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Why this is important: Hope is bundled together with tribulations, perseverance and proven character. It is a result of love that saturates through the explosive work of God’s Holy Spirit.

And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

Romans 5:3–5

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Here “in our tribulations” means “in the midst of and because of” the tribulations we experience in carrying on the work of the Master.

But how was it possible for the apostle to exult in sufferings? How can suffering—here probably especially tribulation for the sake of the Messiah and the gospel—be regarded as a blessing? In 2 Cor. 12:7–10. Note especially verse 9, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

In this connection two facts should be borne in mind:

  • An afflicted believer’s own weakness, by way of contrast, serves to magnify God’s power.
  • It is exactly when the sufferer recognizes that he is weak, but God is strong and ready to help that he will seek help from above. Since this help is sufficient, his faith will be strengthened. Thus, suffering brings about perseverance.

Although it is true that perseverance (strength to bear up under plus the persistent application of this strength) is the result of the operation of the Holy Spirit in the hearts and lives of God’s children, it implies human action. It is by no means a passive quality. The person who has it perseveres. He holds on to what he has, is faithful even to the point of death.

Perseverance produces proven character, that is, character that has sustained the test to which it was subjected.

With respect to this “test” see Zech. 13:9, “I will refine them like silver and test them like gold.” Just as the refining fire of the goldsmith frees gold and silver from the impurities which in the natural state cling to them, so also the patient endurance or perseverance of God’s children purifies them, that is, by the operation of the Holy Spirit brings about “proven” character, a character that has successfully sustained the fiery test.

It is immediately clear that consciousness, on their part, of the fact that they have sustained the test, so that God’s approval rests on them, will strengthen their hope. A proven character brings about hope. So, in this example of chain reasoning we are back to the hope mentioned in verse two.

  • Psalm 31:2 — 2 Incline Your ear to me, rescue me quickly; Be to me a rock of strength, A stronghold to save me.
  • Isaiah 40:31 — 31 Yet those who wait for the Master Will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary.
  • Isaiah 49:23 — 23 “Kings will be your guardians, And their princesses your nurses. They will bow down to you with their faces to the earth and lick the dust of your feet; And you will know that I am the Master; Those who hopefully wait for Me will not be put to shame.

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Source: William Hendriksen and Simon J. Kistemaker, Exposition of Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, vol. 12–13, New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1953–2001), 170–171.