We Christians can be quite rigid sometimes. We stand firm in what we believe and it is not very often that we are convinced against our will. There’s nothing wrong with inflexibility when it comes to our beliefs but, believe it or not, flexibility in another regard is vital for any Christian that hopes to endure this journey until the very end.
To clarify, to be flexible is “to be able to be easily modified to respond to altered circumstances or conditions” while the word ‘yield’ means to “give way to arguments, demands, or pressure”.
During my prayer time the other week, the words “hope maketh not ashamed” were deposited into my spirit. I didn’t give it much thought at first but the line persistently replayed in my mind and didn’t let up until I finally picked up the good book and turned to Romans 5. I didn’t expect to come away with as much as I did.
“Hope maketh not ashamed” means that there is no need to hesitate when choosing to place complete trust in God because He will not let us down. Even if what we expect Him to do and what He actually does look very different when His plan is revealed, the truth still stands: He will not let us down. But how does one get to a place where they are able to trust God in this way? Does such confidence come immediately after one accepts Christ into his/her life? Not at all.
“…But we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience experience; and experience hope; and hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holyghost which is given to us.”
And for good measure, here is the translation provided by Old Faithful:
“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!“ –Romans 5:3-5 MSG
Reading this prompted me to ask, what is the correlation between “the tempered steel of virtue” – virtue being behavior that shows high moral standards – and hope that maketh not ashamed? Well, perhaps if we answer the following question, we’ll get the answer to the first: Does the tempering of steel produce a metal that is in its optimal state?
When it comes to steel, there is a universal law that says the harder something gets, the less flexible it is. Steel that has been hardened but not tempered is brittle and tends to break easily. The tempering process, during which the steel is heated to very high temperatures – anywhere between 255-1292° Fahrenheit – and then cooled, takes this brittle product and allows it to develop elasticity so that, rather than breaking upon impact, it will actually spring back. Tempered steel is malleable. You can hit, shape it, hone it, whatever you’d like. But you will have great difficulty in trying to break it.
The purpose of tempering steel is to improve its physical properties while God uses this process to improve our spiritual properties. Embedded in this truth is the correlation between the development of virtue as a result of being shaped and molded by unpleasant experiences and hope that maketh not ashamed. Because as we allow God to temper us for His purposes, heating us to temperatures that make us uncomfortable and then “cooling” us by not only using those uncomfortable experiences to show us who we really are but also by allowing them to do a work within us that makes room for His righteousness, which is essentially what virtue is, our moral standards are directly effected and our hope, having been tried in the fire, is deepened. So it isn’t virtue itself that brings forth hope, it is the process through which virtue is attained that does. But troubles only have the potential to develop patience, righteousness and hope. The process isn’t automatic. It depends on us and whether we decide to pity ourselves or, instead, seek to understand the purpose of those troubles. What might God be trying to work into us or out of us by bringing us into those difficult situations?
We are not to exhale after we come out of hardening. We exhale when God finishes doing what He has been seeking to do all along, which is to make us flexible in that we do not break upon impact yet unyielding in our confidence in Him.