Well, we're getting back into the Book of Romans and where we're starting again should make us burst forth with praise. After the heavy trek Paul has lead us through to get to this point, Romans 5 is like coming across the desert into a lush river valley.
As you look at Romans 5:1-11 in your House Fellowships, I encourage you to zero in on sanctification. First, we praise God and rejoice that we have been justified. We, because of Christ's victory over death on the cross, can have good standing with God. But Look at verse 3. It's much more than that. God does not stop with our salvation. No. God has poured the Holy Spirit into our heart so that we are sanctified.
Look at the chain we are called to rejoice in. It starts with our justification and then continues in verse 3. Rejoice in suffering. Suffering is a link in the chain. Why? Because suffering produces produces endurance. Endurance is another link. Endurance produces character. Link. And character produces hope. And the hope at the end of this chain is the "hope of the glory of God" back up in verse 2. How do we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God? We suffer which causes us to grow in our endurance, which causes us to grow in character, which causes us to hope. See?
Okay, it's kind of like this. As we suffer in something small, we learn to endure because we are like nails: the harder we're hit, the deeper we go. That's endurance. And as we go deep, drawing nearer to Christ, we see the areas where we have character flaws that need growth. In addition, we learn to plod through life depending on Christ instead of our own false strenght, and this grows us into men and women of Godly character. And then as we grow in our character, we see that all of this is possible because of Jesus. And Jesus is the hope that we carry deep in our souls. In fact, we come to see that he is our only hope because all else falls grossly short. . . something we come to learn through suffering, enduring, with good character.
Even more remarkable is how this cycle seems to grow and prepare us. Often we suffer and, at the time, it seems overwhelming, but we endure through it. As we endure, we grow in our character and learn to keep our hope in nothing and nobody else but Jesus. On other side the original suffering doesn't seem so bad. Then something else hits and it seems overwhelming again. But this time it's a bigger thing. If suffering of the same previous magnitude would have come, it would have looked like nothing of any significance. We'd say "Oh yeah, with Jesus, I've got this. I've made it through before, I can do it again." And when we endure through an even bigger thing, we again grow in our character and our hope in Jesus builds. At some point, we start to see that there is nothing so grand that we can't endure because our hope is TOTALLY in Christ. This is why it is imperative to endure the small sufferings well. Otherwise, we will not be mature enough to face the bigger suffering and our hope may not be moored to the right anchor.
As you discuss this text in your House Fellowships next week in preparation for our corporate gathering Sunday, January 4th, I'd like to invite you to share some things that you have suffered through? Did you endure well? Either yes or no, what did you learn? How did it shape (or not) shape your character? How did it build up your hope in Christ and reduce your hope in yourself? Have you missed an opportunity to grow because you didn't endure? Do you know any examples of people who have journeyed through this cycle well? What kind of suffering are you enduring right now?
As you discuss ways in which God is sanctifying you, be looking for ways to journey together as a House Fellowship. How can you pray for one another? How might you be able to spur one another on to continue to endure well? Might it be possible that your sanctification process could be helped along by your brothers and sisters in your House Fellowship? And maybe, just maybe, could God be calling you to help your fellow House Fellowship family in their journey?
I am very thankful for all you. On the one hand I hope that none of you are suffering; but at the same time, if we are to understand this text correctly, we must see that if any of us are suffering, we should rejoice in it!
Soli Deo gloria!
*Photo by pixabay.com user, Florian Pricher.