"It Builds Character" [Devotion]

“It builds character,” if you haven’t said it you’ve at least heard it. A lot of times people will throw this phrase out in the face of hard times or difficult challenges and it’s surprisingly Biblical.

Romans 5:3-5 says, “Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”

I want to focus in on the list presented here. Paul says that we rejoice in our sufferings. Now I can’t speak for you but if I’m honest I can’t say that I usually rejoice in suffering. But Paul doesn’t just say that he gives the reason why we can and should rejoice in our suffering. Because, “suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame,” Whatever difficulty you’re going through produces endurance, if you stand in Christ. Think about exercise, it is those who push through the correct strain that will become strong and endure. What Paul is saying, much like in Romans 8:28, God is working through and allowing these difficulties and even tragedies to make you more like His Son. By pushing through them in, Christ, we will gain in strength and patient endurance to be more ready for whatever God has next. But it doesn’t stop there.

Paul goes on to say that endurance has it’s own byproduct because endurance produces character. It’s interesting that the Greek word δοκιμή (dah-key-may) that is translated as character literally means “proof“. It was the word used for metals that had been tested to show their purity. The endurance of standing in the trials produces a proof of quality. And since Paul is writing to believers we are expecting that proof to demonstrate the strength of Christ and His character through the life of the believer.

And from that Christlike character we move into hope! In the midst of these trials as we see the Lord giving us endurance and producing a proven character we can remember that, “…he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.“ (Philippians 1:6b). We know that the source of our strength, the One who gives purpose to our suffering and makes good out of trials, that the One who loved us enough to die for us will not abandon us in our struggle! What greater hope can ther be than that?! It’s not a temporary hope or even a hope without a goal in sight but a hope that comes from the promise of resurrection and new life through Christ Jesus! At the end of the day all these trials and struggles will be gone but Christ and the work He has done in us will remain.

What if you feel as though you don’t have the strength to get the ball rolling? After all it says that endurance produces character. What if you don’t think you can endure? Don’t forget that Paul says that endurance comes from suffering. But you have to stand in the suffering for there to be endurance. Is Paul saying that you have to endure to gain the strength to endure? I think the key to understanding this is found in what he says right before he launches into his list, “…we rejoice in our suffering…“ Oh great… back to that.

Nehemiah 8:10 says, “…do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” The joy of the Lord is our strength! Paul says we rejoice in suffering because we know what it will produce! Rejoicing in the Lord in our time of trial, going to Him for emotional, spiritual, any and all support is what gives the strength to stand, to endure, to be proven, to hope.

So if we wanted to break it down we see that by turning to God through the joy of the Lord when we are suffering He gives us the strength to endure. When we endure trials God is proving the character that He is building in us and when we see that the Lord has given strength, that the strength has enabled us to endure, that the endurance has built a proven character, then that all gives us hope! Not a hope founded in fantasy or academic debate but a hope founded in the faithful character of God Himself!!!!

So I hope that in any trials we face that we will rejoice in the Lord so that His strength will continue to shape us into the image of His son!