I’ve read Acts 14:22 dozens of times. In the past, I always thought Paul simply meant that on the road to entering the kingdom, we will happen to encounter many tribulations. However, after a recent study of Romans 5:3-5, I think Paul may have been making a different point.
Instead of simply saying tribulations litter the path to the kingdom. I think he is pointing out that tribulation is the path. Look at Romans 5:3-5.
“More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that the suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 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 give to us.”
Suffering produces endurance, endurance produces character and character produces hope. Our hope doesn’t put us to shame because it is not just wishful thinking but an earnest expectation and we know God will do what He has promised. But what happens if we remove suffering from this path? Where is the endurance? If there is no endurance, where is the character? If there is no character, where is the hope? Do you see the point? Without suffering we have no hope.
Tribulations are not merely something we happen along as we walk God’s path to the kingdom, they are the path to the kingdom. I’m not saying we have to be beaten to go to heaven. I’m not saying we have to go to prison to enter the kingdom. There are definitely degrees of tribulation and suffering. Further, I don’t think the suffering has to necessarily be strictly persecution for being a Christian. Maybe the suffering is an illness or a layoff.
In any event, it is the sufferings and tribulations we go through that discipline us to have the character of Christ which offers us hope of eternity with Christ. Do not wish to be set free from tribulations. If that request is granted, then you will be set from from the kingdom of heaven. Rather, pray for the strength to endure the tribulation that you may have proven character and hope. This hope will not put you to shame.
Keep the faith and keep reading,
P.S. If you would like to read/hear the lesson I presented on Romans 5:3-5 that prompted this understanding, go to the following link: A Three Step Plan to Rejoice While Suffering
P.P.S. What did you get out of today’s reading?