Devotion for the Week...
Nathan, in grade 3, still has spelling words each week with a test on Friday. He really prefers it when the words for the week are easy and he doesn't have to work very hard to learn them. If he knows them already, that's even better!
The weeks that he doesn't know the words already and they're not easy to learn, we sometimes have small battles over whether or not he can do it. I've tried explaining that the whole point of spelling words and tests is that it pushes students to learn something new and grow their minds, but he still doesn't like struggling through the list each evening.
Can you relate? I know I can. Maybe not with learning something new, since I kind of enjoy that, but I certainly don't like it when I'm dealing with something in life that is hard.
In the grand scheme of things, spelling words are one of the smallest hard things a person will deal with. There are so many in life that are so much bigger, from health challenges to financial trouble and family conflicts. Problems at work and children making choices contrary to what they've been taught is right...the list goes on and on and on.
Wouldn't it be better if life was always easy?
Wouldn't it be better if we already knew all the answers?
Unfortunately, no. While we may like the thought of taking the easy road through everything and never needing to struggle to overcome a challenge, the Bible teaches us that those struggles and hard times are actually good for us. Romans 5:3,4 says, "Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope."
Life might feel better in the moment if we never have to deal with hard things, but you can be sure our growth would be stunted if that were the case. Think about it...Nathan's literacy won't
grow unless he works hard at learning to recognize and spell harder and
harder words. We understand that it's necessary for kids to work at their schooling because we know that their knowledge and understanding need to grow.
Well, it's the same for us adults, but it's our spiritual understanding and knowledge that need to grow. Let's look at the three things Paul says are produced in us through dealing with hard times.
Perseverance is continuing
to do something even when it's hard, or when you're not seeing results
as quickly as you would like. It's
not giving up, not quitting as soon as you encounter trouble. Isn't
that a trait we all want in our lives? None of us intend to turn away from God at the first sign of difficult days, but that is exactly what happens to some people, because they fail to cling to Him through those hard times. They lack perseverance. And yet, the only way to grow
perseverance is to deal with things that are hard, things that require
you to continue on in faith despite the hardships and difficulty.
Then we come to character. In this verse, the implication is that this is approved character, tested and shown to be of worth. This character only comes through perseverance, by continuing on through tough times and not giving up at the first hint of trouble.
And lastly, the word translated as hope, elpis, means 'expectation of what is sure.' I think of it as an understanding of God's steadfastness, of his sure-ness. In the midst of a world that is changing and sometimes difficult, God is always present, always in control and always on our side. Understanding that is a sign of spiritual maturity, but, again, it only comes through dealing with things that are hard.
While we may want to live lives of ease all the time, it is only through struggles and difficulties that we grow.