Monday, July 02, 2018

God's Invitation in the midst of Suffering

I recently had the opportunity to preach through Romans 5:1-5 in light of my story of suffering and a "dark night of the soul" I experienced from 2003-2013. It was very difficult to summarize and teach from this time in my life, since mystery always attends suffering in all its forms. We never know fully why something painful happens to us, even if we have all the best doctrine and teaching in the world. Scripture provides us with many handholds though, one of the clearest being found in Romans 5.

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. (ESV)

In my sermon prep I worked on paraphrasing the passage in my own words. I didn't get to use it in the sermon though, so I thought I'd share it here.

Since we have been made right with God through confidence in Jesus, we have all our well-being secured, now and forever. Through Jesus, we have immediate and abundant access into his kingdom of grace. Grace is God at work in our lives to accomplish what we can’t, and it is absolutely free to all those who live by their confidence in Jesus. We rejoice in hope that God’s glory is and will be our atmosphere and home. This glory is intimacy with God. The same glory that God the Father shares with God the Son now becomes ours! We participate in the glory of God through Christ!

This experiential knowledge is powerful; it completely changes the way we see things. I know that God is good, so much so that every trial and trouble I face is an opportunity to taste and see his goodness and greatness. We are able to re-interpret and translate our sufferings, both the everyday and life-shattering kinds, into tenacious endurance; endurance, if properly nourished with that same love, can produce character. Endurance can shape us into a specific kind of person – the kind of person who is inhabited by God. We have become people who trust God in every situation and have thus found real hope. This hope is the byproduct of his love poured out in our hearts by his Spirit, enabling us to let go of shame. (my paraphrase)