I was asked to write this post last night from Pastor Leah, so I have not had much time to think about our recent theme, hope. I grew up in a bible-quizzing program, where we would memorize the bible and compete on it by quoting it back to people. Yes, it is as nerdy as it sounds! The last book I memorized was Romans so this passage from Romans 5:3–5a was on repeat in my head as I thought about this post.
“Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character and character produces hope…”
Now, I was wondering why in the world suffering would produce hope. I get that it would produce endurance and character, but why hope? If anything, those sufferings would make us feel hopeLESS. I think the key is in what Paul says right after in verses 5b–11:
“…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 given to us. For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person- though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die – but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.”
Paul’s hope comes directly from the gospel, which gives a hope that we do not have to rationalize. It is one that we experience.
Paul explains the gospel in this passage in quite a raw way. He describes how Jesus died for us WHILE we were sinners. Those moments where you feel like God is mad at you, distant from you, and you’re trapped in sin… Jesus, if He were here today, would have walked up to Calvary, looked you in the eye, and said “I’m dying for you today. Come join my kingdom.”
Jesus knew full well how much sin you were in. And Paul, in recognizing this fact, is probably experiencing that truth. Paul experienced very real suffering which he describes for us in 2 Corinthians 11. He didn’t down play them, they were very real to him. But when you are extended tremendous love while you are in a place where you KNOW you do not deserve it, you weep. You are dumbfounded. God’s very love gets poured into your heart through His Holy Spirit. It’s in that moment you know… You know that God has saved you. You know that you are loved in His eyes and that He’s never letting you go.
Crossfire, God has redeemed us. He has seen every awful place we have gone and has STILL chosen us. Therefore, as we go through these tough times and suffering, whatever they continue to be, our hope is in that this God of the universe, who we WERE alienated from, made sure that we are now CLOSE. Wrapped in his arms. And if God is close, we can walk through the suffering with an endurance, letting it drive us deeper into His arms. Our character will grow, God will show his faithfulness, and we will have more hope than when we began.