The Means God Uses to Instill Hope

Paul tells us in Romans 5:3-5, “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; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”

Sometimes putting a lasso around hope while in the midst of trials seems nigh unto impossible, and then can be even more difficult to keep ahold of once we have it. That’s why what Paul says in Romans 5:3-5 is so helpful for us. Paul’s ability to rejoice in his tribulations comes from knowing those difficult trials will produce a hope in which there is no shame or disappointment (Romans 5:5). 

Oh my. This is already so convicting. Really, Paul? Exulting in your tribulations? I’d like to say I’m exulting in my trials. I have my moments, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say I’m really rejoicing in my trials. What’s the difference between your heart and mine? And more importantly, how can I learn to rejoice in my tribulations the way you do in yours?

Okay, so what do we have here? Well, the end result of tribulations is hope—emphasis on end result. Often, when we’re gasping for air, trying to wrestle down hope to gain some relief, we create a short bridge in our minds from verse 3 “we exult in our tribulations” to verse 5 and the “hope that doesn’t disappoint.” I think it’s safe to say most in-the-midst-of-trials people are “hope challenged.” It’s why we so quickly make the jump in our minds from “tribulations” to “hope that doesn’t disappoint.” There’s just one problem. We miss the means God uses to grant us that non-disappointing hope.

Romans 5:3-4 tells us how we can gain hope. First, we gain hope through persevering in our trials (Romans 5:3). That’s worth saying again—trials produce perseverance in us. They are the best means God uses to build this all important character quality in us. Christians are “perseverers.” We are overcomers. True believers make it through the valley to the other side because God ensures that we do. That’s why Paul rejoices at his trials because they have taught him to keep hanging on.

Perseverance is wrought when difficulties continue, when one trial after another after another assails us. Yet, it’s important to understand perseverance won’t grow into hope if it’s stagnant. An inert perseverance just sits there like a lump, gritting out the trial with an attitude like Vizzini in “The Princess Bride.” “I’m waiting!” he exclaimed petulantly. If we’re not careful our “endurance” can turn inward and selfish, hardly the character quality God desires in us, and certainly not the kind of perseverance to produce hope in our hearts. If we want to gain a hope-producing perseverance then we need to anchor our thoughts in the Word of God.

Paul said later in his letter to the believers in Rome, “For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope (Romans 15:4).” Notice the correlation between perseverance, the Scriptures, and hope. It’s that combination of enduring joined with God’s Word that produces hope.

So we need to ask: What Scriptures encourage you to persevere? And how can you bind them more tightly to your heart?

Second, Paul explains the second step to gaining hope in Romans 5:4. Paul exults in his tribulations because he knows that those endurance-producing, patience-instilling trials prove or reveal his character. James 1:12 gives us more insight into  what Paul means here. James writes, “Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.” The bottom line is trials reveal who you really are—and, more importantly, where your allegiance lies. Thomas Manton wrote, “Our afflictions reveal our state of mind; when we see outward crosses as the greatest evil, God is not our main happiness.”[1] Trials prove, reveal, and test the deeper parts of our hearts. They bring to the light the true anchor of our souls.

Proven character as a result of perseverance reveals you belong to the Lord, for only those who are His keep returning to Him. No matter how miserably we fail, no matter how discouraged we become, we keep looking to Jesus. “If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself (2 Timothy 2:13).”

John Witmer comments on this passage saying, “As believers suffer, they develop steadfastness; that quality deepens their character; and a deepened, tested character results in hope (i.e., confidence) that God will see them through.”[2] This is exactly what James was getting at when he wrote in his epistle, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing (James 1:2-4).” 

So we need to ask: What Scriptures strengthen your soul? How can you actively apply them in your present circumstances?

And finally, with the persevering through trials and the encouragement that our faith is genuine, we gain hope. It’s a special hope that relies upon the great love Jesus has for us. We may not understand what is happening in our lives—or why, but we do understand this one thing, “Jesus died for me. No matter what happens in my life, that truth never changes.” We’ll never be sorry or disappointed that we trusted in Jesus in the midst of our trials. We won’t be ashamed for resting on the One who holds us (Deuteronomy 33:27). Warren Wiersbe said, “Before we were saved, God proved His love by sending Christ to die for us. Now that we are His children, surely He will love us more. It is the inner experience of this love through the Spirit that sustains us as we go through tribulations.”[3]

Some things to take away from Romans 5:3-5:

  • Tribulations produce endurance in the heart of a believer.
  • God teaches us about Himself in the “school of endurance.”
  • Your endurance, your perseverance, your patient waiting brings glory to the Lord.
  • Your trials, and your enduring in them, reveal the true state of your heart. This “proven character” is great cause for rejoicing because it reveals that you are “new creature in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17).”
  • Difficulties sweeten the Scriptures. The darkness helps us value even the smallest amounts of light.

“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; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us (Romans 5:3-5).” As Paul closed his letter in the book of Romans, he prayed, “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:13).”

Oh dear Father of Hope who will never disappoint us, may You fulfill Your Word to Your children. Help us learn to persevere—and to do it well. Let us find delight in the proving of our character and may others see You in us. May You fill us with joy in our tribulations and peace in the troubles, while we actively put our trust in You. Let us take comfort and strength in the love You pour out in our hearts. And may we enjoy a lavish abundance of hope through the kindness of Your Holy Spirit who resides in us.

[1] Thomas Manton, “Happy in Affliction,” Be Still, My Soul: Embracing God’s Purpose and Provision in Suffering, ed. Nancy Guthrie (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2010), 143. 

[2] John A. Witmer, “Romans,” The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 456.

[3] Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996), 527.