No Matter What!
No Matter What!
Last Sunday we talked about how Jesus calls us into a living hope... in fact, Jesus himself IS our Living Hope. We need an “active, engaged, purposeful” hope in this life, don’t we? It’s essential. It’s not something we’d “like to have” - It’s something we MUST have! Which means, hope is a good thing to think about and ponder.
It’s been said that hope is kinda like a muscle. And our muscles, for the most part, need to be exercised, strengthened, in order to work properly. The old saying is, “if you don’t use it, you lose it!” Muscle strength is maintained by muscle use.
The hope that you and I share... needs to be strengthened, too... and it can grow stronger, in a variety of ways... joy and happiness... contentment (when things are going great in life) can all strengthen our hope! God’s blessings and grace make us hopeful!
But so can grief, and trials and even suffering.
Of course, suffering is never something that we seek-out or desire (at least, I don’t know of anyone who intentionally seeks out suffering). Yet, we all know suffering, at least to a degree.
And more often than not, suffering draws us closer to God... because trial, and difficulty in life, causes us to seek God... and when we seek God, we grow.
Again, last Sunday, we talked about our Living Hope, and how Jesus is “active and alive” (he’s present with us) - offering us the hope filled assurance that we will be with Him forever.
I think it’s safe to say that we all know what it feels like to hope. But the reality is, not all hope is the same. We tend to hope for worldly things... not bad things... but worldly things. Things that are uncertain.
We hope the weather will be good for our ball game or camping trip. We hope our favorite team will win... we hope that our children, our grandchildren, will live long, happy, fulfilling lives! We may even hope that we’ll finally win the lottery... you know, so we can do good things with the money! The problem is... none of these things are certain.
But Christian hope is different. Christian hope focuses on things that are CERTAIN. Christian hope is a joyful and confident expectation that the promises of Christ are true. It’s the kind of hope that’s available to every believer... it’s unshakable; unmovable. Even in the midst suffering.
In the end of Chapter 4 through the beginning of Chapter 5, Paul changes the pro-nouns he’d been using. In the first four chapters of Romans, Paul used pronouns like “I, they, them...” But now, in Chapter 5, he changed... to “we.”
WE. When you and I, as followers of Christ, think about hope (and suffering), we look beyond ourselves. We think of “us.”
Because, in Christ, hope is shared... as is suffering. In First Corinthians 12:26... Paul again, speaking of the body of Christ, the Church... and how there are different callings, different jobs, different giftings... says, “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.”
We celebrate together (we celebrate the gifts of baptism and the Lord’s Supper... we celebrate anniversaries, and birthdays... we celebrate the reception of new members into the family of faith)... we look to our Living Hope together.
But... we also grieve together. We carry one another’s sorrows.
As followers of Christ, we do not rejoice, nor do we suffer, alone.
Paul says, “since we have been justified through faith...” For Paul, understanding the Christian faith, was grounded in justification! Our justification by faith. It’s so simple... yet essential.
It’s basically God declaring us “not guilty.”
It’s a legal term. We’ve been acquitted of the guilt and sin that was rightfully ours... because of our faith in Christ. God looks at us and says, “because of what Jesus did (his suffering, death and resurrection)... and because you believe it (you have faith in Christ)... you are forgiven... you’re set free.”
And the ultimate result of that justification... the consequence of our forgiveness... is hope (assurance).
Paul says we have peace with God, through our faith in Christ (who is our Living Hope), having gained access to grace... which allows us to “boast in the hope of the glory of God.”
He could have stopped right there, and it would have been just fine! Boasting... celebrating... proclaiming hope is a joy... hope is a blessing worth boasting about!
But he doesn’t stop there! For we also glory in our sufferings...
Romans 8:28 is surely one of the most well known scripture in the whole of God’s Word, Paul declares, “we (there’s that word again, “WE”)... we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
Back to our scripture for today... Paul says, “we glory in our sufferings” - now that has to be one of strangest statements in all of the Bible.
But by saying “we glory in our sufferings” - Paul was not saying we glorify our suffering! We’re not narcissists!
He actually clarified his statement: “we glory in our sufferings, because WE know that suffering HAS A PURPOSE!”
“Suffering produces perseverance; perseverance [produces] character; and character [produces] hope.”
And hope does not (disappoint us)... it does not “put us to shame.” Our hope in and through Christ, will never fail us... it will never let us down. Our hope is the assurance that we will spend eternity in the presence of Christ.
So... what does all this mean?
It means, that God’s hope, and love, and grace, and mercy, and forgiveness, God’s justification... reaches through everything and anything this life brings our way... the good, and the not so good... the joys and the sorrows... empowering us with peace, filling us with assurance... and bringing us to the exact place we need to be, for God in Christ to be revealed through us.
And that’s why you and I, as followers of Christ, can live this life in peace and hope, no matter what! No matter our circumstances!
For our future... in Christ... is certain. It’s guaranteed. It’s secure. We’ve been justified by faith, we’ve gained access to God’s grace... and we can boast (proclaiming to all the world) the hope that is ours, to the glory of God.