By Brooke Holt
“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 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.” Romans 5:1-5
Where do you look for hope in times of struggle? Offers of hope abound in our world. So why are so many people hurting? Why are the rates of depression at an all-time high? Why are so many committing suicide? If hope abounds, why aren’t we embracing that hope? According to WordsRated (Self-Help Books Statistics – WordsRated), self-help book sales total around $10 million each year. People are reading a lot of books without the fruit of hope produced!
Paul takes a much different approach to finding hope in this world. For Paul, the words of the Lord were the words of hope, and that hope was grounded in the steadfast love of God. In this passage from Romans, Paul writes about the “now but not yet”. Right now, God’s people have justification through faith in Jesus Christ. That justification allows believers to live in a relationship with the triune God. Sin no longer separates as the grace of God washes them clean of every stain of sin. God knows them and wants to be known by them. Not only that, God abides in every believer through his Holy Spirit. That Spirit attests to his love and his presence.
Justification is experienced in the “now”, but full glorification is “the not yet”. When God’s people are fully glorified, they will see the Lord face to face. His glory will become their glory. There will be no more suffering or death or sin. God’s people will experience full redemption and restoration.
What is in between these two realities is life on this earth and often suffering, Paul knew suffering personally, and he offers hope to God’s people as they live in the “now but not yet”. Paul calls his readers to rejoice in their suffering. Why? Because suffering is not the end of the story. Glorification is the end of the story. God’s people can endure suffering in this world when they keep a divine perspective – suffering is temporary, it will come to an end, and God will use it for good.
Thus, Paul writes, “we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame” (Romans 5:3-5). This describes the process theologians term “sanctification” or the process of becoming more like Jesus. Think back to trials in your life. How have those trials shaped you, changed you, inspired your work or ministry? God has used those things you found so painful to make you who you are today.
That transformative work in you is the work of the Holy Spirit. He dwells in you to remind you of God’s infinite love for you, to provide the power of the Lord to overcome, and to bring to mind the promise of the glorification that is yet to come.
Jesus Christ has made the way for you to have hope in this world. How can you exercise that hope today? We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
The Resurrected Life: Making All Things New - The Bible promises that those who are in Christ are "new creatures." But how does that transformation take place? This unique Easter-season small group Bible study provides a space in which we can discover what it truly means to live a new life. As we listen, we'll learn how the resurrection of Jesus Christ changes everything - for us. Begin the journey to new life today!
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