“Faith Leads to Hope”Dr. C. Von Reynolds Romans 5:1-5 Year C - Trinity Sunday - First Sunday after Pentecost
I was very blessed to have been raised in a family that believed in Jesus Christ and practiced that faith and attended church regularly. My grandfather was a Baptist minister and I recall sitting in his home office and making my profession of faith in Christ. At the age of seven he baptized me in believer’s baptism by immersion before a congregation of supportive believers who nurtured my faith. Since then, I have been on a journey of faith, growing and experiencing the joys and challenges of faith.
Paul addresses the Christians in Rome who faced insurmountable problems and tribulations because of their faith in Jesus Christ. Christianity was not the accepted religion in first century Rome as it is in our society. Many Christians in the first century were so committed to their faith that they were willing to die in the powerful jaws of a lion than recant the lordship of Jesus Christ.
In the self-centered society that we live in which sacrifices little to claim faith in Christ, few of us would be willing to die for anything, much less for the cause of Christ. I noted a change in the original hymn, The Battle Hymn of the Republic, which read, “As He died to make men holy let us die to make men free.” Many modern hymnals have altered the one word, “die,” to “live” in order to reflect our society’s distaste for dying for one’s religious belief.
Paul has in mind the tribulations and problems of the Roman Christians as he writes these powerful words in his letter to the church in Rome. He builds for Christians a stepladder in reaching an understanding as to what it means in this life to be a Christian.
The first rung of the ladder is faith. Faith is that first step which we must all stand upon in order to be made right or justified with God. Before any person places his or her faith and trust in Jesus Christ, there is a state of enmity with God. Without faith in Christ, we’re at odds with God like a trillion-dollar deficit to a recovering economy or like a late spring frost to a peach farmer.
Our individual and corporate sin is preventing God’s world from being the good world that He created. We’re all sinners. God cannot stand sin. God loved the world so much that He sent His only Son into the world to die as a sacrifice once for all for the sin of humanity. And whoever places their faith in God’s Son, Jesus Christ, can receive forgiveness of their sins and be made right or justified with God.
With this faith in Christ, we have a peace with God. The battle is over. No more fighting. Amnesty is declared to all who have faith in Christ. When we have this peace with God, we have a peace within.
Jesus promised, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you; not as the world giveth, give I unto you” (John 14:27). Paul experienced this peace and declared: “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7). Christians, through our faith in Christ, we have been given a peace that the world cannot comprehend.
I, like all believers in Christ, have experienced this peace many times in my walk with Christ: When the physician told my wife and me that they were certain our newborn son had a genetic disorder called Down Syndrome; when I experienced the death of dear friends and family through the years; when I faced unbelievable struggles in ministry; when I struggled financially while raising three children; when my wife was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. We all have our lists of pressures in this world, but faith in Christ makes the difference – it gives us His peace.
How excellent that “we have gained access by faith into this grace” (v. 2). Unlike the Israelites who were not allowed access into the holy of holies, Jesus, as God’s Son, has opened access to the very throne of God to those who believe in Him. This is confirmed in Hebrews 9:12 that says, “…but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption.” As a result, “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).
Paul says that we glory in tribulations. This word, glory, can mean to boast, to pride oneself in, or even rejoice. And the word, tribulation, can mean pressure, affliction, suffering. How can anyone rejoice in their sufferings? When my head’s hurting, I don’t feel much like rejoicing, do you? When a person is suffering with cancer, they don’t feel much like rejoicing.
What does Paul mean here? Are we to understand that Paul is advocating all Christians to be masochists and enjoy suffering? I think not. Rather, I believe Paul is speaking with foresight, looking at what suffering or tribulation will produce in a Christian.
The unbeliever is prone to curse God and others when suffering. But the Christian, who is filled with the peace of God, will continue to praise and honor God even in the midst of suffering.
Theodicy seeks to answer the question, “Why does there have to be suffering, and especially, why do the best of Christians have to suffer?” I don’t have an easy answer to this often-asked question.
