Let us pray: Dear Lord, thank You for giving us all the blessings of grace! Thank You for providing us with hope, joy, fortitude, and inner peace so that we can endure the hardships of life and come out on the other side with a heart that rests in Your unfailing love. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, WHO IS GOD’S GRACE PERSONIFIED!
TEXT: Romans 5: 1-8
Dearly Beloved in Christ:
Think back 6 months ago. It was early September. The weather was beautiful, the temperatures typical for Fall. The Apple harvest was coming in. The land seemed peaceful and calm. But the country, and most of its people, were not. Our fellow Americans were seething inside. We’d been locked up or locked down for 6 months. The open fear over the virus had ruptured America’s calm. An uncertain election loomed. Nasty words with a nasty tone were spewed forth each day. People longed for a vaccine, an antidote to their woes. If the average American had heard me read these words of our text then, they would have said: “That’s pie-in-the-sky nonsense!” They would have cringed, especially at the phrase: “but we also rejoice in our sufferings.” Rejoice over Covid? Rejoice over economic disaster? Rejoice over the pain and anguish we’ve endured? Rejoice over knowing that everything we’ve taken for granted, normalcy, would be forever changed? Yes, apart from faith Paul’s words DO sound like nonsense. But not for the believer in Christ! Only the Christian can accept and rejoice over Paul’s words.
Paul had a hard life. In many respects his life had more pain, suffering, rejection, and upheaval than most. You know his history so I won’t catalogue it here. (And if you don’t know read the Acts of the Apostles this week.) And yet from the depths of his soul, he writes this seemingly (to the world) paradoxical text.
War is horrible. You cannot escape it. It grinds you down and will kill you. Longing for peace and “normalcy” won’t end war. It might put it on hold for a time, but war is always with nations and peoples. War within your heart is even worse. It is continual upset and unease and fear over any sense of a blessed afterlife. Such war is fear over and against God. This is America today—or at least the non-Christian part of our nation.
How do we attain non-war, or the status of peace with God? Well, here’s the answer: “Therefore, since we have been justified (declared by God Almighty as totally forgiven and right with Him) by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.” On the macro scale, the eternal one which actually counts, this is our reality.
Like all of you, I have had my moments of weakness and unease over this past year. I, too, have questioned God with the weekly repeating of: ”Why Lord?” That’s because, like you, I often get bogged down in the micro-minutia of life instead of focusing on the macro plan, which is the grace of God.
But, whenever God gives me a good gospel shake, I return to my Christ-centered roots. And then I take comfort in the truth of Paul’s next words: “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.” This is the active result, the fruit of the Gospel, which all Christians possess. It’s also why the Spirit is known as: The Comforter from on High.
No one longs for suffering, but everyone longs for peace. And is here how it comes to us and why. “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 mighty possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Christian hope it totally different than human hope. Christian hope is grounded in and founded by God’s undeserved love for us in Christ, His Son. It is foolishness, nonsense, to the myopic world. But it reveals the amazing heart of our Creator and shows why He alone deserves honor and glory.
God’s grace, His peace, His hope is what keeps us centered amid chaos. It keeps our eyes on the prize of heaven, even when depression and despair begin to overwhelm us. So, yes, for you and me, “we rejoice in our sufferings.” We rejoice because they lead to perseverance, character building times, and by grace alone we come out the other side filled with hope—not only of a better tomorrow, but a better forever. And it all stems from grace—the love of God for us—which can never be destroyed! And if you doubt that, just focus on Christ’s empty tomb. There even death itself got swallowed up and stomped on in His victory to and for Life! Amen
THE peace of God which….
Pastor Thomas H. Fox