The Perfect Sequence
I love the sequence laid out in this Scripture. I've seen it played out in my life throughout the years and especially throughout these last several days. I tend to throw myself into a pity party when I get sick. I get down partly because of the illness, partly because of the medicines I have to take to get well, and mostly because of myself.
The message of this Scripture doesn't necessarily speak to illnesses like sinus infections, red throat, red ears, respiratory viruses and bronchitis, though. It speaks to life. Oh, how I I tend to miss the first part - rejoicing - in times of suffering! Let's go on a journey and look at the perfect sequence of this Scripture.
The Greek word for rejoice is kauchaomai. This big word is a verb, which implies action. It's an ongoing thing. It means:
1) to glory (whether with reason or without)
2) to glory on account of a thing
3) to glory in a thing
Whatever our circumstances are, we can rejoice in the midst of it, whether we have reason to or not. What do we rejoice in? The situation? Sure. It's hard, but we can rejoice when illness strikes, when a loved one dies, when dreaded news is delivered or when the economy takes a downward spiral. We can rejoice when jobs are lost or wickedness rules the earth. When morality has taken a nose-dive and we see the love wax cold. Why? Because we know that God works everything out for His own glory.
"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." ~ Romans 8:28 (NIV)
While we don't rejoice because of our suffering, we can rejoice in the midst of them. How?
Through faith. We know that faith is the victory that overcomes the world. Why? Our faith is in God! God is the ultimate Victor!
"for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God." ~ 1 John 5:4-5 (NIV)
The Greek word for suffering here is thlipsis. This word means:
1) a pressing, pressing together, pressure
2) metaph. oppression, affliction, tribulation, distress, straits
Who among us has not experienced suffering in the forms listed above? The pressure of life is largely due to sin in the world. We live in a fallen world and are under the curse of the land and people given by God back in the day when Adam and Eve made a very wrong choice. We were not promised a life of ease and care-free living here on earth, but what we are promised is that if we trust in God He will see us through our suffering. He will never forsake us.
"Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you." ~ Psalm 9:10 (NIV)
Our suffering is not meaningless. It produces something within us and around us that is for God's ultimate glory.
The Greek word for perseverance is hypomonē. It means:
1) steadfastness, constancy, endurance
a) in the NT the characteristic of a man who is not swerved from his deliberate purpose and his loyalty to faith and piety by even the greatest trials and sufferingsb) patiently, and steadfastly
2) a patient, steadfast waiting for
3) a patient enduring, sustaining, perseverance
Enduring suffering is not an easy task. We are taken through grief, sadness, shock, hurt, anger, confusion and a whole list of emotions that could easily fill a book. If we remain steadfast and endure, learning to be patient as we go through these, we are promised a reward.
"Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him." ~ James 1:12 (NIV)
The same word for persevere is used in Romans 5:3-4! Perserverance has its rewards. God has promised to reward us as we persevere and endure our trials. It's not easy to go through them but God is with us every step of the way. He never abandons us as we endure.
"For the LORD will not reject his people; he will never forsake his inheritance." ~ Psalm 94:14 (NIV)
As Christians, we are the Lord's inheritance. If you are Jewish, you are priveleged to be the first love of God. As Gentiles, we have been grafted into the branch and have received that inheritance as well. See Romans 11 for more on this subject.
I rejoice that His love is everlasting and that He will never forsake me.
Whatever our trials are, we must lean on God to get us through them. He will help us to endure.
The next step in this sequence is character. We have rejoiced in our sufferings, persevered in our trials and are promised that character is built.
The Greek word for character is dokimē. This precious noun means:
1) proving, trial
2) approved, tried character
3) a proof, a specimen of tried worth
We are living proof and have been approved and tried by God through our rejoicing, suffering and endurance.
"For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." ~ Ephesians 2:10 (NIV)
We're ready to do what Christ has called us to do because He has enabled us to do it. He has prepared for us works that we probably couldn't have done had we not gone through the first part of this sequence.
One of the biggest trials in my life that I faced was infertility and the loss of a child to miscarriage. Sydney Michel was born and went to be with the Lord at an early age on July 20, 1998. Because I persevered, not by my own strength but by God's, I am now able to help and encourage other women who have gone through this same tragedy. I have been given a gift to find words to strengthen them and lift them up and encourage them that loss is not all there is. There is a hope for them yet. I've also endured some emotional and verbal abuse as a child from an alcholic father. My father is a recovered alcoholic, praise the Lord, and I have been able to take the lessons I have learned through the suffering of that period of my life and help others.
Similarly, I have been helped by others who have endured trials. While I won't name names, there is someone who has been particularly encouraging to me as she has a relative who is enduring an illness suffered by a family member of mine. She has been a tremendous source of encouragement to me and I have found hope in the character developed through the rejoicing, suffering and perseverance she has undergone.
