Rev. Julie Shannon
“Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory.
We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. (Romans 5: 1-5) NLT
The beginning of this short passage is very easy to read, giving us a secure feeling of the Grace of God and the absolute privilege it is to be a Christian. The fact that we can look forwards to eternity in heaven with our creator; all because of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice of love to the point of death for all of humankind; truly is a difficult but beautiful concept to grasp. Being “made right” in Gods sight means that we always have complete access to the Father at anytime of the day or night. It means we don’t have to cringe, feel shame or guilt about our own sin or shortcomings. This is really something that we should be rejoicing about, it should give us confidence in our God and strength for the journey. It should have us running to prayer and the peace of His presence when we are struggling with both internal and external turmoil, and if it doesn’t you are struggling to grasp the unconditional love and forgiveness of God and the beautiful Grace that sets us all free when we accept it.
Its in knowing the truth of “being made right” (or justified) in Gods eyes that causes us to rest in His peace, and only that. The next part of the passage I want to focus on today will only make sense if you have grasped this.
“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.”
In our western culture many Christians live a comfortable life, “suffering” trials, persecution etc. is almost an option as we can often find numerous ways to escape the pain. People can choose to turn to drugs, alcohol and even food to numb the pain of life’s circumstances”. I’ve known Christians to move from church to church escaping the very thing that God wants to use to bring them to maturity. I’ve seen people get to a point of almost breaking through the realm of suffering into perseverance but fears and self doubt and not truly knowing the love of God holds them back, and they fall down yet again into a cycle of rejection and pain. The mentality of “are we there yet?” keeps us focused on almost loathing our present rather than embracing it knowing that whatever we are currently walking through will develop a deeper sense of Gods love and maturity of character.
“To him who lives his life only in the present age and in this world, the sufferings which come to him can only be something negative. But for the Christian, suffering is precisely the point where the power of hope most clearly proves itself. … Suffering receives a new meaning. … If there were no suffering, hope would never have an opportunity to attain to its full strength”. (Nygren, pp. 195-6)
“First, suffering is the one and only path to glory. It is so for Christ; it is so for Christians. … Secondly, if suffering leads to glory in the end, it leads to maturity meanwhile. … Thirdly, suffering is the best context in which to become assured of God’s love.” (Stott,p. 141)
To see suffering in a positive light can seem odd at first, and outside the context of our faith it would produce hopelessness. Which brings us back to the first point I made; assurance of salvation and the peace and joy that comes with knowing the love of God through Jesus Christ. To be able to hold fast on the truth of this through trials builds spiritual and emotional muscle;
- Steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.
- Continuance in a state of grace leading finally to a state of glory.
When we learn to persevere without grumbling, or feeling hard done by etc our character is formed to be like Christ. Imagine if Jesus grumbled and complained about His lot in life? The closer we become to the character of Christ the greater hope we have and the more understand our identity and purpose here on earth.
Jesus as we know suffered much, and yet was perfect. He had every reason to say to the Father “why me” its “too hard” or its not fair”.
As Christians we know the freedom and life that the suffering of our Savior brought to mankind, yet along with this freedom comes a call to be transformed into His likeness. We have a promise of Christlike character; if we seek it! Jesus’ sacrifice of His life which brought freedom to the world reflects how we as Christians are to become like Him. It’s in the suffering that that we learn to give up our selves, to give up selfish desires and to trust God with our future. Are you in a season of suffering? This very pain just may be what God is using to develop character; but there is one important thing to remember when we are going through trials; God does not want us to stay there! His aim is that we live in peace and hope, knowing who we are in Him, knowing His love and provision and in a place where we can help others to find the same hope that we have. Just as Jesus suffered, He also defeated death, His submission to the Father to the point of death reveals His character and brings the world hope.
When you gave your life to follow Jesus did you do it for you or Him?
We follow Him for who He is not for what we can get from Him.
When we gave Him our life we said yes to suffering, we said yes to Gods will and we said yes to eternal life with Him. These things are not optional; they are part of the package.
Understand that rock bottom is not a scary place; it is often the best place to build our character and to find the absolute love of Jesus Christ. When we truly die to our “obsession with us” and our “own journey” and pick up the cause of Christ we can truly appreciate every person and experience as part of Gods big plan for His Kingdom. We are all just a small part of the bigger picture and the “world does not revolve around us”.
“For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.”
If you have asked God to transform and mould your character; expect to suffer. If you struggle to find hope and are seeking to find rest for your soul, you will need to develop perseverance first. Try to hang in there through the hard stuff, “do the time” so to speak and trust God with your life so you can finally say “ it is well with my soul”.
10 “How I praise the Lord that you are concerned about me again. I know you have always been concerned for me, but you didn’t have the chance to help me. 11 Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. 12 I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. 13 For I can do everything through Christ,who gives me strength.” Phil 4:10-13