and surmount unpleasant circumstances with a mentality of joy in the midst of difficulty.
Years ago there was a book by a couple of Christian psychologists, who were both professors at Dallas Seminary at the time. That was back in a time when a lot of Christians and pastors were wrestling with what is the relationship between the Bible and psychotherapy. Unfortunately, the biblicists have lost that battle for the most part in terms of evangelicalism. Part of the reason is that a lot of Christians, even Christian theologians, cannot get past the camouflage of biblical terminology and a lot of biblical principles that do show up in the better models of so-called Christian psychology.
If you have questions about why I have made those statements, you can listen to some of the lectures by Martin Bobgan that we had at the 2008 Chafer Seminary Bible Conference. The Bible teaches that we can face and surmount any problem in life. I am not talking about biochemical problems or problems that are medically based in terms of some kind of physiological or genetic-based disorder. I am talking about the problems many people face in life, even depression or problems with various emotions. God says that we can surmount those things by using His Word. It is not easy though.
We live in a world today where people want it to be easy, and they do not want to really grab hold of the victor’s wreath of being able to face and surmount the difficulties of life on the basis of God’s Word. We are a spoiled generation. It is just amazing what the statistics are in terms of the “infantilism” of Western civilization adults.
Do you realize that more Americans under the age of 50 watch the cartoon channels than CNN or Fox News? That is because we have created a culture that has idealized adolescence. Now, according to recent studies, adolescence does not end until you are 34! That is based on the fact that we have created a culture that has so idolized the teenage years. The term teenager entered into the lexicon of the English language at the beginning of World War II. Before then, you went from being a child to somewhere around puberty you became an adult with all the responsibilities that went along with that. Now you go through this adolescence or teenage years that start at puberty at 11–12 and go until you are 34. The teenage fashions set the standard for adults, and adults want to talk and act like teenagers and do not want to assume responsibilities.
What Paul outlines for the spiritual life and what the other writers of Scripture do as well is that life begins when you become an adult and can handle the responsibilities of adulthood. Life does not begin when you become a teenager. Part of the responsibilities of adulthood is learning how to face the realities, the difficulties, the adversities of life and utilize the tools that God has given us to face and surmount those difficulties. When we wrap ourselves in a cloak of fantasy and divorce ourselves from reality because we are living in an unreal world where we put all our focus on basically a teenager’s view of life and reality, then we are doomed to failure. When you create a whole culture that is based on that, then there is very little hope for the survival of that culture or civilization, which is where we are in terms of Western civilization.
Life begins when you take on the responsibilities of being an adult. I think back on when I was a kid. “I just wish my parents would treat me like an adult.” People still say that, but what they mean, practically speaking, is they want to be treated like an adolescent. We need to learn what it means to be an adult. Being an adult means to face life with the principles that face the situations in the world in terms of reality and not in terms of some utopian dream or adolescent fantasy, not trying to recapture something we think we missed when we were 15, 16, 17, 18 years of age.
It is amazing how many people when they hit certain stages in life—for some it is 40, for others it is 60 or 70—and try to act out on missed opportunities to fulfill adolescent fantasies when they were young. It is just a sign of immaturity and a sign they have never grown up. They are caught in a teenage trap.
Scripture is clear that we have to develop this mental attitude in hope. It is based on a confidence, based on a future reality. One of the things I did as I was wrestling with some different ideas was to deal with this issue of virtue. What we are talking about here are all virtues. A virtue is a moral excellence, a character quality. Down through the ages in extra-biblical literature from Aristotle in his Nicomachean Ethics, he basically reflected Plato and Sophocles. On up into the Middle Ages, different philosophers have defined and categorized virtues in different ways.
In the Middle Ages, they took the four classic virtues and added three Christian virtues of faith, hope and love to them. Then you have other people who talk about the virtue of hard work. But that is not part of the classic four. How do you distinguish a character quality from a virtue? It is nebulous and confusing. The Bible does not classify it that way. In fact, we look at various lists (we’ll look at 2 Peter 1 later), and virtue (Greek word ARETE) is listed as part of these moral qualities. It is not set apart as a distinct quality—that comes out of Greek philosophy. The Bible instead looks at a range of behaviors that may be necessary for developing moral excellence, but even moral excellence is included within that process of spiritual maturation and character development.
I was looking in the last few days at the field of ethics. I’m not talking about the biblical study of ethics. Some of this may have to do with Christian philosophers dealing with developing different elements of ethics and standards, how to teach ethics, how to inculcate ethics into people. There are about three schools of thoughts, and only two of them will concern us.
