February 25, 2018: 2nd Sunday in Lent

Let us pray: Dear Savior, all of us have to endure the struggles of life caused by sin.  All of us experience the pain and heartache of that our divorce from You has caused. Today we rejoice that as Christians You have provided us a pathway to learn, grow, prosper and flourish from such struggles.  Keep our gaze fixed upon You to insure that such joy will be our life and our legacy. Amen


TEXT:  Romans 5: 1-11

Dearly Beloved By Christ:  

I recently saw a T-shirt with this printed on the front:  “Dear God, Why do you allow so much violence in our schools?  Signed: a concerned student.” Underneath it, was this response: “Dear concerned student, I’m not allowed in schools.  God.” It’s hard to argue with that, isn’t it?

Every human being is touched by violence, whether it be verbal or physical.  Every human being has internal struggles against pain and heartache. Every human being has to deal with the reality of death—people they are close to, or their own impending demise.  The issue isn’t that such things afflict us. The issue is: how do we cope with it all? Well, God tells us this very day in our lesson. It provides us with a paradigm, a blueprint, for A Christian’s Coping With Suffering.  


I’m not surprised over the Florida teenagers’ response to the recent shootings of their classmates.  Any of us who grew up in the ‘60’s know all about student protests and teenage passions. We also know that simplistic answers to life’s problems, “The Government Can Fix Everything” such answers never last the test of time.  As the old Rock and Roll song by the “Who” states: “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.” Go back 700 years before and recall the “Children’s Crusade” where adolescent children in Europe drummed up support for a new Crusade to liberate the Holy Land.  Thousands and thousands joined and convinced the adults to bankroll their adventure. It ended quickly with death, slavery, and bitterness for those teens on foreign soil. The evils of life and its subsequent struggles are something that we all face.

That’s why St. Paul’s words rumble like thunder to our ears.  They are O so true and yet O so different than the usual pablum we’re fed!  Listen again, “And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.  And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” Right here is the Christian paradigm for dealing with life’s struggles and coming out a winner instead of a loser.  

It all begins with suffering.  Everyone suffers from something or other all the time.  Think of the physical like arthritis or a broken leg. Think of the emotion like a feud or a held-onto grudge.  Think of emotions like: worthlessness, resentment, hatred, or even despair. Humans and struggles are universal.  Christian and unbeliever alike experience them. So, the first step to healing is to acknowledge and recognize your struggles.

Then comes the second step: perseverance.  To be sure, not every person is willing to take that pathway and persevere amidst struggles.  Many just give up and wallow in self-pity. Others say: “It’s just the way it is, so I’ll live with it.”  And they do, but badly and unhappily. But, still others cope as best they can and seek answers and solutions to their struggles.  This is especially true of Christians who realize that such struggles are all caused by sin and that God didn’t create us to endure them.—That He has something far better for us to do then live with the fatalistic attitude: “Life is short and then you die.”  And this patient perseverance which refuses to give in to blackness then leads to: character. In fact, it breeds character.

Now, I’m old enough to know that moral character building isn’t confined only to Christians.  I’ve read books, both by and about, non-believers who possessed a strength of moral character born of their earlier sufferings.  But, I will say this, at the character-building phase of the process, the original pool of people has been whittled down considerably and Christians predominate.  That’s because character, or a strong reliance on truths in life apart from our own existence, finds its true meaning only in God. Reliance on God provides a person with the hope of a better tomorrow.

Finally, that brings us to: “hope.”  I know a lot of people throw that word around.  And usually they mean some unsubstantiated dream for improvement against their particular struggle.  Doctors often use it this way when talking to a cancer patient. But the Christian’s hope is light years beyond this definition.  The Christian’s hope is based on the reality that God’s Son endured the totality of human suffering in our place, suffered and died on a cross to make us right with God, and then rose to a new life, a suffering-free life, in our place.  It is the truth that He gives all this to use through faith. That He re-molds us into a new creation by His loving forgiveness. Paul says it well in his last line of this section: “And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.”  


Well, there you have it!  God’s Paradigm For The Christian’s Coping. It’s the rationale behind why believers never give up or give in to the onslaught of sufferings that Satan sends our way.  It’s refreshing to hear! It’s comforting to know! And it gives substance to our life beyond that empty phrase: “Well, good luck with that.”

Finally, Paul fleshes out this amazing view of life with these following words: “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.  Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him? For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!  Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.”

Are you a Christian right now?  Do you trust in Christ as your Savior right now?  Do you know that heaven is your home, by His grace alone, right now?  If so, then you also know that all your sufferings, pain, and heartache has worked in concert to lead you to your current situation.  It has shaped and molded you into you. God always uses and turns evil into good for His children. You, my friends, are living proof of that Divine Truth.  Amen