The apostle Paul had a way with words. That kind of goes without saying.
A keen ability to string a group of words together to make a point without having to write too many extra pages.
In chapter 5: 1-2, of his letter to the Church at Rome he starts off by summarizing his understanding of what constitutes our relationship with God.
It all begins with Jesus and because of what He has done for us, we enjoy a relationship with God based on a faithful acceptance of God’s gift of grace as opposed to our having to make sacrifices or do anything to actually gain God’s favour.
So we stand in God’s grace, and live in a state of hope for what God has planned for us.
Then he gets creative by stringing together the thoughts that suffering produces endurance which leads to character which develops hope, there’s that word again, and finally it’s all supported by the Love of God that is poured into our very being by the Spirit of God.
You might say that sums up the remaining 65 books of the Bible and end it there or you might wish, as I did, to dissect Paul’s progression of thought.
From suffering to Love.
With endurance and character and hope in between.
The Older King James version used the word tribulation for suffering.
Not a term we use much these days. More like something that is depicted in movies of days gone by.
Newer translations such as the New International Version talk of suffering and others of trouble.
Similar to the trouble they had “right here in River City, and it starts with a T and it sounds like P and it stands for pool.”
That’s a totally ridiculous comment to those of you not familiar with that classic play “Music Man.”
But as I often say… I digress.
Forget trouble for a moment.
I looked at a web site I have used before, giving the original Greek words and their translation and the word scholars have translated trouble, suffering etc. is actually constrictions, more closely related to afflictions.
And aren’t we living in a time of constrictions.
Feeling like afflictions.
Constricted from every activity we have taken for granted like visiting family and friends, attending church, going to the theatre to see Music Man, even just going to the store to get the essentials.
So Paul as much as says that in this time of constriction we develop endurance. The ability to take what comes our way and stand firm and gain strength and deal with it.
Paul will later close this idea by telling us that it is in God’s love that we gain this strength and ability to not let it get us down, I guess because what’s the opposite of enduring, could it be unravelling.
So, difficulties help us develop endurance which builds up our character.
Character is basically who we are or better said who we have become as we have dealt with the issues of life.
Finally, Paul says that all of this life experience, when we deal with it with the help of God’s Spirit, founded on love, leads us to hope.
You remember hope. Not the girl from school, the second of the great attributes that Paul said were the three greatest supports in life. Faith Hope and Love. 1 Corinthians 13
So, with everything else we are dealing with: thirty plus degree of heat; chairs six feet apart in memorial hall as we come to worship; hearing the tune to great hymns but only humming and not singing the words; and all the other constrictions on our lives we are still called to be people of Hope, grounded in the Love of God as we are directed by the Holy Spirit.