One is the school of thought that the way you teach ethics is you teach the list of don’t do this and don’t do that. That has been viewed as a failure by some contemporary ethicists. Another group came along that emphasized virtue character. Rather than teaching a grocery list of dos and don’ts, what you do is you inculcate character into individuals and into children as they grow up. When they hit a certain ethical problem, rather than thinking in terms of a list of dos and don’ts, they make a decision from an inculcated character that is virtuous. There is a lot of value in looking at that.
Because all empirical knowledge always has some truth to it and some element of falsehood to it because man being finite in his knowledge is always coming to know more and more things, man is going to get certain things right and certain things wrong. Besides the idea that ethics should be taught in terms of character formation first and foremost, the other element is the recognition that for there to be real character development, a person must live in light of his purpose. There is a teleology that is part of this virtue character type of ethics. They have to understand where they are going and make decisions today in light of a long-term reference point.
That is not any different from what the Bible teaches in terms of the fact that as we mature, we come to understand the confidence, the hope, that future reality that God has for us, and we begin to learn to live today and make decisions today in light of our destiny, in light of where God is taking us in His plan, which is not just limited to here and now on this planet but in terms of our future destiny to rule and reign with the Lord Jesus Christ when He returns in the Millennial Kingdom.
My third point is that “hope provides the believer with confidence in future reality so certain that it strengthens and toughens the believer’s mentality today to face, fight and surmount unpleasant circumstances with a mentality of joy in the midst of difficulty.” We went beyond Romans to Paul’s use of the word hope in other epistles and discovered that he says basically the same thing that he does in Romans.
We are going to look at non-Pauline writings—Hebrews, 1 and 2 Peter, and James. Those were all written primarily to Jewish Christian audiences. In the early church, more than half of the Christians were Jews, and the earlier you go the greater the percentage of Jews there were even throughout Asia Minor and other areas. The modus operandi of the apostles was to go to the synagogue first, and from there, those who became converts and trusted in Jesus as Messiah established other churches.
Hope is used in four passages in Hebrews 3, 6, 7, 10. It has this same idea of a confident expectation, a future that is so certain that it impacts present reality. The writer of Hebrews in chapter 3 has shifted to a focus on challenging the Christians that he is writing to not to give up in the face of pressure, not to give up on their spiritual life in the face of adversity, specifically persecution. There is good evidence that these were Jewish believers, who were former priests in Israel. The writer of Hebrews is writing to a former priestly, Levitical community in Judea that is coming under a certain amount of persecution, opposition and hostility from Jews who were not believers in Jesus as Messiah. They are at a point where they want to give up.
You have the same kind of situation we are talking about in Romans 5. There is external adversity and pressure and the temptation to just go with the flow of the culture around you rather than holding firm to the truth. The comparison that the writer of Hebrews sets up here is the failure of the Exodus generation to truly trust in God once they had been redeemed from Egypt and were out in the wilderness and the failure of not looking forward to the Promised Land, which is the focal point here of this passage and was their future, their destiny, and what was referred to as their Rest, which would come once they entered the land that God had provided for them.
The writer of Hebrews is warning them not to give up because if those to whom he is writing give up, they are going to miss out on their role and responsibility in the future Rest of the millennial kingdom. They will be like the Exodus believers who failed to persevere and endure in the wilderness. They let the pressure of the negative external circumstances cause them to turn away from the promise of God and focus back on the leeks and the garlic in Egypt. They wanted to go back where they had convinced themselves that life was really easier under slavery than it is out here trusting God. Remember that every day God provided food for them in terms of manna, provided for their clothing and shoes that never wore out during the entire 40 years in the wilderness, provided water for them; and yet they were ungrateful and rejected God’s provision and wanted to go back to Egypt.
As the writer of Hebrews comes to the end of his 2nd instructional section in Hebrews 3:6, there is a comparison between Moses and Christ in Hebrews 3:5–6 “And Moses indeed was faithful in all His house as a servant, for a testimony of those things which would be spoken afterward, but Christ as a Son over His own house, whose house we are if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm to the end.” Remember we are a temple to God, both individually and corporately. That is the idea of a house here.
