What is it about people that we want a 12-step process to accomplish things? Or 7-step? Or 3-step? People just seem to want a step-by-step procedure for accomplishing a task or recovering from a disaster or to lose weight. What is it about step-by-step processes that is so alluring?
I know even I want a step-by-step explanation of things sometimes. I think it has something to do with breaking a subject down into smaller pieces so they’re easier to wrap our heads around. Maybe that’s just me. But that’s why I like step-by-step proceedures. . . . although, I don’t buy those 12-step program type books. As those are only just someone’s opinions of the 12-steps you need to accomplish something. And maybe taking someone else’s opinion is good sometimes, but I prefer to find my own way around certain circumstances.
The verses this morning made me think of a step-by-step process. I love the process verses in the Bible because they make so much sense and they don’t read like an instruction manual.
Today’s passage is Romans 5:3-4.
3 We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. 4 And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.
We can rejoice today, no matter what situation we’re in. Why?
Because we know that problems and trials help us develop endurance.
What is endurance? It’s perseverance. It’s dedication. It’s loyalty. It’s sticktoitiveness (I love that word). It means when life knocks you down, you get back up again. The Amplified Version uses the term fortitude. It’s being unshakable.
Problems and trials in our lives make us stronger. I don’t make a habit of quoting Nietzsche, but he is the one who said, “What does not destroy me, makes me stronger.” And it’s true. When you live through something tough or difficult, you learn how to survive. And then when life gets back to “normal,” you’ll find that the small bumps in the road are less distracting and less upsetting because you already made it through something worse.
But it doesn’t stop there. Because these verses say that endurance develops strength of character.
Absolutely! Because you have to have a very strong character to endure any sort of difficulty.
I’ve heard it said that character is who you are when no one else is looking. When you aren’t in the spotlight and when no one else is paying attention and when no one will give you a reward for doing the right thing, do you still do the right thing? If you do the right thing because it’s the right thing, that’s character.
If you remain loyal to a friend who hurts you because it’s the right thing to do, that’s character. If you fall down when you’re trying to help someone and get back up again because it’s the right thing to do, that’s character. If you persevere in doing the right thing even though you won’t receive any accolades for doing it, that’s character.
Actually, that’s character borne of endurance. And the more you learn to endure, the more character you will develop.
But it doesn’t stop there either. Because according to these verses, character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.
The Amplified Version states this verse as follows:
4And endurance (fortitude) develops maturity of character (approved faith and tried integrity). And character [of this sort] produces [the habit of] joyful and confident hope of eternal salvation.
It says, “the habit of joyful and confident hope of eternal salvation.”
The habit of hope.
According to this, hope isn’t just a fleeting feeling you experience as a child or during a starry night or while watching a romantic movie or something ridiculous like that. Hope is something you need to develop as a habit.
You aren’t born with habits. You develop them. And it takes time and effort and patience to develop any habit you live with currently, whether it’s a good habit or a bad one.
Once you have endured trials and suffering and have developed the strength of character needed to always do the right thing no matter what the circumstances, you will have developed the habit of hope — joyful and confident hope in your salvation.
Hope that no matter where you go or where you came from or how far you fall, God will always love you.
Hope that no matter how rough life might get or how discouraging your situation might be, God always has a plan.
Hope that God knows what He’s doing even when it feels like your life is falling apart.
But that sort of hope doesn’t come about just because you want it to. And maybe there are some 12-step books out there who will tell you that, but hope on that level — habitual hope — can only come through trials and sufferings that God remains faithful through.