Who Glories in Tribulation?

"We glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation works patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope; and hope makes not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost, which is given to us" (Romans 5:3-5).

Who glories in tribulation? Most of would us would run miles to escape it; yet if we know the grace in which we stand, and if the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost given to us, and if we know the end to be secured by the tribulation, we shall glory in it. The One who loves us has supreme control of all things; and if so, what then? Well, we reason, if He permits tribulation it must be for our good and blessing and in view of what is to come. Therefore we will go through it with Him.

R.C.Trench in his "Study of Words" has a very interesting explanation of the word tribulation. He says, "The word is derived from the Latin 'tribulum', which was the threshing instrument or roller whereby the husbandmen separated the corn from the husks; and the 'tribulatio' in its primary significance was the act of separation. But some Latin writer of the Christian church appropriated the word and image for the setting forth of a higher truth; sorrow, distress and adversity being the appointed means for separating in men of whatever in them is light, trivial and poor from the solid and the true; the chaff from the wheat."

No figure could be more striking and nothing could be more encouraging for us than the thought that tribulation is to get rid of the chaff that is in us that the wheat may remain. It is evidently necessary, and we need not fear. We shall not be the losers in any way for we are assured that if we are in God's hands, "yet shall not the least grain fall upon the earth" (Amos 9:9).

Tribulation tests the metal of the soul, it does more, it tempers it, as steel is tempered, and it works endurance in us, and "Blessed is the man that endureth temptation; for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord has promised to them that love Him" (Jas. 1:12).

Tribulation works patience, and patience experience, and experience hope. As we endure in tribulation we come to an experimental knowledge of ourselves, and of God's way with us, and in subjection to His holy will we have the compensating grace that He pours into our souls. Moreover we begin to see the end He has in view. We are not like Job was, for he, poor man, went through his tribulation without knowing the "why" of it; but we, who have heard of his patience, have also seen the end of the Lord. He has not kept us in ignorance as to our destiny. He has predestined us to be "conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the First-born among many brethren" (Rom. 8:29).

Tribulation purges the soul from earthly-mindedness; and unseen, eternal things become more real to us; hope becomes strong. Our hope will not disappoint us, for we know the love that has promised and prepared the glory yet to come. We are assured of this by the indwelling Spirit, who is the Earnest of the glory, and who makes the love of God real to us now in the midst of tribulation.

Really hope lies behind this rejoicing in tribulation: the ultimate, the goal, becomes great before our eyes and we measure the immediate in the light of it. It was this that Paul meant when he wrote, "Our light affliction, which is but for a moment, works for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal" (2 Cor. 4:17-18). If the hope that faith awakens in the heart were not in a man he could not rejoice in tribulation; to be in tribulation without hope would be a miserable experience. Faith and hope and love go together and they grow and develop in the soul as we go through tribulation with God.

This hope that makes not ashamed and carries the Christian triumphantly through all his tribulation is not like the "hope that springs eternal in the human breast" and that withers and perishes at the breath of death; it is directed towards God and His Word, it is sure and certain, with a sure anchorage. The word has taken on the meaning of uncertainty in human language, for as likely as not, the best hopes in this life end in disappointment. But the Christian hope is something guaranteed to him by the immutable Word of God, which he does not yet possess. He is a child of God, an heir of God and a joint heir with Christ Jesus, and the heirs must come into the inheritance; meanwhile, he knows that all things — every stroke of the tribulum — works together in God's ways with him for good. Just as surely as he will be conformed to the image of God's Son, so now all these things, while he waits for that glorious consummation, are working to a moral conformity to Christ now, they are removing the chaff that the pure grain may abide. Or to use the figure from the sculptor's studio, "As the stone wastes the image appears."

Let us dwell more upon the coming glories, and sing about them more, and turn the attention of our brethren in the Lord towards them, and more continually "look sunward, and with faces golden, speak to each other softly of our hope."