This is not a warning that if you do not hold fast you are going to be kicked out of the house (lose your salvation). The house here is comparable to the temple and serving in the temple. A future role that we as believers are going to have is serving and ruling and reigning with the Lord Jesus Christ in the Millennial Kingdom. If we are failures in the Christian life in this life and lose rewards, which is the presentation of privileges and responsibilities at the Judgment Seat of Christ that are positions we will have in the Millennial Kingdom, then we will be just like the Exodus generation of Israelites that failed to enter into the Promised Land. Were they still going to be saved? Were they still free from the slavery in Egypt? Sure they were. Because of disobedience to God, they failed to be able to realize all the blessings that God had promised to them. That was left for another generation.
We need to “hold fast to the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm to the end.” The Greek word that is translated confidence is PARRESIA, which has to do with openness or boldness. The same word that is used in Hebrews 4:16 “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace …” It has that idea of a robust confidence in our future destiny. Because of that, we are able to hold firm to the end.
Hebrews 6 is one of those passages that everyone loves to ask questions about because on the surface it appears as if this is a warning again that if one does not persevere or endure or if one falls away, then there are those who teach that this indicates that you can lose your salvation or maybe you were not saved to begin with (the Lordship variation on it).
The reality in Hebrews 6 is that the writer is talking about believers, those who have trusted in Jesus as Messiah. Verse 4 “For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened …” When you do a word study on PHOTIZO, which is the Greek word for enlightenment, it indicates somebody who has become a believer. We studied this last week in Ephesians 1:18 where Paul is praying that having “the eyes of your understanding being enlightened,” they would understand the knowledge of God’s will. It is based on the fact of the perfect tense participle of a previous completed action of enlightenment.
Verse 4 “For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift …” It does not mean just tasting in the sense of sampling or getting a hint of what it tastes like, but it means completely chewing it, eating it, and assimilating it and making it a part of your body. This again is a word indicating that they are truly saved—“… have become partakers of the Holy Spirit [indicates complete participation with the Holy Spirit], and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come.”
Verse 6 “if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance …” If you reject what God has given you, there reaches a point of no return. Not because God’s grace is not there but because after a person has rejected grace for so long and pursues carnality, it hardens the heart and the soul to a point where practically speaking they will not turn back, recover or reverse course. They have reached a point of their own perversion and decline—a point of no return.
It is in that context in Hebrews 6:11 that Paul says, “And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end.” Do not be overcome by negative circumstances; do not let yourself give in to thoughts that are basically generated by self-absorption and self-pity. Those are always generated by a false view of reality, based on false expectations. People just have wrong expectations about life. They think life is going to be wonderful, and that there is not going to be any difficulty or heartache. They have this utopic view of reality that gets shipwrecked on the shoals of reality.
If you are a biblical Christian, you understand that this is the devil’s world, and there are going to be bad things that happen to good people. Not because God is out of control or has lost control, but that bad things happen because for the time being, God is allowing His creatures to exercise free will, and in the exercise of free will, they are going to make bad decisions and experience consequences of those bad decisions. Sometimes those consequences pile up—one bad consequence upon another – until you create just a systemic mess. In the midst of that systemic mess, we are trying to live and have a measure of stability, but chaos has been the result of millions of people making bad decisions and compounding bad decisions. Then we say, “Why did God let this happen?” We blame God rather than recognizing that the reason things happen the way they are is the result of a plethora of bad decisions on the part of hundreds of thousands of millions of people.
It is not God’s fault. God is allowing creatures to be free. To allow a person to be free means that they are going to be allowed to make bad decisions. You cannot just allow them to be free and to make good decisions. Only if you buy into a liberal, utopic view of reality. When you do not believe that there is real evil and depravity in the world and have a somewhat utopic view that reality can be improved upon and perfected, then what happens is that you are not going to make plans that take into account the real horrors that occur in history. Sometimes they are natural disasters; sometimes they are disasters caused by evil human beings, such as the Holocaust or Pearl Harbor or 9/11. The only way you can explain that is because God has given man freedom, and freedom means that God is not going to step in and say “Since you made that bad decision, there will not be any bad consequences from that.”
If you are going to allow people to experience the benefits of success from good decisions, you have to allow them to experience the opposite, or it is not freedom. The corollary of freedom is that people are going to make bad decisions, and they are going to experience the consequences of that. When we face that from the vantage point of God’s Word, we have reality, and we can understand that God is still in control and that the end game is going to be good.
That is why Paul says in Romans 8:28 “And we know that all things work together for good …” God works them together for good. It does not say that all things are good, but that God in His sovereignty is going to bring His plan together at the end, and when we are in heaven and have that eternal perspective, we are going to look at what happened and say that was good and right. It should not have been and could not have been any other way because when it all comes together, this is what brings about the glorification of God and the vindication of God’s character and His plan in the angelic conflict.