I love this next one! Hope! Oh, precious hope.
The Greek word for hope used here is elpis. This word means:
1) expectation of evil, fear
2) expectation of good, hope
a) in the Christian sense
1) joyful and confident expectation of eternal salvation
3) on hope, in hope, having hope
a) the author of hope, or he who is its foundation
b) the thing hoped for
We run through the gamut of emotions and look for things to cling to when we reach this phase of the sequence. We have can have the hope of evil or fear or we can have the hope of good. As we see above, in the Christian sense, it can be a joyful and confident hope! Our hope should always be in Christ, my friend. Our hope in Him does not disappoint. It is what brings us out of the pit!
"He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand." ~ Psalm 40:2 (NIV)
Just as God lifted the Psalmist out of the slimy pit, He is our hope to lift us up out of the sufferings we have endured.
"...weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning." ~ Psalm 30:5 (NIV)
Our suffering does not last forever. We have the expectation of hope that God will prevail. He truly is the thing hoped for in every aspect of this sequence.
Love is the string that wraps this sequence of suffering, perservance, character and hope all neatly in the box in the end.
The Greek word for love in this verse is agapē. It means:
1) affection, good will, love, benevolence, brotherly love
2) love feasts
It's root word is agapaō, which means:
1) of persons
a) to welcome, to entertain, to be fond of, to love dearly
2) of things
a) to be well pleased, to be contented at or with a thing
God pours this kind of love into our hearts for others. He gives it to us through the power of His Holy Spirit. He is the epitome of all these things and gives us this love to extend to others as we have gone through suffering, perserverance, character and hope.
This love speaks of faith and hope that drives us to rejoicing through the suffering, propels us into perserverance, enables our character to be developed and beckons us to hope. Love is the foundation of the whole sequence of these events.
Are you suffering? I would encourage you to persevere. Perseverance is what really caught my attention in this sequence in the first place.
"Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. " ~ Proverbs 3:5-6 (NIV)
Rejoicing, suffering, perseverance, character, hope and love are all based on trust in the Living God.
Father, Mighty God, King of kings and Lord of lords, enable us under Your mighty power to trust in you as we persevere through life's problems. Your Word says in Hebrews 10:36 that we need to persevere so that when we have done Your will, we will receive what You have promised. We know one of your promises to those of us who believe in You and have taken Your Son as our personal Savior and Lord is eternal life. Help us to persevere and run the race marked out for us with Your help and strength. Thank You for giving us endurance under Your mighty hand and perfecting Your love in us. Help us to receive encouragement from those who have suffered before us, and help us to give encouragement through our sufferings to ease the load of others. Most of all, let it all be wrapped in love and for Your glory, Lord. Trusting that perseverance pays off in the victory of eternal life through the Matchless Name of our Savior and Lord, Amen.
P - Proceed through trials with God's good help. "May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen." ~ Hebrews 13:20-21 (NIV)
E - Endure hardships with the peace of God. "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. " ~ Philippians 4:6-7 (NIV)
R - Remain steadfast in the trusting the Lord. "You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you. Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD, the LORD, is the Rock eternal." ~ Isaiah 26:3-4 (NIV)
S - Stand firm against the Enemy. "Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings. " ~ 1 Peter 5:8-9 (NIV)
E - Encourage yourself by reading the Bible daily. "For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope." ~ Romans 15:4 (NIV)
V - Visualize God pulling you up from the pit. "He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand." ~ Psalm 40:2 (NIV)
E - Expect the help of the Lord. "In the morning, O LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation." ~ Psalm 5:3 (NIV)
R - Reach out to God and to others for prayer during suffering, no matter what the cause. "Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven." ~ James 5:13-15 (NIV)
A - Accept instruction from godly men and women. "Listen to advice and accept instruction, and in the end you will be wise." ~ Proverbs 19:20 (NIV)
N - Never forget God's love and faithfulness. "Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness." ~ Lamentations 3:21-23 (NIV)
C - Continue to praise God. "Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice. Look to the LORD and his strength; seek his face always." ~ 1 Chronicles 16:10-11 (NIV)
E - Embrace the victory that will come through the Lord. "But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." ~ 1 Corinthians 15:57 (NIV)
Look familiar? This is yet another re-run, originally posted March 4, 2009. I'm getting there. Life is busy at work, at home, and my computer is on its last leg. I am shopping for a new one maybe next week. Aunt Dolores, who lived Proverbs 31:25-26 out loud, passed away today, and I thought this post would help me reconcile grief with rejoicing. As I have read through this post, it has! I hope this message touches your heart today and helps you relaize that the perfect sequence is rooted in Christ. As always, if you don't know my Jesus, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me introduce you. Your life will NEVER be the same again, I can promise you that!