Many people think that so much suffering in the world is proof there is no living, loving God. Some think mistakenly that God causes all this suffering. Most of the suffering today is to be blamed on humanity and our sins, and not on God; however, that is impossible for the unbeliever to grasp.
Paul said that we are to glory in our tribulations, not because we enjoy suffering, but because of what suffering produces in a Christian: Patience. Paul uses the Greek word that literally means “staying under.” Tribulation or suffering in daily life produces the ability to stay under a heavy load. Some of the strongest, most determined people that I know are ones who have suffered a great deal in life.
There are those of you here today who have experienced and suffered loss: Perhaps a spouse, a child, parents, marriage, or good health. And most of you who have experienced such loss and have weathered the grief are much stronger than you were. Tribulation produces that much needed ability to withstand.
Paul then says that patient endurance produces experience or a proven character. God turns the suffering of a Christian into a time of growth or maturity.
Think back on a crisis in life when you experienced suffering. Did you mature in some way? Every time I get a simple cold, I gain a deeper appreciation for good health.
Times of suffering can cause us to stop and examine our lives and see those things which are not good. Suffering helps us to see what is important in life and what isn’t.
Every time a Christian suffers, he or she matures as a servant of God, becoming better equipped to minister to the needs of others. Reading a hundred books on suffering cannot compare with the knowledge we gain when we experience suffering.
As a young, new minister in the pastorate, I quickly realized that I had not suffered the hardships of life to cause me to mature. But then my wife miscarried our first baby and we had never felt such pain and disappointment. God used that experience to be a maturing experience for my wife and me as we ministered to others, helping other couples who had miscarriages in pregnancy. We were, as Henri J.M. Nouwen would describe, “wounded healers.”
And maturity produces hope. Isn’t hope what we really want in life – something to hope for? I know how much more purposeful my life seems when I’ve got something to hope for or to look forward to. When our son, Andy, with Down Syndrome was school age, he preferred the weekends.
One school morning, Andy asked his brother, “Brother, what’s today?” Brother said, “Today is Monday.” Andy jumped from the kitchen table, bolted to his bedroom, and slammed the door. Hearing the commotion, I asked Timothy what he said to his brother. Realizing he had said the wrong thing, I went to Andy’s room, opened the door, and observed that he was lying across his bed muttering to himself, “I hate school, I hate Mondays.”
I went over to Andy, leaned across the bed and whispered in his ear, “Andy, Friday’s coming!” He immediately changed his demeanor, got up from the bed, finished his breakfast, got ready for school and was on his way. What made the difference for Andy? He had something to look forward to, he had hope that weekends give to most school-aged children, as well as to us “older” children.
Christians have something wonderful to hope for: Eternal life! We know that when we die, Jesus will be waiting to take us to heaven where we’ll see those loved ones who’ve gone before us. As the old hymn writer wrote, “When we all get to heaven, what a day of rejoicing that will be.”
Paul declared that this hope will not disappoint us because God has poured out His love to us through His Holy Spirit. The hope that we have as Christians is supported and guaranteed by the love of God. “Who shall separate us from the love of God? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? … Nay in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us” (Romans 8:35,37).
Hope is the greater reward that comes from the suffering of this life on earth!
About the writer:
Dr. C. Von Reynolds is the pastor of Reedy Fork Baptist Church in Seneca, SC. Rev. Reynolds completed his bachelor’s degree at Furman University and earned the Master of Divinity and the Doctor of Ministry from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He and his wife, Gloria, are the proud parents of three children and the grandparents of two grandsons.
Scripture and Music:
Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise
How Majestic Is Your Name
All Creatures of Our God and King
For the Beauty of the Earth
We Believe in One True God
O love That Wilt Not Let Me Go
Create in Me A Clean Heart, O God (Carl Mueller)
Song of Exaltation (John Ness Beck)
The Majesty and Glory of Your Name (Tom Fettke)
How Excellent Is Thy Name (Hanson or Butler)
For the Beauty of the Earth (John Rutter)
With A Voice of Singing (Martin Shaw)
For the Beauty of the Earth
Be Thou My Vision