Hebrews 6:11 “And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end.” Do not give up. Develop a mental attitude of toughness. Not toughness in terms of the world, which is toughness for its own sake, but it is a toughness because you understand reality and are dependent upon God.
Hebrews 6:17–18 “Thus, God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of promise [in reference to the promise made to Abram in the Old Testament] the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath, that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us.” There is the analogy: Just as Abram was able to face situations in his life because of the promise of God, and when he grasped the hope of the future fulfillment of God’s promise, then he could face the challenges of life in front of him. That is the same thing that we have.
Hebrews 7:19 “for the law made nothing perfect …” The Mosaic Law could not accomplish perfection; that was not its purpose. Its purpose was not to show you could be perfectly righteous because no one ever kept the Law. Even today, no one can keep the Law. That shows that we are incapable of keeping the Law because no one ever did it. It is not to show that we can do it but to show we cannot do it. Since we cannot do it, God has to do it for us. That is why He has provided a Savior.
“For the law made nothing perfect; on the other hand, there is the bringing in of a better hope, through which [eternal life through Jesus Christ] we draw near to God.” That is Jesus Christ—He has a better promise of eternal life because He paid the penalty for sin. We have that confidence, that expectation of eternity with God.
Hebrews 10:23 “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.” The focal point is not on faith in faith, not on faith in the fact that it should all just work all good, not in faith as some abstract principle. It is faith in the One who promised. It is not even faith in the promise because what makes the promise valid, solid, something we can depend on is the dependable character of God who is behind the promise. These verses give us a focal point on understanding faith.
Another place where we see the word hope is in 1 Peter 1:3 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” The hope that is living is not a dead hope, not a hope based in some optimistic wish, not based in feeling or emotion, not based in something that can change, but it is a hope that based on a living reality that Jesus Christ rose physically and bodily from the grave.
That is what changed the disciples. They were a bunch of cowards running and hiding from the Roman soldiers and from the Jewish officials when Jesus was arrested. After the crucifixion, they all went into hiding and had absolutely no courage whatsoever. They did not want to follow Him to the cross, and so they all ran and hid. Two days later when Jesus rose from the dead, then they saw Him, and it changed them. All but one, that I know of, died a martyr’s death. John is the only apostle who died from the natural cause of old age.
All the others gave their life for the belief that Jesus Christ rose physically and bodily from the grave because they saw Him. If you are a coward, you are not going to give your life for a lie. Maybe one of them might but not 10 of them. They gave their life for what they knew to be true because they had seen Him in His body with the nail prints in His hands and the spear wound in His side. It is a living hope, a confident expectation that we will be raised from the dead. Just as Christ had victory over death (1 Corinthians 15), we will have victory over death.
1 Peter 1:21 “Who through Him [Christ] believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.” It is a correlation between that confidence of our future resurrection in the presence of God in a physical bodily resurrection and Christ’s resurrection from the dead. Your faith and hope are in God and His character and understanding what He has done in history. It is not like what you see in the movies when after Jesus has been crucified, the apostles come together and are fearful, and suddenly they hear this disembodied voice. That is not how it was – it was not something in their head, not a psychological resurrection. They did not say like you hear at some funerals, “They are always going to live because they live inside me.” That is not what the Bible teaches in the Old or New Testament.
They are alive because they are alive! They have a new physical but immortal body, an incorruptible body that will never fade away. This is based upon the resurrection of Jesus Christ who conquered death. It is not thinking you cannot deal with the fact that you will never see someone again because they just disappeared into an existential nothingness, so you will pump yourself up and just make yourself feel better by saying, “They will live inside me; they will live in my heart and in my memories.”
That is not what the Bible is talking about. Jesus did not rise from the dead because the disciples created a new myth that gave them somehow a psychological boost. They saw a bodily resurrected Savior, and there was no doubt in their minds at all. It was not a mass hallucination.
1 Peter 3:15 “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts [mind, thinking or innermost part of man, KARDIA, and always be ready to give a defense [well thought out, logical explanation of why you believe what you believe] to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.” Do you know what that presupposes? It is so obvious that you have a living hope that people are going to ask you about it. I won’t embarrass anybody by saying, “How many people have ever had anybody ask you why you have such hope in the face of death?”
