Romans 5:3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope (ESV)
Here is a quote from a Facebook post:
Suffering is a wonderful fertilizer for the roots of character. The great objective of this life is character, for it is the only thing we can carry with us into eternity. And gaining as much of the highest character possible is the purpose of our trials. Austin Phelps
The question is “is this quote true?”
I can’t say I know Austin or what he was thinking when he said this. In my experience this kind of statement is a way of saying “when bad stuff happens we get to be better people when we make better choices.” How do you interpret something like this? Hopefully I can bring a fresh perspective about character and what the Bible says about character. It might be a little different from what you have been taught before.
Did you know that the word “character” is not in the King James translation of the Bible? Here is Romans 5:4 in the King James:
Romans 5:4 And patience, experience; and experience, hope: (KJV)
The Greek word translated as experience is dokimē which is translated in the KJV as proof (3x), experience (2x), trial (1x), experiment (1x). It comes from the Greek word dokimos which means proven or accepted. The word refers to the people who could be trusted to use properly weighted or acceptable money (non-counterfeit or shaved down) back when money was coins made by the people not distributed by the government. So you could say that this word that is translated as “character” could be translated as “experience that something has proven worth.”
Now back to Romans chapter 5. Look at the first 5 verses of the chapter so we can see our “character” issues in context:
Romans 5:1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith,we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 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.
Let me point out another few words for clarity. The word suffering in the KJV is the word tribulation. It comes from the tribulation stone that they rolled over the grain to crack it open and separate the kernel of grain from the husk. So it is a word that means pressure or weight. The word endurance means to have consistent patience. The word shame means that we are not disgraced or deceived or disappointed because our hope is not founded.
So in the Lance Literal Translation (LLT) I would say this section of scripture could read:
Romans 5:1-5 In our faith we are justified and at peace with God and are covered by His grace because of Jesus. We actually rejoice in the goodness of God towards us and that is where our hope lies. This hope is so great that when the pressure comes we don’t have to get excited and impatient because we know that God is proven and consistent towards us. He never waivers. This trust in Him produces confidence in Him. We can always be certain in the hope we have because we actually know His love for us through the Holy Spirit inside us. (LLT)
This is what it says in the Message:
Romans 5:3-5 There’s more to come: We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit! (MSG)
I believe the religious focuses on us, when the Gospel focuses on Jesus. When be begin to believe that in and have confidence in our own self-improvement effort we are actually shutting ourselves off from God’s grace. To think that our character is something that is independently obtained through self-improvement programs and better self-focused decision-making is to deny the finished work of Jesus and the very goodness of God towards us. He wants His dependent children aware of and reliant on only Him. Our “character” is proven ability to turn to Him and believe in His goodness towards us. Without Jesus you couldn’t save yourself. Why do we believe the lie that once our “sins are forgiven” we suddenly have this amazing power to change ourselves? When the pressure comes we surrender more not grab onto our bootstraps. It is His victory we live from not ours to achieve.
So I believe our “character flaws” are only one…we don’t believe in Him. When you see how good God is, how much He loves us as our Abba, how delighted He is with His children, how Jesus on the cross was enough for God to forget our sins, and so much more, our character is made perfect in our surrender to our loving Father. We get to carry this experience (character) with us forever.