Boasting in Tribulations

Boasting in Tribulations

Author: Pastor Jonathan Edwards
October 01, 2023

Romans 5:3

Dear friends, I want to address a question that many misunderstand or perhaps are unwilling to confront. Spoken plainly, the question is, “If God loves us, and God has saved us, why does he allow us to go through suffering and tribulations?”

Perhaps first, we should ask and answer: what exactly are “tribulations?” The Louw-Nida Greek dictionary says that “tribulations are...that which causes pain.”
Your pain could be emotional or physical. It could be a longing unfulfilled or a physical ailment that you must endure.
Tribulations are most often brought about by external circumstances – you didn’t plan or intend for the pain, but in the course of life, pain happened!

  • Death of a loved one or close friend.
  • Loss of a job
  • Broken relationships due to sin and lack of repentance
  • Broken relationships due to the transforming power of the Gospel – that you have become saved, and your obedience to Christ has strained your relationships with family or close friends who are unsaved.
  • Physical persecution because you’ve taken a stand for God’s truth.

If you stop and think about it, you could name many other causes of our tribulations.

Sufferings and tribulations aren’t new and they aren’t uncommon. Ever since Adam ate of the forbidden fruit, the human race has suffered the innumerable consequences of sin. The vast majority of us are peace and comfort-loving people: we want to get over and get out of suffering as quickly as possible. If it were up to us, we would avoid suffering altogether and in fact, many of us (if we’re very honest) avoid suffering by any means necessary.

  • Got weeds to pull on a hot summer day? Hire the neighbor boy!
  • Need to lose weight to improve health? Let me buy a diet pill rather than exercise and eat right.
  • Take the Gospel to the remotest parts of the earth? Here’s my money – send someone else who’s “more fit” for the work!

Some of these examples may seem extreme, but if you examine your heart, you may find there is more truth to these sentiments that you care to admit.

Due to our tendency to avoid suffering, when tribulations come into our lives, our first thought is: “How can I make this stop?” Often, our next thought is, “Why is this happening to me? God, this seems unfair!” Our third response is usually some form of grumbling or complaining or throwing a pity-party (poor me!) and praying to God to take away our suffering.

With an ingrained attitude of ungratefulness towards tribulations, how do we even begin to process a passage like Romans 5:1-11, especially verse 3?

Challenge: As a believer, I need to learn to think about my tribulations the way that God does. Therefore, I should ask myself, “How can I accomplish this task?”  

The First Step to thinking correctly about tribulations is to practice The Right Kind of Boasting.

You might be saying, “Wait a Bible doesn’t say “boasting” – where did you come up with that?”

  • The Greek word commonly translated “boast” is used in verses 2, 3, and 11 of Romans 5.
  • The NASB translates this word as “exult;” the ESV, NIV, and CSB all say “rejoice.”
  • Why do I think “boast” is a good choice? There are two kinds of boasting, and when you understand the difference, you’ll see why “boast” is a good choice.

1. Definition of Sinful “Boasting”

  • Boasting is seeking one’s own self-glory and placing supreme confidence in one’s own abilities.
  • It is a negative trait, undesirable, and often unappealing when we see it in others, and we are ashamed when we find it in ourselves.
  • In Romans, “boasting” is used by Paul to describe the Jews, who were confident before God because they followed the Law. “We’ll please God because of our good works, ethnic heritage, strict discipline, and adherence to the Law.”
  • Those who are self-righteous boast about their works before men, but God doesn’t consider these works at all in the process of salvation.

How does Paul use the same word to describe a sinful attitude in some men, yet a desirable trait in others? The key to the difference between sinful and desirable “boasting” is in the object of the boast.

2. Definition of Righteous “Boasting”

  • A “righteous boast” is one whose object is not self, but God.
  • Look at Romans 5:2, 3, and 11: What is Paul boasting in? verse 2: in the hope of the glory of God, verse 3: in our tribulations, verse 11: in God, through our Lord Jesus Christ...because we are now reconciled to God.
  • Thus, Paul summarizes this category of boasting in another book, the book of 1 Corinthians, in chapter 1 verse 31: “Let him who boasts, boast in the LORD.”
  • The object of the believer’s boast is God and the work that He did in our salvation and the work that He is continuing to do to conform us to the image of His Son!
  • It is an attitude that says, “I will make God famous, by boasting about His work, for He saved me with a mighty power. I couldn’t do this on my own, but God did it for me!”

The second step to thinking correctly about tribulations is to see God’s purpose in them for you!

Why should we boast about tribulations? I thought we just wanted to get them over quickly?!?

  • God has a purpose in suffering and tribulation.
  • God’s goal for you is that you would become like His Son, Jesus.
  • We don’t become like Jesus by enduring just one trial or tribulation. Rather, it is a lifetime of tribulations that shape us and mold us into Christ’s image. (Process called sanctification).

Tribulations have a good result, if you let them!

  • Tribulations brings about perseverance: continuing to bear up under difficult circumstances; becoming persistent and steadfast.
  • Perseverance brings about proven character: “proven character” is that of being tested for purity. If you’re a believer, you will continue on in purity. Tribulations often reveal false converts.
  • Proven character produces hope: Hope is an unwavering trust and confidence in another. In this case, the hope is in God, that He who began the work of salvation in you will see it to completion.
  • Paul answers the question posed at the beginning of this lesson in Romans 8:28-30.

28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.
29 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren;
30 and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.

So many Christians miss the point of these verses because they only quote part of the verse. God’s overarching plan and purpose is revealed in v. 29; and our great hope (glorification) is revealed in verse 30.


Because undergoing suffering is an essential part of the Christian life, we should not be surprised if we find ourselves in and out of periods of trials and tribulations. Take a moment and reflect on these things:

  • Are you letting this tribulation have God’s intended result in your life? Are you growing in perseverance, character, and hope?
  • Be careful not to judge another person’s tribulation. What might be suffering to one, may not be suffering to another. Let us remember that we each stand before God as individuals; to Him we stand or fall, based on the maturity of our faith and our obedience to His Word.
  • Will you boast (in a godly way) about your tribulation so that you can be a testimony to the world?

Let me leave you with these words from the Apostle Paul: 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

16 Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.
17 For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison,
18 while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.

Dear friends, if this tribulation doesn’t change you for the better, if it doesn’t conform you to the image of Jesus Christ, then my friend, you have wasted this trial! Don’t waste it; use it for God’s glory, for your transformation, for one day, when Jesus raptures His church, all our trials will be over and we will have no more tribulations or sadness. (Today may not be that day...but it could be!) Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!






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