That is what this is saying. When people ask you why you have this living hope, why are you so hopeful, then you can give a reasoned, logical, articulate answer explaining why you have this hope. Some people are going to have a more logical and more reasoned explanation than others. It is not saying in this verse to be ready to give a defense like Paul would give. It is not saying to be ready to give a defense of the gospel like John Calvin or like Darby or like Scofield or some other good Christian thinker would give. It just says to be ready to give your answer the best that you can do. It is not your explanation that is going to convince them; it is God the Holy Spirit. But we have a responsibility to give the best, most logical, most reasoned answer to why we have this living hope.
In Romans 5:2, there is a progression here. “…(we) rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” The same word that is used there, which is the Greek word KAUCHAOMAI, is used again in verse 3. Usually most translations do not translate it with the same English word. Some will say “we glory in hope” in verse 2, and then “we rejoice (or boast) in adversities” in verse 3. But it is the same word in both places.
There is a difference between joy, using the verb CHAIRO, which is more of a mental attitude, stability. It leans toward this sense of exultation, but remember that is not the main idea. When Jesus said, “My joy I give to you,” just a couple of hours later He was alone in Gethsemane and was in emotional turmoil Matthew tells us. The pressure upon Him to walk away from the cross was so great that He sweated drops of blood. That can only happen when a person is under tremendous physical pressure. But He did not fail that test and did not become emotional and walk away from it.
He still had joy even in the midst of emotional pressure, so joy in the sense of chairo has that idea of strength and stability of a mindset. But KAUCHAOMAI, which is the word we have here, goes beyond that to a physical exultation, a happiness. This is the basic meaning of this word we find in the Scripture that has the idea of exultation, of boasting, of praising something. We find that Paul uses the word five times in Romans.
The first two times he uses it, he uses it in a negative sense of boasting in a wrong, arrogant attitude. He uses it to refer to those Jewish leaders who boasted in the Law. They asserted their ethnicity and their relationship to Abraham in the fact they were given the Mosaic Law. They so exalted in the position, the blessing, the privilege that God had given them that they were lording it over everyone else. That was how Paul used boasting in a negative sense, for example in Romans 2:17.
In Romans 5, he uses it three times in verses 2, 3 and 11. In all these places, he is talking in a positive sense in exalting in hope. We are so focused and our thinking has been so transformed by the realization of our destiny. It is not something that you just make up. You truly exalt when you hit hard times, when you hit opposition, when you come under that particular pressure. Paul uses the term in a couple of other passages. One he quotes from the Old Testament twice.
1 Corinthians 1:31 and 2 Corinthians 10:17, Paul summarizes an Old Testament passage. “He who glories [boasts], let him glory in the Lord.” This is sort of a summary of what Jeremiah states in
Jeremiah 9:23–24. Quoting the Lord, “Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, let not the mighty man glory in his might, nor let the rich man glory in his riches; but let him who glories glory in this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord, exercising lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth. For in these I delight …”
Paul took all of that and summarized it as boasting in the Lord. If you are going to boast, boast in the Lord, not in your own effort. Ephesians 2:8–9 “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” That is a negative, and it not a focus on what we have accomplished, who we are, or what we have done.
Galatians 6:14 “But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ …”
2 Corinthians 12, he is dealing with the fact that he has an unexpected and unpleasant thorn in the flesh. God brought that adversity (THLIPSIS) into his life in order to keep him humble, to teach him not to be arrogant because of the blessings of revelation that God had given to Paul.
2 Corinthians 12:9 “…Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities [weaknesses], that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” Boasting in this sense is a positive exultation.
As we look at Romans 5:3, we see a progression here. “And not only that, but we also glory [rejoice] in tribulations [adversities, negative external pressure, THLIPSIS], knowing that tribulation produces perseverance [endurance]; and perseverance, character; and character, hope [confidence]. We have a stair step progression to spiritual maturity. Paul is looking at it as a negative. THLIPSIS is the noun from the verb THLIBO, which means to crush, to press, to compress something, to squeeze something. It came to be applied to those situations when people are pressed or squeezed by negative external circumstances.
We all face those because we live in a fallen world. We live in a world where everyday we wake up and say we are going to do five things today and then get none of them done because of things that interfere. If it was an ideal world, we would get all five things done within the first 30 minutes, and then we could just go to the beach for the rest of the day! But that is not how life is. Most of the time when we set up the five things that are due today, then things interfere, and the next day we have that same list of five things to accomplish.
We live in a fallen world and are constantly fighting against reality which is negative. We deal with negative circumstances whether people and people-oriented problems or events which have a wide range of sources. The events can be generated by the weather, such as droughts, hurricanes, tornados. I have good friends who live over in Birmingham, and they have had horrendous tornados in the last couple of years. They were out of school for 9 days because of all the damage that was done by tornados.
Adversity can come from health. We have a number of people in the congregation and people in your family who are dealing with all kinds of health challenges and difficulties. We complain and we gripe, rather than saying God is in control, so I need to figure out how this negative circumstance gives me the opportunity to exalt because I know God is using this to produce spiritual growth and maturity.
adversity ----> endurance ----> tested, approved character ----> confidence (hope)
(THLIPSIS) (HUPOMONE) (DOKIME) (ELPIS)
The word THLIPSIS has to do with that external pressure of adversity that comes, and it is closely related to another Greek word STENOCHORIA, which is in Romans 8:35 where it has the idea of narrowness. We have this word adversity (THLIPSIS) which means pressure and the other word relates to it as narrowness where you feel squeezed by the circumstances of life.
The next step is that it produces perseverance and is best translated endurance, the ability to hang in there. HUPOMONE means to abide under something—not to escape it but so stay in the circumstance and have joy in the midst of the negative pressure.
The third step is that it results in a tested or approved character. This is the noun DOKIME, which also shows up in 1 Corinthians 3 dealing with the judgment seat of Christ to see whether we have approved character. That is when everything is burned up, and those who have gold, silver, and precious stones have approved character. Those who have everything burned up as wood, hay and straw are not approved, and there are no rewards. They are saved, yet as through fire, the passage says in verse 15.
We have tested and approved character. It has been evaluated and has passed the test, and this in turn increases our confidence in God.
The next passage I want to took at that connects to this and has another similar but different series of events is in James 1. (Verse 2) “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials.” Here he uses the word CHARA in the Greek, which is the word related to the verb CHAIRO, meaning to be joyful. It is not the same idea, but it is similar to the idea of KAUCHAOMAI. KAUCHAOMAI is more of an emotional exultation that goes with it; whereas, CHARA indicates the solid mental attitude of stability, tranquility, peace and happiness even in the midst of trials.
Paul says in verse 2 “… count it all joy when you fall into various trials.” The idea of falling into the trials is that you never know what is going to happen. You wake up in the morning and think everything is laid out for the day. Then things domino, and it is not at all what you expected. You just fall into those trials. The word for trials is not a word meaning adversity; it is tests. It can be a good situation, a test of prosperity, or a negative situation, a test of adversity.
We are able to have joy in the midst of those circumstances (verse 3) “because you know that the testing of your faith produces patience [endurance, HUPOMONE].” That brings in the idea that the testing is another form of the noun based on DOKIME. It is that same idea of testing for approval. It is not testing to see where we fail but testing to see where we are succeeding.
James 1:4 “But let patience have its perfect work [God’s intended result, TELEIOS], that you may be perfect [mature] and complete, lacking nothing.”
adversity ----> endurance ----> tested, approved character ----> confidence (hope)
(THLIPSIS) (HUPOMONE) (DOKIME) (ELPIS)
trial ---------> testing ------> endurance ----> perfect work maturation
(PEIRASMOS) (DOKIMION) (HUPOMONE) (TELEIOS)
If you face the maturation process and do not know what to do, God has revealed it to you in His Word, so you need to pray to God to reveal the wisdom that we need in order to handle whatever that adversity is. But we have to ask in faith (James 1:6) trusting that God will give us the answer. Then believing His answer and not being like the one who is double-minded, which is the idea of doubting or being of two minds. That is the person who says—“I can do it the human viewpoint way or do it the divine viewpoint way. I could go with psychology and go see my psychobabble counselor, or I could apply the promises of God’s Word. I just do not know what to do.” That is being double-minded.
James 1:6 “But let him ask in faith, with no doubting [no double-minded], for he who doubts is like the wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind.” There is no stability there whatsoever.
Next time we will look at 2 Peter 1, which gives us a different series of events. All of these are describing the same process but just from a slightly different vantage point emphasizing different elements in our spiritual growth. But they are all based on learning to truly trust in God’s Word, understanding that He is taking us through a process, like a boot camp, in preparing us for a future destiny to rule and reign with the Lord Jesus Christ. It is now that we develop that character and the qualities that will be needed to function as leaders in that future environment.